If you’re a surfer, you’ve probably heard of that little gem El Tunco, a village a little less than an hour from El Salvador’s capital. While it has been a well-kept secret among surfers for many years, El Tunco is attracting more and more tourists, especially backpackers, nowadays. And rightly so! Here’s a travel guide and tips from a female solo backpacker for El Tunco.
Falling in love with El Tunco
I came for a weekend only, my very first weekend in Central America that is. Watching my first sunset there, I knew I did not ever want to leave again. But with a Spanish course and volunteering awaiting me in Guatemala, I drove off, planning my return. Eight weeks later I finally did come back, originally only for a few days which turned into ten (still not enough!).
I really did fall in love with that place and I totally understand those that come to stay for a week but leave after months – if at all. It’s the vibe. It’s the people. It’s definitely the sunsets. It’s about living the life you love. Being with friends, meeting new people, catching a good surf, jumping off waterfalls. El Tunco, El Salvador’s little gem on the Pacific.
Go pay that lovely surfer town a visit soon. Here are some travel tips to help you make the most of it.
El Tunco Travel Guide
Things to do in and around El Tunco
There’s plenty to do around this little surfer town apart from surfing such as hiking a volcano…
El Tunco is said to be one of the best surf spots in Central America. You can rent a board for $10 (24 hours). Surf lessons with one of the instructors you’ll see on the beach are $10/hour.
Visit the waterfalls in Tamanique – las cascadas de Tamanique!
Make sure you’re going with a local. The path is not always clear and they also know exactly from where you can jump. You need to take a bus from the main street, about 30 minutes to Tamanique for $0.50. It’s so much fun – don’t miss out on it!
Go on a volcano tour
There are several volcanoes you can visit on a day tour from El Tunco. Ask at one of the tourist agencies or a local – they probably know a guy. You can ask for Dracula (Oscar) – I did all tours with him, he’s a great guy.
A quick excursion to the caves
Walk along the beach for about 10 minutes and you’ll find some caves. They’re nothing too special but still nice to see and it’s really an activity you don’t need lots of time for.
Chill out on the beach
Depending on the time of the year, that’s a bit harder than it sounds though.. During the rainy season, there’ll most likely be no beach to sit on but swimming is still fun, lots of rocks though. You can go horseback riding ($5 for a ride up and down the beach, not very exciting…) or you can climb one of the big rocks. Roca Sunzal is great because you’ll have an amazing view from up there.
Visit La Libertad
It’s easy. You’ll take a 15-minute bus from the main road for $0.50. If you need to do some shopping, that’s where you’ll have to go. The port is nice to see, buy some fresh fish at the market to prepare at your hostel or opt for a great and cheap seafood dish right at port’s “food court”.
Remar is an organization operating a school/orphanage in El Tunco and they’re always welcoming volunteers. You could also bring donations from home if you have room in your backpack. I volunteered with them – read all about it here: Volunteering at Remar
During the weekend, El Tunco gets quite crowded. Many locals from the city (San Salvador) spend their weekends there to chill on the beach, eat some delicious food and party all night. From Thursday through Saturday, you have the chance to drink, dance and have fun with live music at La Guitarra and D’Rocas. On Thursdays, ladies drink for free until 11pm at D’Rocas. All bars close around 2am but for all those who want more, there’s one that’s open until the early morning. Forgot the name but it’s a few houses from Papaya Lodge. During the week, play pool at D’Rocas and enjoy a quite night.
Take Yoga or Pilates classes
Several hotels offer classes throughout the week, e.g. Tekuani Kal.
Where to eat and sleep in El Tunco
I always stayed in Tunco Lodge. In terms of food, I love Soya for a healthy breakfast or High Tide for a traditional one. Taco Guanaco is my favourite for lunch and dinner and also loved among locals.
Read all my recommendations about the best accommodation and places to eat in El Tunco.
How to get to El Tunco
- By plane: Fly to San Salvador (flights as cheap as 550€ two-way from Frankfurt with Iberia). Then catch a taxi to El Tunco (about $30-40 per taxi, 45-60 minutes).
- By bus: Tica bus for example has buses running to San Salvador from Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and Managua. There are also buses to Managua and San Pedro Sula. You should plan your route smartly so you don’t have to spend hours on those buses.
- By shuttle: The best option is to come from/go to Antigua, Guatemala, by shuttle. Depending on where you book it, they run every day or every two days (I found the cheapest option to be from the office next to Tunco Lodge, running daily shuttles), it will cost you $25-35 one way. There’s a shuttle from/to Leon every two days for $50, leaving Leon at 4am and arriving in El Tunco around 2pm. It’s so much more convenient than a bus as you don’t have to leave the car when crossing the border and save a lot of time.