Welcome to our 3 day tour of El Tunco, El Salvador. We hope you enjoy traveling with us and are inspired to take your own trip. This trip was part of our seven month journey around the world which began in Flores, Guatemala. See a summary of the destinations we traveled to over our seven months here: link.
Sick Surfing and Pupusa Sickness
Why Travel to El Tunco, El Salvador?
Playa El Tunco, is an off-the-beaten-path beachside town in El Salvador that is a haven for budget travelers. A town so quaint, it only has two main streets that are lined with smoothie shops, swimsuit shops, and small cafes. El Tunco is a world-renowned surf town, so why not see what it’s about?
El Tunco was a logical destination for us. The trip from Antigua, Guatemala to Leon, Nicaragua (spoiler-alert-our next location) would have taken all day (if it can even be done). So we opted to include El Tunco, which is a five to six-hour public bus ride from Antigua, and then carry onto Leon (another eight-ten hour bus) after a couple of days. Plus, we really wanted to try out surfing.
How Long to Stay In El Tunco, El Salvador?
El Tunco is a party town full of backpackers with not much to do but sit back, surf, and sip on some cocktails. However, we came in the middle of the week and had no intention of a party lifestyle during our stay. We think El Tunco is a great two-day stop: one day to rest and relax and one day to surf and explore. We can’t attest to the party scene but the waves were nice long tubes, great for learning. We’ve been told there are beaches with waves for beginners and beaches for more advanced surfers all nearby. If you want to spend more time riding the waves, check out the party scene, or look into some day trips, then consider staying some extra days.
Our plan was to spend two days, but then Papusas happened. (Cue dramatic sound effect, DUN DUN DUUUUN)!
Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish composed of a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a filling. Sounds good, right?! So when the hostel owner offered to pick up pupusas from his favorite vendor we naturally jumped at the opportunity. Kurt got pork and I got a potato and cheese pupusa (as I always avoided pork in my previous carnivorous years). Both were quite tasty, but unfortunately, Kurt got to enjoy his over the next 24 hours #barfingemoji.
El Tunco 101: Beware of pork pupusas from sketchy street vendors!
The next night we walked by the vendor where these dodgy little devils came from and saw it was just a little street cart that did not look up to health code regulations. The crazy thing was that I was fine. So we were assuming it must’ve been the pork. Needless to say, this was a learning experience and we decided to avoid dodgy meat street vendors the rest of our trip. (A friend that had the same pork pupusa a couple days later told us the same thing happened to her, coincidence? I think NOT). Some people swear by street food, so go for it, if you feel up to it. Just make sure you scope out the area to see if you are comfortable with the “conditions”.
Top Things To Do In El Tunco, El Salvador
Kurt was down for the count from the papusa encounter so it was up to me to give surfing a try. We stopped by the Kayu Resort and Spa, which is located in El Sunzal, a beach with black glittering sand, and signed up for a surf lesson. It was pretty sad not having my partner in crime on a surfboard next to me but he was my private photographer. A front row seat to my wipe-outs and minor victories were included with the price of admission. The cost was $35 for two hours with a personal instructor, rental board included. Money well spent. For my first time, we were both proud and I look forward to trying again.
2) Walk the Beach and Cave Visit
In between sipping fresh coconut water and walking along the black sand coast, we’d recommend taking a visit to a nearby beach cave.
El Tunco 101: Make sure to plan your cave visit before high tide rolls in and fills the caves up. We went around 1:30pm and it was already slowly filling up.
3) Enjoy Sunsets
Black sand beaches, zigzagging shoreline, and “pig” rock in the water…add a sunset and you get a slice of heaven. There are many places along the beach to enjoy the views.
We could view the sunsets right from our hostel, Hostal Los Almendros El Sunzal, a minute from the shoreline.
While the hostel we stayed at had great views and was in a nice location, it still…how do we put it…needed much tender love and care. With limited amenities, cold showers, and no central A/C, this is a hostel for people traveling on a budget and don’t need the bells and whistles, or some of the basics really. Attempting to sleep with a fan blowing hot air was not our idea of staying beachside.
4) Food (Where to Eat in El Tunco, El Salvador)
You have to eat. Here are a couple places, within walking distance, we enjoyed:
Day Café and Salad Bar
An excellent choice of healthy options with vegetarian and vegan food and drinks available. I highly recommend the blueberry oatmeal for a light option. OH, and you simply can’t miss the homemade brownies (vegan-friendly)! Trust us on this one. (Was a bit difficult to locate this cafe but look for a pink banner with vertical writing DAY).
A waterfront restaurant with a variety of dishes.
That’s Richard, a local who made me this beautiful turquoise heart necklace which he claimed he handmade with the turquoise he handpicked from the ocean. Kurt bought me this heart necklace as an early Valentine’s Day gift for just $5 USD. Talk about getting off easy on Valentine’s Day!
Other Recommendations of Things to Do
These are all adventures that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do on our own but would have considered if we had more time:
- More Surfing – There are countless spots, within an hour, (walking or driving) to catch sweet waves, we just didn’t have time.
- Day trips from El Tunco – There are waterfalls and volcanoes to visit in El Salvador. (Pretty much guaranteed anywhere in Central America).
? Questions for you ?
- Where would you recommend visiting while in El Salvador?
- What is your favorite beach in El Salvador for surfing?