Playa El Tunco: great for surfers, but not my favorite

After I’d left my newfound friends in Santa Ana, I still had a few days before I was due to meet up with my regular travel partner in San Salvador. A few people I’d traveled with were headed down to El Cuco beach and the universally praised Tortuga Verde, but I didn’t want to go all the way there for just a couple of days. Instead, I decided to go to the nearby beach community of El Tunco.

Playa El Tunco is located near the international airport and San Salvador. It’s one of the few stops in El Salvador on the backpacker trail through Central America, and where most of the few backpackers who dare venture into El Salvador at all end up getting dropped by their shuttles.

Why I didn’t like El Tunco

While I did have some good chats with a few people in my dorm, there wasn’t a nice communal vibe in the hostel. Most people seemed neither interested nor interesting, and I struggled a bit to join conversations even at the communal dinner table. I think this might be a Tunco thing rather than a Papaya’s thing, as more young backpackers come here on the shuttle and already know each other from Guate. At 30, I felt a bit old, and most people seemed to be chatting about what things are like back in England, something I don’t know a lot about either. If you’re young and surf, you’ll probably blend in better.

Most places in Tunco seemed to be very party oriented, and there were signs everywhere advertising buckets of beer and cocktails. Prices were a lot higher than elsewhere in El Salvador, and I guess it just didn’t feel a lot like El Salvador. Or maybe I was just having a bad couple of days.

El Tunco beach at sunset, El Salvador

What I actually liked about El Tunco

As much as I missed the conversations and people I’d just left in Santa Ana, I took the time to be on my own in El Tunco. I took long walks, sat on the beach to watch the sun set, went pupusa eating at an actual Salvadorean place down a dark alley, and read novels in the hammocks. I really enjoyed all of this. I understand that El Tunco just wasn’t for me, I’m interested in a different kind of town, but I can absolutely see how some people will love it. It’s easy, it’s Western, it’s the beach.

Getting to El Tunco on public transportation

The public bus to El Tunco (#102) goes from Terminal de Occidente in San Salvador. You may have to transfer in La Libertad, but it’s uncomplicated. There’s either a big bus from inside the station, or a microbus that passes by on the road out front. There are also a few buses a day coming from Sonsonate, and if you’re coming from the airport early in the day, you can go to La Libertad without passing through San Salvador.

Where to stay in El Tunco

I stayed at Papaya’s Lodge, which is what most people recommended before I arrived. I simply got off the bus at the entrance to El Tunco, walked down the road to the hostels and had a look. The dorm had single beds and a/c for $10 a night, which seemed like a good deal. There was also a kitchen, a swimming pool, and most importantly, lots of hammocks on the terraces.

Like it? Share it!

Leave a Reply