Paracas National Reserve is a popular nature reserve on the Southern Coast of Peru. Paracas is also a very popular beach resort destination although the beach in the town itself is not too large. The town Paracas is also referred as El Chaco and is mainly used as the tourist hub for Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve.
Dry desert hills surround the town.
Flora and fauna
It provides a sanctuary to 74 species of plants that grow in this extremely arid area, and to 216 species of birds, 16 types of mammals, 10 species of reptiles and 193 species of fish. It is considered as one of the richest and most uncommon ecosystems in the world.
Dry and hot. (the reason it is a desert)
You can reach a comfortable regular bus company like ExcluCiva, Cruz del Sur, Oltursa and Peru Bus (Soyuz). The latter being the most inexpensive. They have bus stations in Lima, Paracas, Ica and Nazca. They also have connections to Arequipa or Cusco (and towns in between) although sometimes the schedule is not always met. Peru Hop offer direct buses to and from Lima daily they include a pick up and drop-off service.Also there are minibuses to Ica, which are a bit cheaper and provide hotel-to-hotel service. Cheaper bus companies only go to Pisco, from where you can get a taxi to Paracas (S./15 for two Apr 2015).
You can drive to Paracas from Lima which will take around 4 hours. The other way to get there is by flying. The route is Lima-Pisco with the Airline LC Bucre. With the time to get to and from the airports and boarding the flights, this option is unlikely to save you any time.
You can go by taxi to Paracas, there's a company named TAXI SUDAMERIS 24 hours at Lima, you need to make a reservation in writing. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Jhoel Lara : email@example.com. The price from the airport is $170.00 dollars all-included or S/438.00 soles. It´s about 4 hours from the airport and about 3 from other parts of Lima.
You can walk everywhere in the tourist center. There are some mototaxis if needed or taxis to take you to other towns. Always agree the fare before getting into the taxi.
There is a small/medium beach and lots of restaurants by the sea. For a much nicer beach walk to the Hilton Hotel and use their (public) beach the beach by the town is quite narrow and has a lot of stones.
Explore the Península de Paracas with a tour or on your own, for example on rented bike (which will cost around S/. 20 per day). Beware of dodgy bikes, you want a good one because the cycle is quite strenuous - test before you rent. If done independently you should start in the early morning when the wind is not that strong. According to park rangers these is a place with one of the strongest winds in the country. It's VERY HARD to bike when you have to face the wind. Alternatively, you can take a taxi or taxi colectivo, about S/. 80 for an entire taxi or S/. 20 per person in a taxi colectivo/minivan for the return trip - you will find people selling this trip around the main plaza or in any of the tour agencies.
You can also take a 2h boat tour to the Ballestas Islands for S/. 30 (you maybe get the price down by a sole or two, but the price is pretty much fixed). Entrance fee to the reserve is an additional S/. 10 and there is a port tax of S/. 3. All tours seems to be exactly the same with very similar types of boats so go for the cheapest. The Ballestas Islands contain huge colonies of seabirds (including penguins) and sea-lions. Tours depart at 8 and 10 in the morning, the earlier one is said to be better. Each boat takes around 30-35 people and you want to have a good windbreaker with you as it gets cold when it speeds up on the return trip. The sun can be a lot stronger than people expect whilst on the boat tours, wear sunscreen and hat for protection.
It's possible to buy a package tour joining both trips stated above. (S./45 plus S./17 entrance fees as of May 2014).
There are many tourist shops with all kinds of trinkets/jewelry/etc.
Restaurants are all very expensive for Peruvian standards, but some do have a 'menu del dia' for S/. 8-15 (you have to ask because they will not tell you this and will just show their expensive a-la-carte menu).
You can find cheaper choices at the street parallel to the seafront boulevard. Some are open only for lunch and others just for dinner. There is also one Chifa (Chinese restaurant). At night there are some open-air grill stands that open up near the southern end of this street.
Aquamarine Sandwicheria Fruta Bar - NW of the plaza - Great food and drinks, cheap Pisco Sours, delicious milkshakes, and crepes.
You can buy cheese or carne empanadas and keke from vendors walking by the pier. There are also bread stands selling rolls for 8 per sol. There are also two grocery stores with reasonable prices on the west side of the plaza if you would like to make your own food.
There are a couple of stores around the main plaza where you can buy food to cook yourself in your hostel, beware of overcharging from the largest one closest to Kokopelli - they have separate prices for gringos and locals.
Restaurants also serve drinks, but must charge a lot. Some have 'happy-hours' for mixed drinks, but the prices are very high. You can get cheaper drinks in the two minimarkets near the plaza.
Most options are really expensive, especially when you book them online. Better is to just show up and try to get a discounted price, which shouldn't be much of a problem in the low-season. Expect to pay around US$ 25-30 for a double in a two star hotel close to the beach. Bear in mind that some places shut down in the low season.
You can camp at Playa La Mina in the Reserva.
There isnt much to worry about in Paracas safety-wise in the main tourist area.
Only a couple of (expensive) bus companies serve Paracas (Cruz del Sur, Oltursa), as well as the cheaper Soyuz which has buses to Ica (but only a few per day - S/. 6). To get to Lima on a normal bus you need to first get to the Panamericana and flag down a bus there. Colectivos run to Pisco (S/. 3), from where you can change to another colectivo to "Pisco cruce" (S/. 1.50). Alternatively, you may be able to find a taxi colectivo to take you all the way for S/. 5 - look out for a taxi which has just dropped some people off, they will not want to hang around waiting in Paracas for too long, so you might be able to negotiate a good price. From Pisco cruce it is S/. 15-18 and 4hours to Lima.
There are also daily organised shuttles to Huacachina leaving at around 11am, about S/. 20.