The best beaches in El Salvador: Our Top 3
In this post, we would like to give you some information about the best beaches in El Salvador. But as always: this is our personal choice. Some people would probably disagree with what we recommend to you here. Finding “the best beach” in El Salvador always depends on what you want to do there and what you prefer. El Salvador has more than 190 miles (300km) of pacific coastline that stretches from the Guatemaltecan border in the west to the frontier of Honduras in the east. And El Salvador is the only country in Central America that doesn’t have access to the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’re looking for the best beaches to surf, please read our post about surf in El Salvador. If you’re looking for our personal choice of the best beaches to visit in El Salvador, you should keep reading this post.
Top 1 of the best beaches in El Salvador: El Zonte
Our number one is Playa El Zonte! Not only because Spanish School El Zonte is located there, just because it’s a cool place and a perfect location to stay for a tourist. First: El Zonte has two surf spots – a beach break and a point break in walking distance. It’s not as good as Punta Roca for example, but there’re still VERY decent waves almost all your around, and it’s not that crowded. Also, El Zonte is perfect for taking some surf classes. It might be important for you to know that during the “winter” season” (April to Oktober) the waves are bigger and a part of the beach gets covered by rocks. In “Summer” (about November to March) the waves are smaller, and the beach converts into a beautiful sandy paradise. And yes, the sand is black!
Second: The landscape and the surrounding nature is beautiful. The cliffs are always worth a foto, and the sunsets can be absolutely dramatic.
Third: Playa El Zonte is a good mixture of still being authentic and having an excellent offer of facilities for tourists. The variety of accommodation is getting better every year, and there’s a place to stay for every budget. El Zonte’s location is also a perfect hub for your trips to discover El Salvador. There sometimes is some nightlife in El Zonte (at the Black Cat Hostel, for example), but in general El Zonte is a bit quiet during the weekends. It might be perfect for you or may too boring, depending on what you’re looking for.
Another big plus is the new public skate park that was inaugurated in August 2019. Even if you’re not a skater, it’s fun watching the people skating right in front of the beach. You can find the skatepark next to “Olas Permanentes”.
If you want to read some more informations about El Zonte, please read here:
Best beaches in El Salvador: El Zonte - Summary
Summary – Playa El Zonte:
+ beautiful landscape
+ wide variety of accommodation
+ a perfect hub for trips
+ good waves and surf classes
+ authentic beach with local people
+ everything in walking distance
+ nice people
+ a public skate-park
– not a lot of nightlife
Top 2 of the best beaches in El Salvador: Playa El Cuco
Our number two of the best beaches in El Salvador is “El Cuco”. It takes you about 3 hours by car to get there from El Zonte. “El Cuco” is a kind of remote place which makes it pretty unique. The landscape is beautiful and the wildlife also. If you’re lucky, you will be able to see dolphins there! The beach is sandy all year long. In “El Cuco” you can find two of the best surf spots in El Salvador: “Las Flores” and “Punta Mango”. The last one is best accessible by boat or a jeep. Both surf spots need a bigger swell to work well.
And what to do if you’re not a surfer? Well, to be honest: there’s almost NO nightlife there! Which can be good or bad, depending on what you want. But, El Cuco is a perfect stopover on your way to/from Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Volcano “Conchagua” is close.
You definitely should visit the top of the volcano which is easily accessible by a guided tour (with a jeep) and gives you a fantastic view all over the bay of “Golfo de Fonseca”. Most hostels and hotels offer guided tours to the volcano, and you can also camp up there to enjoy the sunrise.
Another fantastic trip is to visit the island “Isla Meanguera”. The island is beautiful and has a lovely beach that you will probably have for your own.
And the last tip: as mentioned before, the wildlife is more diverse here just because there’re way fewer people here. Good for the wildlife but bad for you foot if you step on a “stingray“! Do the shuffle walk if you go into the water.
Best beaches in El Salvador: El Cuco - Summary
The variety of suitable accommodations and restaurants is not that wide unfortunately because El Cuco is not as developed as other parts of the country.
Summary – Playa El Cuco:
+ one of the most beautiful beaches in El Salvador
+ two excellent world-class surf spots
+ trip to “Conchagua” and “Isla Meanguera”
– no nightlife and limited choice of restaurants
– variety of accommodation and restaurants is limited
Top 3 of the best beaches in El Salvador: Barra de Santiago
“Barra de Santiago” in the west is one of the beaches in El Salvador that we would call “remote”, like “El Cuco” in the east of the country. (Yes, we prefer the remote beaches in El Salvador). You can find “Barra de Santiago” in the west of El Salvador, close to the Guatemalan border or a 2h drive away from El Zonte. Barra de Santiago is a peninsula that is about 8km long and only 500m (or less) wide. So what’s so special about it? Well, it’s one of these beaches in El Salvador that is kind of “forgotten”. Sometimes it reminds us of the Carribean also. There’s is some tourism there, but actually more Salvadoran people come here to spend their weekends. It’s a perfect beach to get away from the crowds and relax.
Another reason why “Barra de Santiago” is so special is that it’s the only place in El Salvador with mangroves where you can see crocodiles, and they are big! Also, there’s a lot of other wildlife. You can book a private boat tour through the mangroves for about US$25 (one hour, per group). And for about US$ 20 extra, they bring you to the very end of Barra de Santiago where you can enjoy excellent seafood. Try “Bocana Barra De Santiago,” they serve excellent and cheap seashells, oysters and other delicacies.
Moving around at “Barra de Santiago” is a bit challenging. As we said: it is a remote place, and there’s no real tourist infrastructure there. Book a guided tour, with Tuncolife for example, or get a rental car! Also, accommodation is limited here. Have a look at “Airbnb”. It’s a good idea to get here with a group and book a big “rancho” directly at the beach.
And concerning the surf: well, there are some beach breaks you could surf, and there’s supposed to be a wave right at the river mouth. Check it out and let us know. But to be honest: “Barra de Santiago” is not known for its waves.
All in all: it’s one of our favorite beaches in El Salvador because we love these remote places!
Best beaches in El Salvador: Barra de Santiago - Summary
Summary – Barra de Santiago:
+ perfect for a weekend stay or a stopover from/to Guatemala
+ very calm with a “Caribbean feeling”
+ amazing wildlife and mangroves
– almost no infrastructure for tourist
– limited accommodation & restaurants
And what about El Tunco?
Of course, we didn’t forget El Tunco, and we like El Tunco. But we were guessing that you already knew what El Tunco is all about. Almost every foreign tourist comes to El Tunco – and they do it for a good reason. El Tunco has a large variety of accommodation, restaurants, tour operator, party-places and two excellent surf spots. But the beaches in El Salvador have way more to offer: get off the beaten track!