Isabela Moner may have been born in Cleveland, Ohio, but her heart is just over 3,700 miles away, in the plush, historic and culturally rich land of Lima, Peru. The distance away from her mother's birthplace is one that makes the Peruvian-American’s heart grow fonder. “I try to go to Peru as often as I can,” she tells HOLA! USA for our Latina Powerhouse issue. “With my busy schedule, I prefer being there and would live there if I didn’t have so much going on in the States. I try to go every year for New Year’s – the festivities are amazing.”
Isabela Moner after making the trek to Machu Picchu, a place she describes as 'spiritual' Photo: Isabela Moner
From the very first trip she took with her family when she was younger, she quickly understood just how special of a place the South American country is. “What people might not know is the history of Peru with the Inca empire,” she says. “You can find so much history and wisdom in such a place. People go there to change their lives.”
If Lima is on your bucket list of must-see destinations, allow Isabela to help shape your travels from where to eat and shop to where you can spend your time relaxing. After all, we fully entrust the upcoming lead of Dora the Explorer, which coincidentally takes place in Peru, to be our tour guide in the land of ceviche, coffee and cocoa.
Since we aren’t all as lucky as the Disney star to head to her Tia Gloria’s house, where she eats the best aji de gallina (Peruvian creamed chicken stew) or her Tia Enma’s for her humitas (fresh corn tamales), Isabela suggests Restaurante Maido in the colorful Miraflores. Another one of the star’s go-to places for dinner is La Huaca. It’s in the middle of found ruins in Lima. Isabela's advice? “Go at night when the ruins are lighted, and you feel like you are dining right in them.” For a traditional dinner out, Brisas del Titicaca has a folkloric show throughout the meal.
Isabela travels to Peru as often as she can
And lastly, you can’t go to Peru without enjoying the ceviche. The Instant Family actress also notes, “Lomo saltado (Peruvian beef stir fry) is everyone’s favorite.” Oh, and we would be remiss not to mention you absolutely must find a place that will cook a good Pachamanca – per Isabela, “It’s like a cook out but in an underground oven, and it’s delicioso!”
Everyone traveling to Lima needs to travel to Machu Picchu, which requires getting to Cusco first. “It’s a very spiritual place,” the 17-year-old says. “It is one of the top manmade wonders of the world.” You can either hike the full length (it can take anywhere from 3-6 days) or take a train and hike some of the way. The Peruvian rainforest is also a bit of a distance from Lima, but Iquitos is a special place. “The boat trips on the Amazon river are breathtaking and peaceful,” Isabela says. “Pink dolphins sometimes come up and say hi, and you can stop to have lunch at a restaurant right in the middle of the Amazon.”
No vacation is complete without some rest and relaxation. After touring and eating your way through Lima, Isabela always makes sure to visit the beaches when she is in town, especially in the summer months (December to April). She recommends traveling south about two hours to Asia beach. The north of Peru also has Mancora beach but that requires an hour and 45minute flight.
All in all, whether you’re the foodie, the culture enthusiast or the explorer, Peru awaits. ¡Vámonos!
For more photos and the full article, be sure to pick up a copy of our HOLA! USA April Issue, now available at newsstands everywhere.