There are over 115 music shops or stalls adjacent to Plaza 2 de Mayo in Lima Peru. Most are small, one room stores with big items stacked to the ceiling and small items multi-layered on glass shelves. Many shops specialize, at least partially. Some cater to brass instruments, others to percussion, keyboards, guitars or Peruvian instruments.
If you are a musician vacationing in Peru and have some extra time it’s a fun couple of hours to wander the streets and stop in a few shops. You never know when you might want to pick up an extra jawbone, zampona, quena or charango. Or a new saxophone, Martin guitar or Korg synthesizer. Almost anything, but look though I did I could not find a kettle drum or a banjo, although there was a healthy selection of sousaphones and harps.
There are many cajon makers in Peru. The most common cajon in Plaza Mayo shops are the lower-end CPeru cajons which come in many sizes. Most CPeru cajons will sell here for less than 100 soles. They sound good but the joints may appear filled or rough and most are a bit small. Mid-range cajons such as VP Cajons will cost around 150 soles, they sound great and have some beautiful patterns dyed or painted. The high-end PR (Percusion Real) and ATempo cajons will be somewhere between 250 to 350 soles.
Some cajons will include a basic case but you may want to spring for a thickly padded case (100 soles) if you are going to put the instrument through airline baggage handling. There are a few other cajon ‘brands’ for sale – Peru Percusion, RJ Cajon, ‘Peru’ and Nativ, some of which may be produced by the main manufacturers mentioned above.
Many shops sell CPeru cajons and quite a few have VP Cajons. You’ll have to look harder to find PR and ATempo cajons. In my experience no shop carried all ATempo models. So if you want a specific ATempo model you may have to look around. And some were in better condition than other.
The best way to get to the area is to use Uber. Here are two options:
“285 Av Nicolas de Pierola” will drop you in front of a shop with a good selection of PR and ATempo models in excellent condition stored behind glass. From this drop-off walk towards the Plaza 2 de Mayo, there are shops on both sides of the street. At the traffic circle go right.
“870 Jiron Moquegua” will drop you more or less in the center of the music store area. The shops around 870 have many cajon brands and models, as do a few shops across the street. Around the corner check out the shops in and around mini-mall ‘Centro Commercial Plaza 2 de Mayo’. The Centro Commercial also has a few local food stalls and a public toilet.
Safety: I felt secure here, but this is not Miraflores or San Isidro – you won’t find a police officer on every corner. Your cell phone should stay in an inner pocket. Don’t bring more money than you need or a fancy camera. Keep a low profile. Once you step out of the music store zone the area seems less secure. If you’ve passed more than 2 non-music stores and can’t see an instrument hanging in the doorway of the next shop, turn around. Best to not wander the actual Plaza 2 de Mayo, admire it from the music store zone. Uber out of the area or walk up Av. Nicolas de Pierola to the west, away from the Plaza.
There are many other music shops scattered around Lima, most will have cajons. There are also a few shops in Miraflores on Cantuarias street between Pje Tello and Alcanforas. They have a smaller selection of mid and high end cajons and the prices will reflect the location.