Playa El Tunco is in the La Libertad department of Western El Salvador.
Playa El Tunco is a little surf village in El Salvador. It's 8km from Puerto La Libertad, 35km from the airport and 35km from the capital San Salvador. Only a few years ago this place was unknown and quiet. It is now the most visited town of El Salvador by backpackers and surfers all year long and by Salvadorians on the weekends for the nightlife. There are now around 20 hostels, bars, restaurants and everything needed to practice surfing. Playa El Tunco is actually the gateway to the surf spot El Sunzal, and is a few kilometers away from El Zonte and Punta Roca, two other famous surf spots.
In terms of the waves, it's a great place to learn to surf. The only problem is that it gets crowded in the water, even when the surf isn't good. It pretty much empties out in midday when the wind picks up a bit and the sun gets too hot. But you won't last long in that midday sun. You'll be completely sunburned in no time.
The beaches in El Tunco are rock beaches- not sand- though the waves are great. Therefore, sunbathers won't find it the most comfortable destination. There are, however, sand beaches a short taxi ride away.
From La Libertad; bus 80 (15 minutes) From San Salvador; bus 102 (1 hour) From the airport; a taxi will cost around $35 (40 minutes) Direct shuttles are run from Antigua Guatemala and Copan Honduras.
- From León; 10 person direct mini-shuttle with a/c ($25pp, 10 hours). $7pp fee at the Nicaragua-Honduras border not included.
Bus 80 to La Libertad Bus 192 to El Zonte
The sunset in El Tunco is spectacular, with its big rock formation in front.
3 surfspots just in front of the town, El Sunzal, La Bocana & Bocanita. A nice waterfall can be visited in the neartown of Tamanique. Nightlife on the weekends with live music in several bars.
In terms of groceries, there are a few small corner stores in El Tunco. There's a proper grocery store in La Libertad. It's just a 20 minute bus ride from El Tunco and the bus ride is less than a dollar (since all buses in El Salvador are subsidized).
You'll get a better deal on renting a surfboard if you go down to the beach ($5 instead of $10 per day, as of September 2012).
El Tunco has several restaurants with different kinds of food at reasonable prices. Fish & seafood, pupusas, sandwiches, tacos, pizza predominate. Nothing is extraordinary, so follow your nose, the crowds, any recommendations, and don't come here looking for a transformative gastronomic experience. The following are recommended:
- La Guanaca, Km 42 Playa #4, ☏ . 12:30-2:30pm; 6:00-11:30pm. Sandwiches made with the fresh ingredients. Pork, chicken and vegetarian, with tasty sides. Big portions. Clean, beach-friendly vibe.
- Taco Guanaco. Mostly delicious, mostly Mexican style fare. Cheap tacos and burritos, fried fish, as well as the ubiquitous array of frozens (blended drink with ice, fruit, water/milk, and sugar). Four tacos + a sode for $4 (as of January, 2015) is a great lunch deal.
- Tunco Veloz. Delicious thin crust pizzas with a full array of toppings. Even includes a handful of excellent vegetarian options. You can even read a review in English [dead link] before you go.
- Beach Life Cafe. Small, slow, and with irregular hours (mostly Wednesday-Saturday), this otherwise unremarkable little cafe turns out delicious salads and fruit smoothies (frozens). If they're open, you should go.
- Mopelia. Mopelia provides excellent food, craft beers, and sleeping quarters, all at reasonable prices. The restaurant specializes in pastas, Belgian fries (the owner, Gilles, is from Belgium), waffles, and beer. Try getting something "zoom zoom" style (with Bolognese sauce on top). You won't be sad.
Few bars of different style, party oriented or chill.
Around 20 guesthouses can be found in El Tunco, from $7 per person to $40. They're all only a few minutes walk from the beach. It is also possible to rent townhouse style with Kitchens for about 150US per month/pp right on the beach (El Tunco). If you plan to do an extended stay, ask the hostel owners if you can pay in advance and get a discount.
- Guesthouse El Balsamo, El Sunzal, Playa el Tunco (www.elbalsamo.com) Rooms from 6,-/20,- dorm 5,- 200 meters from the pointbreak sunzal. There is a miniramp for the skateboarders!
- San Blas Beach House, Km 39.5 El Litoral La Libertad (between Sunzal and El Tunco beach), ☏ . A beach house located very close to surf spots, inside one of the most exclusive beach complexes, 3 bedrooms, A/C, private pool, hammocks, garden, refrigerato and stove, with access to soccer fields, tennis court, BKB court, more pools and beach restaurant, tight security 24/7, up to 6 people only per night! $150.
- To Sonsonate; Bus 259 ($1.50pp, 2 hours). Catch it from the main road across from the Playa El Tunco cutoff