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The beaches of El Salvador are some of the best in Central America and a surfers paradise - El Salvador even held the World Surf Championships in May 2022!
The town of El Tunco has been El Salvador's most visited destination by backpackers for many years, with most thinking this is the only safe area in the country to visit - they couldn't be more wrong!
The most popular route to the coast is from Antigua in Guatemala via a direct shuttle to El Tunco.
From Santa Ana
If you're exploring Santa Ana and the west before you head to the coast then you'll need to make your way to the Estación Cieba in San Salvador either by chicken bus (which should cost around 85 cents per person) or by Uber (likely $30).
Once there you can take a shuttle which stops at each of the coastal towns and runs roughly every 20 minutes. You can also take an Uber from here for around $11.
Best Time to Visit
Although you can catch a wave all year round in El Salvador, the best waves are from May to October.
This is unfortunately the rainy season though, so if you're looking to tan and chill on the beach rather than surf, you're better off visiting during the dry season from November to April. If you're not an advanced surfer then the waves are also likely to be good enough for you at this time of year!
The coast of El Salvador is all black sand thanks to the numerous volcanoes in the region, and thanks to being on the Pacific the waves are a surfer's haven!
El Cuco (Punta Mango)
Punta Mango is the hardest to reach of all the beaches, but worth the effort required to get here and possibly our favourite beach of them all!
We were lucky enough to join a last minute and totally unplanned surf trip to Punta Mango with Pelicanos Surf Hostel from La Libertad, so we had a car as transport down here.
However, if you do not get the chance to join this trip then you can take a bus from San Salvador out to San Miguel, where you can then change and take a chicken bus to El Cuco.
The town of El Cuco is nothing special itself, however it is the largest town from which you can jump to a number of quiet, unspoilt, empty beaches with incredible surf!
(It's worth noting that since we visited El Salvador the country underwent some pretty rapid growth, so these beaches may not be quite as quiet and empty as they once were - although still worth visiting I'm sure!)
In March 2021 there were pretty much no facilities at Punta Mango!
There was one hotel located on the beach-front called Escape Punta Mango which had surprisingly fast WiFi, and more importantly an actual toilet!
During our surf camp we had the luxury of sleeping in tents at the side of the beach and lowering a bucket into a water well to shower, so the hotel toilet was a huge bonus!
Given the increase in El Salvador's popularity recently it wouldn't be surprising if facilities had improved here - but be aware, it still might be rustic!
Punta Mango beach
El Tunco is El Salvador's most visited destination and is famous for Tunco Rock (pictured). At high tide the rock is said to resemble a pig lying on its back - we'll leave it up to you as to whether you agree..
This is the biggest and busiest town along the coast and is where you'll find the nightlife in Surf City.
Friday and Saturday are especially busy as the locals come down to join the tourists for a weekend away.
There's a split opinion over this town as to whether it's worth visiting due to it being overly touristy - having spent just one evening in the town we would definitely recommend visiting for at least that long, and longer if you're just looking to surf and party!
If you're looking for a relaxing beach experience then we would not suggest El Tunco as your best option.
The majority of the beach is rocky and the sandy section is likely to be pretty crowded, with the leftover rubbish littering the beach as a reminder.
El Tunco Rock
A little further along the coast past El Tunco you'll find the quieter area of El Zonte.
The beach front here isn't lined with bars and restaurants (at least it wasn't in 2021, but we have a feeling this might change quickly), just up market surfing hotels, little wooden shack shops and pupuserias!
We spent 4 nights in El Zonte at Palo Verde Hotel and absolutely loved our time here!
If you're looking for surf with the perfect place to chill then this is your spot.
The black sand beaches are larger, quieter and cleaner, and the sunsets from this beach are something else!
> Click here for the best place to stay in El Zonte! <
Palo Verde, El Zonte
The first town you'll reach when you arrive in Surf City is La Libertad.
This is the largest town along this section of coast and offers some great surfing spots.
Accommodation ranges from the 'rustic' (we mean waking up to chickens staring at you, no windows or walls kinda rustic), to fancy resorts and boutique surf hotels.
The beach itself is pretty rocky in this area so not ideal for sunbathing, and the town of La Libertad is nothing special, however the fishing pier and fish market is a fun way to spend a late afternoon and a great insight into local life!
Sunset in La Libertad is also pretty magical, with undisturbed views of the sun sinking into the ocean!
Sunset at La Libertad
Beaches we didn't make it to
But we've heard good things so want to share them with you!
We had planned on visiting Los Cóbanos but unfortunately we didn't end up making it there this time.
Unlike the rest of the coast, this isn't the spot for surfing - it's actually El Salvador's one good diving spot!
Just off the coast are colourful reefs with lots of marine life to watch (or so we've heard anyway!).
We are also lead to believe the coast here isn't the volcanic black sand and is ideal for sunbathing and hanging out on the beach!
From our research it doesn't seem as though there is an easy route down here, but we're sure with a little effort you could find one and reap the benefits!
As with Los Cóbanos, Mizata is one beach resort that we didn't end up visiting, but it's made the list to make sure you're aware it exists!
Mizata is home to some pretty nice resorts and day spots perfect for relaxing, tanning and drinking by the beach!
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