The Urbanist’s Lima: What to Do

Surfing off the coast of Miraflores.Photo: Joe Neumann

Surf City
The beaches aren’t gorgeous, but the waves are world-class.

Peru’s surfing scene has grown tremendously in the past decade. While many boarders head for warmer waters to the north (Lobitos, Mancora, and Chicama, in particular), those who stay close to the Costa Verde, Lima’s roughly fifteen-mile stretch of Pacific waterfront, are rewarded with consistently stellar swells, courtesy of the Humboldt Current. And though most of the capital’s sixtysomething beaches are currently too dirty to swim in, Peru’s Ministry of the Environment has set in motion a plan to eliminate all waste by 2021. Till then, here are the preferred hang-ten spots of three local experts:

“Punta Hermosa has many point breaks and powerful, fun waves. It’s a 25-minute drive outside Lima, and you can rent surfboards and wet suits there.” —Sofia Mulanovich, 2004 ASP Women’s World Champion

“La Herradura in Chorrillos has a very good, long, left-breaking wave, up to ten feet. There are also plenty of breaks twenty minutes south of Lima in Punta Rocas, San Bartolo, Peñascal, and Puerto Viejo.” —Wayo Whilar, board-maker

“El Huaico has a split peak, left and rights, and it only breaks at about four feet at the most. The water temperature is around 58 degrees, so get a short-arm, long-leg wetsuit, short boards, and a couple of bigger boards to get really barreled.”—Cristobal de Col, Under-18 gold-medalist in the 2011 Quiksilver ISA World Junior Surfing Championship

Huaca PucllanaPhoto: Joao Canziani

Beyond Machu Picchu
Three ways to sate an explorer jones, according to Luis Jaime Castillo, scientific director of the San José de Moro archaeological program.

Located in the Lurín River Valley, nine miles south of Lima, this sprawling complex was an important pilgrimage spot along Peru’s central coast, both in the time of the Incas and before. One of the worshipees? Pacha Kamaq, creator god of the Ichma people.

Huaca Pucllana
This 72-foot-tall, over-300-foot-wide adobe-brick ceremonial mound, located in trendy Miraflores, is Castillo’s favorite site in Lima. Visitors can climb the platforms for spectacular views, then tour a museum stocked with pottery and textiles found at the site.

This is one of the earliest archaeological sites in the world,” says Castillo of this nearly 5,000-year-old Supe Valley complex 77 miles north of Lima. The 150-plus-acre city comprises plazas, mounds, and other structures in various states of excavation.

La DespensaPhoto: Courtesy of La Despensa

The Gift Hunter
Peruvian fashion writer Paloma Vergara on where to buy leather boots,handmade cards, and other Limeño souvenirs.

Galería Dédalo
“One of the coolest art galleries—it’s not only a place to see and be seen, but to buy gifts for friends with funky style.” Paseo Sáenz Peña 295, Barranco

La Despensa
“Nirvana for paper lovers,” says Vergara of this shop stocked with handmade paper and envelopes, Shipibo-design pocket notebooks, Argentine graphic novels, and Lomography gear. Manuel Bonilla 116, Miraflores

Botería Negreiros
“A city without urban planning takes a big toll on your shoes,” warns Vergara. Stock up on sturdy leather boots from a single master cordwainer here; the Hiram Bingham knee-highs are especially popular. Calle Las Casas 041, San Isidro

Polvos Azules
This market’s 1,500 merchants sell pirated copies of Rosetta Stone, Bob Esponja socks, and MP3 players, but Vergara says to beeline it to Row 18 to buy classic Japanese and French cinema. Avenida Paseo de la República, Cuadra 4

Urban Amalgams
In-demand neighborhoods and their New York City equivalents.

Pueblo Libre
Do this: Sample mosto verde at beautiful old saloon Antigua Taberna Queirolo (Avenida San Martín 1062), then explore the vast collection of erotic pottery from the Moche civilization at the Museo Larco

Do this: Stroll across the wooden Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sighs) to explore the tree-lined streets sided by mansions turned art galleries, later stopping for a tiradito at sustainable cebicheria La Pescadería

San Isidro
Do this: Wander through nearly five-century-old olive groves in Lima’s only great green space, Parque El Olivar, then soothe your travel-weary skin with a Cusco Mud body wrap at the new Westin hotel’s 32,000-square-foot Heavenly Spa

The Urbanist’s Lima: What to Do