You can hardly call it a road. On this pulsatingly warm february night you can only discern some cobblestones left and right in what is otherwise just sand. In front of a cafe a guy is poking through the glowing coal, roasting the pork. The next restaurant is actually doing the same, street-barbecueing El Salvador style. The street is slowly filled with smoke, creating an almost hallucinatory glow when combined with the orange street lights. Is this really the tropical paradise of El Tunco beach?
Fast forward twelve hours, and in the early morning this beach town looks far less intimidating. Early-bird surfers are coming back from the water, having ridden the last waves of the early morning high tide. Surf shops are slowly opening, and owners of the around a dozen pubs and restaurants aren’t yet convincing you to visit them.
Nightlife, you say? Well, the backpacking hostel scene obviously gets into party gear in the weekend, but even then only in high season. The better option? Take one of a couple of mid-class restaurants at the beach, enjoy your food and the cocktails and then head for the rocks to listen to the endless waves crashing into El Tunco. Sleep-surf-repeat.
Good to know
- accommodation: as the town is small, there aren’t loads of options. But there are possibilities for all budgets. Sombra and Papaya for example are good hostel options. The Eco del Mar, right at the beach, is more expensive for those expecting more luxury. And the El Dorado resort caters for almost every wish
- Food: most budget options can be found on the last 100 metre pedestrian-only stretch of ‘road’ towards the beach. At the waterside, turn left along the small path to find some more mid-class options such as La Bocana and Remar. You will also find several bars here, some of them hosted by hostels
- Orientation: when you turn right at the beach, you immediately reach El Sunzal beach. It basically has the same size as El Tunco, but most accommodations here are for hotel guests only. When you turn left, after 300 metres you will reach Rio Grande and will slowly be guided back to the main national road
- Getting there and away: the best tourist options are the minivan shuttles from Gekko (https://gekkotrailsexplorer.com). Internationally they take you to and from Antigua Guatemala and to Leon / Granada / San Juan del Sur (all in Nicaragua). Domestic options are for example the beaches of El Cuco or El Zonte and the colonial city of Suchitoto
- things get slightly more complicated if you want to get to San Salvador or to Juayua (on the Ruta de Flores / Flower Route). There is a minivan driving to the West bus terminal in San Salvador (around 90 minutes, be careful to ask the driver to stop). From there you can go deeper into the city center by taxi or walk or you go to other cities by chicken bus. One of those destinations is Juayua. In that case you first need a chicken bus to Sonsonate and there switch (at another terminal, 200 metres away!) to Ahuachapan and exit in Juayua. There is also a bus from El Tunco to Sonsonate, there is hardly any difference in time and price