The Palomino Islands are a rocky collection of small islets off the coast of Callao, which is about 7 miles (9.6 kilometers) from the center of the city of Lima. The islands are inhabited by a variety of birds—including guanayes, boobies, pelicans, red-legged cormorants, and Humboldt penguins—and by friendly sea lions.
Visitors can explore the Palomino Islands on a day trip from Lima on board a comfortable cruise boat or a sailboat. The islands are particularly known for the thousands of sea lions that gather here to swim and sun themselves on the rocks. If the water is calm enough, and you’re feeling brave, you can swim near the sea lions. You’ll also find colonies of Humboldt penguins and an impressive number of other birds.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Remember to bring sun protection, a swimsuit, and a towel with you; boat operators usually provide wetsuits, goggles, and lifejackets.
- Do not touch or feed the sea lions.
- Tours may include round trip hotel transfers as well as food and beverages; check specific tours for details.
- Expect the water to be chilly. From June–November, the water temperature may dip to about 66°F (18°C); the warmest months are December through April, when temperatures can rise to about 72°F (22°C).
- Be sure to take preventative medication if you’re prone to motion sickness.
How to Get There
Boat tours to the Palomino Islands depart from the port of Callao, where there is a cruise dock and an airport. If traveling from Lima, take a taxi to Callao; the ride from the center of the city can take anywhere from 30–60 minutes depending on traffic, which is especially heavy in the late afternoon and evening hours. The ride to the islands takes 30–60 minutes, depending on weather and ocean conditions.
When to Get There
While tours run all year round, the most comfortable time to visit the islands is the summer (December–April), when the air and water temperatures are warmest. That said, the best time to visit Lima is the winter (May–September), when there is the least amount of rain. The summer months are warmer but wetter and can be quite foggy.
The City of Callao
The seafront city of Callao has been Peru’s most important port since the colonial era. Today, it is the closest cruise port to Lima (and the launch point for tours of the Palomino Islands). Visitors can tour the 18th-century Real Felipe Fortress, enjoy the beach at La Punta, and learn about the area’s maritime history at the the Naval Museum and the Abtao Submarine Museum, which is housed in a retired submarine.