CHEAPEST PLACES ON EARTH
In recent years, this fishing town--and next-wave surf spot--has turned into a popular rest stop for Inca Trail hikers.
Bus ride: $37 The quickest way to reach Máncora, about 700 miles north of Lima, is to hop on one of Lan Peru's twice daily flights from Lima to Piura ($225 round trip); from there, it's about a two-hour cab ride to Máncora ($70). If you have 18 hours to spare, take the Cruz del Sur bus (cruzdelsur.com.pe, $37). Tear your eyes from the dubbed American movies shown along the way and you may spot a dolphin or two frolicking in the Pacific Ocean.
Beach hotel: $40 There are two types of lodging: on the beach--like Punta Ballenas Inn (right; 011-51/7325-8136)--and almost on the beach. In the case of Hospedaje Costa Norte, you're a minute's walk from the surf. The rooms surround a courtyard guarded by Pedro, a parrot with a penchant for giving besitos (little kisses) to female guests (011-51/7325-8198, from $10).
Yoga hotel: $70 Samana Chakra is a new thatched-roof bungalow resort on the northern end of the beach, owned by an ex-marketing director from California and his wife, a Peruvian yoga instructor. The rate includes breakfast and a daily hatha yoga class (totally optional, of course). Early risers can even surf with the owners, who ride tandem on a longboard (011-51/1-9830-5896, samanachakra.com).
Taxi fare: 95¢ Moto-taxis, three-wheeled motorbikes with a covered backseat for two, are Máncora's primary form of transportation. The bumpy ride across town costs about a dollar. For $14 round trip, a moto cabbie will take you into the Amotape Mountains to the thermal hot springs at Poza de Barro.
Surf school: $16 Máncora's six-foot waves rival those of better-known surf spots in Peru, such as Chicama, but early mornings often bring waves that are ideal for beginners. Several shorefront surf schools offer 90-minute private lessons.
Tasty lunch: $6 Fried yucca and ice-cold Brahma beer are the perfect companions to ceviche, the national dish of Peru, made with seafood, maize, crescents of sweet potato, and a citrus marinade. At Cevichería Las Peñitas, an entire meal, including ceviche and beer, costs less than $6.
Fruit drink: 50¢ The best deal in town is a cremolada (a crushed-ice beverage made with passion fruit, strawberry, orange, or pineapple) at Papa Mo's Milk Bar. Passion fruit is said to have a mildly sedative effect--not unlike a few days spent in Máncora.
Necklace: $7 On a three-block stretch of sidewalk near the southern end of town, dreadlocked nomads and local artisans sell everything from shark jaws to tins of natilla, Peru's version of dulce de leche. The most unusual wares are adorned with deep orange huayruro seeds, which come from the Amazon rain forest and are believed to ward off negative energy. A double-strand necklace costs $7.