El Tunco El Salvador Travel Guide (With Map)

Author Carina Klein
· 8 min read · 0 comments

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Comprehensive El Tunco El Salvador FAQ + the 8 best things to do in El Tunco.

We planned to “don’t skip El Salvador” – incidentally this is also the slogan of the country. We instantly fell in love with the country in general and El Tunco especially.

If you’re backpacking around Central America and want to travel between Guatemala and Nicaragua, El Tunco is the perfect point to break up that journey.

If you’re only travelling to El Salvador, El Tunco is a must. It’s the country's prime beach, surf, and party destination and very much worth a visit.

Our FAQ provides a comprehensive El Tunco travel guide including 8 amazing things to do in El Tunco.

The Ultimate Guide to El Tunco El Salvador

What Is El Tunco Known For?

El Tunco is known for its black sandy and pebbly beach. It is named El Tunco because of the giant boulder in the shape of a pig (“tunco” in Salvadoran slang) you can see from the beach.

Playa El Tunco is also famous for surfing – in fact, El Tunco is the surfing capital of El Salvador. Some even dub El Tunco Surf City.

Picture of El Tunco sign
El Tunco sign

Is El Tunco Worth Visiting?

100% yes if you’re into surfing or you’re like us and you want to try it out.

Even if you’re not a surfer, El Tunco is still a very pleasant beach destination in El Salvador. There are loads of nice cafes, bars, and restaurants.

You can also just relax on the beach. Just be aware that it’s rather pebbly than sandy.

Picture of Main beach, El Tunco
Main beach, El Tunco

Where Is El Tunco El Salvador?

El Tunco is located on the coast of El Salvador. It’s close to the capital San Salvador. La Liberadad is the closest big city.

Because of its convenient location, it is a popular stop for backpackers travelling between Antigua, Guatemala, and Leon, Nicaragua.

How to Get to El Tunco El Salvador?

How to Get to El Tunco from San Salvador

It’s easy to take the chicken bus from San Salvador to El Tunco. Just look for bus number 102A (the A is important as the 102 only goes to La Libertad). We caught the bus at the Terminal de Buses de Occidente in central San Salvador but you can also start at Estacion Ceiba de Guadalupe.

Buses run super regularly and cost 1.50$.

How to Get from Leon, Nicaragua to El Tunco, El Salvador

There are regular shuttles from Leon, Nicaragua, to El Tunco, El Salvador.

How to Get from Antigua, Guatemala, to El Tunco, El Salvador

There are regular shuttles from Antigua, Guatemala, to El Tunco, El Salvador.

How to Get Around El Tunco

The town centre is walkable. For longer distances, Ubers are readily available.

Is El Tunco Safe

Real talk about safety in El Tunco: El Salvador in general is not a safe country. The US Department of State classifies it as Level 3: Reconsider Travel.

El Tunco is probably the safest place in all of El Salvador. The town centre is heavily guarded. Personally, we never felt unsafe.

Once you leave the central area, you might want to consider taking an Uber instead of walking – especially at night. Generally, you should stay aware of you’re surroundings and use your common sense.

Picture of El Tunco city centre
El Tunco city centre

How Many Days Do You Need in El Tunco?

We suggest spending at least 2 days in El Tunco, especially if you want to go surfing.

How much time you need in El Tunco heavily depends on your preferences: El Tunco is not really a sightseeing town. It’s more about surfing, the beach, and enjoying a relaxed surfer town atmosphere.

If you don’t enjoy any of these activities, there’s not really a reason to go.

Picture of Playa El Tunco
Playa El Tunco

Where to Stay in El Tunco

For such a touristy place, it’s surprisingly hard to find affordable accommodations in El Tunco.

El Tunco Hotels

We stayed at Reef on the Water and everything was perfect – just look at the infinity pool!

In hindsight, we might have chosen accommodation in the town centre as the distance required to take an Uber – especially at night.


El Tunco Hostels

El Tunco might be a surfer town but so far it’s not a hostel town. Your best option is Papaya Lodge.

Picture of Reef on the Water infinity pool
Reef on the Water infinity pool

Where to Eat in El Tunco?

The best food in El Tunco is hard to choose so here is our favourite from each category:

  1. Breakfast: Day Cafe & Salad Bar. The smoothie bowl was amazing!
  2. Lunch: Esquina la Comadre. Amazing value for money.
  3. Dinner: La Bocana for a sea view. Not the best value for money to be honest but we just love a good sea view…
  4. Pupusas: Esquina los Amigos.All the pupusas, please.
Picture of Our smoothie bowl at Day Cafe & Salad Bar
Our smoothie bowl at Day Cafe & Salad Bar

Is El Tunco Expensive?

El Tunco is a beach and a tourist town so the prices are higher than in the rest of El Salvador.

We paid an average of 55$ per person and day. That included a surf course.

When to Visit El Tunco

Generally speaking, the best time to visit El Tunco is the dry season from November to April. The wet season between May and October is better for surfing as waves are more consistent.

Things to Do in El Tunco

The best things to do in Playa El Tunco, El Salvador are:

1. Surfing

In case you wonder: Is El Tunco good for surfing? Yes, it is!

We took our very first surf lessons in El Tunco. We went with Wayo Surf School and were very happy. The whole experience was very beginner-friendly: From the instructor who was amazing on land and in the water to the surf spot with a soft bottom and easy waves.

Picture of El Tunco Surf City
El Tunco Surf City

2. Watch the Sunset in El Tunco

Everybody in town seems to gather close to the boulder which gives El Tunco its name to watch the sunset. So did we and it was amazing.

Picture of Sunset in El Tunco
Sunset in El Tunco

3. Nightlife in El Tunco

El Tunco is the most popular party destination for El Salvadorian locals and tourists as well. It’s especially busy on the weekends.

Once the sun has set, everybody seems to head to the adjacent beach clubs and bars.

You’ll get the complete backpacker experience – fire show and all.

Bucḱetlist2life tip: Take an Uber out to Cervecería Chapultepec to enjoy a nice beer with some great sea views.
Picture of El Tunco nightlife
El Tunco nightlife

4. El Tunco Beach Caves

If you walk towards the east from the main beach, you’ll reach the sea caves. It’s a lot of fun to explore them.

Some guys offer offer their guiding services for a fee but we declined and still had a great time.

Bucketlist2life tip: Make sure to check the tides and only go in low tide.
Picture of El Tunco Beach Caves
El Tunco Beach Caves

5. Explore the Street Art

There’s some nice street art around town. Just keep your eyes open.

Picture of El Tunco street art
El Tunco street art

6. Tamanique Waterfalls

If you want to get off the beaten path in El Tunco, how about exploring the Tamanique Waterfalls?

7. Can you Swim in El Tunco?

Honestly, El Tunco is more of a surfer beach than a swimmer beach. The ground is pretty pebbly and the water is quite wavy. We saw some people in the water though.

8. Swim at Playa Majahual

We enjoyed swimming at Playa Majahual a lot. It’s super close to El Tunco but the bottom here is actually sandy and the water is warm and pleasant.

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