The travel hours required to get from Lima to Huacachina may suggest that it is not worth venturing on this excursion with small children to spend only 24 hours in the Huacachina oasis . Well I assure you that it is worth it!
Certainly it is a destination that seems to attract mainly teenagers and backpackers, but in the end it is a fun place and completely different from all the others you will visit in Peru.
In this post I will go through the best way to organize this excursion especially if you have kids. I will go through the options you have to get there, what to do while you are there and your Huacachina hotels options.
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Lima to Huacachina: how to get there
Day trip from Lima with a tour:
Let’s start with the easy option: you can book day trips from Lima that in 14-16 hours will allow you to see several attractions. The most common tours combine Ballestas Island, pisco tours, Nazca flight, and of course Huacachina sandboarding.
This is a really great option if you don’t have much time and you want to see as much as possible. These tours will pick you up in your hotel in Miraflores and have everything organized for you. they are not cheap but you get a lot in a short space of time!
On this trip this wasn’t the right option for us because I didn’t want to push everybody too much into doing millions of things in one day and having a super long day.
Day trip from Lima with buses:
Cruz de Sur seems a reliable company (we used them to go from Puno to Arequipa) and they have several buses leaving Lima early in the morning. These buses stop in Ica, 10 – 15 minutes from Huacachina. it shouldn’t be difficult to catch a bus to Huacachina from there. The last bus back to Lima is at 8pm (always double check), this will give you enough time to explore Huacachina (and Ica if you want) and to go sandboarding,
Peru Hop is a relatively new bus company that uses the hop on hop off concept like the sightseeing bus in touristic cities. You can buy a multiday ticket and move between different places as you want in the timeframe. They also offer organized day trips including Lima to Huacachina that include all the activities and transfers, but no food. This option is of course more expensive than Cruz de Sur, but everything is organized for you.
With Peru Hop if you have one of the multiple day tickets you can decide to stay overnight in Huacachina and continue your journey the day after.
This has been the option we chose to use. I asked for a quote from Taxidatum (the same company we used to pick us up from the airport when we arrived) and they asked for US $330 for a comfortable van transfer to Huacachina from our hotel in Lima and to return directly to the airport the day after. I emailed another couple of company but they were much more expensive.
For us this was the best option for a few reasons:
- I didn’t want to stop on the way to Huacachina to see other attractions (like with Peru hop) or to start our journey at 6am (Cruz de Sur)
- I wanted to spend the night in Huacachina
- On the way back to Lima I wanted to go straight to the airport, with the public bus the time would have been tight considering the bus schedule and change of transport.
The van didn’t have child seats but as we knew we brought with us these amazing foldable child seats. When we travel we now always bring them with us because when we have long transfers we don’t want to risk to not be able to protect our kids adequately.
To be honest this is an excellent option, we rented a car in Cusco to drive in the Sacred Valley and we didn’t have any problems, despite the few negative comments I found around the network. We haven’t chose this option in this case only because the price for 1 day wasn’t competitive enough and as we had a flight to catch I didn’t want to risk to get into any unexpected trouble.
24h in Huacachina: what to do
So, if you want to follow our itinerary, your journey starts at 9:30 am when the Taxidatum driver comes to pick you up from you hotel … from that moment the journey of about 4 hours and a half towards Huacachina Oasis begins with interactive books, kindles full of video and games, and food to entertain the little monsters!
We decided not to stop for lunch but just to eat some fruit and sandwiches that we had brought, but there are options along the way if you want (not really exciting to be honest though)
Arriving at the hotel around 2pm you will have time to rest by the pool, eat something, and be ready for the Sand Buggy adventure on the dunes by 4:30 pm.
Sandboarding practicalities with kids
Sandboarding in Huacachina is one of the main reasons why people come here and we were no different. Initially I was quite worried that we wouldn’t be able to sandboard because Liam and Santiago are still very young. Online I had read many reviews by adults who criticized the reckless driving of the buggies that go on the dunes. Indeed two companies that I had contacted online to book told me that they advised against this activity for under 4 years old.
What I have done then is to get in touch with the hotel (I believe that every hotel is able to organize a buggies/sandboarding excursion) and they offered us a private tour for 240 Peruvian soles (around US $60 for the 4 of us). I found it a very reasonable price, considering that this way we have been able to tell the driver to avoid driving like crazy and the boys loved it! Our Taxidatum driver was of course spending the day in Huacachina too so he joined us on the tour. This was great because people in Peru are always friendly, chatty, and interactive so he was also keeping an eye on Liam and Santiago and playing with them while we were going down the dunes sandboarding!!!
We stopped in 2 different places for sandboarding, and while we were sandboarding the boys were super happy playing with sand, and then the driver strapped them into their 5-point harnesses to come down the dunes and collect me and Mark…we all had such a fun time.
After that we stopped in another spot to watch the sunset on the desert, and then with another adrenaline rush we came back to the Oasis. At this point you can walk around, stop for a drink, play longer in the sand, but we decided to go for dinner in the Wild Olive with pizza for Liam and Santiago which they didn’t want to eat! After putting the kids in bed we took advantage of the calm hotel garden for a night cap.
Huacachina is full of party places, you shouldn’t have any difficulty to find the right spot for you, if you want!
If you stay in the same hotel that we did then you can have breakfast by the garden and pool, then while the sun isn’t too hot you have the opportunity to explore the Oasis a bit more.
I found the lagoon really fascinating, the colors of the water with the vegetation around it and the dunes as a background are enchanting.
At the lagoon you can rent pedal boats or rowing boats (we paid 20 soles for half an hour of exercise for Mark!) … obviously we couldn’t miss the opportunity and we even managed not to drop Liam or Santiago in the water! Success! Around the lagoon there are various shops and hostels where you can eat something etc, but in the morning everything was soooo quiet.
Unfortunately our flight from Lima to Cusco was at 6pm, so around 11am we needed to check out and start the journey back to the airport to make sure to be there by 4-4:30pm latest.
As you can see it was even less then 24h but I would still do it again!
Accommodation in Huacachina reflects the target audience, so for the most part they are lower priced accommodation such as hostels or guesthouses.
The oasis is very small so it will not be difficult to take a look at all the options if you wish, but keep in mind that some hostels do not accept children, and some guesthouses only offer solutions with shared bathrooms.
where we stayed
We were quite happy with our choice to stay at the El Huacachinero hotel. Initially I had booked a triple room with bathroom (the second child could stay for free) but on arrival I paid the small difference for a quadruple ( we paid in total US $90… a bit overpriced for the offer but I think I would choose the same again considering the other options).
The structure is very pretty, somewhat reminiscent of American motel facilities with the rooms opening onto the internal garden with a swimming pool. The rooms and bathrooms are decidedly basic, but reasonably clean. The swimming pool and the garden are very inviting but the breakfast very disappointing unfortunately.
I hope I convinced you that Huacachina Oasis isn’t only a backpackers destination, but can also be a lot of fun for families!! If you are planning your trip to Peru go head and include a Lima to Huacachina trip!