Peru's very long Pacific Coast (over 2500km long) doesn't boast any genuinely spectacular beaches, but none-the-less there are plenty of pretty decent options. If you come with low expectations, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by Peru's beaches. Most vacations to Peru are pretty active trips, but none-the-less there are a handful of good places to relax on the beach after more adventurous activites in the highlands. Peru's best beaches are found to the North - you should catch a domestic flight to Tumbes, and travel South to beach resorts such as Mancora and Punta Sal. The tourist high season from December to March can be very busy, especially at weekends.
We'll mention Peru's best beach resorts in order as one travels South from Tumbes, which is close to the border with Ecuador.
The first beach resort found South of Tumbes can be a little busy with local people, but has a fine sandy beach and good surf. There's plenty of decent hotels and fine seafood restaurants in town.
Punta Sal is a more upmarket resort than it's neighbour Mancora (see below), which is 20km to the South. Playa Punta Sal is a beautiful 3km long sandy beach that is consdiered to be one of Peru's best beaches. In the low season, it can be very quiet and relaxing here. There's various upmarket hotels to choose from.
Mancora is a small, attractive resort town popular with surfers, backpackers travelling to/from Ecuador's nearby border and young Peruvians from the capital Lima. There is a long, sandy beach in the town (good for swimming and surfing alike), plus other lovely sandy beaches to the South of town. There's plenty of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and hotels in Mancora here - it's quite a happening place. December to Easter Week is the high season, and can get very busy with mainly Peruvian and Ecuadorean tourists.
Travel a little South of Mancora to find Cabo Blanco, a place particularly popular with surfers and big game fishermen. The surfing here is almost legendary, as is the big game fishing. The beach is pretty fine too.
West of Piura, this small but pleasant beach resort has a fine sandy beach and calm waters for swimming.
Huanchaco & Puerto Chicama
Just North of Trujillo (Lima's second largest city - a pleasant place with a colonial centre and nearby archaeological sites) lies Huanchaco. Huanchaco is a surfing and fishing village with plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from. The village is well known for it's pointed fishing reed rafts, which ride the surf (trips on these can be arranged locally). About 50km further North, Puerto Chicama is well known as Peru's best surfing beach - there are several surfer type places to stay here.
Beaches in and near Lima
The beaches in and near Lima are often crowded and unclean, and you'll have to keep a sharp eye on your belongings. January to March are especially busy months. El Silencio, Caballeros, Punta Hermosa, Punta Negra, Punta Rocas, Santa Maria and Pucusana are a few beaches near Lima to choose from.
The Costa Verde refers to various plesant beach suburbs of Lima which include Barranco, Miraflores and San Isidro. Playa Redondo, Barranquito and Los Pavos are amongst the best beaches in Lima.
Paracas National Reserve & Ballestas Islands
The Paracas Pensinsula is a large area of coast to the south of Paracas village and is a marine reserves with the highest concentration of marine birds found anywhere in the world. Most tourists visit the peninsula as part of an organized tour, in part due to safety reasons, and also because it's easy to become lost here. Trips to the Ballestos islands can be arranged from the port in Paracas village. The Ballestos islands are very scenic and provide sanctuary to a huge number of birds as well as other marine wildlife such as sea lions, penguins and dolphins. These islands are sometimes compared to the Galapagos Islands due to the great variety of wildlife found here.
The Nazca lines are relatively close by, as are the wine bodegas around Ica - both are interesting destinations for onwards travel. Alternatively, head to lake-side Huacachina, a place popular with travellers looking to relax, experience the lakes curative green waters or go sand baording on the nearby sand dunes.