If you couldn’t tell, I really liked my time in El Tunco, El Salvador. We planned our visit on a whim to break up our travels from Guatemala to Nica and couldn’t have been happier about that decision!
Because I liked it so much I wanted to put together a guide for those of you who want to experience this nice little surf town yourselves!
El Tunco, El Salvador
El Tunco is easily accessible from San Salvador, neighboring Leon & Granada, Nicaragua and Antigua or Lake Atitlan, Guatemala via shuttle or public bus. I stopped in El Tunco, El Salvador on a trip from Antigua to Leon and it was a great stopping point. Chicken busses will set you back a couple dollars and will take some street smarts to finagle the changes but shuttles will run around $10-$20 and typically go direct.
El Salvador is still incredibly cheap. Hostels will start at $8 USD for a dorm bed and $20 or so for a private. Hotels aren’t as cheap and can set you back over $100 USD per night if you let them. Food is also a cost that ranges drastically. You can easily only spend $5 a day by eating pupusas for every meal or you could spend $20 per meal eating western food, it’s up to you.
There aren’t really any transportation costs once you are in El Tunco. Everything is within walking distance. If you wanted to go to a neighboring town you can find public buses for $0.50 or less.
If surfing is your thing, you can hop on a surfboard or get a lesson for around $10 a day.
Where to stay:
I highly recommend the Papaya Lodge. It had private rooms for $20 and dorm beds for $8. There was a great vibe in the hostel and it was very open air. The swimming pool was a great place to relax in the afternoons when you’ve had your fill of the strong waves in the ocean. They serve breakfast and beers all day.
If the Papaya Lodge is full, I heard great things about the Tunco Lodge which was just around the corner.
Where to eat:
Pupusas are your cheapest and best local option for any meal in El Tunco, El Salvador. They range from $0.50 to $1 USD per pupusa and, usually 2-3 will curb any appetite. Read more about pupusas in this article. There are pupusarias just about every 10 feet along the two streets in the town so it won’t be hard to find them. Rumor on the street was that the nuns in the church down the road past Tunco Lodge had the best and cheapest pupusas in town, but I could not find them for the life of me!! I enjoyed the ones on the right hand side on the road towards the beach.
When you get pupusa’d out, which will happen, head to Take a Wok, a great build your own noodle dish spot. You can pick your noodle type, the sauce, the additions. It’s a great big portion and will feed you for two meals probably although the cost is a bit steep at around $10 per box of noodles. It’s located across the street from Papaya Lodge and away from the beach.
Another great option is falafel which is located past Take a Wok for around $3-4.
What to do:
El Tunco, El Salvador is not the place to go if you constantly need to be moving and exploring new places. It is a two street town, literally, and is a great place to relax for a few days and enjoy some surfing. The locals are great and are super friendly and always up for a chat, so don’t rush through meals.
Surfing: You can easily find an instructor on the beach or along one of the two streets of the town that you can hire for the day to take you out and teach you. Typically, this will set you back $10-$20 USD for the day.
Explore the Caves: There are some great sea caves that you can access when the tides are low. If you bring anything make sure to put it in a dry bag because you’ll be walking along the rocks for the majority of the trip. To get there, walk to the left along the beach when facing the ocean for about 10 minutes or so.
Do Sunset: The sunsets in El Tunco, El Salvador are unbelievable. Grab a beer from a tienda and park your butt on the rock wall or head over to Monkey La La for a comfy seat in a recliner and a $5 cocktail. They are seriously spectacular, don’t miss it.
Relax! This isn’t a monstrously thrilling town. It’s gained popularity from its chill, backpacker vibe. There are great parties every night of the week but the weekends are where it’s really at. Locals from San Salvador and neighboring towns descend on El Tunco on the weekends and make it even more fun!
Bring as much cash as you think you’ll need because the ATMs in town are very finicky and a lot of people had some SERIOUS issues getting access to cash.
Plan your trip to coincide with the weekend for a bit more upbeat vibe or chill out during the week without as much partying.
Enjoy your trip to El Tunco, El Salvador! Come back here and tell me all about it!
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