Ask any international diver and they will tell you: Peru is not top-of-mind when they consider diving destinations. But that is not to say that divers won’t enjoy exploring the rich and diverse waters of Peru’s coastline. We’ll tell you a little bit about four of the most popular areas for diving in Peru or – as it’s known in Spanish – bucear.
Top two things to know about diving in Peru
Before we get into the destinations, there are two things you need to know about scuba diving or snorkeling in Peru. The first is that the water is cool, and gets even cooler as you move further south from the northern beaches. In the Peruvian coastline you will find a very different kettle of fish from the Caribbean. Thanks to the chilly Humboldt Current that flows in from the Eastern Pacific Ocean, water temperatures in Peru range from 14 to 19 degrees Celsius. A word to the wise from the diver we consulted for this article: take your time and suit up with thermal gear in order to make the most of your diving experience in Peru. A wet suit with 3mm on the extremities and 6mm for the chest is just barely adequate, particularly as you move further south up the coast. It is advisable to use a hood and gloves, otherwise you might end up feeling cold and, probably, miserable. You don’t need a drysuit to dive in Peru.
The second important detail about scuba diving in Peru is that the visibility in Peru’s waters isn’t the best, ranging from as little as one to up to eight meters. That’s because the same Humboldt Current that cools Peru’s waters also creates a powerful and vibrant ecosystem for plankton, which will make water murky. But thankfully, plentiful plankton creates a solid first step up the food chain, so though you might have a cloudy view, you are diving into a sea rich in sea life, including fish, mollusks, shellfish, and plenty of sea lions.
Renting a boat
When going scuba diving in Peru, you might want to rent a boat. You can speak to the locals at the docks in order to find a safe boat that you can rent for a couple of hours or a full day. Finding a boat should not be hard in any of the locations we mention below. You can usually find a decent one to rent for around USD $35. Look for a boat that offers some shade, and make sure your boat has a sturdy ladder.
Dive sites in Peru that are close to Lima
The Palomino islands are essentially just off the coastline of Lima and can be reached by boat in less than one hour. The main port is in Callao, which borders Lima. The Palomino Islands are home to a large colony of sea lions. You will be required to have your PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification card, or some equivalent license, in order to enter with tanks, but if you are not certified, you can still do what dozens of day-trippers do: jump into the water with a snorkel and wetsuit (this equipment is provided by the tour boats). Sea lions in the water are docile, curious and patient with humans, and you will enter into very close contact with them. It can be a little spooky for the uninitiated, but it’s very safe.
Pucusana is an old fishing town that is an hour drive south of Lima. Pucusana features a 30 meter wall dive and there is a 20 meter wreck dive close by, just off the Chincha Islands. There is a boating club there, the Yacht Club Pucusana, and the most important destination for divers is Isla Chuncho (Chuncho Island).
Paracas Bay is a destination with striking beauty. It is a 4 hours drive to the south of Lima. There are three beaches that are often visited by divers: Playa Mendieta, Playa La Mina, and Playa Lagunilla. Just as in the two previous destinations, this area is incredibly rich in marine life, but again, the water will likely be murky and cool.
Dive sites at Peru’s northern beaches
The Region of Piura is far to the north of Lima, close to the border with Ecuador. Piura has an amazing coastline with sandy beaches and is a popular destination for sun seekers and surfers. The climate is much warmer than in Lima and its surroundings. The water here is also clearer and warmer. The sea life is Piura’s coastline is phenomenal. Divers will see turtles, octopuses, sea horses, moray eels, sea lions, and butterfly fish, among other fauna. The beaches of Piura can be reached in 18 hours by bus ride from Lima, or in an-hour-and-a-half by plane (but tag on an additional 2 to 4 hours by bus from the airport to your destination in one of Piura’s beach towns).
Beaches where you will find opportunities to dive are:
Caleta el Ñuro – El Ñuro is a short drive from the town of Los Órganos. It’s only 8 meters deep, and a good place for less experienced divers. The focus of the dive here is the sea life.
Punta Sal – This beach, which boasts reefs at a depth of 12 to 18 meters, is a good place for beginners.
You don’t want to travel with your gear? You can rent diving equipment in Lima and at the Northern beaches. Some centers will also offer certification classes and they will help you connect with like-minded people.
Diving centers in Lima
Miraflores: Peru Divers
South of Lima
San Bartolo: SB Divers
Happy and safe diving in Peru!
We’d like to hear from you. Have you scuba dived in Peru? What should others know before they begin? Let us know in our forum topic: Where to scuba dive in Peru.