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Worshipping the Sun God at Chincha

The sun sets over the Pacific near Chincha, Peru.1 / 4
The beach villa, designed by our friend Diego.2 / 4
The whole gang watching the sunset from the roof.3 / 4
Straight out of a Dali painting: Our door to paradise. Photo by Peruvian friend Daniel Noriega Reto.4 / 4

When I came to South America, I imagined I'd be spending a lot of time on sandy beaches. I figured my pasty-white Midwestern skin would soon turn into a perma-tan, that within a month I'd look like one of those beach bums in a Hollister ad.

Long story short: That didn't happen. So far, I've spent more time in wool sweaters than I have in flip flops. I may have even gotten whiter. But summer is finally upon us here in Lima, and with summer, every Limeño with a couple of days free escapes the stifling city for the sandy beaches along the Pacific coast. I got my first taste of this tradition over the weekend -- with a nasty sunburn to boot.

Me and some friends headed about three hours south of Lima to Chincha, a city of about 180,000 known for its Afro-Peruvian music and pleasant, uncrowded beaches. For lodging, our friend Diego graciously offered up his family's beach-side villa -- a low-key place a few miles outside of town on an isolated stretch of ocean. There, we spotted some dolphins, body surfed in some incredibly powerful waves, and drank cuba libres under the hot sun for two days. It was all I thought South America would be packed into one weekend.

A word to the wise: If you're looking into a trip to Peru, you may have heard that the beaches here are a bit sub-par, even ugly. I found no evidence of this over the weekend. Sure, Peru's desert coast is decidedly un-tropical. And the sand here has more of a slate-grey tone than your typical Caribbean paradise. But the place had it's own brand of stark beauty -- like a study in neutral tones -- and the sun shines and the palm fronds sway in the breeze here just as they do in Aruba.

I hope that stays a secret for selfish reasons, though. Best of all in our weekend beach trip? We had the whole place to ourselves.