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DIY from General San Martin, Peru to Ballestras?


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I've read several articles about boats from Paracas town to the Ballestras Islands and/or trips to Paracas National Reserve.  The majority seem to be focused on leaving from Paracas town - and we will be docking in General San Martin.  Anyone know what the shuttle/taxi situation is in this port? It doesn't appear to be far to go.  There's one vendor who says they pick up at the port - but I like to have options.  We are there from 6 am - 5 pm so should have plenty of time.

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Did you do something fun in General San Martin?  Any suggestions either positive or negative?


Apologies for this rather long post.


We were both unlucky and lucky at our port stop here.  before leaving home, had tried to organise for us to be picked up at the port and taken to the area where the boat trips leave for the Ballestas islands followed by a tour of the Paracas National Park.. It was a frustrating effort as most were minibus tours out of Pisco,but eventually a company based in Pisco arranged to meet us at the dock  to join their tour.


On the day we were amongst the first off the ship and we waited, and waited until way past the arranged pick-up time. There were a few taxis at the dock and eventually one of the drivers kindly phoned the Pisco company only to be told they were not coming for us.  No idea why not.  He offered us the tour we wanted so we went with him. We speak no spanish and he had no english but we communicated as best we all could.


He took us first to the where the boat trips left from, got our tickets and got us on to one of them. We passed both the ship and the huge Candelabra geoglyph on the way to the islands. As no landings are allowed in this protected area,we saw literally hundreds of sea lions and their pups from the boat but from really close to the shore as the boats go as close as they dare.  The sea lions were on shore and all around the boat.  It was both very noisy and very smelly!  Returned to shore  where the driver was waiting for us.  He took us into Paracas for a short walkabout, although there isn't a great deal to see there, then we headed to the Paracas National Park where he gave us a tour of some of the highlights there.  This was beyond our expectations and absolutely beautiful.  The contrasting colours where the desert meets the ocean were especially beautiful.   Returned to the ship, we paid the driver what was for us a very reasonable price for the several hours we had spent with him so we tipped generously. We reboarded on a high as the day had far exceeded our expectations and we decided this had been one of our best days in S. America, but several passengers told us it was the worst for them as they only went into Paracas and thought the day a complete waste of time.  They had absolutely no idea the amazing natural wonders they had missed, so it definitely pays to do advance research.


The area attracts thousands of tourists from around the world  who arrive to visit both the Islands and the National Park and I suggest you do something similar if you can. Although this was some years ago, there may still be some taxis to be found at the dock and you can negotiate directly.   Perhaps some more recent pax can advise if they saw any. Lack of a common language was no barrier as the Nat.Park sights were self explanatory, as was the boat trip and the short walk around town needed no translation either.  Ask the driver to show you the highlights of the park as the drivers will be local and should know it well.


Some points to note.

There may be some but not too many taxis at the dock so leave the ship early.

Boat tickets will be payable separately.

The boat trips are weather reliant as they cannot run if the winds are too strong.

The boat ride out to and back from the islands was VERY windy.  My hair was really stiff with salt when we got off to the extent a brush would not go through it.

Once there be prepared for loud noise and strong smells.

The National Park had minimal road surfaces, and as we mostly drove on barely visible tracks iIt was a bumpy ride and would have been more suited to a 4x4 than a car but the car functioned.





Edited by edinburgher
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12 hours ago, soccermom4 said:

Thanks @GeorgeCharlie.  I appreciate the current info.  Since we'll be on HAL, that would work well.  Did you do something fun in General San Martin?  Any suggestions either positive or negative?



We arranged an independent tour with the Secrets of Peru tour company, which picked us up directly from the ship at the San Martin harbour. In the morning the tour took us to the Ballestas Islands and in the afternoon to the Paracas Nature Reserve, and then back to the ship. The tour was well organized and very interesting.


I am currently in the process of doing a review of our 31-day cruise and should be covering our visit to General San Martin fairly soon.


If you are interested, the review is at:






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Thanks to both of you.  @GeorgeCharlieI followed your "Live" and your "Just Back".  Most appreciated and very helpful.  Some of our CC group has booked with Secrets of Peru.  They were the only vendor that stated pickup from the port.  That's why I was curious about other options.  In looking on Google maps, it appears that if HAL runs a free shuttle to Plaza de Paracas, there are quite a few vendors that run tours from there.  I have a couple of them noted because of extremely good reviews.  Just didn't want to book anything unless it appeared that getting to Paracas was doable.  @edinburgherit sounds like your day was fun but would have been easier with a free shuttle to Paracas.

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Thanks for acknowledging as not everyone does.


We thought we were doing the right thing trying to arrange a tour with  pick up from the port, something we have done a number of times over the years in different countries. It was one of the very rare times we have been let down by a tour operator, but it turned out well enough and we had the bonus of being only  two plus driver, not part of a big group.


Had we taken a shuttle we would still have had to look for a tour once at the Plaza.


The taxi driver took us directly to the tour boats from the ship and we only went with him into Paracas town after the boat trip, when he asked if we would like that short visit before heading into the Nat. Park. It being our decision, had we said no to his suggestion he would not have taken us there as private touring offers flexibility.

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but would have been easier with a free shuttle to Paracas.


soccermom4, (and any  others with this port on their itinerary)I should have added that, in our experience, cruiselines rarely advertise the availability of ship or port authority shuttle buses ahead of time.  In this instance we only learned about it the afternoon or evening before arrival into that port. This is too late for independent pax trying to plan ahead of arrival.


At least the taxi tour from and back to the port meant :


we did not need to line up for a shuttle in either direction,

nor buy tickets if a fee was payable,

in addition to not having to look for a tour once at the Plaza.

And we gained the time we would have spent on shuttles both ways.


The day started badly but ended up really good.

Edited by edinburgher
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