• Jeff Epps

Playa El Tunco (Surf City)


Playa El Tunco

Surfer at Playa El Tunco


I visited Playa El Tunco earlier this year in January when it was too cold to go to Europe. I had also never been before so there was more than one reason for me to visit. Also, I was still staying at a cheap hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, as a temporary base, so my access to the rest of Latin America was convenient. The Philippines was not set to open back up until February 10th, so I wanted to cover as much of this part of the world as I possibly could while I was in this part of the world.


I was still making payments on my apartment in the Cavite (Philippines) province but that was really just an overpriced storage facility since my stuff was there, but I had not been able to get back there in the last year and a half, due to the Pandemic.


I had arrived in San Salvador via Miami and I had checked into the Hotel Oasis, an inexpensive accommodation that costs about $30 USD/night.

Hotel Oasis San Salvador

Hotel Oasis, San Salvador, El Salvador


Hotel Oasis is in a pretty convenient location and is walking (or driving) distance from many of the downtown tourist attractions in San Salvador including Metrocentro, Monumento El Salvador del Mundo Statue, La Gran Via Shopping Center, Plaza Merliot, Volcano El Boqueron and other notable sites.

San Salvador, El Salvador (Gallery)


I spent a couple of days in San Salvador exploring what the city had to offer, and then decided to head to Playa El Tunco by way of a downtown "chicken bus" or microbus (with A/C) for almost no cost at all. You can take the 102/102A from "Punta de Buses Ruta 102" which is located in Centro Historico. It will take you about 45 minutes to get to La Libertad and another 12 minutes from there to El Tunco, altogether costing about $3 USD.


Though there are several buses running from San Salvador to La Libertad, I learned that the most efficient way to get to El Tunco is with a 102A microbus, which will cost you about $1.50 (one way) and will take about an hour. I chose this option.

102 & 102A Buses


Regardless of how you want to get to Playa El Tunco, it may be worth stopping in La Libertad and exploring what that beach community has to offer as well. I ended up exploring La Libertad the very next day and it's definitely worth a visit.


Since I left around 8am from San Salvador en route to El Tunco, I was able to get there around 9am or so and I had an entire day to explore. The 102A bus runs from 6am to 7pm and stops in El Tunco about every 30 minutes or so.


I remember making stops at the El Salvador International Airport on the 102A, both to and from El Tunco. There other routes to get to El Tunco from other places, too.

El Tunco Map El Salvador

Map of Playa El Tunco (courtesy www.behance.net)


When you get off the bus on Highway 2 you will see a sign that lets you know that you have arrived at Playa El Tunco. You will walk down a somewhat lengthy brick road. Before you get too far you will come to a 3-way point where you'll need to pick a direction to go. You can go left or straight to get to the Beach but straight is probably the best option, but it all really depends on where you want to go, exactly. If you just want to head to the Beach then straight will be your best bet. You will actually walk right a bit and then take a hard left (not exactly straight).


Assuming you go straight at the 3-way you will notice some accommodations with fences and gates along with some shops where you can purchase items, and restaurants and bars where you can dine and drink. If you keep walking until you get to the Beach then you will end up at a decent place called "Restaurante La Bocana."


This is the first place that I stopped at and had a nice, cold tropical concoction. I sat on the second floor and was able to catch a gorgeous view of the Beach while enjoying the Ocean breeze and the beautiful and sunny weather.

Restaurante La Bocana Playa El Tunco

Restaurante La Bocana, Playa El Tunco


Of course, I was wearing my signature white tank top shirt with shorts and I had a perfect view of the pig-shaped rock that the town and beach's namesake comes from. "El Tunco" is literally translated as "The Pig." I don't think the rock looks anything like the silhouette of a pig but whatever, it's still cool to gaze at.

Pig-Shaped Rock, Playa El Tunco


I just had to get some footage of the Pig-Shaped Rock since it is a signature attraction at Playa El Tunco. It's just one of those shots you have to get.


I headed southeast along the Beach until I reached the Rio Grande and after a bit of sight-seeing, I decided to stop and have lunch and another drink at Ostras & Conchas Don Luis (no website). It's an easy place to find and the food and drinks are worth the stop. I had a Chicken Caesar salad along with a Jack & Coke.

Ostras & Conchas Don Luis Playa El Tunco

Ostras & Conchas Don Luis, Playa El Tunco


After a brief lunch and a couple of strong drinks, I was in no hurry to leave the shady and breezy second floor of Ostras & Conchas Don Luis. I was feeling good and the weather and the scenery was just right, I mean it was all perfect.


But since I knew that I only had the day to spend here I needed to make the most of it, so after about an hour and a half I decided to go explore more of the area. The good news was that El Tunco isn't very big, so just about all of it (within walking distance) can be explored within a day. There are cascades and other areas of interest nearby that would probably require one to stay longer so they can really soak it all up. Fortunately, one day was enough for me to see some good stuff.


I just needed a good taste of Playa El Tunco without swallowing too much of it, but after reflecting on it all, it would have been wise for me to stay the night there since I did hit nearby La Libertad the next day. The thing is, I didn't know that I was going to do this until after I had arrived back at the Hotel later in the evening.


I'm not much into shopping so I didn't really care to see all of the shops but one thing that I had researched about Playa El Tunco is its vast surfing culture.

Playa El Tunco

Surfer at Playa El Tunco


There are several reasons why when people think of El Tunco, the first thought that comes to their minds is surfing. It's the same reason why El Tunco is nicknamed "Surf City." Playa El Tunco is said to be the best surf spot in El Salvador and arguably the best surf spot in all of Central America. Though most of the surfing occurs at Playa El Sunzel & Playa La Bocana, for the sake of the article I'll just refer to those beaches as being one in the same of Playa El Tunco.

Playa El Tunco

Surfer at Playa El Tunco


With the launch of Surf City in 2019, a nearby surfing school, El Tunco has become increasingly popular among international surfers. It is said that surfing is good year-round at Playa El Tunco as the swell is always good.

Katherine Diaz Playa El Tunco

Katherine Diaz Memorial Statue at Playa El Tunco


They say the best time for beginners is during the dry season from November to April, when the waves are more shoulder and chest height, making navigating through the water and waves much easier for surfers just starting out.

Playa El Tunco

Surfer at Playa El Tunco


They say the best time for advanced surfers is during the wet season from May to October, when the waves can get as high as 6 to 10 feet (about 2 or 3 meters). Notable surf schools in the area (with websites) include Kayu Surfing School & fH20tography, Transfer Surf Adventures El Salvador and El Tunco Surf School. Lessons can range from $35 USD to $50 USD depending on how long you want to learn, but it's best to inquire with each individual school just to make sure.


Surfboards can be rented from multiple places from between $10 to $35 USD/day.

ISA World Surfing Games 2021

2021 ISA World Surfing Games at Surf City, Playa El Tunco


The 2021 ISA World Surfing Games were held across the La Bocana and El Sunzal waves at Surf City. More than 250 athletes from 51 countries competed.

Zen Hotel Playa El Tunco

Sunset at Zen Hotel, Playa El Tunco


Among the popular attractions at Playa El Tunco are the breathtaking Pacific Coast sunsets. It's very difficult to top a west coast sunset regardless of where it is. For reasons such as surfing, parties and sunsets, I would easily compare Playa El Tunco to Nicaragua's San Juan del Sur, another surf town that I'm fond of.

Playa El Tunco

Sunset at Playa El Tunco


Between 4pm and 7pm are the best times to catch the beautiful sunsets.

Playa El Tunco

Sunset at Playa El Tunco


These sunsets can be particularly enjoyed on the weekends when the party seen is picking up, while people mingle together and plan what their nights will be like.

Long Beach Bar Playa El Tunco

Long Beach Bar at Playa El Tunco


Speaking of the party scene, I will mention just a few places worth checking out during your visit to Playa El Tunco. Had I stayed the night in El Tunco, I would have most definitely checked out the nightlife scene but next time, it will be at the top of my agenda (along with surf lessons...maybe). Long Beach Bar has disco and karaoke nights and offers plenty of late-night entertainment options and drink specials.

La Bonita Beach Club Playa El Tunco

La Bonita Beach Club at Playa El Tunco


La Bonita Beach Club is another hip establishment near the Beach that offers music, booze and food. Their menu is available on their Facebook Page and they are also open late. They offer a variety of Balinese food and different mixed drinks.

Kako's Gastrobar Playa El Tunco

Kako's Gastrobar at Playa El Tunco


Kako's Gastrobar is an establishment with an a la carte menu and a full bar. Their food platters range from seafood platters to bocas and entrees. They offer parking service, a swimming pool and are walking distance from the Beach. This is a place that is frequented by all-nighters who want to have fun without a time limit.


There are several other places to enjoy nightlife at around Playa El Tunco.


I enjoyed my day at Playa El Tunco, I thought about staying the night but I decided to go ahead and head back to San Salvador to Hotel Oasis.


I met a few people while I was there during the day and it seems that most people like to travel in couples to El Tunco, understandably so, because it can most certainly produce a romantic vibe and it's a very free-spirited kind of place.

Playa El Tunco

Couple at Playa El Tunco at Dusk


Other activities of interest around Playa El Tunco include hiking, cliff jumping, yoga, exploring waterfalls and observing street art. And of course, all of the mainstream beach and water activities such as kayaking, sunbathing, fishing, kiteboarding, parasailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding and others.

El Tunco Street Art


I really enjoy these kinds of beach towns in Central America as they are small, charming little jewels that are good for anyone. When I meet people who are at all-time lows in their lives, some of the best advice that I like to give them is to visit Playa El Tunco or San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua) or some other place like them.

El Tunco Businesses


Some people need a great escape, a real escape to paradise where they can stow all of their real-world problems and just become someone else for a while. You'll meet people in El Tunco that most likely you will never see again. They don't know about your problems back home, nor do you know about theirs. You all are there for the same reasons and that is to enjoy yourselves and to have a great, memorable experience. With a positive attitude and an open mind, you'll become a new you.

Playa El Tunco

Local Musicians at Playa El Tunco


It's almost impossible not to have a good time at Playa El Tunco as there is almost always something going on, year-round. If anything, you can just sit in the sand and stare at the waves with a drink in your hand, listen to local bands or watch the surfers do their thing. Since it's true that people are happier when the sun is shining, you will always see smiling faces somewhere close by.

Playa El Tunco

Surfer at Playa El Tunco

Next time I visit Playa El Tunco, I must attempt to get on a surfboard. I have to.

Playa El Tunco

Dusk at Playa El Tunco


Do yourself a favor and visit Playa El Tunco, one of the happiest places on earth.

Boca Olas Resort Villas Playa El Tunco

Boca Olas Resort Villas at Playa El Tunco


Notable Accommodation Options

These are just a few accommodations available, dorm-room hostels can be booked for as cheap as $7 USD/night and luxury hotels are typically $100 USD/night and up.

Cadejo Brewing Company Playa El Tunco

Cadejo Brewing Company at Playa El Tunco


Notable Dining Options

Other establishments that I mentioned earlier in the article also serve food.


Some other useful information about Playa El Tunco is that there are 3 ATMs in town, including a Bitcoin ATM, and many business also accept Bitcoin payment. The closest pharmacy is in La Libertad. There are shuttle services going to and from Antigua, Guatemala & Copan, Honduras & Leon, Nicaragua.


Further Reading

Lonely Planet Central America

Click HERE to Purchase


Nicaragua & El Salvador Lonely Planet

Click HERE to Purchase


Stormrider Surf Guide Central America Caribbean

Click HERE to Purchase


All items purchased via my website, www.outcastvagabond.com, are purchased through my affiliate, www.amazon.com, and I will receive a small commission for them. I appreciate your support of my travel brand and of my career as a professional traveler. Thank you.


Featured Posts:
Older Posts: