Every summer, limeños make a beeline for the beaches clustered along the Panamericana to the south. The exodus peaks on weekends, when, occasionally, the road is so congested that it becomes temporarily one way. The principal beach towns include El Silencio, Señoritas, Caballeros, Punta Hermosa, Punta Negra, San Bartolo, Santa María, Naplo and Pucusana. Don’t expect tropical resorts; this stretch of barren, coastal desert is lapped by cold water and strong currents. Inquire locally before swimming, as drownings occur annually. Surfboard rental is almost nonexistent; best to bring your own.
Popular with families is San Bartolo, which is cluttered with hostels at budget to midrange rates during the busy summer. Sitting above the bay, Hostal 110, has 14 spacious and neat tiled rooms and apartments – some of which sleep up to six – staggered over a swimming pool on the cliffside. Guests pay the higher rate on Saturdays. On the far southern edge of town (take a mototaxi), facing the soccer field, the recommended Restaurant Rocío serves leche de tigre (seafood broth) and fresh fish grilled, fried and bathed in garlic.
Further south, Punta Hermosa, with its relentless waves, is the surfer spot. The town has plenty of accommodations. A good choice is the compact Punta Hermosa Surf Inn, which has six rooms, a cozy hangout area with hammocks and cable TV. Note: weekend rates are S30 higher for private rooms and S10 higher for shared rooms. The largest waves in Peru, which can reach a height of 10m, are found nearby at Pico Alto (at Panamericana Km 43).
Punta Rocas, a little further south, is also popular with experienced surfers (annual competitions are held here), who generally crash at the basic Hostal Hamacas, right on the beach. There are 15 rooms and five bungalows (which sleep six), all with private bathrooms, hot water and ocean views. There is an on-site restaurant during the high season (October to April). It also rents boards.
To get to these beaches, take a bus signed ‘San Bartolo’ from the Panamericana Sur at the Puente Primavera in Lima. You can get off at any of the beach towns along the route, but in many cases it will be a 1km to 2km hike down to the beach. (Local taxis are usually waiting by the road.) A one-way taxi from Lima runs between S70 and S110.
There are also beaches to the south, such as Pucusana.