With its black sand beach dotted with volcanic rocks that attracts surfers from all over the world, El Tunco is the most touristy seaside village on El Salvador‘s Pacific coast. Yet this place, ideal for partying and relaxing, has managed to remain on a human scale. Two main streets lined with laid-back or flashy hotels, restaurants and typical, trendy or touristy shops make up this evolving village. One thing is for sure, you’ll feel right at home here.
And while El Tunco is certainly a must-visit destination in Central America for beach and surf lovers, it’s also a place to immerse yourself in Salvadoran culture and experience the warmth of its people.
Where to eat in El Tunco?
Great little places abound in El Tunco. All in all, our favorite is the Mopelia, a hotel-restaurant with a cool, rustic decor and a great atmosphere, run by a friendly Belgian. Enjoy sublime Liege waffles, good breakfasts and a fine selection of beers imported from Belgium. Which is an oddity in the heart of El Salvador! In addition, there are also a large number of board games to keep you entertained. Definitely worth a try!
In the morning, for an espresso worthy of the name, which is rare in El Salvador, head to the Point Break Café. It was voted the best café of our trip! Later, to cool off in the 30-degree heat, head next door to D’Varquillo Ice Cream Parlor for delicious sorbets at reasonable prices.
And don’t miss the two more traditional restaurants in the area. Cristy, which serves amazing pancakes stuffed with bananas, and Tunco Bonito, where you can fill up on pupusas. The typical Salvadoran corn fritters are stuffed with cheese, vegetables, or meat, and are very affordable and filling. Yum!
Where to sleep in El Tunco?
While there is plenty to choose from when it comes to El Tunco hotels and accommodation, we dropped off our bags at the Balancé Yoga Studio. Expect two air-conditioned studios, very clean and fully equipped, overlooking a private pool surrounded by Acapulco chairs and a manicured garden. In fact, the design and comfort couldn’t be better. This peaceful spot also offers daily vinyasa or gentle flow yoga classes, a stone’s throw from the crowds of El Tunco and a short walk from the beach. You don’t want to miss it!
Where to surf in El Tunco?
Surfing in El Tunco offers a variety of spots for all levels, as well as a number of camps and lodges. Some of them are located in El Tunco itself, while others are just a few kilometers away.
Wondering when is the best time of year to surf in El Salvador? The most consistent swell season is when the South Pacific Ocean is at its most active, from March to October. But even the dry months of November to February can provide quality surf. Be aware that surfing at El Tunco is not for the novice surfer. The swells here are notoriously strong and should not be taken lightly.
- El Zonte is one of the most popular surfing spots in El Salvador. It’s known for its long, soft rights that are perfect for beginners and longboarders about an hour north of El Tunco. Make sure to stay at Canadian-owned El Dorado Resort!
- For more experienced surfers, Punta Roca is a world class wave that has drawn comparisons to famous spots like J-Bay and Noosa.
- El Sunzal is known for its low tide surfing and gentle waves.
- For those looking for less crowded waves, check out Mizata. It offers both right and left point breaks and can provide great conditions on 3-5 foot swells.
Where to see the black sand beach in El Tunco?
You have to walk a bit to find soft sand at El Tunco. The coarse black sand beaches at Playa el Tunco certainy isn’t it!
Take a fifteen-minute stroll outside of town in the direction of the Casa de Mar Hotel and lay down your towel on a very quiet stretch of black sand. If you want to see the most beautiful sunset in El Tunco, perfectly set behind the iconic rock, kick back on one of the beach chairs at the laid-back Monkey La La bar.
Finally, watch the surfers ride the gentle waves in the perfect golden light. Order a local beer, preferably a Suprema, and munch on pupusas. Hasta luego El Tunco, and El Salvador!
All photo credits: Laure Juilliard