Hop on a snowboard, slip and slide your way down polished pyramids of sand and trek your way back up the dunes to do it all again. Sandboarding is the perfect way to feel like a kid again while getting in a killer workout too. From the sweeping mounds in Peru to the vast dunes of Colorado, here are five places around the world to surf the sand.

Wide shot of a man sandboarding down a large dune in Peru
Don't worry, the sand is a perfect fluffy cushion if you tumble © Capturando Kilometros / Shutterstock

1. Huacachina, Peru 

Peru has more than its fair share of beauty. Not only is it packed with snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, stunning beaches and fields of roaming llamas, it’s also home to the second tallest sand dunes on the planet. Head to the tiny village of Huacachina in Peru's Ica Desert where the impressive dunes beckon adventurers from around the globe. Apumayo Expediciones and Austin Adventures are adventure travel outfitters that customize trips to Peru and can arrange your adventure. 

Because the dunes are so steep, sitting on your board or going face-first on your belly is highly recommended; leave the standing to the pros. If you’d rather just watch, visit during the Sandboard World Cup held every other year. You’ll be in awe of the insane jumps, front flips and 360s.  

Don’t forget your camera. From the top of the dunes, the view of the emerald-green lagoon surrounded by palm trees is quite spectacular. For really stunning photos, schedule your sandboarding session closer to sunset. Once you’ve had your fill, end the day with a vineyard tour and wine tasting at Viñas Queirolo, an upscale hacienda-style hotel with a sweeping bucolic landscape.

A pair of people stand at the top of dune, looking out on the arid landscape holding brightly colored sandboards.
Make it a camping trip after a day of sandboarding at the Te Paki Recreation Reserve © Courtesy of David Kirkland

2. Te Paki Recreation Reserve, New Zealand

The 5-hour drive from Auckland to Te Paki Recreation Reserve is well worth the effort. This area is one of the most diverse ecosystems in New Zealand. Once you near the end of the peninsula and pass the sheep pastures, the landscape starts to become a bit more primordial; that’s when you know you're nearly there. Just north of Kaitaia, vistors can climb to the top of Te Paki’s dunes. 

Once your day of sandboarding is done, stick around and camp in the park. There are picturesque walking paths, picnic areas and plenty of opportunities for fishing, swimming and snorkeling. Plus, there are plenty of surf breaks along the famous Ninety Mile Beach.

A woman holding a wooden snowboard walks to the top of a dune
Just four hours from Denver, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a fantastic spot to sandboard © Sarah Sekula / Lonely Planet

3. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado 

When you think of Colorado, sand dunes don’t instantly come to mind. But, believe it or not, the Centennial State is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve near Alamosa, about a four-hour drive from Denver, is a beautiful spot for sandboarding. Rent a custom-made board from Kristi Mountain Sports, and make your way to the park. The golden-hued terrain is vast, so finding a spot to yourself isn’t difficult.

As you fly down the dunes, you’ll be treated to views of the jagged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which top off at about 13,000 feet.

Pro tip: If you visit during the summer, go in the morning or evening when the sand is softer and not nearly as hot. Make it a weekend by camping inside the park and splashing around in Medano Creek.

Wide view of a collection of peaked dunes stretching across an arid landscape
Surf down 400-foot dunes in the Valle de la Muerta © Sarah Sekula / Lonely Planet

4. Atacama Desert, Chile 

Keteka, a specialized tour agency based out of Santiago, Chile, takes travelers to the driest desert on earth – the Atacama Desert. The purpose? A 3.5-hour sandboarding tour in the famous Valle de la Muerta (Death Valley). Once there, board down 400-foot dunes while soaking in all the beauty of the vast desert. Less than 2 miles from San Pedro de Atacama, Death Valley, also known as the Valley of Mars thanks to its lunar-like qualities, is wedged in between the epic red-rock formations of the Salt Mountains, which makes for a gorgeous backdrop.

Tufts of scrub grass dot the arid landscape found in Death Valley. In the background are large light-colored sand dunes.
Enjoy stunning views of Death Valley National Park while out sandboarding © Courtesy of NPS

5. Death Valley National Park, California

About 1 percent of Death Valley National Park, the largest national park outside of Alaska, consists of sand dunes. And on an itty bitty chunk of that, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, you are allowed to sandboard. The dunes only rise about 100 feet, so the trek upward is not too difficult.

The rides down are quick, but certainly worthwhile. If you’re not tuckered out after all that, there are a host of other activities to enjoy among the 3.4 million acres. While it’s great to visit year-round, you might want to avoid sandboarding at the height of summer when temps can soar above 100 degrees.

Remember, for any of these sandboarding excursions, be sure to obey the rules and only sandboard in designated areas.

You might also like: Stunning getaways for standup paddleboarding 

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