Before moving to Peru, I did know Lima was located at the ocean. However, I did not realize it is the perfect place to learn to surf too. If you ever wanted to learn the sport (and who did not as a teenager), living in Lima is your chance. In this post, we discuss all you need to know about taking surf lessons in Lima: from different schools, to how many lessons you need, wetsuits and cost.
We decided it would be best to just answer the questions we most frequently heard. Just click on the question below to go to the answer!
Where to take surf lessons in Lima?
The main beach where you will be able to start surfing in the Peruvian capital is Makaha beach (playa Makaha) and you can get there by foot, bus or taxi:
By foot – from Kennedy park, you walk directly in the direction of the ocean and find a pretty cobbled street underneath a bridge (it was one of my favorite views in Lima). Next, just follow down the stairs to the beach.
By bus – take any bus that leaves you near Wong Kennedy park, or near that part of the Malecón. You can use the tuRuta app to find a bus. As you know from this post, I mainly used the pink T-line that goes from Barranco to Universidad del Pacifico and back. It drops you right at Wong on the way to Barranco and on the way back, it passes the bridge at the Málecon. You can take your surfboard on the bus for free, so it will cost you a maximum of 1,50 soles (less than a $0,50). However, try to travel outside rush hour! (more bus transport tips here)
By car – as Makaha is right at the “Circuito de Playas”, a big road next to the ocean, you can easily get there by taxi too. Just give “Playa Makaha” as your destination.
Surfing at Makaha, how does that work?
At Makaha, you actually have three surf spots: two on the left of the peer with Rosa Nautica and one on the right of it called Redondo. All three are beach breaks (so waves breaking everywhere) but differ in difficulty.
The surf lessons take place on the left of the pier where the waves break relatively close to the coast. The waves are smaller here and perfect for beginners. What I loved about Makaha is that no matter what day, as a beginner, you can ALWAYS surf there. So, no need to check forecasts, just go. because there always is some whitewash to surf.
In case you are more experienced, you can head to Redondo or paddle out further at Makaha (officially called Waikiki). At these spots, you find the big, strong waves that are usually surfed by more experienced surfers. You should really only go there if you know how to turtle roll or duck dive. To paddle out first go to the right in the direction of the pier, as along the pier there is a channel that pushes you out.
TIP: if you want to check the current conditions, go to Magic Seaweed. They provide wave height, wind strength and a lot more.
Which surf school to choose?
As said before: Makaha is the beach to learn surfing in Lima. Why? 90% of the surf schools are here. They all set up their small square tents next to each other during the days. The name of the school is written on top. But how to know which one to select? Some tips:
Skip the stairs
Already at the yellow stairs, you will find people offering lessons to you. I would advise not to go with them, however, because it was not the best schools on the stairs in my experience. Rather I would walk past the tents to chat a bit and see where you feel most at ease.
One lesson? Don’t worry.
If you will only take one surf lesson in Lima, the choice of school does not matter too much. All instructors at Makaha can teach beginners. Still, there is a difference in the quality of the materials, the English of the teachers, the group size and prices.
Multiple lessons? Choose wisely.
If you plan to take multiple surf lessons in Lima, it is smart to select the right school the first time (as switching later is very awkward). Our absolute favorite was Willy’s surf school and we surfed with him the entire semester.
We heard from various surfers at Makaha that his materials are by far the best on the beach: the wetsuits and boards are clean and don’t have holes in them. Furthermore, Willy is an honest and kind man and his instructors are amazing. Make sure to ask for Paul and Toto: these brothers are both very experienced surfers and teachers, are passionate about the sport and can teach beginner to experienced levels. Morevoer, Paul speaks fluent German and Toto speaks good English.
P.S. Willy, Paul, and Toto don’t know I write this, but please say hey to them!
Surf lessons in Lima, what does that cost?
In Lima, surf lessons cost nothing in comparison with Europe, I can tell you that! The running price at the bigger schools is a group lesson with 4 people for 50 soles ($15), and private lessons 70 ($21). Paul and Toto ask 80 ($24) soles for private lessons and 60 ($18) for groups classes (but with one instructor per 2 or 3 people and Willy’s great materials). In general, Lessons range in general from between 1 – 1,5 hours, depending on your own fitness level and your instructors.
Paying for classes
At Makaha, you pay in cash and after the lesson ended. One very important note: pay per lesson and NEVER pay multiple lessons in advance. I made this mistake and booked 12 private lessons for 600 soles with an advanced teacher and paid up front. However, I did not feel at ease after a while at this school, skipped my last few lessons and threw away $60. That was a painful lesson.
TIP: If you want to learn surfing even cheaper, head to máncora because a private lesson will only cost you 50 soles there!!
What happens during your Lima surf lesson
First, you will get into your wetsuit. Although it might not be a perfect fit, make sure it is not too loose around your arms (or legs) because some water in your sleeves makes paddling a lot harder. Next, you do a warm up with your instructor and get some explanation on the shore about how to get up when in the water.
Afterward, you will paddle out with your instructor (and the other people of your group) to where the waves break relatively close to the beach. Here you will paddle for your life, and your teacher will push you into the waves. When he screams “Ariba” you (try to) stand up and feel awesome. Your instructor will tell you when to jump into the water, after which you paddle back to him. Depending on your instructor you get advice. You repeat this till either you are too tired, or about 50 minutes passed.
Lastly, about the fitness level required, you do not have to worry. It will help if you are fit and have strong arms, but everyone in good health should be able to do a lesson. Our moms who are 50+ years old, were able to do it!
What do you bring to your surf class?
Most, MOST important is to bring sunscreen. Although it can be cloudy in Lima, you still get burned like crazy in the water because Peru is that close to the equator. My surfing friends and I were so tanned, it was ridiculous: I had a proper tan line in my neck from my wetsuit.
Also, bring swimwear for under your wetsuit and a big towel to get changed. Only Pukana has a truck to get changed in, so at all other schools, you use your towel. Bring flip flops too, as the beach consists of little stones, and they hurt like hell when stepping on them. Lastly, bring water for afterward and a fruity snack (super satisfying). You will be starving when you get out of the water!
Where do you leave your stuff?
Half a year in Lima and nothing ever got stolen at Makaha. It’s a small community and all surf schools know each other and are very anxious to keep a good reputation.
You can just leave your bag with semi valuables (for your own sake, leave your laptops and passports at home) with the surf school owner on the shore. Again, I recommend Willy, I have never felt uncomfortable when leaving my stuff there.
If you do not take classes, but still need a place to leave your stuff, befriend a surf school. You can, for instance, get some people to do classes with them. You can then call that your home base and leave your stuff with them when you enter the water.
When should you take classes?
If you have a flexible schedule, go during the week! In the weekends, it gets crazy busy at Makaha especially when the sun shines. Furthermore, mornings are quieter than afternoons and cloudy days less popular than sunny ones (duh). Make sure you do a sunset surf at some point as well, that is around 17:00. Surfing in the deep orange light is one of the best ways to spend your late afternoon.
How many surf lessons do you need?
Well, I took a lot but I really wanted to learn it such that I could continue in the Netherlands. Actually, it really depends on what you want to get out of it. Some people take one lesson and then head out on their own. I found that they struggled a lot and made less progress than my friends that did take lessons regularly.
I would say you need at least 3-5 lessons before surfing alone because then catching your own waves is a lot easier. Afterward, you could take one lesson a week or one per two weeks and practice on your own next to it. Make sure to try smaller boards when you feel ready and keep challenging yourself to improve faster.
People told me that to become good at surfing you need years of experience and truth must be told: after 4 months of surfing multiple times a week, I just started to get the hang of it. But I still loved it: being in the sea, the excitement when you catch your own wave. You might not become a pro, but you can certainly lay a great base in Lima.
What is the next step?
When you get the hang of it you might want to go out on your own and only rent a board. Basically, this costs 20 soles including leash (that line from your ankle to your board) and wetsuit. You can make an unlimited deal at some schools, but they only give you a good deal if they know (and like) you.
Another option would be to buy a second-hand board and wetsuit as I did. I walked with my board the beach every day and it was amazing. My friends left their boards at Pukana at night at times. You can talk to the owner Javier about this. If you do not have your own board, it is not worth it to buy a wetsuit. It is quite a hassle to clean and bring and the wetsuit is always included in board rent and surf lessons in Lima.
Orrrr head to Huanchaco, Mancora or Chicama to try out another break and some delicious food!
Lima is the perfect place to learn to surf. You might not become a pro, but you can certainly learn a lot at Makah. Lessons are cheap (15-25$) and conditions are great. Go on weekdays and don’t forget your suncream, swimwear, and towel!