El Tunco is a once-sleepy coastal village that has quickly risen in popularity among the backpacker community. There is really only two roads, both full of restaurants, hostels, hotels, and clothing stores. El Salvador is quickly rising as one of the worlds top budget destinations, now is the time to visit!
A Budget Guide to El Tunco
The two biggest draws to El Tunco are surfing and the nightlife. El Salvador overall is recognized worldwide as one of the best surf spots on the globe and this is one of the best spots to enjoy the sport. While board rentals and surf lessons are plentiful, understand that the waves here can be a little rough if you’re a complete beginner. Thankfully, the instructors are good at judging your performance and where they should be taking you.
Board rentals go for around $10 – $15 per day, and lessons are $20+ for an hour (including rental).
In regards to the nightlife, once the sun goes down, the strip of quiet eateries during the day quickly turn into bumping nightclubs with music blasting late into the evening. This is especially true on weekends, when locals from San Salvador head into town to wind down after a long week.
Given the backpacker vibe of El Tunco, there are several spots around town offering sunrise and sunset yoga for reasonable prices.
For a unique experience, head to La Libertad early in the morning and check out the local fish market. Watch as fishermen bring in the morning catch. Treat yourself to some of the freshest ceviche around!
Head inland a little ways to the town of Tamanique, where you can hike deep into a valley and do some cliff jumping or swim under waterfalls.
Eating in El Tunco
The cheapest food you will find is during the day are pupusas. On the main street, facing the beach near the T-intersection, there’s a tiny shop with one woman inside. Grab one of the three or four seats at the bar table and make your order. As everything is made to order, they aren’t the speediest snacks in town, but at $0.50 per papusa and $1 beer, it’s hard to walk away!
Another great spot for pupusas are at Hostal & Camping Sol y Mar, towards the edge of town. These are definitely the best ones we ate while in El Tunco, but are double the price of the others.
For dinner if you want to head over toward the beachfront and just before the beach is a place called BamBar and they offer a $5 dinner which includes one beer and a taco or burrito of your choice of protein. We recommend the fish tacos.
For some healthier options, Mr Falafal is a delicious little spot with two menu items: hummus and falafal. Both are outstanding and quite cheap at $4. There are some great options for fresh fruit smoothies as well. Understandably the prices drop considerably the further from the beach you are. We found some tasty options for $1.25 at a nondescript shop up near Hostal Posada Luna.
Beer goes for around $2 for a one-litre bottle. Best share with a friend or drink quickly, as they lose their cool quickly in the coastal heat.
On the weekend, down the main street – near the artisan jewelry tables – we found people selling the same ice-cold beer for $1.60. Everyone around just sat around drinking beer and mingling with the locals. It was a pretty great spot to be!
Where to stay
Anywhere that fits your budget. It’s a pretty small town and everything is walkable. Aside from some of the hotels along the beach, most accommodation is reasonably priced – though on the cheaper end of things, you really get what you (don’t) pay for.
Outside of the weekend, when prices rise considerably, booking ahead isn’t necessary, but isn’t a bad idea – especially with more popular spots like Papaya Hostel. $25 for a private with fan/ $8 fan dorm/$10 ac dorm.
We stayed at La Sombra there were lots of mosquitoes, but it was cheaper $18 private w/fan / $7 dorm (during the week).
On our second visit we splurged a little and stayed at Posada Luna for $40 private with A/C (on the weekend).
Getting here and away
Check out Centro Coasting for the best info on Central America bus travel.
Take almost any bus going east is heading here. Just double check with the driver first. $0.25
To Antigua – Direct shuttles run daily, 5 hour ride for $25. Check out Bigfoot for the most painless journey.
Seeing as El Tunco gets pricier and busy on the weekends, why not head up to Juayua for their weekly food festival! $2.00, via Sonsonate and two chicken buses.
Wait on the highway and catch bus number 102 or the 102A $1.25/1.50
Shuttles daily for about $30 per person. This is a long and often uncomfortable trip, though it’s the most common way to continue on to Nicaragua from this end of the country.
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