Chicama Peru, that magical place where you can find the longest left hander wave in the world. Also known as ‘La ola mas larga del mundo’. When the conditions are right, the waves here can be incredibly long; up to 4km! Should you put Chicama on your bucket list? Check it out here.
So, you might wonder if this is really true and if it would be possible for you to surf there. We’ve packed our bags with destination Chicama, and found out all the answers to any questions you might have about this facinating surf spot in Northern Peru!
Although the surfspot is known as ‘Chicama’, it is actually situated in Puerto Malabrigo. A small coastal fishing town in the region La Libertad in Northern Peru, 70 km north of Trujillo (630km north of Lima).
Within the village you will see mainly tiny houses, shops, restaurants and mototaxi’s (tuktuks). Check out the small local market, the variety of fresh vegetables and fruits is huge! Half of the veggies and fruits we saw, we had never seen before. The few tourists are pretty much all surfers as there isn’t much to see or to do in the village itself. When the real swell is on the way, the sleepy village transforms into a more lifely place.
Best time to surf Chicama
There is pretty much surf everyday! But the most consistent months are between March and November. In this period the south or south east swell is dominant and gets the wave machine produce almost artificial looking peelers. During the other months the west, north-west swell is dominant. This means less consistent swell, often a bit smaller but still you can have some pretty sweet surf sessions here.
4 KM waves.. Really?
Chicama is known for its insane long waves but it is very rare and chances are small you get to see someone surf a wave of 4km. There has not been any record of someone actually surf a wave that long. But 2km does occur and lets be honest, a wave that’s even half of that would most likely be the longest wave you have ever surfed.
When we were in Chicama (november/december) the swell varied from 2 to 4 ft. Which is not enough to surf the real long waves that Chicama is known for. Chicama needs bigger swell to ‘link’ (when one wave keeps on going from the first take-off point to the next, and so on). The best swell conditions for Chicama are 6.5 ft / 15 sec period. Nevertheless, the waves were amazing. Just the sight of the waves looking like they are produced by a wave machine, such perfect peelers, is really awesome! If you prefer to surf Chicama without the crowds and are ok with less perfect conditions, you should really consider to go off-season.
There are several surf spots/ take off points. The one we used the most was Chicama El Key. A nice mellow point break about 15 minutes walk from the hotels. Situated in the 3rd bay.
Paddling out was pretty easy (depending on the conditions). Most surfers walk as far as they can along the rocks at El Key and then start to paddle. Due to the strong current you will float towards the right which is already a take off point. But you can decide to paddle around the break towards the peak of El Key. You need some strong paddling arms for this. It is great if you are able to get there but it is really not that important. As many surfers don’t make it to the next section, you can take the same wave a bit more down the line.
When the waves are small (between 1 and 3 ft) this spot works best with low tide. Offiously, with bigger waves it works best with upcomming / high tide. Other take-off points are: El Cape,El Point, Las Dos Tetas, El Hotel, El Hombre and El Malecon.
Can you surf as a beginner or intermediate in Chicama?
Intermediate and advanced surfers can eat their heart out! Enough waves, enough take-off points to choose from. If you are not a strong paddler, there are zodiacs that can drop you off at the peak and pick you up where you dropped out the wave.
If you are a beginner, you can also surf in Chicama. Don’t just paddle out by yourself, currents can be strong. Ask for a surf guide or book a surflesson at one of the hotels. When there isn’t much current, the beach break in front of the hotels is a nice spot to practice.
At some point during your stay in Chicama you will have to make the decision if you want to hire a boat to drop you at the peak. They will pick you up after you got a wave and drop you back in at the peak and so on. If your goal is to catch as many waves as possible without much effort then get a zodiac seems like a logical choice. Especially when the swell is big, there is a lot of current making it very hard to paddle to the peak or even stay in one place.
There is definitely a downside to the zodiacs though. In our opinion it takes away the beauty of surfing, the peaceful serenity you might love about surfing vanishes when noisy zodiacs race through the line-up, destroying the waves and leave a stinky gasoline smell. Apart from that, when you are waiting for your turn in the lineup and a boat full of eager surfers arrives that get dropped exactly at the right place, you can forget about any rules, they will all snake the waves one by one. If this gets you frustrated, getting a boat yourself the next day might help but you can ask yourself; is this really surfing?
Local photographer Wilson Flores will take amazing photo’s and shoot video’s from either the top of the hill or from the beach. Check out Chicama Surf House (El Inti) in the evening if Wilson is there. He will show you the footage and make you a nice offer to buy the package.
What surfboard to bring?
Chicama is great for longboarding. Especially when you surf at El Key, the waves are pretty mellow with a nice wall to practice your cross steps on. But also for shortboarders it is really a great spot. You do need a decent swell / swell period when surfing a shortboard for more power. In front of the Boutique Hotel the wave is fast and hollow, barrel rides are possible here.
What to wear
In spring/summer a 3/2 wetsuit should be fine. Or a shorty but due to the strong offshore winds, it can be a bit chilly even on the warmer days. In winter the water temperature can drop below 15C / 60F, a 4/3 wetsuit should be warm enough. For more detailed information about wetsuits, check out our wetsuit guide.
As it is quite a walk to some take off points, wearing reef boots can bring some more comfort.
Depending on the conditions and to what you prefer. These are the general standards:
- Winter: 4/3mm
- Spring/Fall: 3/2mm
- Summer: Shorty
- Boots (optional)
Where to sleep in Chicama?
Within the village we didn’t find any recommendable hotels. But there is a small boulevard ‘strip’ with a variety of accomodations. Our favourite pick was Surf House Chicama, also known as El Inti Surf House.
Surf House Chicama
We stayed in one of the rooms with sea view. You can just sit back and watch the surf right out of your room!
On the back side of the surf house there are bungalows and a hang out area. We loved the friendly vibe, created by the owners Katia and Nacho.
Other hotel options located on the boulevard are:
El Hombre is a hostel, low price range.
At Hotel Delfines you’ll find bungalows in mid-price range.
In the high-price range, including bungalows.
Where to eat?
There are a couple of nice restaurants. For local food the “Chicama Restaurant” was our favorite.
This nice and clean restaurant is only open for lunch. The owner will literaly run through the building to make sure everyone gets his food and drinks on time. Try the Ceviche or Pescado with Rice.
Burgers & Brownies
Local Peruvian food is nice but sometimes you just want something else. Like a burger or a brownie. This small restaurant, called Burgers & Brownies is situated one street behind the boulevard. The owner, a Venezuelan woman / surfer made this a great place to hang out and have a tasty in between surf session snack.
Where to drink decent coffee in Chicama?
If you are a coffee lover then you can get pretty desperate in Peru. As a good coffee is hard to find. It happened more then once that we ordered coffee and got a cup of hot water. At first we thought they made a mistake but then saw the ‘nescafe’ coffee powder… We almost bought our own coffee machine in Peru..that made us realise that we were real caffeine junkies. Finally, we did find some good places to get our caffeine shots. In Chicama the Boutique Hotel, you’ll get a nice espresso. At the Surf House Chicama (El Inti) they serve filter coffee at breakfast. Or if you are going for some exploring around, in the next village Pacasmayo, there is a nice french cafe called Mochica Café, serving espresso and other sorts of coffee.
Getting to Chicama
There are several options, depending on your preferences.
By air. Take a flight to Lima, from Lima a domestic flight to Trujillo (2.5 hours) and from Trujillo a bus or taxi to Puerto Malabrigo. This is probably the most comfortable option.
By bus. Another option is to take a flight to Lima, from Lima take a bus to Puerto Malabrigo. There are many bus companies and for long distance there are buses with seats that are adjustable to 180 degrees. It takes about 11 hours from Lima to Puerto Malabrigo. You can buy tickets online at ITTSA.
By car. Or you take a flight to Lima, rent a car and drive to Puerto Malabrigo. It takes between 10 to 12 hours. If you prefer to do this distance in two days, then you can drive to Huanchaco and continue the next day to Puerto Malabrigo. We choose to rent a car because we were also visiting other places in Peru. If you are not planning to visit other places, we recommend you take a flight or a bus.
Driving in Peru
Driving in Peru can be challenging. Especially in the cities. Once you are out of the city, the road to Chicama (Pan American Highway) is pretty safe. If you are interested in renting a car, check out the distances first. Peru is a “long” country and the main sights to visit are far apart from each other. If you do decide to rent a car, you might see some interesting things along the way 😉
Time to travel around a bit and surf at other spots in Northern Peru? Then check out Huanchaco, Pacasmayo, Máncora, Lobitos and El Ñuro.