The great thing about great places is that they attract great people and thus become something of a vortex. For us, El Tunco was our El Salvadorian vortex.
In our travels throughout SE Asia we typically received a 30 day tourist visa on arrival to a new country, but Central America has been a bit different. Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua make up the CA-4 common border agreement, which means that when you enter one of these countries for the first time you can receive a maximum of 90 days to travel the entire CA-4 zone. This was great for us because we wanted to spend a minimum of six weeks in Nicaragua, but also meant we had to move fairly quickly having only six weeks to explore the other three countries.
By the time we arrived in El Salvador we had already spent nearly five weeks in Honduras and Guatemala, so we intended to spend the next week and a half exploring a few stops along the Pacific coast. We traveled directly from Antigua, Guatemala to El Tunco, El Salvador and as you may have already guessed, stayed.
El Tunco is a small drinking village with a surfing problem located on a stretch of beach separated by a river and a giant rock in the ocean. To the right of the river is a long stretch of black sand with a right point break and to the left is a long stretch of rocky beach with beach break. The two roads that come down from the highway kind of create the borders of the small village and meet just before the river. Both are lined with guesthouses, restaurants, bars, small shops and, on the weekends, heaps of cars owned by local tourists.
We arrived on a busy Saturday afternoon and posted up at Belgian owned Hotel Mopelia, a 30 second walk down a sandy path to the beach. For $15 a night we got a basic room with a fan and shared bathroom in the garden area of the property near the pool. On a side note, Mopelia offers great rates for longer stays… $300/month which was incredibly tempting, but we had a time limit.
As I mentioned, people are a key component for making any location great and with El Tunco being a main stop on the backpacker trail, we were happy to run into many familiar faces including three American guys we hung out with in San Pedro (Guatemala), a few Aussies we met in Utila (Honduras) and Ohad our friend from Israel who we spent most of our time in Guatemala with.
We also met a fun crew of surfers who were taking advantage of the long term rates at Mopelia and I directly attribute the length of time we stayed in El Tunco to them. We spent most days with them just chillin out by the pool and evenings enjoying cold beverages on one of our respective porches and then venturing out to explore the local nightlife.
El Tunco actually has the best music scene we’ve experienced on our trip so far. On the weekends we caught a few amazing bands at La Guitarra Bar…I’m talking 12 piece brass bands that keep you dancing until you’ve literally sweat through your clothes and slide through the crowd of drunkies out onto the porch directly on the beach. And Jaguar Bar, whose owner is an aspiring grunge band frontman, would put on open mic nights at least once a week.
The swell had just gone down when we arrived in El Tunco so the surf wasn’t spectacular, but Jordan got to go out a few times in consistent long rights at the point and was happy to be on a board for the first time on this adventure. He also took me out in the white water at the beach break where I got to get my feet wet again when it comes to surfing, no pun intended. I haven’t surfed since we were in Indonesia in 2011.
One of the highlights of our stay was celebrating my 29th birthday which we did over the course of a couple days with a pool party at Mopelia on my actual birthday and then a splurge seafood dinner the next night at La Bocana Restaurant with Jordan and Ohad. I say splurge because our typical fare was 50 cent pupusas – thick handmade tortillas filled with beans and cheese and topped with spicy, pickled veggies.
After nine days we finally pulled ourselves out of the vortex, but were happy we made the decision to stay in one place and enjoy El Salvador at a slow pace rather than hopping around. We did make our way to Nicaragua which has been epic and I look forward to writing about in a separate post soon. 🙂
Buena onda, muchachos!