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Lo Vanmullem, 23 years old, is from Belgium and lived for 7 months in El Zonte. She fell in love with the beauty and rawness of our little beach town.
After reading Lo’s post, you’ll probably understand a lot better why we tell you we like to compare El Zonte to one of those childhood photo albums.
5 things that make El Zonte unique
written by Lo Vanmullem
Ok, so you’re on an afternoon visit at your grandma’s (or at your mom’s) and, admit it, you already know you won’t leave their house empty-handed. Either you’ll go home with a bunch of food, you will likely never be able to finish on your own, or you’ll leave with a satisfied, warm heart and an eternal smile on your face.
The steam coming from your hot cup of coffee and a ribbon of childhood memories swirl through the living room when momma shouts: ‘Why don’t we take out the photo albums!’
Here we go…
Your eyes probably rolled all the way down to South-Africa cause you’ve already seen those albums at least a dozen times, but your heart can’t say no to momma’s excitement.
And with every page she turns over, there are forgotten memories popping up, and your smile becomes a bit bigger. You realize that so many little things and simplicities have gone unnoticed and that you became so involved in the present rush of everyday life – yes, even in 2020.
Don’t get me wrong! I wildly recommend we all live in the present and not in the past, nor towards the future, since the past can’t be changed and the future is not promised. Nevertheless, I sometimes need to remind myself that the way I reacted to and appreciated simplicities as a child is something I should integrate more into my current lifestyle.
And now that I’ve pulled you with me down memory lane, you’ll probably understand me a lot better when I tell you I like to compare El Zonte to one of those childhood photo albums.
Every time I leave El Zonte, it’s with a warm heart and the excitement of my 6-year-old self eating ice cream at my hometown’s beach.
So if the countless breathtaking pictures of El Zonte on Instagram still didn’t convince you of the uniqueness of this pueblito, then I’ll accept this challenge to change your mind today!
Reason number 1: The food in El Zonte!
Let’s face it: We are all better humans when we have a belly filled with deliciousness.
Don’t even talk to me in the morning before I had my cup of Salvadoran black coffee, and I bet you’ve already been the living definition of ‘hangry’ at least once in your life.
Let’s agree on the following:
Food is love. Food is life.
Whether you’re a wine-and-dine lover or only someone who licks her/his fingers after finishing up some mouth-watering street food, El Zonte won’t disappoint!
If you’ve already done some research about El Salvador, then you should’ve seen the word “pupusa” at least five times. If not, do not trust your source!
So far, I have never met anyone who didn’t like these stuffed tortillas made of corn or rice at all. And, I mean, you can choose the ingredients inside yourself!? It is simply food for the soul.
I became extremely picky about my Salvadoran happy meal since my love for pupusas went to the next level. And, so far, the ones from Jeisy’s are still my favorites.
“Well, Lo, that’s personal,” you’re probably thinking.
But what if I told you that even a lot of people from El Tunco and surroundings come to El Zonte to eat Jeisy’s pupusas. Says enough, right?
Now that we’re talking about street food, I almost never make it to the other side of the river without freezing a moment at La Zonteña for a dollar snack. Roxy, the shop owner, makes some finger-licking fried snacks during the weekend: empanadas, yuca frita, pasteles, … nothing a 5 pm hunger can resist!
Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you that even the offer of breakfast converts El Zonte into a place of pilgrimage for food-lovers. If you’re looking for a good old classic Salvadoran one, then a breakie at the point right in front of the surfers could be just the thing to start your day.
And chef Ollie at “Canegue” (image above) will present you a mixture of superfood and art, in case you want to take your mornings to the next level.
My dearest wine-and-dine lover, I certainly did not forget you! Are you looking for the perfect combo of rock’n roll, spice, and everything excellent? Say hi to the “Vikingos” of El Zonte! This Belgian couple serves you the best Belgian fries in their extremely original and cozy restaurant.
Are you looking for some tranquility and appetizing complexity with a good glass of wine? Swing by at Puro Surf’s restaurant Covana. And if some fancy fish could please you more, then Olor de Mar, the restaurant at Palo Verde Sustainable Hotel (photo), will do the trick for you.
Whatever your heart and stomach desire, El Zonte has it all.
Please prove me wrong, and I owe you a pupusa.
Reason number 2: The surf in El Zonte
The fact you maybe didn’t know until now: El Salvador is the country of surf! What am I even saying? Country? It is basically a surfer’s paradise!
It is known worldwide as the mecca of right-hand point breaks, and pro surfers from all over the world come here to shred some of those clean waves. So you can already imagine that some of the spots are pretty crowded sometimes, especially when it’s on fire out there.
Why get yourself in trouble with a hundred surfers at Sunzal when there’s a tremendous right-hand point break in El Zonte? And of course, the other side of the point also offers some decent lefties; pick your side!
Tiny tip for the proud pros and the messy beginners among us: remember always to respect each other in the water.
The locals are relaxed, another reason I fell in love with El Zonte. They will help you and give you any advice you need, both inside and outside the water. It’s only a matter of respecting them as they are very proud of their waves.
Please show them your interest, and mutual respect and glassy waves will be thrown on your Zonte-plate. It’s a win-win if you ask me!
Reason number 3: The vibe in El Zonte
Party monsters and extroverted adventurers often prefer El Tunco, a famous and vibrant beach town not too far from El Zonte. However, El Zonte’s atmosphere is just perfect for every soul, every human, every type of person. (Unless you want to party 24/7, but I doubt it.)
I remember a 5 am-moment of sipping black coffee on that black-sanded beach while waiting for the warm orange glow to kiss me good morning. A curious tourist joined me and asked me why I chose to live in El Zonte. I uninterruptedly kept my eyes on the depths of Mama Ocean and responded: ‘There’s just something about El Zonte…’
Words aren’t enough to describe the unique vibe this little pueblo radiates. Every sunrise softly touches the soul of small houses. It’s as if everything here literally wakes up with the sun kissing the ocean, accepting the new day as a fresh beginning to bloom differently than yesterday.
Walking barefooted on the beach goes hand in hand with a mellow and satisfying feeling. I am not lying to you if I say this town cures anxiety.
The local people are just living and smiling, defining the overused saying’ rise and shine’.
The dogs are playing like kids in the sand.
The palm trees waving the song of Mother Nature.
The waves are crashing and clashing and being their honest, brutal selves.
Flowers are perfuming.
Honest smiles are blooming.
There’s just something about El Zonte.
Reason number 4: The people in El Zonte
Ever visited a country or a stunning place, but the people were the complete opposite? Bummer, right? You may be walking in the garden of Eden. If Adam and Eve make you feel uncomfortable, you won’t go back so quickly.
I won’t tell you the people from El Zonte are the friendliest and happiest people I’ve ever seen. However, they are the most honest, raw, rad, and pure souls I’ve met so far.
El Zonte is also called El Pueblo Loco (the Crazy Town), and it didn’t steal its nickname.
Don’t you agree that this world needs more pure humans? We need more of those crazy wandering souls that blow your mind by being their raw selves, without even accepting any form of judgment.
Well, El Zonte is filled with people like this.
You’ll come across the oldest souls, dedicated and inspiring surfers, pure welcoming mothers, warm, innocent children, wise “abuelos” revealing the secrets of their own “tierra.” The people from El Zonte are unique. They are a race on their own. This is why this town is so unique, so mind-blowing, so forever surprising, yet a beautiful constant in the chaos I call humanity.
Reason number 5: Sun(set)days!
While almost everywhere in the world, we are often reflected as beings yearning for Friday to become the highlight of our week, El Zonte casually puts that mood on Sundays for us.
Way too often, Sundays are associated with a typical vibe: relaxed, easy-going, lazy, … We take it easy because we slowly get ourselves ready for Monday again. Sigh.
El Pueblo Loco celebrates the end of the week in Zonte-style. Weekends tend to get busy in general, no matter what beach town you’re exploring. Sundays around 4 or 5 pm, people from the city drive back home, the weekend trips come to an end, and the many footprints on the beach are preparing themselves to be swallowed by the upcoming tide.
Time for the people living in El Zonte (and surroundings) to go and grab their beer and walk towards the glowing heat of the sunset.
The town will be empty because everyone will be at “Wipeout.” This super cool hostel organizes weekly original sunset Sundays with good food, good music (mostly live), and good people. It’s where everyone gathers together to have a beer, a laugh, and a fantastic time with friends.
Don’t panic if you can’t find Wipeout. Just ask around, and nine times out of ten, the one giving you the directions will even join you and buy you a beer!
And of course, there’s no Sunday worthy of being called a Sunday without some delicious pupusas at “Jeisy’s.” You know, those pupusas I mentioned before. After everyone danced the tension from the past week out of their system at “Wipeout,” their next stop will probably be at “Jeisy’s” before heading home. It can get pretty crowded over there any day of the week, but Sundays break records.
It’s precisely this, seeing everyone share food and thought at one big table, laughing and celebrating life while eating with their hands, what makes a Sunday in El Zonte my favorite one. I bet it will change the way you usually treat the end of the week too!
El Zonte Lindo…
Hot pupusas, stress-absorbing atmosphere, colorful sunset Sundays, forever-pleasing surf, and crazy but unique people. This pueblo proves that a simple lifestyle underneath the palm trees can bring back happiness, satisfaction, and wonder from your younger self. And isn’t that one of the feelings we could now use more than ever, especially after the craziness 2020 has put on our plates?
Well, then there’s only one thing left to do if you ask me: book your ticket to El Salvador and take a sip of El Zonte’s wild tranquility yourself!
p.s. Feel free to share your thoughts and experience with us afterward!