Looking for fun places to go with your family to South America? We tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about family travel and visiting HUACACHINA, ICA Peru – the home to the LARGEST SAND DUNES and the BEST SANDBOARDING in the world. FOLLOW our families adventures as we travel AROUND THE WORLD WITH KIDS!
The sun is just starting to set over the rolling sand dunes. The wind is wiping the sand from one mammoth mountain to another, and the colour of the sky is quickly turning to a fiery orange-red. There are no high rises to block the view. There are no beaches or oceans in sight. It smells like fuel and a lot of it. The noise of dune buggies speeding beyond what possibly thought of as safe is still lingering in the distance. And we feel like we have reached the top of the world. We have just experienced the adrenalin packed town of Huacachina in Peru – otherwise known as the “Oasis in the Desert.”
Our kids showed us in Huacachina that they are filled with bravery and willingness to take on most challenges. While I was stressing about our 9-year-old sliding down a 60-metre sand dune, our five-year-old girl was already cruising down the dune at speed! Check out our YouTube video below on the adrenalin packed Sandboarding and Dune Buggying Rides through the “Oasis in the Desert”. Or continue reading below for all our costs and advice to make your trip sensational too!
- What is Huacachina, Peru best known for?
- Family and Must do rating?
- Where is it and how do you get there?
- What to do in Huacachina?
- What else is there to do (including cheap and freebies) for families?
- Where to stay with kids?
- Where to eat?
- Summary of Costs – for a family!
- Send us a question!
What is Huacachina, Peru best known for?
Huacachina (pronounced Wok-a-cheen-a in our broken Spanish) is known best for four things:
1. A naturally occurring lagoon (The oasis…)
2. In the middle of the largest sand dunes (The desert) in all of South America
And both of those things give you …
3. Adrenalin packed dune buggy rides and
4. The ability to surf or crash your way to the bottom of 60-metre sand dunes. We prefer to surf, but each to their own.
Peru must do rating: 10 out of 10
Family rating: 8 out of 10
Where is it and how do you get there?
Huacachina is situated in the Ica Province, 5 hours south of Lima, Peru. Home to only 160 permanent residents, but widely known as one of Peru’s adrenalin seeking must do’s by Peruvian nationals and tourists alike.
To get here, we choose to go with the bus company Peru Hop. One of the newer kids on the market, but unlike most of the local bus services they speak English, have guides who remain on the bus with you to ensure you get off at the right stop and most importantly to us, is a company started by Irish tourists who immigrated to Peru, they seem to have higher international safety standards than the Peruvian buses.
We tied this in with a 3-day tour from Lima and back https://www.peruhop.com/passes/3-day-tour-from-lima/ to maximise our money and because we needed to be back to Lima so we could onward travel to the Galapagos Islands. There is definitely much cheaper buses to get you there (I’ll explain our costs below), but driving and buses in Peru can be utter madness that really can only be seen to be believed, so chose your transport carrier wisely.
What to do in Huacachina?
There are only four main reasons why tourists and Peruvians flock to Huacachina – and it’s not just for the Pisco Sour happy hour cocktails (which are amazing btw).
- The largest sand dunes.
- The lagoon.
- The buggy riding.
- And the sand boarding.
If you haven’t already organised your buggy riding and sand boarding, do this immediately on your arrival. There are many operators that group together in a co-op opposite the church. The town is so small you will have no worries either being approached by agents or finding someone to help.
I highly recommend the afternoon tours so you can see the sun setting over the dunes as well. A 3-hour buggy ride and sand boarding tour (all equipment included) vary in price from 85-115 sole / $US25-$35. Remember to choose your operator wisely, check their safety equipment and safety record, you CAN negotiate and cheaper prices are available for kids (niños in Spanish).
What else is there to do (including cheap and freebies) for families?
Other than riding fast buggies, copping a face full of sand and relaxing by the lagoon. Here are a few more of our suggestions with kids:
- Visit the Regional Museum of Ica nearby. For a small museum, it packs a fair bit in and the artefacts on display were very unique to the area. If your newish to Peruvian history, we suggest getting a guide. We didn’t and were able to figure it out, but a guide would have made the experience a lot more fuller. Museum entry was 7,50 soles ($US2.50), no charge for kids and a moto-taxi was only 5 soles ($US2) each way.
- Boat rides on the lagoon. Hire and negotiate the price!
- Hike up to the top of the sand dunes for spectacular sunrises and sunsets – Free. Mr 9 managed it no worries.
- Hire everything from motorbikes to sandboards for solo adventures on the dunes.
Where to stay in Huacachina with kids?
We stayed at the Rochabus https://www.facebook.com/rochabushostel/ because they had quiet, private rooms that slept four, own private bathroom (a luxury not a given) and it was situated a small walk away from the other hostels on the lagoon (which can get really noisy on a Friday and Saturday night). They had hammocks set up in their garden (this could have been the only hostel that had a garden actually – remember it is the desert!) And the owners were great, even letting us use the pool all afternoon until our bus departed. Bonus! Not the cheapest, definitely not the most expensive. The only downfall to this place is there are no cooking facilities.
Cost: Family of four in Quadruple Room: $US40 a night
Where to eat?
There is no food mart in Huacachina, only locals selling basics so make sure you are either prepared to eat out or bring your own food from Paracas or Ica. Eating out can be a tad expensive if you don’t know where to go, so these are our preferred choices:
- Nuna Cochina: Not rated the highest on TripAdvisor, but the staff were so friendly towards kids even giving them a few freebies with their meals each time! Meals are between 15 to 35 soles, and we thought the servings quite big.
- Moskito Bar: The best view in town from the rooftop, and the cocktails can get dangerous (ie. Very good and cheap while in happy hour times!) The breakfasts were very filling which makes it our pick for breakie.
- Wild Olive: Our pick for cheapest for a family. Two HUGE pizzas for 60 soles ($US9 each) and we could have seriously just gotten one, but you know, when in Huacachina…
Summary of Costs – for a family!
So how much does it cost for a family in travel in Peru, South America more specifically in Huacachina? A word of warning, sometimes our family is super thrifty, other times we are more than happy to splurge in the experience. Hopefully, we will provide a balanced view:
We are a family of four. One young girl, one growing and consuming everything boy and two just your ordinary adults!
Accommodation: $US40 a night for our own private room and own bathroom. Nights stayed 2.
Food: Dinners range on average 20-25 soles ($US6-7) per person, but we managed to eat great pizzas for 60 soles ($US18) for all four of us, plus with leftovers too. Breakfasts on average 12 soles ($US4).
Getting there: We booked the Peru Hop 3 day tour so we got heaps more than just Huacachina. Our buggy ride and sand boarding were also included. We opted to not include accommodation as wanted something quieter and more relaxing for families. Adults were $149 return and kids were $104 (30% discount if you ask prior to booking). This is our package: https://www.peruhop.com/passes/3-day-tour-from-lima/
Transport: Next to nothing as everything is walkable. Moto-Taxi to Ica 5 soles each way.
- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen – you’re in a desert, enough said.
- Equally water. Bottled is available everywhere for as little as 50 sole.
- You can organise your tours in town, but last-minute prices are only marginally cheaper than booking in advance.
- Any adrenalin packed activity comes with major risk. Do your research and choose a reliable and safety conscious tour operator. We went with Peru Hop’s affiliates on an organised 3 day Lima Day trip tour. Always wear, demand and use appropriate safety equipment – no matter how stupid you think you may look. – I’m looking at you young backpackers!
- How long should you stay? Most operators give you a night and leave in the afternoon the next day. I recommend staying at least additional night depending on your itinerary. Once you passed the adrenalin seeking experiences that brought you here, you will find that Huacachina is actually a very peaceful place to unwind.