El Tunco, El Salvador is a hot spot for backpackers and international surfers from around the world and for good reason. The people, the surf, the food and safety are unlike any other town I have ever visited while on a surf vacation.
Here are some of the reasons why.
Guide to El Tunco
#1. Surfing – Surfing in El Tunco El Salvador is a ton of fun regardless of you surfing abilities. The easiest wave to surf is the right hand point break on the north end of the beach known as Sunzal. In the middle of El Tunco lies La Bocanita, a really fun, fast beach break and to the south is La Bocana point break located at the river mouth of the Rio Grande River.
#2. $.50 cent Papusa’s at Fafi’s place – The owner Fafi is only 25 years old and is currently the El Salvadorian surfing champion, along with good food and company (daniel the water) its almost impossible to find better food for a cheaper price. I have dinner here religiously when staying El Salvador. Closed on Mondays.
#3. Ladies Night – Ladies you really don’t need to pay for drinks while visiting EL Tunco. Most nights bars in town offer free drinks known as “Ladies Night” the party moves from place to place depending on the night, and the guys will always surely follow. Keep in mind EL Tunco is safe, however you are in a third world country… Bottomless drinks are fun until??
#4. Taco Guanaco – Is my favorite place to eat in El Tunco for many reasons. The food is incredible, the prices are cheap I have the Pollo de Torta (Chicken Torta) for lunch daily without fail and it’s always mouth water good. At $4 it’s solid deal. I like to sit downstairs with the locals and talk shop while people watching. They also offer seating upstairs however I prefer to sit on the street.
#5. $1 Gallon Jugs of water – I probably should have mentioned this before the drink specials. El Tunco and El Salvador is HOT. You can buy water bottles of various sizes at the little mini marts in town for various prices however the best deal I found was a $1 gallon jug of water. Throw it in the fridge and then fill mini water bottles to take with you everywhere you go, again it’s hot down here.
#6. Cheap Breakfast aka Desayuno Traditional – Traditional El Salvadorian breakfast in El Tunco cost $2-$5 numerous restaurants, cafes and stands offer up Desayuno Traditional. I can and do eat this daily, eggs, avocado, beans, fried banana’s and bread are a perfect after surf meal, this is what the locals eat daily at home as well. My favorite place for Breakfast is located on the main corner intersection in El Tunco, not sure the name but the place has a green awning and is fun to people watch from. (across from Fafi’s)
#7. Friendly Locals where everyone knows your name – Spend some time in El Tunco amongst the locals and before you know it you will have a ton of friendly faces not only smiling, throwing shakas and giving high fives (they do a high five first then fist pad greeting here, 2 parts) but actually saying your name, asking how you are doing, and truly taking an interest in you. This is not a town to be “to cool” in, everyone here is on the same level, tourist and locals alike. Show some love and it will be returned 10 fold.. A friendly greeting and smile goes a long way here in El Salvador.
#8. Delicious Asian Food in El Salvador? – I walked by Take a Wok many a times my first visit to El Tunco without ever really considering going in. Having traveled in Asia I was not really excited to see Asian food in Central America. That was BEFORE I tried Take a Wok. Although it’s expensive for El Tunco at under $10 you can get a fresh cooked Asian stir fry customized to exactly the way you want it. The veggies option is amazing too and only runs about $7. Typically a box of stir fry (they serve food in Asian to-go boxes) will last 2 meals unless you are really hungry. However I have yet to see anyone finish a serving in one sitting. Couples could surely enjoy sharing some delicious grinds from Take a Wok.
#9. Spanish Lessons in El Tunco – I came to El Salvador very green, not knowing much Spanish. I would highly recommend brushing up on your skills before heading down. Or better yet practicar (practice) while in El Tunco. I have started taking lessons from Alejandra for $15 an hour and it’s already helping out big time. Some of the locals speak a little English, however if you try to speak Spanish or even “Spanglish” it’s much appreciated by the El Salvadorians. This is a fun and easy way to practice, especially when they repeat what you said and say it the way it’s supposed to sound. Try not to translate words, as it won’t really work out. Find the local meaning and stick with it.
#10. Stunning Sunrises and Sunsets – I mentioned some of the local surf sports earlier as being North or South of El Tunco, however El Salvador actually runs West to East what this means is daily sunrises and sunsets right in front of the beach in El Tunco. Hawaii, Indo and California can’t even compete with this. Twice a day the sky comes to life on this stretch of the Pacific Ocean.
#11. $1 Gatorades at local Tiendos (little stores) – Yes they sell stuff from the United States in El Tunco… Gatorade will be a life saver at some point in your stay. Water is great but lacks the proper nutrients if you happen to eat something that doesn’t agree with your stomach. Just be sure to continue to drink lots of water along with the Gatorades.
#12. Street Dogs, and not like the ones in Bali that attack you. – El Tunco has a large population of mostly friendly unfixed males and unspayed female dogs roaming the streets who’s numbers have rapidly increasing over the years. If you spend more then a few days in El Tunco odds are you will not only be able to recognize but might even start to create imaginary names for some of these cute four legged locals.
#13. Tons of Lodging Options – Rooms in El Tunco range from $6 dorms with a fan to $25 private rooms with AC and if you really feel like spending more money a few places cater to the $100-200 USD crowd. If your El Salvador vacation is strictly about surfing and you want to get woken up at 5:30am each morning check out Vaqeros Surf Lodge. If you like a great deal, flat screen tv’s and stumbling distance walk from all the bars the Posada Luna is a solid option. Tell either of them that Gringo sent you…
And for the higher end EL Sal vacation check out Boca Olas.
#14. Surfers Massage – One word “Rhina”, some how this tiny little El Salvadorian lady was able to give me a series of the best massages of my life. I felt bad for her as my muscles were incredibly tight, throw in surfing a couple times a day and she had her work cut out for her. Best $35 you can spend in El Tunco! Tell her Mike says hi…
#15. Street Parties – At some point between Thursday night and Sunday Night everyone will just be hanging out on the streets in El Tunco. Locals, visitors, ex-pats you name it. Throw in a very liberal open bottle policy and some Regatron music and the scene in this tiny little beach town in El Salvador is surely the polar opposite of what people expect when they think of a vacation to this not so scary part of El Salvador.
Extra tip : bring your own sunscrneen and lots of it. Checkout this article on the best sunscreen for surfing and skiing.