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Huanchaco is a beautiful beach town on the northern coast of Peru famous for its unique method of fishing. Fishermen straddle surfboard-like fishing rafts hand-made from reeds. These Caballitos de Totora are thought to be the ancestors of the modern surfboard. Literally translated as little reed horses, these fishing crafts have been used in Peru for over 3,000 years. Even today, you can see the Caballitos smoothly glide into shore after a successful day of fishing.

Alongside the traditional rafts are plenty of contemporary boards. The dependable waves, proximity to the world’s longest left break, friendly locals, and relatively low prices make Huanchaco a surfer’s paradise.

People get stuck here, planning on staying just a few nights, they end up staying weeks, months or even making it their permanent home. We fell into the same trap. Our one night stay turned into two weeks of heavenly beach-bumming.

Huanchaco was a welcome change from the mountains in Ecuador.  We tried our hand at surfing, teaching yoga in the evenings, and just relaxing at sea level for the first time in months (and inhaling the beautifully abundant oxygen.)

We also explored the local cuisine. Huanchaco boasts some great, inexpensive food, both from local haunts and expat-run cafes, and even has options for people with restricted diets, such as gluten-free and vegetarian. Here are our top food picks from our 2 weeks in Huanchaco.

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Start your morning with a relaxed and nutritious breakfast. Our favorite breakfast spots are just a block from the beach, offering gentle sea breezes while sipping our morning coffee; the two best cafes are #1 Chocolate and #2 Meri’s

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Chocolate Cafe

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Chocolate is a European owned cafe known for its quality gourmet food and fresh ingredients. The breakfast is excellent; they have great bacon, amazing omelettes, and lots of smoothies to suit your fancy. Their coffee is the best in Huanchaco; a quality roast and skillful use of a real barista machine results in nice lattes, cappuccinos, and mochaccinos. Come back for lunch and sample their filling sandwiches, wraps, and gourmet pastas. Dishes are around 15 Soles.

Meri's Hostel

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Meri’s is another foreigner run joint, which is actually attached to a hostel (Meri’s surf Hostel). The cafe is a little cheaper than Chocolate, and the food is very good, both for breakfast and lunch (they have great falafel, curry and tacos), but the service is sketchy, since their servers are volunteers rather than paid staff. Your dining experience can vary greatly depending on your server and how long they’ve been working. But, you are on Peruvian time anyway, so as long as you don’t come with a large group (we came with 5, and there was an hour between the time the first and the last person got served), it’s a nice spot for a lazy morning.  Expect to pay 6-12 for breakfast, lunch is 12-14 Soles.

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Meri’s serves filling, gluten free pancakes for breakfast. Several times a week they also bake fresh gluten-free brownies, so delicious that they stopped making the regular flour version. Brownies are baked in the morning and usually gone by midday, so go early before they run out.

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Best Local Restaurant

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Menuland

If you would rather eat local Peruvian food, owned and operated by Peruvians, Menu Land is a very popular choice. The small restaurant is always bustling with Peruvians and gringos alike. Service is quick and friendly; the food is decent and extremely cheap. In addition to traditional dishes, such as lomo saltado, they have a large selection of vegetarian options. For meat eaters, try their delicious and very economical burgers starting at just 2.5 sol. Expect to pay 2.5-10 Soles for a full meal.

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The Lighthouse is another, slightly more upscale Peruvian joint known for its skewers and tasty wings. It’s an excellent place to take a large group and they often have live music from talented local artists, so make sure to inquire what days they are playing. Expect to pay 15-25 Soles.

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Although Peru in general is famous for ceviche, Huanchaco is particularly well known for this seafood platter. Almost any restaurant, from cheap mom and pop run joints to fancier restaurants serve this delicious seafood dish, so it’s hard to go wrong. However, travelers tend to get nervous when it comes to seafood, especially raw fish, but as long as you are conscious about where you eat, don’t let that stop you from enjoying perfectly good local food. When choosing a restaurant for safe, healthy eating, remember to:

  • Eat where there are lots of customers
    If people, especially locals are eating there, chances are the food is clean. Also, where there are lots of people, the turnover rate is quick, so food doesn’t sit out.
  • Don’t eat at odd hours
    If you come at an odd time, you are more likely to get food that has been left out or reheated leftovers, increasing your risk of getting sick.

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Cooking

Preparing your own food is an excellent way to save money and protect yourself against food poisoning; in Huanchaco we ate like kings for very little money. Huanchaco has a great local market in the center of town. You can get fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and almost anything you need to cook delicious meals. If you are buying meat or poultry, get there early (before 9 is best) so you can buy it before it’s left out. If you can’t find something, you can always take a bus or taxi to the Trujillo Mall, just 20 minutes away, where there is a large chain grocery store.

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Best kitchen in Huanchaco

This award goes to Frogs Chillhouse, hands down. We moved here after the first two nights solely because we saw a picture of their kitchen: it’s spacious and stocked with plenty of knives, dishes, pots and pans, a blender, a six burner stove, and even an oven. An oven! It was the first time in a year of travel I found an oven in a hostel.

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Huanchaco Market

Directions to the Huanchaco Market. Just two blocks off the main street.

Trujillo Shopping mall

Directions to the Trujillo Mall. Just 2 min by bus from Huanchaco

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