Book! Pack! Go Travel! by Robbie Mamo

Chicama

Chicama

Huanchaco was a blast, but after a few days of surfing, eating ceviche and exploring ancient ruins I was eager to make my way North to Chicama. The longest left hand wave in the world!

Chicama is the name of the wave but it is actually located in the small fishing port of Puerto Malabrigo. Chicama is actually a town located half way between Trujillo and Puerto Malabrigo and you definitely won’t find any surf there.

From Huanchaco I hopped on a local bus to the Santa Cruz bus terminal in Trujillo and from there I caught the next bus to Puerto Malabrigo. This costed less than 3Sol/$1. The Santa Cruz bus terminal is the main bus terminal in Trujillo and is easy to find. I purchased a one way ticket to Puerto Malabrigo on the Dorado bus line for 5Sol/$1.75 and there was no extra charge for my board.

The trip from Trujillo to Puerto Malabrigo took about 1.5 hours. The bus made stops in the town of Chicama and Paijan, where you then turn towards the coast to reach Puerto Malabrigo. Paijan is the nearest small city to Puerto Malabrigo and if you need to get cash or stock up on food items and supplies this is the last chance to do so. Depending on what you need once you reach Puerto Malabrigo there are still a few decent family owned markets and stores to keep you going.

Another travel option is a taxi from Trujillo to Puerto Malabrigo. This will cost you around 120Sol/$40 and if you have a group of 4 people this is only 30Sol/$10 per person.  As always the benefit to taking a taxi is that you will get there quicker because you won’t have to make any stops along the way, or if needed you are able to make stops as mentioned before in case you need to get cash or supplies.

A third option is to take the bus to Paijan if you need anything and then hop in a shared van(collectivo) to Puerto Malabrigo for 2Sol/<$1. The collectivo is also a convenient way to make the trip to Paijan for any supplies if you need cash or something not available in Puerto Malabrigo.

The scenery during the bus ride was consistent with what you will most often see when traveling the Northern Peruvian coastline. You will see nothing more than desert, sand dunes  and the occasional mountain. This is why in most cases for long trips along this coast I’ll take the night bus. You really aren’t missing out on any scenery and often times this is also a good way to save money on a hotel room.

Once this short trip from Trujillo to Puerto Malabrigo was over I got dropped off at the main intersection of the town and could already hear the waves crashing onto the shore.

Following my ears to the cliff that overlooked the beach far down below all I could do was stand there in awe at the perfect peeling waves rolling in all the way from the rocky point far off in the distance. This was an unforgettable experience and I felt lucky enough to be there in the first place and even luckier that I had arrived when the conditions were perfect!

Not wanting to stand around any longer I threw my board bag back over my shoulder and hustled my way to where my hotel was located so I could get checked in as fast as possible and get in the water!

The town…

Puerto Malabrigo is a small fishing village that sits atop large sandy dunes that lead down to the sea. The town is stretched out quite a bit with the main street sitting along the edge of the escarpment of sand that leads down to the long sandy beach below.

Throughout the main part of town are restaurants, general stores, some small clothing stores and a few random businesses scattered throughout. There are only a few streets that run parallel to the coastline and as you get further from the cliff edge there is nothing.

Further towards the point where the wave breaks there are restaurants, hotels and hostels that all make their living off of the surf tourism that is slowly growing the area. This wave is no secret but because of the somewhat remote and isolated location of the town it really isn’t as busy as you would expect for a place that is touted as having the longest left hand wave in the world.

The town of Puerto Malabrigo as seen from the far end of the escarpment.

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One of the few streets in this small community. Tuk Tuk’s are always around if you need a ride but there isn’t anywhere you really can’t walk. Handy if you have lots of groceries and very cheap to save your legs for the waves!

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Some days I felt like there were more dogs than there were people walking the streets. Don’t be surprised if 5or more dogs follow you around at any given time.

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The place turned into a ghost town during the mid day heat!

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Simple homes lie a bit further out from the centre of town.

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Where to stay…

Quite a few of the hotels and hostels offer ocean views depending on the direction your room is facing. These are mostly all located on the cliff edge looking down upon the beach and point where the wave breaks.

I chose to stay at Hotel Iguana Inn which is located one street back from the cliffside. This is the newest hotel in town and had great rooms at a fair price.  They charge 60Sol/$20 for a single, 80Sol/$25 for a twin(two single beds), 100Sol/$30 for a queen and 150Sol/$50 for a triple. While they don’t offer an ocean view the quality of the hotel and rooms made up for this. All rooms have hot water and a few fans, however AC is not offered.

One of the main draws here is the communal kitchen where you can cook your own meals. The kitchen was always spotless and there was a great choice of cookwear, cutlery and dinnerware.  This was appreciated as most hostel kitchens are relatively unorganized and not always the best kept in terms of cleanliness. The fridge and freezer were also cleaner than most hostel kitchens which is a testament to the care management takes, as well as the type of people they attract.

The common area and lounge here is top notch and is a great place to relax between sessions.  Here you can watch television or movies, surf the net or read when you aren’t in the water. The eating area is also very nice and there are lots of tables and chairs to sit on which is perfect if you are travelling in a large group or the hotel is full.

In addition, they also have a gated area to park your car and is a very secure place to stay.  Even though crime isn’t an issue here it is always nice to have piece of mind, especially for people that have a rental car.

Hotel Iguana Inn!

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The dining and lounge area was the perfect place to chill out between sessions!

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My room was perfect and had a small balcony. There was always a breeze and the fans in the rooms made use of this. I had a great stay here and as mentioned before it is the best hotel for the money in Malabrigo.

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The budget hostel option in town is El Hombre Surf Hostel. This is the go-to place for backpackers, surfers or anyone wanting a good place to stay on a budget. Even better is that it has an ocean view and it is located right in front of the steps that lead down to the beach.

Rooms start at 20Sol/7$ per person for a basic shared dorm room with shared bathrooms. They also have private apartment style rooms available for a little more money. These are on the top floor that have ensuite bathrooms and hot water.

None of the rooms have AC but there is usually a nice breeze to be had during the day and at night it cools off quite a bit as it is a desert climate. There is a communal kitchen here but they also serve great meals for a fair price. Another thing to consider is they don’t have wi-fi here but for most people that isn’t a deal breaker when you consider the price and location of the hostel. Whether you are staying here or not, this is where everyone hangs out. El Hombre is a great place to meet new people, share travel stories and have a good time!

There is also the Chicama Beach Hotel which is another middle to higher end option here. They are a full service hotel that has a swimming pool, laundry service, satellite television and wi-fi.  All rooms face the ocean and offer great views. Hot water and AC are also provided for each room. They also have a restaurant that I have heard is quite good although I didn’t eat there while visiting. Rooms are 160Sol/$50 for a single, 210Sol/$70 for a twin or queen and 260Sol/$85 for a triple.

The Chicama Boutique Hotel and Spa is the high end option here and is run either as a bed and breakfast or an all inclusive. The hotel has 20 rooms total, 10 are ocean view and 10 are garden view.  The rooms have been carefully built to harmonize with the environment and there is no need for AC as the design takes advantage of the wind to keep the rooms cool and air circulated. The water used in the showers is also recycled and used in the gardens.

In addition to the included breakfast you can also choose to have all meals provided for an additional $30 per guest. These are all 3 course meals and considering the limited food selection in this area as well as the convenience, this is a reasonable option. There is also a nice bar and lounge area to unwind after a day of catching waves.

Garden view room rates start at 300Sol/$100 for a single, 400Sol/$130 for a twin or matrimonial and 500Sol/$160 for a triple. Ocean view room rates start at 345Sol/$110 for a single, 440Sol/$140 for a twin or matrimonial and 560Sol/$180 for a triple.

Hotel facilities are focused on offering comfort and a relaxing environment.  There is a large infinity pool with a hot tub beside it as well as another hot tub located indoors. There are also steam and dry saunas as well as a fitness centre to keep you active in and out of the water.  There are massages and full spa service available to guests at extra cost.

If you want to surf all day then relax and be spoiled during the rest of your stay then this is the best choice. You pay more to stay here but relative to what you would pay for the same quality of hotel in other parts of the world it is quite reasonable. It’s also the best choice if you are travelling with a woman that doesn’t surf. While you are out catching waves she can relax and enjoy the spa at the hotel and the other amenities provided.

In addition this hotel is committed to the community and provides jobs to over 30 people and indirectly results in the employment of 300 members of the community which is 10% of the overall population.

The surf…

Since I first started surfing I have known about ‘Chicama’ being the longest left hand wave in the world and have wanted to go there. Not having the time to surf here my first time in Peru back in 2006, I made sure I would make it back some day and when I did I wasn’t going to leave until I got to surf this wave!

The thing with Chicama is that you can always find waves to surf. That being said, it takes certain conditions for it to break well enough to live up to its reputation. This wave works best on a combination of South and Southwest swells and when it is at its best you can ride the same wave for 2 minutes and cover a distance of over 2km down the beach. Most peoples legs couldn’t handle half of this distance but thats ok because when you finish riding one section all you have to do is wait for the next wave to peel behind you and pick up where you left off.

The best time of year to surf here is between March and November when Peru has its Autumn and Winter months. The water is always cold here and  you will need a full wetsuit. If you are able to bring your own wetsuit then you will be a lot better off as the rental suits available are often worn out. Fit is everything when it comes to keeping warm you might not find a suit that fits you properly and that can make or break a session. I used a rental suit from Hotel Iguana Inn where I was staying but these are only available to guests. This suit was top quality and the maid at the hotel has a little side business providing these to guests.

From the steps in front of El Hombre or The Chicama Boutique Hotel and Spa you have to walk down to the beach far below and along the beach for about 10 minutes to reach the main point where the wave breaks. Getting in the water is just a matter of walking out along the rocks and jumping in the water between sets. This is easiest at low tide because more of the rocks are exposed and as I am always suggesting it is smart to check out all surf spots at low tide to see what is under you once the water rises.

Once in the water it doesn’t take much to get out back into the lineup but what you will notice right away is that the current here is about as strong as I’ve felt anywhere. It’s a crazy workout to keep your position and you can’t take a break from paddling or you will be swept down the beach in no time.

Once you have caught waves all the way down the beach you go back into shore and walk back to the main point and do it all over again.

Unique to Chicama is the boat service that shuttles surfers back out to the point to save them walking back after riding out the wave. This costs $20 for 2.5 hours and is available once in the morning and again in the afternoon. This might seem expensive as most people here aren’t spending much more for their accommodation but trust me if you can afford it you will want to take advantage of this service.

The current here is like nothing most surfers have ever encountered and to be honest whether it is considered cheating or not, having a boat take you back out to the point is well worth it. Otherwise you won’t have any energy to catch the waves once you paddle back out and no matter how strong of a surfer you are this will catch up with you after a few waves.

The boat service is a small inflatable with an outboard and there are two out there on most days. One of the boat operators is Junior and he runs the boat for the Chicama Boutique Hotel and Spa. He is a good operator and I felt safe with him. There is still some degree of hazard anytime you have a boat operating close by when you are out in the water with your board. The boat usually drops you off far behind the point to compensate for the current being so strong.

I had some of the best days surfing of my life here and feel blessed to have arrived to perfect conditions. Sometimes this is one of the frustrating things about surfing. You can go days between a decent swell and sometimes the day you leave is when the waves start picking up or you arrive to late. Like anything in life timing always plays a big part! Surfing is about patience and timing for the most part and this is true on so many levels.

Swell report for when I arrived! Perfect conditions!

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Long lefts peeling down the coast!

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The wave goes all the way to the pier if the swell is very large!

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The food…

Staying at The Iguana Inn and being so worn out from surfing I usually just made simple meals using their kitchen. There were a few decent family owned markets to get what I needed and I kept it pretty basic. A few times I went out to eat I got ceviche from one place and it was to die for. As with most restaurants in this region of Peru they start you off with toasted corn as a snack and then bring out the other items. I got the mixed ceviche like usual and it came was garnished with seaweed and corn. This costs around 15Sol/$5 most places.

More amazing ceviche that this coast is famous for!

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I visited another local restaurant all the time but didn’t remember to write the name down. So the place with the red patterned table covers will have to do! At any rate this place was fast, had amazing food and great prices. All meals were priced between 6Sol/$2 and 12Sol/$4. One of the meals I had there was a Chinese style stir fry with chicken and mixed veggies on noodles. Torta is the Peruvian version of an omelette and is a common dish here. If you are on a budget it is probably the cheapest and most filling thing you can order that actually has some nutritional value.

Chinese style stir fry with noodles.

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Torta

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Another meal that you can’t go wrong with is rotisserie chicken, fries and salad. This was another meal I ate quite a bit in this region and it was offered all over town. They have an interesting way of cutting it down here and you won’t often find anything with the bone removed.

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No meal in Peru is complete without Inca Kola. It tastes like cream soda and is sold everywhere!

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Things to do…

Surf, Eat, Relax and Sleep. Aside from this there is nothing to do in this town!

I had an amazing stay here in Puerto Malabrigo and it was a dream come true to finally surf Chicama. This wave definitely lived up to the hype and I would definitely travel back here. This whole area of Peru was an amazing mix of great surf, excellent food and a relaxing pace.

Gone on a whim…