Beaches of El Salvador: El Tunco Vs. El Cuco

The Beaches of El Salvador Showdown

 

El Tunco vs El Cuco

Chances are, unless you’re a surfer, you haven’t heard much about the beaches of El Salvador. Mexico, yes, Nicaragua, sure, but El Salvador? As it turns out, the coast of this little country has more than a bit to offer. As a non-surfer and surf nut traveling together, we were looking for the perfect beach town that had the best of both worlds. Here’s our take on El Tunco vs El Cuco.



Beaches of El Salvador

El Cuco beach



The Beach

El Tunco

The beach in El Tunco isn’t that much to look at. Besides a couple of picturesque sunsets and a photogenic rock formation jutting out of the water, it’s not a very pretty beach. The black sand and thick layer of rocks that cover the shore don’t exactly make for good lounging or swimming conditions.


El Cuco

The beach at El Cuco turned out to be one of our favorite beaches of Central America. It’s vast shore leaves plenty of room for sun soaking or playing football. The waves are calm and perfect for swimming. We were there for one of the biggest holidays in El Salvador, and the beach was still serenely quiet and empty.



Beaches of El Salvador

El Tunco beach



The Surf

El Tunco

The La Libertad area, including El Tunco, is famous for its surf. Surf shops clutter the small town and board rentals are available for $10/ day. For beginners, there are small waves and plenty of local surf instructors available for lessons. For the more experienced, Sunzal offers a consistent right break and nearby La Bocana has a more challenging left.


El Cuco

If you’re looking for surf, Las Flores is the place to be. There are smaller waves for beginners and a consistent flow of right-handers to keep surf veterans happy for days, and if the conditions are good you can probably sneak into a decent barrel.


Accommodation

El Tunco

This town is packed with hostels, so you won’t have trouble finding a place to sleep. Hostels range in price (about $6-$10 for a dorm bed) and in quality (dingy to luxury). If you’re looking for a party hostel, there’s plenty with bars and many with pools perfect for day drinking, but if you’re looking for a quieter night, best to head a block or two off the main road.


El Cuco

The beach from Las Flores down to the end of Esteron is dotted with sun worn surf hotels and resorts. Proper hostels are hard to come but there are a few budget options along the way. We stayed at La Tortuga Verde. More of a laid back resort than a hostel, but with dorm beds at $10/ night, it’s a gorgeous property right on the beach. The only downside is the hostel has no open kitchen and the restaurant is expensive for a backpacker budget.



Beaches of El Salvador

El Cuco beach



Food

El Tunco

The restaurants here can be fairly pricey, especially further down by the water. If you’re on a budget, don’t even bother looking at the menus of the spots on the beach. There are a couple cheaper taco/ burrito spots that you can’t miss. If you plan on cooking, bring groceries in from La Libertad, because the few shops in town have a small (expensive) selection. There are two ATMs in the center of El Tunco if you need to get money out.


El Cuco

Most hotel and surf lodges will have a private restaurant, but it’s a pricey option. If your accommodation does have a kitchen, it’s best to buy groceries in San Miguel, because the stores in El Cuco are limited. Hit up an ATM in San Miguel before you come down as well. There are no ATMs in El Cuco and you’ll have to head back to Chirilagua to take out money. In the center, cheap comedors and pupuserias are available, but enduring the long, scorching walk into town isn’t fun.



Beaches of El Salvador

El Tunco beach



Drink

El Tunco

If you’re looking for a beach spot to let loose with other travelers, El Tunco is it. The dense concentration of backpackers means a party any day of the week. Most restaurants serve beer buckets and the bars along the beach play live music or have DJ’s most nights.


El Cuco

These beaches are the perfect spot to sleep off your El Tunco hangover. Most hotels are pretty quiet at night. There are a couple spots in town to grab a beer, but the center can get a bit seedy after dark.


So there you have it, both fun little surf towns, each with their own draws. If you find yourself down at the beaches of El Salvador, let us know which you prefer! Here’s a few more pictures to help convince you!


What do you think of the beaches of El Salvador? Which is your favorite? Drop us a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter!



Beaches of El Salvador

El Cuco beach

14 Comments

  • haven’t been to el cuco, but what you wrote about el tunco is spot on! except for one little thing… the area just north of the gigantic rock off the beach in el tunco was a good spot for swimming or lounging. the south area with all the rocks that you described was not a good area for swimming, surfing, or lounging. an older (50+) guy died surfing in that area when i was there. smashed his head on a rock or his board…

  • Nicole says:

    Just to clear up a slight (possible) miscommunication…El Cuco beach is not nearly as beautiful (in my opinion) as Intipuca Beach where Tortuga Verde is located. Just wouldn’t want anyone rockin’ up to Cuco (especially on a weekend) and being disappointed!

    • Don't Forget to Move says:

      Hey Nicole! That is true, the beach in front of the hotel is Intipuca. I was referring to the long stretch of beach that covers the area. But Intipuca is definitely the beach to go to! Beautiful!

  • Colleen Amick says:

    I’m not a surfer or a backpacker but would love yo visit a nice beach/hotel in El Salvador. We have a 1.5 yr old baby and I love Central America but have not been to El Salvador. Any suggestions? Nice beach, little village, quite, local restaurants?

    • El Sal has some great beaches on La Libertad. There’s a whole selection, but i probably wouldn’t recommend El Tunco if you want a quiet spot haha. El Cuco on the other hand is beautiful! We would definitely recommend checking out La Tortuga Verde and staying on that beach. One of our favourites for sure!

  • Tracy says:

    Heading to El Salvador at the end of the month! Thanks for the post. Def want to head to El Cuco beach now

  • Stephanya says:

    Thank you for the post! I’m going on a solo trip to El Salvador for 2 months leaving in late June. I definitely want some good beach time and have been scouring the internet for good blogs/recommendations and info on places to go. Appreciate any advice or input you might have for me!

    • Cheers Stephanya! Glad you found it useful, and thanks for dropping us a comment. We really appreciate hearing from our readers when we’ve been able to help! El Salvador is amazing, and super underrated, you’ll have a great time there. Which beach sounded best for you?

  • Mike says:

    Love the layout on the blog, great photos and especially the EL Tunco love. I am falling in love with this town by the day.

  • Ali says:

    I really loved El Cuco too – but my favourite was El Zonte for it’s small local village feel and brilliantly chilled out vibe. Thanks for the post – made me really want to go back to El Salvador!!

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