El Salvador is a tropical surf paradise in every sense of the word. Nestled between Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador is Central America’s smallest country, but the short coastline is packed with countless world-class waves.
Add tropical temps year-round, consistent swell, spot variety, and safety; you have a fantastic recipe for your next surf trip. Let’s discover everything you need to know about surfing in El Salvador: where to surf, where to stay, and what to expect from one of the best surf destinations in Central America.
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El Salvador Surf Season
El Salvador is a super consistent stretch of coast and has waves all year round. However, the country experiences its largest and most consistent swells during the wet season, from April through October.
But head here at any time of year and you’ll get waves, the place rarely goes flat. If you want to see the surf forecast for El Salvador, check out Surfline El Salvador or MSW El Salvador
Best Surf Spots In El Salvador
There are several world-class surf spots in El Salvador. While the spots are spread along the coast, the vast majority of the best waves are in/around El Tunco.
Arguably El Tunco’s most enjoyable wave. Sunzal is a dreamy right-hand point for all crafts and abilities. While this means crowds, you can surf it on all tides and conditions. If you’re ok getting scorched by the sun and the afternoon onshores, you can surf with no one out.
The wave starts with an easy take-off and passes through a variety of steeper/fatter sections as it peels down the reef. It truly is a sick wave to practice anything, from high-performance surfing to cruising on a log. If you do get a super long one, just kick out before the cobblestone shore break. Yep, the stones do hurt!
Just across the iconic El Tunco rock, La Bocana is a punchy, super consistent A-frame with walls for turns and ramps for airs, breaking on all tides. A cobble-bottomed performance wave peaks at the heart of El Tunco.
North of El Tunco, you’ll find KM59, another right-hand point break, with long walls and fewer crowds than the spots in town. You’ll need a taxi or a moped to get there, but you’ll be rewarded.
Yet another world-class, right. A wicked spot to stay and enjoy a super fun righthander. For a fun, peaceful spot to get waves and relax in between, look no further.
The area’s main attraction and a world-class wave on its day. And there are many days when 4ft plus, Punta Roca is plucked straight from a dream, fast-breaking reeling rights marching down the cobbles. High performance with racy walls and tube sections. However, it gets crowded, is super fast, and watch yourself getting in and out over the cobbles; they’re fricking slippery!
Where is El Salvador?
The best way to get to El Salvador is by flying. You can fly directly to San Salvador and the airport is located closer to El Tunco than San Salvador itself. (45 minutes from El Tunco).
You can fly to San Salvador from any major city in Latin America and directly from LA. I found a stupidly cheap flight from LA – San Salvador for $50 the first time I went.
From further afield, you’ll need to connect via a larger city in Latin or North America and then jump on a connection to San Salvador.
These flight prices are based on a Skyscanner search 3 months before departure in August 2023. Discover live flights to El Salvador here.
if you’re already in Central America, you can also get to El Salvador by bus. For example, I took a bus from Northern Nicaragua across the border (10-hour overnight journey). This is the best budget method of getting there. Check out the bus times and routes to El Salvador.
El Salvador Surf Tips
El Salvador is becoming increasingly popular, so the main waves are crazy crowded. Punta Roca and Sunzal are always crowded during the morning session with good winds; however, you can surf without crowds if you can handle the sun and some onshore bumps.
It’s stupidly hot in El Salvador, which means boardies year round, but be warned, surfing at midday is punishing, and it takes it out of you surfing at this time.
Additionally, winds will be offshore in the morning and go onshore by 11 am. This happens like clockwork and is part and parcel of surfing in Central America.
Marque waves Sunzal and Bocana recently featured as the venue for the World Junior Titles and spots that put El Salvador surfing on the map. Just outside of town, the excitement only increases with the area’s main draw, Punta Roca, with several other world-class waves just a taxi ride away.
El Salvador now features on the WSL WCT roster and hosts the world’s best in June. The event is held at Punta Roca and sees some of the highest-performance surfing you’ll see all year on tour.
You’ll mostly be surfing fat/punchy head high rights, so your standard performance shortboard will be perfect. It’s also worth considering a small wave performance shape board for the smaller days.
El Salvador Surf Spot Map
If you’re looking for a perfect combination of warm waters and fun rippable walls, El Salvador is it…
Where To Stay?
El Tunco is the go-to for staying near the surf in El Salvador. Although Punta Roca, the area’s premier spot, is in La Libertad, the town is not that pleasant to hang out in compared to El Tunco.
I felt unsafe in La Libertad, whereas in El Tunco, you have to go through security to get in, and it feels like a safe, secure bubble away from the outside.
If you’re on a budget surf trip to El Salvador, I’d highly recommend Papaya Lodge. The place is epic with a restaurant, clean rooms close to the beach, and super friendly staff: cool backpacker vibe and travelers passing through constantly, dorm rooms and privates available. This is where I stayed on both of my trips to El Salvador.
Hostal Punta El Zonte
Just north of El Tunco lies El Zonte, a small, quirky town boasting another ridiculously fun right-hander. Hostal Punta gives you panoramic views of the surf, a small restaurant, and heaps of hammock and chill space. Prices for dorms start at $24 per night.
Layback Surf Hostel
For a beautiful spot located right among the action in El Tunco, you’re surrounded by everything you need for surfing in El Salvador. Walk out on the street, and you got waves to your left and all the bars, shops, and restaurants to your right!
Outdoor pool, private rooms, A/C, lounge terrace, and wifi. Learn more about the Layback Surf Hostel; prices start from $113usd per night (sleeps 2).
Casa de Mar Hotel & Villas
If you want to surf El Sunzal, and trust me, you will (it’s stupidly fun), Casa de Mar Hotel perches you on the cliff overlooking the wave. The best spot to slip out when it looks fun or at opportune moments when the crowd thins out.
A beautiful property with some of the best views in town, an outdoor pool, and comfy clean rooms. Prices for rooms begin at $200 per night for a 2-person room.
Cheapest Surf Hostels in El Salvador
Best Surf Camps in El Salvador
Interested in a totally immersive surf coaching experience in El Salvador? Check out Book Surf Camps for the best surf camp deals on the market.
What To Eat In El Salvador?
In El Tunco, you can eat all types of food, but the real draw is Papusas. While the word doesn’t sound appealing, Pupusas are the perfect feed after a long morning session. They are savory pancakes filled with cheese, vegetables, meat, and whatever you want. Oh, and they cost $1 a piece.
Where To Work?
While overlooked by many as one of the world’s top digital nomad locations, El Tunco is a fabulous place to be a digital nomad surfer.
While the town may not have the co-work infrastructure of say Bali, Costa Rica, or Portugal, there are numerous cafes and accommodations with good wifi and space to get stuck into some work.
El Salvador Country Overview
El Salvador surfing is firmly on the international roster, hosting the ISA World Juniors and WSL WCT in 2022.
Without a doubt, El Salvador is an incredible surf destination. El Salvador is perfect if you‘re looking for easy but high-performance waves to surf in boardies on a budget. If you’re considering visiting El Tunco and have any questions, please reach out! I also have a YouTube channel where I share regular surf travel content from travels all around the globe.