El Tunco, El Salvador – Ultimate Travel Guide For 2024

Are you planning to Visit El Tunco, El Salvador?

El Tunco is a lively beach town in El Salvador that is popular among locals and tourists. We visited El Tunco during our travels through Central America and absolutely loved our time there.

We loved our walks along the long black sand beach, watching the surfers ride the waves and enjoying a nice cold beer by the sea. We found the small beach town to be fun, yet with a very laid-back and easygoing vibe.

Playa El Tunco is a hot spot for El Salvadorians to escape the bustle of their day-to-day lives and enjoy some sun, sand and sea. One of the reasons we loved it so much was because of this exact reason.

Yes, there were a handful of other tourists but this truly felt like an authentic locals getaway.

If you’re planning a visit to El Tunco in El Salvador then keep reading and I will cover everything you could possibly need to know to plan and enjoy your trip to this awesome town.

Short on time? Book your trip to El Tunco Here!

🚙 Rent a Car to Explore El Tunco, El Salvador

📍Mid-range Accommodation – The Cabins

📍 High-end Accommodation – Hotel Roca Sunzal

sunsetting over the sea behind the rocks at El Tunco beach in El Salvador

Where Is Playa El Tunco

Playa El Tunco is a small beach town in the Central American country of El Salvador. Located on the Pacific Coast, the only Ocean that El Salvador borders.

The town is around 84 km from the popular town of Santa Ana and only 38 km from the capital city of San Salvador. You can see the exact location on the map below;

map showing the location of El Tunco in El Salvador

Is El Tunco Worth Visiting

The short answer is yes. We felt that El Tunco was a great town with a great beach and definitely worth visiting if you are in El Salvador.

The town is small enough to feel like a relaxing getaway, yet lively enough to have plenty of things to keep you entertained. It has everything you could possibly need to have a really great time without feeling overly touristy.

Is El Tunco in El Salvador Safe

This is a question that comes up a lot when people start to think about travelling to El Salvador. Is it safe?

Well, the answer now is very different to what it would’ve been a few years ago. Yes, El Salvador and consequently, El Tunco are now safe for tourists.

Over the last few years the new president has made some huge changes to the country’s justice system and thousands of gang members are now behind bars instead of terrorising the streets like they once did.

This means that the people of El Salvador are happy and hopeful once again. Everyone we met and spoke to was excited to tell us all about how their country is safe again and how happy they are. It was truly heartwarming to hear.

El Tunco is no exception to this, in fact, it is probably one of the safest places in the whole country. We didn’t feel unsafe once during our time there.

Looking down the empty main street in El Tunco town

How To Get To El Tunco, El Salvador

Getting to El Tunco and around El Salvador, in general, is very easy. El Salvador is a pretty small country that is very well connected by buses that are fairly straightforward to navigate and super cheap.

I will give a few examples of how to get to El Tunco from other places within the country. As well as from neighbouring countries, as many travellers do make these long journeys, including us.

It is good to note that the local buses are pretty basic and can be a little slow but they are the best way to get around. Just remember as with ALL buses in Central America to keep your valuables close and never put them under your seat or in the overhead storage.

Incidents are rare but buses are a prime spot for opportunists.

By Bus From Santa Ana

If you are coming to El Tunco from Santa Ana then you will first need to catch a bus to San Salvador then change and take a second bus to El Tunco.

Not to worry it is super straightforward.

In Santa Ana, you will want to make your way to the Metrocentre which is just a short ride away from the centre of the city. I recommend taking an Uber this short distance, it should cost no more than around $2-3. Just ask the driver to drop you at the Metrocentre bus stop.

You can see the location of the Metrocentre here.

Once there you will be looking for bus 201. Two different companies provide the 201 services to San Salvador; Tudo and Seisabus. Both companies take around an hour to do the journey but go slightly different routes.

There a multiple buses a day at regular intervals so you shouldn’t have to wait long for the next bus to leave. Once on the bus, you will pay around $1.50 for the journey. Just make sure to ask the driver to drop you off at La Ceiba de Guadalupe.

This is a stop just outside of San Salvador where buses come and go so that people can change buses without having to go all the way into the city centre. It’s perfect!

Once you arrive, you will need to hop over to the other side of the highway using the pedestrian bridge and wait for the 102A bus. This bus will take you the rest of the way to El Tunco for around $1.50.

TOP TIP – Buses in Central America don’t always stop so you may have to give them a wave to let them know you want to get on. Most of the time there will be someone hanging out of the door shouting the end destination as they approach.

Again, make sure to mention to the driver that you want to be dropped off at El Tunco. This bus won’t go into the town but will stop on the main road at the edge of town for you to jump out.

By Bus From San Salvador

To Get to El Tunco from El Salvador you have a couple of options depending on where you are staying in the city and which is easiest for you.

Regardless of which way the bus is the same, the 102A.

It is important to note there is a 102 and a 102A. If you take the 102 you will only go as far as La Libertad. It’s not the end of the world but will be a pain for you to have to wait and take a 3rd bus to finish the journey.

The 102A is the one that goes all the way to El Tunco so keep your eyes peeled for the ‘A’.

To catch the bus you can either head to La Ceiba de Guadalupe as I mentioned before on the journey from Santa Ana. Or you can catch the bus from the Terminal de Buses de Occidente. This terminal is probably your best option if you are passing through the city or staying in the centre.

The same applies to letting the driver know to drop you in El Tunco and hopping out on the main road once you get there.

A green chicken bus in El Salvador

From Antigua, Guatemala

Many travellers exploring multiple countries will plan to make the journey from Antigua to El Tunco. This is surprisingly a lot easier than it sounds.

Despite this being possible to do by Chicken/local buses, I wouldn’t recommend it. You will need to change buses potentially a few times and maybe even taxis at the border. It will also take a VERY long time.

The best way is to get yourself a seat on a tourist shuttle bus. These run every single day and will take you the whole way and provide support at the border if you need it. Don’t worry though the border crossing is super easy.

The shuttle buses leave Antigua at either 5 am or 10 am and will pick you up from wherever you are staying. If you opt to leave at 5 am the journey will be faster, taking around 5 hours. Leaving at 10 am will take around 7 hours. A ticket costs $45 per person.

The company we recommend using to book this journey with is Gekko Explorer.

From Leon, Nicaragua

Another popular route for travellers going from south to north is to travel straight from Leon in Nicaragua to El Tunco, El Salvador.

There are also tourist shuttles that you can take for this journey too. There are daily departures leaving at 3.30 am. However, this journey is a little longer and will take around 12 hours. Keep in mind, that you need to do 2 border crossings on this journey as you will drive through Honduras.

For this journey, you will need to have some cash on you as there is a $3 exit fee for Nicaragua and a $3 entry fee for Honduras.

A ticket on a shuttle will cost $45 and we recommend using Rooney Shuttles for this journey. We used their shuttles for many journeys in Central America and they were always reliable.

Rent a Car

Renting a car is another great way to get around El Salvador and to be able to drive yourself to El Tunco. The roads are great and drivers are generally not as crazy as in other neighbouring countries.

Tourists should exercise caution as always when renting a car but incidents are pretty rare these days. You will need to be at least 18 years old and have a full driving licence.

🚙 If you would love the freedom of having a Car to yourself for your visit to El Tunco then you can search and compare prices with Discover Cars here!

Hire a Driver

It may sound pretty fancy but hiring someone to drive you is another really great way to get around the country. We had planned to take the bus until the owner of our guesthouse presented us with more options.

He knew a friend who could drive us and he also offered to drive us for $40. He was a great guy and I was recovering from food poisoning and didn’t fancy sitting on a bus so we decided to take him up on his offer.

This is not uncommon in El Salvador and if you would rather have a nice quiet, comfortable drive in a car then just ask your accommodation to help you find a driver to take you.

A girl standing in the sea on the beach at El Tunco on a bright sunny day

Best Things To Do In El Tunco

When it comes to how to spend your time in El Tunco, you have plenty to choose from. To help give you some inspiration here are some of our favourites;

Go Surfing

Without a doubt, the number one thing to do in ElTunco, El Salvador is surfing!

Surfer comes from far and wide to take advantage of the great waves and perfect surf conditions. We personally aren’t into surfing, we prefer to be under the water than on it. But we absolutely loved sitting on the beach and watching all the surfers do their thing.

For all you surf pros out there, be sure to look up Playa el Sunzsal, this is where we saw all the professionals in the water.

We noticed too, that the great thing about El Tunco beach is it is almost divided up into different areas. Some places had smaller, more beginner-friendly waves. Here we saw plenty of people having lessons.

A lesson and board rental can easily be arranged in town at one of the MANY surf shops and prices start at $20.

If you already know what you are doing and just want to rent a board, the prices start from $10.

We also noticed that the most popular time of day for the surfers to take to the water was at sunset. It seemed like the perfect way to end the day. Watching the magnificent El Tunco sunsets while waiting for the next big wave.

Tamanique Waterfalls Hike

Our visit to Tamanique waterfalls was the best thing we did whilst staying in El Tunco!

Located around a 30-minute bus ride from town, this is an absolute must for anyone who loves, hiking, waterfalls or just being out in nature.

Getting there was super easy. We caught a chicken bus that takes you directly to the town of Tamanique. From there you grab yourself a local guide (this is mandatory) and off you go.

You start with a 30-minute hike through the forest to get to the series of waterfalls that were just amazing. You can swim in most of them and even jump in from various heights if you’re feeling brave.

If this is something that sounds good to you then you can read all about the details on how to get there and find your guide in our separate post here.

One of the tall waterfalls at Tamanique in El Salvador

Explore the El Tunco caves

If you walk all the way to the sea cliffs at the end of the beach at low tide you will find the impressive sea caves.

A great activity to do in some spare time just keep in mind that the caves are always partly underwater, so you will need to wade through some parts.

Be careful to keep an eye on the sea levels and enjoy nature’s architecture.

Enjoy a spectacular sunset

I know you hear this a lot in blogs and it may sound a tad generic but trust me when I say that the sunsets in El Tunco are next-level.

They are some of the best sunsets I have ever seen. Not to mention the whole atmosphere on the beach was surreal. Just before the sun sets each day you will notice the beach fills with eager onlookers.

As the sun disappears down behind the horizon, take a quick look around you. It was so nice to see so many faces all looking at the beauty in front of them. Everyone was quiet and peaceful just enjoying the moment.

It felt nice to be a part of something pretty special.

A bright orange sky as the sun is setting behind the Horizon over the sea

Spend a day exploring La Libertad

Just a short ride on the bus along the coast and you are in La Libertad. This slightly larger beach town has another big beach and a nice boardwalk you can stroll along to enjoy the views.

Spend some time browsing the local shops here and enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants. Spending a day visiting this neighbouring town is a great way to get a change of scenery and experience a little more of the beautiful El Salvadorian coastline.

Admire the fantastic street paintings

Dotted all around the town of El Tunco there are large and beautiful street paintings and murals. They are brightly coloured and easy to spot. So why not spend an hour or so just wandering the streets in search of your favourite piece?

Try the Infamous Pupusas

This might seem like a very simple suggestion but Pupusas are a big thing in El Salvador. They are everywhere!

A Pupusa is a fluffy round cornbread/ tortilla that can be filled with anything you like. Usually cheese and something else but you can also get chocolate-filled ones or, like me, opt for no cheese and just some greens or beans.

They make a great snack and they are super cheap.

a couple of local Pupusas in EL Salvador, a local thick type of stuffed tortilla

Where to Stay in El Tunco, El Salvador

Finding accommodation online for El Tunco and El Salvador in general can be a little restricting. They don’t have a huge tourism industry yet so most places aren’t listed on online booking sites.

You can always just rock up and hope to find space somewhere, although I wouldn’t personally risk it in case everywhere in your budget range is full.

To help you out here are a few places we would recommend depending on your travel budget;

📍Budget Option – Kali Guesthouse

This is a simple yet popular guesthouse with basic rooms but a nice communal pool and gardens. The location is right in the heart of El Tunco and the rooms start at a really reasonable price for this area.

✅ Book your budget room in EL Tunco Here!

📍Mid-Range Option – The Cabins

These are some of the most sought-after places to stay in EL Tunco. These wonderfully renovated shipping containers now serve as fully equipped mini apartments for guests to enjoy.

The area is quiet and peaceful just outside of the town centre and yet still only a short walk to the beach. The reviews of these cabins are awesome!

✅ Check out these unique cabins for yourself before they are all booked up!

📍High-End Option – Hotel Roca Sunzal

If you are looking for a little more luxury for your stay in El Tunco then Hotel Roca Sunzal is the place to be. This Hotel complex has it all.

Located right on the beachfront, it has 2 large pools, spacious bright rooms and its very own onsite restaurant. Guests have rated this hotel very highly.

✅ Book yourself your little slice of heaven with a stay at Hotel Roca Sunzal

How To Get Around El Tunco

El Tunco is a very small town. Getting to the beach, restaurants, shops and most accommodations can easily be done on foot. Alternatively, if you are staying a little further from the centre I would recommend renting a bicycle to get around.

To do any day trips or explore outside of the town you have a few different options.

Rental Car – If you like your freedom and are old enough to rent a car (over 18) then this is a great option for you. Renting a car in El Salvador is affordable and safe as long as you are sensible and try to avoid driving around at night.

If you are interested in renting a car I would suggest using a comparison sight such as Discover Cars to compare prices and get the best deal.

🚙 Search for your ideal rental car in El Salvador Here!

Public Bus – The cheapest option to get around and explore the area will be to use the public chicken buses. These are pretty straightforward and easy to use. You can always ask at your accommodation or a local tour shop which bus you should take and where to catch it.

Another great way to check how to get to where you want to go by bus is to use the site CentroCoasting. They have detailed descriptions of most routes in El Salvador.

Public buses in El Salvador are safe and super cheap, they are especially ideal for short day trips.

Taxi – Finally it is always an option to take a taxi. However, we noticed there weren’t as many taxis in El Tunco just waiting around for people, if any. If you know you will want a Taxi ride then you will need to ask your accommodation to help you arrange one.

Don’t forget, never get into an unmarked car claiming to be a Taxi!

Where to Eat & Drink in El Tunco

Besides Pupusas, of course, El Tunco has many other really great options when it comes to places to eat and drink. We noticed that El Salvador was a little similar to the UK, in that it doesn’t really have a super unique style of cuisine.

When you visit many other countries in Central America you find different types of dishes etc but El Salvador felt very much like being at home. Plenty of variety from all over the world so it was easy to get whatever you had a fancy for.

These were some of our favourite places that we went to;

⭐️ Kombucha – This vegan-friendly cafe was located in an indoor type of shopping area. Very small but their menu was great. They are open for breakfast and dinner and we had some really great burgers here.

They also make their own Kombucha.

⭐️ Bao House – If you are in the mood for Asian food then this place was our favourite restaurant in El Tunco. We came here a couple of times and loved their ramen and dumplings. I would highly recommend paying them a visit.

They are also located right on the main road but set up slightly higher so you have a great spot to sit and watch the world go past as you enjoy your food.

⭐️ Day Cafe – Another very small cafe with only a couple of tables but the food here was great. They offer very healthy options such as smoothies, juices and smoothie bowls, salads and other healthy meals.

This was also our favourite place to grab a coffee in El Tunco. They did a really great iced coffee and had plant-based kinds of milk too.

⭐️ Jungle SV – This fun restaurant/bar is brightly decorated and has a great menu with plenty of veggie and vegan options. Their prices were really reasonable and there was a great atmosphere here.

⭐️ Coyote – A cafe perfect for grabbing lunch. This place is all inside and had AC, so if you’re struggling with the heat then this is a great place to come and cool down while you refuel.

We loved their paninis here.

View from a restaurant in El Tunco town looking out over the main road

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit El Tunco, El Salvador

El Tunco, El Salvador experiences 2 main seasons. Wet season and dry season.

The wet season runs from May through to October so ideally avoid these months if you can. The dry season is from November to April making these months the best time of year to visit.

El Tunco, El Salvador – FAQs

Now that we have covered all of the main things you need to know when visiting El Tunco, I wanted to address a few final questions that people commonly ask.

What is El Tunco known for?

El Tunco is especially known for being a surfer’s paradise!

The different coves and beaches in the area make for great waves for all levels of surfers, from beginners to advanced.

Is El Tunco expensive?

El Tunco can be as expensive or as affordable as you make it. We found the accommodations here all to be a little more on the pricey side.

Some restaurants were close to European prices for a meal but groceries were pretty cheap and food could also be cheap if you opted for a street pupusa for lunch.

Transport can be super cheap if you take the local buses and activities are all either free or pretty cheap in El Tunco.

Can I use Bitcoin in El Tunco?

El Salvador was the first country in the world to recognise Bitcoin as a legal currency. So yes if you have a few to spare then this would be a great place to get spending.

There is even a specific Bitcoin ATM on the main street in town.

Are there ATMs in El Tunco, El Salvador?

Yes, there are a couple of ATMs on the main street in town.

Where can I buy groceries in El Tunco?

The street leading down to the beach from town has 3 or 4 different grocery stores along it. Any of these are great places to grab some supplies.

A dramatic sunset sky over the beach in El Tunco

El Tunco, El Salvador – Final Thoughts

El Salvador was one of my favourite countries we visited in Central America. Partly thanks to our time spent at El Tunco. I loved spending our evening sitting on the beach watching the magical sunsets.

Not to mention our visit to the nearby waterfalls I mentioned being the highlight of our whole stay in El Salvador.

We found the local people to be some of the kindest and most welcoming of foreign visitors and also some of the happiest. They had great energy and so did El Tunco.

If you get the chance to visit then I hope you love it as much as we did.