A Dream Within A Dream - El Salvador

el-tunco

Do's:

  • Surf one of the breaks at El Tunco. Not a surfer? Take a lesson. 
  • Hire a local guide and check out Tamanique Falls
  • Sit back and enjoy the sunset. Every night. 
  • Take a morning yoga class to begin your day. 
  • Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies. Try them all. 
  • Take a day trip and have lunch at Lago de Coatepeque
  • Try a pupusa, an authentic El Salvadorean dish. 
  • Explore the coastline. You never know where you'll find a hidden rock pool. 
  • Discover the vibrant villages of the country's coffee region on La Ruta de Las Flores.
  • Surf the secluded beach of Playa El Zonte
  • Leave your mark and volunteer at one of the many wonderful volunteer programs. (I didn't because of time constraints, but I met several people who said this made their experience in El Salvador. Check out: Habitat for Humanity, 100 Smiles, Surf Strong & HELP International)

Don't:

  • Spend much time in San Salvador. 
  • Go too far off the beaten path. While this is a great country with a lot to offer, it is not the safest. Unfortunately, gang violence throughout the country is growing and it's best to stay coastal. 
  • Forget your sunblock and sandals! There are many dark sand beaches so it gets hot. 

The Wolf Pack continued on to the dirt roads of El Tunco. We were dropped off on the main street where you'll find most of the hostels and restaurants. This road also leads you directly to the beach. We didn't walk far to find the Tunco Lodge (we were actually dropped off right in front of it). Once we were situated, we grabbed some breakfast (typical is egg, beans and plantains) and brought it to the beach. Depending on what time of year you go, you'll either get a black sand beach or a black sand beach with heaps of rocks. We managed to find a sand patch and watched as our Tassie friend headed out for a surf. 

Pretty much every hostel has a pool for it's guests which really comes in handy. Not to mention the outdoor showers at Tunco Lodge. It is hot here all year round so being in water throughout the day is a must if you want to be outdoors. I had no idea El Salvador had such a prominent surf culture, which I loved since I was feeling like a fish out of water after a few weeks in Guatemala. The locals live for it! Most of them are surfers, growing up right on prime breaks. My tip for you: don't walk around like you're some hot commodity and be respectful when you're in the water. This is where Lesson # 4 comes in: You get what you give. Not that you shouldn't practice this everywhere, but being in a small village in comparison to a destination city, it's definitely more noticeable if you act like you own the place and it will make you seem like an idiot. I encountered a few backpackers who thought they did. Make an effort to speak Spanish, even if you only know the basics, and if you show respect, you'll get it back. Plus the locals here are always keen to show you a good time. Rent a board from one of the places at the end of the road and enjoy the lifestyle. 

Not only were we living the dream of backpacking, but we were hanging out in paradise for as long as we wanted. A dream within a dream. You can wear your bathing suit 24/7 here. Not to mention the sunsets turn your world warm and orange, where you can sip on a Pilsener and think life could be so much worse. For almost 10 days straight it was: wake up, get a smoothie, surf, eat, lounge by the pool, surf, sunset, go to a beach bar or relax with the crew, repeat. For some this got boring, but for me I was completely content with going on like this forever.

My first visit to El Salvador was spent solely in El Tunco, but during my second visit on my own, a local friend of mine brought me around to some beautiful parts of El Salvador. If you can find it, you can enjoy it!

Our first day trip was to Tamanique Waterfall. The hike is about 45 minutes and make sure to go with a local guide who knows the way because it's not marked and you can easily get lost. We hiked through an amazing corn field and down to the first waterfall where locals were swimming and jumping. We continued down to the larger waterfall and swam in the pool below. It's definitely worth the hike so don't give up (like I almost did). 

The second day trip was to Lago de Coatepeque. Before you drive down, there's a look out point where you can see the entire lake. It's incredible! We had coffee at one of the many restaurants with long docks extending out into the lake. You'll definitely want to spend a sunny day here, maybe even rent a jet ski!

While both of my visits were short, I managed to meet some incredible people. During my first visit with the wolf pack, we gathered quite the crew of people from all over (majority were Canadians) and I met a legendary Aussie guy who was driving his van down from Oregon to Patagonia. I became friends with a Dutch girl who had a spot in the van and voted me in to get the last spot and a ride to our next destination: Leon, Nicaragua. At the beginning I was just stoked to get a comfy lift to Nica, but I had no idea what adventure was actually in store. When you're openminded and backpacking, you never really know what your story will entail. That is, until you've done it. 

So on the morning of my 11th day in El Tunco, 6 of us hit the road to Nicaragua.

A few more worthy notes: Other than some brightly coloured chickens, there was not much you'd want to do in San Salvador unless you need a doctor or something. 

El Tunco has some cool cafes and restaurants to offer. Go to Take A Wok (Asian cuisine) for dinner and try one of the many smoothie places for breakfast, or my favourite cafe, Soya, which is just off the main dirt road. It offers options for dairy-free/gluten-free peeps and is delicious. 

Don't forget to relax and enjoy your surroundings!