The Oasis Huacachina sandboarding and dune buggy rides are fun. But there are a few things you should know before spending your money.
The So-called Oasis Huacachina Desert
I didn’t realize there was a sand desert in Peru until I saw my friend’s travel photo. Ignorant me.
But the photos are deceiving. Huacachina is not as beautiful as it seems. The town and surrounding desert have one significant problem – garbage, as does most of Peru. People are still littering in and around the area. And the wind is blowing that garbage around the sand dunes.
Due to the body of water, it’s technically an oasis but not the oasis I imagined. It’s still beautiful if you can look past the garbage.
Huacachina is expensive by Peru standards. You can get hostels at decent prices. But food and drinks are at a 100% premium. Therefore, bring your own snacks, food, and water. Or just stay in nearby Ica. A taxi from Ica to Huacachina is about 7 soles.
Sand Dune Buggy Rides and Sandboarding in Huacachina
The dune buggy ride was my favourite part. The tour operators offer the buggy rides combined with sandboarding. The normal price is 30 soles for 1 hour and 40 soles for 2 hours. I paid 35 soles for 2 hours of dune buggying and sandboarding. I met a traveller that paid 30 soles for 2 hours. So it’s possible to get the tour price lower if you negotiate or have a big group.
Not all the dune buggy rides in Huacachina are the same. It mainly depends on the driver. Or what type of driving the buggy can handle. A dune buggy ride is like a rollercoaster. The quick turns, changes in velocity and elevation, and the size of the sand dunes makes it feel like the buggy will tip over. Yes, you’ll feel a change in the g-force. Don’t eat a big lunch.
While I was in the buggy, I was the only person recording the ride. It’s easy to drop your camera or phone. I used my free hand to hold onto a bar. I also pushed my knees into the back of the seat in front of me for more stabilization (not always a good idea).
But not everyone was lucky. Some buggy drivers drive slow with no action: almost like being in a golf cart with grandma. So make sure to inquire about the type of driving in the tour.
The sandboards provided are basic. If you’re a snowboarder, you’ll realize the sandboards don’t include bindings and boots. Without them, it’s harder to stand and turn on the sandboard. I had to attach my feet and shoes to a Velcro strap to the board. When I tried to turn, sometimes the strap would release.
It’s also hard to go faster while standing and turning because there isn’t enough wax on the board. Everyone had to keep waxing their board after each run with a candle. Sand always wins against wax.
Huacachina sandboarding is still fun, maybe even more fun, if you just lie down or sit on the board.
If you’re serious about sandboarding while standing, you can rent higher quality boards with bindings and boots for about 15 or 20 soles a day around town. You walk up the hills yourself with the equipment, which is a mission in itself.
Caution: Huacachina sandboarding has caused travellers to leave with broken arms or dislocated shoulders. Pura Vida.