El Salvador

El Tunco, El Salvador – the Surfers Oasis on the Pacific Shore

Last Updated on 15/05/2024 by kami

I can’t explain why, but during my trip to Central America, I really wanted to visit El Tunco, El Salvador. I guess I needed a short break in my Central America itinerary, and this coastal place sounded like a perfect choice.

Laid back vibe, loud ocean waves crashing on the shore, lush vegetation – it sounded like one of the best places to visit in El Salvador. And I was not disappointed.

Even if El Tunco is considered a loud party destination (and it was), I found it a great place to relax and slow down for a bit.

If you think of visiting El Tunco, El Salvador, read on about what to do in El Tunco and my experience there so you know what to expect from this coastal town.

El Tunco El Salvador

Where is El Tunco, El Salvador

El Tunco, a small coastal village, is located on the Pacific Ocean shore in the central part of El Salvador. San Salvador, the capital of the country, is located less than 40 kilometers away from El Tunco. The El Salvador International Airport is also around 40 km from El Tunco.

El Tunco El Salvador

Why visit El Tunco

El Tunco is known as the surfing mecca of Central America, attracting surfing fans for a while, which became very popular, especially in recent years. Since the waves aren’t too overwhelming and crazy here, it is a perfect spot to learn how to surf. More advanced surfers can have a base in El Tunco and enjoy everything it has to offer, but go surfing to nearby, more challenging locations.

But even if you don’t surf, you can visit El Tunco and have a good time; that’s what I did. There is a nice dark beach, perfect for strolls, with the mesmerizing sound of the crashing waves in the background. The laid-back atmosphere helps you to slow down and unwind. This lazy vibe was what I liked the most about El Tunco, together with the beautiful, somehow exotic surroundings.

El Tunco is probably the most popular destination in El Salvador among backpackers, but if you visit the place off-season or not over the weekend, it shouldn’t be a problem. This is also the major hub for nightlife in the country, especially during weekends.

El Tunco El Salvador

How to get to El Tunco

The easiest way to reach El Tunco is by the shuttle bus. They are especially useful if you travel from abroad. I took the shuttle from Copan Ruinas in Honduras, but they also go from Antigua, Guatemala, and Leon, Nicaragua.

From San Salvador, you can take the chicken bus no 102, from La Libertad bus no 80. If you go to El Tunco directly from the airport, a taxi or private transfer is your best option – you can book it here.

El Tunco El Salvador

Where to stay in El Tunco

There are a few accommodation options in El Tunco to choose from: hotels, inns, and hostels, so you can find something that fits your preferences. Just a word of warning – when selecting the accommodation, be sure to read the comments beforehand as some places are near nightclubs and it can be loud until late hours (that was the case with my place).

Here are some recommended places to stay in El Tunco:

El Tunco El Salvador

What to do in El Tunco

One of the main things to do in El Tunco is obviously surfing. This is what attracts most visitors to this little place, and it’s not surprising as the waves are pretty great here. You can rent all the necessary equipment on the spot and enjoy the Pacific Ocean to the fullest.

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

But even if you don’t surf, you can enjoy other El Tunco attractions. The area is charming for walks, either along the beach or inland, where the vegetation is pretty amazing (at least it was for me, coming from Europe). There are even a few beach caves that you might find when strolling along.

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

The El Tunco village is small; it basically has two main streets lined with hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops. There is also some colorful street art around, which is an excellent addition to the overall vibe of the place.

A few of the cafes are a great option if you need to work remotely (I enjoyed Dale Dale Cafe to catch up on emails).

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco was also the first place where I tried and fell in love with pupusas – a local street food (named also a national dish) – a thick flatbread with different stuffing, served with tomato sauce and cabbage salad. It was so good that I kept eating it every day during my stay in El Salvador.

The best place to try pupusas in El Tunco is a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Esquina Los Amigos (here is the location). The prices were very affordable, and the pupusas were delicious.

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

I found El Tunco to be a great place to relax. I spent most of my day hanging out, reading a book in the hammock (there was one outside my hotel room), chatting with fellow travelers, and simply being lazy. You won’t find any monuments or cultural sights in El Tunco, which is good as you don’t feel any pressure to do any sightseeing. It feels so good to simply do nothing there.

El Tunco El Salvador

But no matter where you are and what you do in El Tunco, once the sunset time comes, head to the beach. El Tunco is known for the most spectacular sunset in Central America, and it definitely is not an exaggeration.

The colors, the ambience, the sound of the ocean – everything was just perfect and played together so well. If you are looking for a reason to visit El Tunco (besides surfing), beautiful sunsets might be it.

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

In the evening, El Tunco turns into a party hub, so if you are looking for a good nightlife spot, you are in a good place. I’m a bit too old and too lazy for that now, but I could see and hear numerous parties taking place all over the village, and they sounded fun.

El Tunco is a popular nightlife destination, especially over the weekends, when locals join the international crowd to have fun in this coastal destination.

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

Where to go next

I based myself in El Tunco but had planned two day trips from there to see more of El Salvador. One of them unfortunately fell through as it was off-season, and not enough people wanted to join it. I still really regret it, but that’s the joy of traveling in not the most popular months.

Anyway, from El Tunco, you can go for day trips to Ruta de las Flores (beautiful colonial towns), Cerro Verde National Park (with some spectacular views of volcanoes), or Mayan sites (there are a few of them all over the country, some were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List). You can also hike the Santa Ana volcano, explore the waterfront, and enjoy even more laid-back places along the Pacific Ocean.

El Salvador has much to offer, and El Tunco can be a good starting point to see more of the country.

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

El Tunco El Salvador

Further reading

I published more articles about Central America that you might find useful when planning your trip there. You can find them here:

If you are looking for articles about a specific destination – check out the map with all the articles I’ve published (and their locations).


Travel Resources

You can find the best accommodation options at Booking. They have many discounts and excellent customer service. Click here to look for the place to stay in El Salvador

Never travel without travel insurance, you never know what might happen and better safe than sorry. You can check the insurance policy for El Salvador here.

I recommend joining organized tours to get to know the place better and to visit more places during your trip. You can find a great selection of tours at Get Your Guide – click here.

Make sure to have the offline map always installed on your phone, they can save you so many troubles. I always use the free app Maps.Me.


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El Tunco El Salvador


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