Playa El Tunco is a teeny tiny town on the coast of El Salvador. The beach brings surfers from all over the world to ride its ocean waves from sun up to sun down. The two main roads of the town are populated by small restaurants, hotels, and surf shops. During the weekend, this small town turns into a party zone. But, visit during the week and you’re likely to have a quiet, relaxing stay, filled with salty sea air and afternoon naps. If you’re thinking of making a visit, here’s a helpful overview for travel to Playa El Tunco, El Salvador.
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- El Salvador actually uses US Dollars as currency. As a US citizen, this made life so easy. I had a whole week of not having to concern myself with exchange rates.
- There are a few ATMs in Playa El Tunco, but some people have difficulty with them. I have a visa with Charles Schwab, and never had a problem in Central America. My travel buddy had a
Mastercard,and did not have an easy time finding ATMs that would work. Either way, come prepared with some cash just in case.
- We arrived on a Tuesday and found that most shops and restaurants were not open. Don’t get discouraged if this happens to you. El Tunco is happenin’ on the weekends and therefore must close during a weekday to recuperate. We didn’t have any issues with this for the rest of our time there.
- There aren’t any major grocery stores in El Tunco. If you need to restock any supplies, do so before you get into town. There also aren’t many souvenir type shops in town. You’ll mostly find surf shacks and pricey beach clothes.
Things to do in Playa El Tunco, El Salvador
Being such a small town, you may be asking yourself “What even is there to do all day in El Tunco?” Surprisingly, there is enough to keep you occupied for several days!
Go to the Beach
Obviously, if you’re here on the coast of El Salvador, you probably came with the goal of getting in some beach time. Be aware that there are only a few spots on the beach where the black sand is not interrupted by fist-sized stones. I’d heard that the beach was rocky, but I was not expecting the size of the rocks to be so gargantuan! This is not really a “lay on a towel and
Make sure to bring shoes, because the rocks can get very hot to walk on! I’d also not recommend bringing anything of value with you if you plan on swimming.
El Tunco is known for its great surf, so why not give it a try? There are several places that offer lessons and surfboard rentals. And if you’re already well versed in how to surf, then take your board and join the locals on the waves!
Keep Cool in the Pool
Sometimes, the afternoons in Playa El Tunco are just too hot to do anything else. I spent a lot of time in and around this pool. As the temperature approached 100°F I found myself trying to stay cool in the waters of the pool, and reading in the shaded hammocks by the poolside.
Explore the Caves
Supposedly, there are some really neat caves a little way down from the main beach. I heard they were really fun to explore at low tide, but I never made it to them. Time just slips away so quickly when you’re taking it easy.
Watch the Sunset
What better way to end a lazy day than to sit on the beach and watch the sun set? Watch the ocean waters get darker and darker while the bright sun dips beneath the mountains in the distance.
Where to Eat in Playa El Tunco
There are dozens of restaurants in El Tunco, but many of them have a similar menu, trying to appeal to tourists’ taste buds. Sure, you can get a $3 hamburger, but it will probably taste like meaty cardboard. El Tunco is definitely not a foodie destination for great, authentic Salvadorian food, but there are some good places to check out.
This little smoothie shack is right on the main road leading to the beach. I was a bit wart about the hygiene standards of a smoothie shack in El Salvador, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the sanitary practices I saw!
We visited the smoothie stand every morning of our trip and it was a perfect, refreshing, and healthy start to the day. Not to mention a large cup of fresh smoothie was only $2.50! I highly recommend the
Take a Wok
I would be lying if I said I haven’t craved this stir-fry at least 200 times since leaving El Tunco. For real though. You wouldn’t think there’d be good Asian food hidden in a tiny town in El Salvador, but I wish I had a Take A Wok here in Michigan.
This build-your-own stir-fry place allows you to choose from different types of noodles, meats, sauces, and other add-ons for your meal. We went here twice, and you HAVE to get the guava ginger sauce. You’ll thank me later.
There are many restaurants on the main street that leads to the beach. MamaGuaya is one that’s hard to miss. We only ate one thing here: Pupusas.
Pupusas are a classic Salvadorian food. It’s basically a tortilla stuffed with different things. I tried a pupusa with black beans and cheese, chicken and cheese, and plain cheese. While these weren’t the best pupusas we had in El Salvador, they were still a delicious introduction to an El Salvador staple. Plus! Each pupusa is only $0.50-$1.50 depending on the kind you get.
Where to Stay in Playa El Tunco
There are many accommodation options to choose from in El Tunco. There are a few Eco-Resorts, some small B&B-type places, and a handful of hostels.
Where I Stayed: Tunco Lodge
I really enjoyed staying at Tunco Lodge. It’s just a bit off the main area of El Tunco, but still within a two-minute walk to everything. The hostel is actually pretty
There are tons of great amenities, you barely even need to leave the hostel! Our room was clean and comfy. We were most thankful for the pool and air conditioning, though!
Even though it was incredibly hot in the middle of summer, I enjoyed my relaxing visit to Playa El Tunco, El Salvador. By the time I had to leave, I found I rather enjoyed the slow pace of life and the daily routine I’d established for myself.
So if you’re looking for an off the beaten path, laid-back beach destination that won’t be flooded with vacationers check out Playa El Tunco, El Salvador!
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