Lima is the second largest city in South America, making it really not our usual cup of tea. We spent only three nights here mainly to experience one thing we have been waiting for months for – swimming with Sea Lions! Yes, that’s right, you can swim with Sea Lions in the city of Lima (read further down the page for more details on this.)
Besides swimming with the sea lions Lima offers a super modern city which is just so big it makes it hard to know where to start. To help any other travellers conquer this giant metropolis we have made a guide!
Where to Stay in Lima
There are two main districts/suburbs that tourists stay in and they are next to each other; Miraflores or Barranco. Miraflores is a bit more upscale so it is very safe! It is also the most popular option with tons of restaurants, fast food, shopping, and bars everywhere. You will hardly feel like you are in Peru here as it is so modern. Barranco is a little more trendy and up and coming as the “hipster” part of town. We didn’t stay here but visited and heard good things about the area especially in terms of nightlife.
We stayed at a place called 151 Backpackers and it had a great location. It is one of the cheaper hostels in Lima and is located right next to Kennedy Park (the main plaza of Miraflores.) It was clean and comfortable and the owner was super friendly. Not to mention, it had a kitchen which was super hard to find in hostels in Lima.
Things to do in Lima
What is Cerviche? Cerviche is the national dish of Peru and it is essentially fish which is cured in lime juice and served with some red onion and sometimes corn and squash. It sounds weird but is quite refreshing on a hot day while at the beach. Since Lima has a large industry of fishing the Cerviche is fresh and usually quite affordable. Head to the beach in Miraflores or Barranco to find some restaurants overlooking the water with affordable Cerviche. Some hostels offer how to cook Cerviche classes which is a great way to try Cerviche and learn how to make it.
Do a Walking Tour of the Historical Center
You likely will be staying out of the historical center as almost all of the hostels are in Miraflores or Barranco so this is a great way to venture away from what will be your normal stomping ground in Lima. We did a free walking tour with a company called Free Tour Lima by Walking and they were great! The best part is you meet them in Miraflores (walking distance from your hostel) and they take you as a group on the public transport to the downtown/historical center area. This is a great way to learn about the cities public transport which you can use as you need to get around on your own.
Drink Some Pisco
Pisco is the drink of Peru (or Chile depending on who you ask) and it tastes similar to a margarita to me. Try the street Calle Berlin in Miraflores for some 2 for 1 cocktail deals every night and some different types of Pisco. This place also has some great night life.
Check out the Shopping Mall Larcomar
This mall is built right on the cliff overlooking the ocean. It is a gorgeous mall with a gorgeous view, plus if you want to do any serious shopping with stores you would recognize from back home this would be your place!
Surfing in Lima
You can easily rent a surfboard or take some surf lessons at the beach right at Miraflores. The waves are great for beginners and more experienced surfers.
And last but not least…
Swim with the Sea Lions
This is one of the best tours in Lima, Peru. Most people don’t know you can swim with a colony of 10,000 sea lions just off of the coast.
We went with a company called Mar Adentro Excursiones, they are one of two companies that offer a similar experience and we had a great time!
At 9am we met our guide and the rest of the group at the port. Our guide spoke great English and as we signed our lives away on waivers, he assured us that he never has had an accident before and that the Sea lions are very friendly as they have no natural predators in the area.
To our pleasure, the tour was more than we expected with a full nature tour by boat. They took us out on a speed boat around various islands. We saw tons of birds and even penguins! Besides the wildlife, it was a great view to see Lima from the ocean.
After an hour and a half in the boat or we we approached an island, and it was covered (I mean covered, literally you could barely see the island itself) with Sea lions! Some were lounging, some swimming, some roaring at each other. It was completely overwhelming to see so many of these animals in one spot – we were in awe.
We watched the animals for a few minutes as we drove around the island. Then, the guide said “this is place where I ask I anyone wants to swim?” To be honest I was terrified. There were no other tourists there, no other boats, just us and 10,000 (this is not an exaggerated number as the guide confirmed this) Sea Lions. The other people in our group did not want to swim so with a lot of hesitation I put on a wet suit and Daniel and I entered the ice cold water.
Our guide came in with us and told us to just float, to avoid kicking our legs and with time the Sea Lions would come and approach us. Again, I was nervous, they are massive wild animals and if they mistook me for a fish then maybe I would be lunch.
Within five minutes Sea Lions were swimming underneath us. A couple popped their heads up and one even swam right up against our guide’s leg. They were just curious of us, after they came up and realised we weren’t food, they left.
We got back in the boat and were driven back to shore. Overall it was an awesome day, Mar Adentro Excursiones offers a really professional service for a unique activity in one of the largest cities in South America – ideal for nature lovers.
Know before You Go
What to Bring? Wear your swimsuit and bring a towel, water and a camera. Also, a change or clothes or warm clothes for when you get out of the cold water.
Cost? Price ranges depending on the time of year and if transport to the port is included but expect to pay somewhere around $50-$75 USD (which is great value for what you get really.)
Have fun in Lima!
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