Off the Beaten Path: El Tunco
One of our favorite vacation spots in El Salvador is Playa El Tunco. When we need a little break from community work or city work and want to stay for a few days at a little fancier place, this is where we like to go. Depending on traffic, it's just a quick (1 hour or less) drive south of San Salvador to Puerto La Libertad, and then just a little further west to El Tunco.
Like many of El Salvador's beaches, the entrance to El Tunco is off of a tiny, one-way, gated road. There are a few places to stay off of the eastern end of this road, and more in the center of a tiny beach town. The town has just 2 streets, with lots of local shops and small places to eat. The beach itself is very narrow and rocky at high tide, but at low tide there are patches of flat, dark sand which provide extra walking space and good material for building castles. It's not much of a swimming beach for casual swimmers due to the surf and rip currents, although at low tide anyone can jump in the waves. Low tide is also the time to take a little longer walk along the beach. Both east and west of the town there are estuaries which connect with the sea at high tide. When the wind is up, El Tunco provides great fun for surfers and plenty of entertainment for those who like to watch the surfers.
El Tunco is named for the rock formation which at high tide appears as an island and has the form of a pig (or tunco). At low tide, you can walk out to the rock platform and climb up onto El Tunco and its neighbor rocks. We watched local fishermen sit out there for long stretches in the morning, fishing with long hand-held lines. Along the stretch of beach near town, there is a small walkway that connects a line-up of bars and restaurants. The views are great, the sound of the surf is relaxing, the food is generally delicious, and the prices are what you might expect at a little-bit more touristy site.
Last May we stayed at Boca Olas. This resort is located on an estuary, with nice little cabins with porches and hammocks. It is off of the main beach-front, though from our suite we could still see the ocean. The pool was nice, the restaurant was good and the staff was incredibly friendly. We had no problem walking to and from the beach and along the road in the day and in the evening, although along the beach near the estuary it is pretty dark (we had flashlights). The surf was crazy high last May, and actually flooded some of the restaurants.
We recently returned to El Tunco. The damage from last year's high surf has mostly been repaired with better concrete surf-walls and more rock-dunes to protect the ocean-side businesses. This time we stayed at Roca Sunzal where we had an ocean-side room that looked right out over El Tunco. The room was beautiful, with a private deck (though we would have liked a hammock). The pool was lovely. The breakfast menu included with the room was generous and tasty. We enjoyed seafood for dinner, though the service was slow. Considering we were above a bar and it was spring break, it really was not too crazy at night. This place is located right next to the estuary just west of town and hosts the best location for viewing sunsets -- in fact, we have pulled off the road at this very spot with groups to get a few sunset photos.
Another dinner and drinks spot which we enjoyed has only been open a few months, but it seems like it will quickly grow to be a hot spot: OJ's Food on the Beach Restaurant and Blú Bar. With 3 levels, a dance floor, rooms that can be closed off with glass doors, and a few beachside tables, this place would be ideal for a big party or a business event during the day with casual time in the evening.
El Tunco is one of El Salvador's small treasures. The perfect place for un relax.