Beaches in El Salvador

Full guide

After a memorable journey through Nicaragua and a beautiful border crossing via Golfo de Fonseca, we arrived in El Salvador, where warm hospitality awaited us. El Salvador quickly become one of our favorite countries to visit for its welcoming people, stunning volcanos and beautiful beaches.

We’ve talked a lot about why El Salvador should absolutely be on your travel list, and today, we’re focusing on one of its absolute gems: the stunning beaches.

Things to do on El Salvador beaches:

Observe Torturtle nesting

Each year, from July to December, El Salvador’s beaches become a haven for nesting sea turtles. After approximately 50 days of incubation, these precious turtle eggs hatch, and the young ones are joyfully released into the Pacific Ocean along the coast.

Watch Stunning sunsets

 The sunsets on El Salvador’s beaches are nothing short of breathtaking.

Catch world-class waves

 El Salvador is a well-known surfing haven with incredibly challenging waves. In El Salvador, you get to enjoy those legendary waves without the crowds.

Enjoy truly pristine beaches off-the-beaten-path

While many of El Salvador’s western beaches are well developed. You’ll still find plenty of pristine beaches that offer a serene escape, especially in the East.

Party the night away with El Salvadorians:

Beach parties in El Salvador are legendary, where lively music, dancing, and the warmth of Salvadorian hospitality combine for unforgettable nights by the ocean. El Tunco is the place to be for proper beach party vibes.

Beaches inEl Salvador

Beaches in El Salvador’s West 

– La Libertad

– El Tunco

– Playa San Blas

– Playa Sunzenal

– Playa El Zonte

– Playa Mizata

– Los Cóbanos

– Barra de Santiago

Beaches in El Salvador’s East

– Costa del Sol

Isla Montecristo

– Bahia Jiquilisco

– Beaches around El Cuco

– Golfo de Fonseca

Beaches in El Salvador's West

The Western beaches in El Salvador have a much better-developed tourisic infrastructure and serve as a getaway for many San Salvadorians and tourists alike.

For surf enthusiasts, western El Salvador is a dream come true. Renowned surf spots like Playa El Tunco and Playa El Sunzal attract wave riders from around the world. The consistent swells and warm waters make these beaches the perfect place to catch some epic waves or to try surfing for the first time.

But it’s not just about surfing; western El Salvador also offers opportunities for relaxation and exploration. You can stroll along the serene beaches of Playa El Zonte, where time seems to stand still, or take a dip in the tranquil waters of Playa San Blas. The friendly coastal communities in this region provide a warm welcome and a chance to immerse yourself in local culture and cuisine.

beaches in el salvador: la libertad

La Libertad

La Libertad is one of the busiest beaches in El Salvador. It’s super popular with locals and tourists alike and gets very busy on the weekends. 

Things to do in La Liberatad:

  • Feast on great, cheap seafood
  • Surf Punta Roca
  • Hike Parque National Walter Thilo Deininger

How to get to La Libertad?

Where to stay in la Libertad?

Mandala Eco Villas is a beautiful, family-owned surf and yoga haven. The family also operates a permaculture farm.

Playa El Tunco

Haven is for the international surfing scene and is much busier than El Cuco. El Tunco is the most popular beach on the West Coast.

Things to do in El Tunco:

  • Party & Surfing 
  • Surfing
  • Shopping
  • Hiking Tamanique Waterfalls
  • Yoga

How to get to El Tunco?

There are frequent buses from La Libertad to El Tunco. The ride takes about 30 minutes.

Where to stay in El Tunco?

Zen Hotel is usper beautiful and located right in the Center of El Tunco. The rooms were propably the prettiest during all our travels in El Salvador. The rooms have a balcony from which you can see Sunzenal waves break and marvel the magificient sunsets.

beaches in El Salvador: el tunco
Mercado Central in San Jose, Costa Rica

Playa San Blas

Playa San Blas is small, charming, and very close to El Tunco’s nightlife but much quieter. 

Things to do in Playa San Blas:

  • Surfing
  • Take in sunsets
  • Relax

How to get to Playa San Blas?

How to get to Playa San Blas: There are frequent buses from La Libertad to El Tunco. The ride takes about 30 minutes. Get off in San Blas.

Where to stay in Playa San Blas?

Zen Hotel is usper beautiful and located right in the Center of El Tunco. The rooms were propably the prettiest during all our travels in El Salvador. The rooms have a balcony from which you can see Sunzenal waves break and marvel the magificient sunsets.

Playa Sunzal

Is just a 7 km walk from Playa El Tunco and home to one of El Salvador’s most powerful waves. 

Things to do in Playa Sunzenal

  • Surfing
  • Visit a cacao farm in the indigenous town of Izalco

How to get to Playa Sunzal?

There are frequent buses from La Libertad to El Tunco, so just continue on. The ride takes about 40 minutes. During the daytime, you can walk from El Tunco

Where to stay in Sunzal?

Casa de Mar Hotel And Villas has a cute outdoor pool with ocean view and modern rooms.

street art in San Jose, Costa Rica
beaches in el salvador: el zonte

Playa El Zonte

Playa El Zonte is much quieter and more relaxed than El Tunco. It has good surf and a beach, which is nice for non-surfers.

Things to do in El Zonte:

  • Good for swimming
  • Surfing
  • Relaxing
  • Yoga
  • Take Spanish classes 
  • Daytrip to Cerro Verde

How to get to Playa El Zonte?

There are frequent buses from La Libertad to El Tunco. The ride takes about 50 minutes.

Where to stay in El Zonte?

El Xalli is relatively new and has beautiful and comfortable rooms and an infinity pool right by the beach! Sunsets are spectacular!

Playa Mizata

The views on the way to the last surfing village on El Salvador’s West Coast are stunning and totally worth the ride. Playa Mizita is much more secluded an chill than the other Western beaches:

Things to do in Playa Mizata:

  • Surf the infamous right-point wave
  • Chill and relax 

How to get to Playa Mizata?

There are no direct buses from La Libertad to Playa Mizata, and you must switch several times. To fully enjoy the impressive drive, take a private taxi.

Where to stay in Mizata?

Casaola Mizata offers beautiful rooms, a pool, delicious food, and surf equipment rental at fair prices.

street art in San Jose, Costa Rica
beaches in El Salvador: Los Cobanos

Los Cóbanos

The shores of the small fishing are home to Central America’s biggest Coral Reef and a protected marine area.

Things to do in Los Cóbanos

  • Watch Humpback whales during migration from November to December
  • Diving
  • Go on a Marine Life Boat Tour with NGO Fundarecife
  • Join turtle releases (September-December)

How to get to Los Cóbanos?

By bus from Sensonate in 45 minutes or by car from San Salvador (80 km)

Where to stay in Los Cóbanos?

Accomendation options are limited and pricey. Check out Rancho AlMar!

Barra de Santiago

My favorite by far! “La Barra,” as the locals call it, is a sandbar flanked by the Pacific Ocean and mangroves. Its beauty is truly surreal! It is super hard to get to, making it a unique off-the-beaten-path destination on your El Salvador itinerary. 

Things to do in Barra De Santiago:

  • Enjoy breathtaking sunsets
  • Take beginners surfer lessons
  • Go birdwatching

How to get there Barra De Santiago?

From San Salvador by bus to Sonsonate, from there, one of the two daily buses to Barra Santiago.

Where to stay in Barra de Santiago?

Ocean Paradise has modern rooms right by the beach.

beaches in el salvador: barra<br />

Beaches in El Salvador's East

The beaches of eastern El Salvador are a well-kept secret, offering an unspoiled and enchanting coastal experience for those seeking a more tranquil and authentic escape. Nestled along the Pacific Ocean, these shores are a testament to the natural beauty of the region, with their pristine sands, towering palm trees, and the soothing sound of the waves.

Montezuma 7
beaches in El Salvador

Costa Del Sol

Costa del Sol is the longest stretch of beach in El Salvador, and most of it is privately owned, making it a getaway for San Salvador’s upper class. Not my favorite beach in San Salvador, but it is definitely worth a visit especially for a short break from San Salvador. 

Things to do in Costa del Sol

  • People Watching
  • Spend a day in a beach cafe or club

 

How to get to Costa del Sol?

It’s only a 45-minute car ride from San Salvador but takes 2.5 hours by bus.

Where to stay in la Libertad?

I always felt very safe in Cahuita. Just make sure to not walk nearby beaches at night.

Isla Montecristo

Is a haven for sustainable travel lovers. The peninsula (half-island) is located where the Río Lempa meets the Pacific Ocean. You can walk the island, which is home to a friendly community in about 30 minutes. Isla Montecristo feels like you are way off any civilization and best visited on an overnight trip. 

Things to do on Isla Montecristo:

  • Go on a boat trip
  • Walk the island on a tour
  • Visit the beach 

How to get to Isla Monte Christo?

Getting to Isla Montecristo is a bit challenging.

  1. Take the bus from San Salvador to San Nicolas Lempa (2.5 hours)
  2. Take the bus from San Nicolas Lempa to La Pita ( 45 minutes)
  3. From La Pita, take a 10-minute boat ride to Isla Montecristo

Alternatively, contact Hostal Montecristo for transport.

Where to stay in on Isla Montecristo?

I always felt very safe in Cahuita. Just make sure to not walk nearby beaches at night.

Bahia Jiquilisco

Bahia Jiquilisco, located on the southeastern coast of El Salvador, is a hidden diamond waiting to be explored. “The Bay of Stars,” as the local ingenious people call the Bay, is perhaps the most mesmerizing beach destination in El Salvador. This stunning coastal area is nestled within the larger UNESCO-designated Jiquilisco Bay Biosphere Reserve. Bahia Jiquilisco consists of 27 islands that are teeming with biodiversity and are one of Central America’s most important nesting grounds for turtles. 

Aside from its natural splendor, Bahia Jiquilisco is also home to small fishing communities, offering visitors the chance to experience authentic Salvadoran coastal life. You can interact with local fishermen, taste fresh seafood, and immerse yourself in the laid-back, friendly atmosphere of the area.

The bay itself is a vast expanse of calm, brackish waters framed by lush mangrove forests and bordered by serene beaches. As you explore the bay, you’ll encounter a rich ecosystem teeming with diverse bird species, aquatic life, and thriving mangrove ecosystems that provide vital habitat for numerous wildlife species.

 

sunset in Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Things to do in Bahia Jiquilisco – Support community tourism

  • Go on boat tours through the mangroves
  • Go Birdwatching
  • Watch the turtles during nesting time
  • Explore the villages Isla Méndez and Corral de Mulas

How to get to Bahia Jiquilisco?

  1. From San Salvador, take the bus to Usulután (2.5 hours)
  2. From Usulután to Puerto El Tarifuno (1 hour): The bus terminal is kinda non-existent and a small shack.
  3. From Puerto El Tarifuno take a boat to Isla la Mendéz

Where to stay in Bahia Jiquilisco?

Puerto Barillas is surrounded by nature and is a wonderful place to start exploring the area.

Beaches around El Cuco

El Cuco is a charming, small fishing village with basically three beaches. The beach in El Cuco itself is more of a stretch of beach with several small beach shacks. The nearby beaches are much more beautiful and charming. 

Playa Esteron

Playa Esteron seems to be endless! The vast grey beach is tranquil and perfect for enjoying a pristine beach without crowds.

Things to do in Playa Esteron

  • Relax & Swim
  • Watch sunsets
  • See turtles come to shore ( September – December)
    horsecarriage on the beach of El Cuco, El Salvador

    Playa Maculis

    The beautiful, unspoiled beach of Playa Maculis is very unknown and perfect if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path beach in El Salvador. 

    Things to do in Playa Maculis:

    • Kick back and relax!
    • Swimming and Sunbathing

    How to get to Playa Maculis?

    Getting to Playa Maculis by public transport takes a lot of work. Contact Los Caracoles (the only place to stay in Playa Maculis) to arrange transport if you plan on visiting.

    Where to stay in Playa Maculis?

    Rancho los Caracoles is a beautiful new porperty on the beach.

    Golfo de Fonseca

    We arrived from Nicaragua via Golfo de Fonseca, and it was a beautiful journey!

    Shared by El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, this gulf is renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity.

    The gulf is framed by picturesque volcanic mountain ranges, creating a dramatic backdrop for its serene waters. The combination of mangrove forests, estuaries, and a diverse array of marine life makes Golfo de Fonseca an ecological hotspot and a vital area for conservation efforts. Birdwatchers, in particular, are drawn to the region for the opportunity to spot various bird species in their natural habitat.

      How to get to Golfo de Fonseca?

      Boats to Nicaragua via Golfo de Fonseca leave via La Union. You can also arrange tours to the Golf from here.

      Where to stay in La Union?

      Hostal Santa Marta is abasic, but clean and welcoming hostal.

      Golfo de Fonseca

      Practical travel tips for Osa Peninsula

      What is the best time to visit Costa Rica

      Always!

      The best time to visit Costa Rica largely depends on your preferences and the experiences you seek. The country has two primary seasons: the dry season (December to April) and the wet season (May to November). The dry season is ideal for outdoor adventures, with plenty of sunshine, less rainfall, and lush green landscapes. This is the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. On the other hand, the wet season offers a unique charm, with fewer tourists, vibrant rainforests, and occasional afternoon showers. It's a great time for wildlife enthusiasts and budget-conscious travelers. Ultimately, the best time to visit Costa Rica depends on whether you prefer dry, sunny days or don't mind a bit of rain while enjoying the country's natural beauty and diverse ecosystems

      Is Costa Rica safe for travelers?

      Costa Rica is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. The country has a stable political environment, a strong rule of law, and a relatively low crime rate compared to some of its Central American neighbors. However, like any other destination, it's essential for travelers to exercise common-sense precautions. This includes safeguarding personal belongings, avoiding poorly lit or deserted areas at night, and staying vigilant in tourist areas where petty theft can occasionally occur.

      How to get to Costa Rica?

      Most travelers arrive by flying into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San José or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. These airports serve as the main entry points for international flights. From there, you can access various domestic airports, like Juan Santamaría Airport in San José or Tamarindo Airport in Guanacaste, if you plan to visit different regions of the country. Additionally, Costa Rica offers excellent bus services that connect major cities and towns, making it possible to arrive by land from neighboring countries such as Nicaragua and Panama.

      How can I protect myself from sandflies?

      P

      Buy some handmade coconut oil to protect yourself from sandfly bites! They are especially active during morning and evening hours.

      Can I drink tap water in Costa Rica?

      P

      In Costa Rica, 92.5% of the population, has access to drinking water. The quality of tap water is safe to drink. If you still feel uneasy, bring your self-cleaning bottle. The bottles will keep your water fresh and cool, too!

      What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

      P

      Trash: bring your collapsable food container & Lifestraw Pro with you to avoid causing plastic pollution.


      Sunscreen: Protect Costa Rica's marine life and wear reef-save sunscreen.

      tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

      Packing Central America

      Central America is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure!

      Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

      Practical travel tips for El Salvador

      Public transport in El Salvador

      P

      You can easily explore the country by bus.

      What is the best time to visit El Salvador?

      P

      The dry season lasts from November to April and the best time to visit the beaches in El Salvador.

      Is San Salvador safe for travelers?

      P

      Yet, El Salvador felt a lot safer than one would have expected. We felt comfortably secure and welcomed. You have to note that until today, El Salvador is ruled by fear and brutal memories. Therefore, many locals take extreme precautions and will advise you against many things. As a visitor, you must be aware of that and know that you are NOT the target.

      Can I drink tap water in El Salvador?

      P

      Do not drink tap water in El Salvador; bring your self-cleaning bottle instead! While water from the National Water Company (ANDA) is generally safe, you never know the water source the restaurant, hotels, and so on may use.

      What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

      P

      Trash: Often, you'll find food vendors selling typical Nicaraguan dishes on the go. It's not just delicious but cheap. To avoid plastic wrapping, choose to buy your food at the bus stations and have them put it in your collapsible container. Bring your water filter or UV bottle to avoid having to buy bottled water.

      Sunscreen: Protect Marine life and wear reef-friendly sunscreen!

      tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

      Packing List El Salvador

      El Salvador is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure!

      Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

      Places to visit in El Salvador

      San Salvador | a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

      San Salvador | a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

      San Salvador, El Salvador’s resilient heart. The capital bears deeps scares, many of them still visible at Centro Histórico and in the hearts and memories of its inhabitants. Its heartache was omnipresent, yet the city’s fierce determination for a better future, its hopes and aspirations are infectious and the reason why San Salvador is our favorite capital in Central America.

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      El Cuco & Playa Las Flores | Surfing & Turtles

      El Cuco & Playa Las Flores | Surfing & Turtles

      El Cuco is a sleepy little village. It’s busier on the weekends as many El Salvadorians come to enjoy the stunning beaches. El Cuco is winged by two impressive beaches on either side, Playa Esteron, a remote white-grey sand beach, and Playa Las Flores, which boasts world-class waves for surfing.

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