Things to do in El Cuco

El Salvador
El Cuco Itinerary

Secluded beaches and world-class surfing

Duration: at least Five Days

Stay:  La tortuga Verde or Adele’s

On either side of El Cuco, you’ll find two of El Salvador’s most stunning beaches – Playa Esteron and Playa Las Flores. Playa Esteron is a secluded white sandy beach, lush with greenery, and the perfect spot for anyone who wants to escape to peace and tranquility – it’s even home to sea turtles! And if that’s not enough, just on the other side of El Cuco lies Playa Las Flores, El Salvador’s favorite spot for surfing fanatics with world-class waves.

We haven’t been to the beach in Nicaragua and were excited to spend some time by the water. So, after our scenic border crossing via the Golfo de Fonseca, we hopped on two buses and reached El Cuco by night. 

During our first bus ride, we already got the first taste of what made us fall in love with El Salvador: its people. From all sides, people were beaming, welcoming us to their country, offering help, and eager to chat. 

Live it up on the weekends

Our last weeks of traveling have been a lot of fun and adventures. We welcomed every opportunity to get to know people, partied the nights away, and found ourselves waking up every morning for our daytime adventures. Once we reached El Cuco, we were excited to take a break and lay back. The opposite of our “wishes,” we found ourselves amidst a lively party at Tortuga Verde. The mainly El Salvadorian crowd lived it up at the beach bar. If you are in for a little fiesta in El Cuco, this seems to be the place! We loved that the eco-resort caters to all budgets and nationalities alike. Plus, this place can be a perfect destination if you want to combine working online and traveling. Many online job opportunities are available on platforms like Jooble or Digital Nomad World. 

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Savor the tranquility of deserted beaches

We rose early and found ourselves utterly surprised by the stunning Playa Esteron right in front of us. The remote, vast white-grey sand is perfect for swimming and relaxing. Playa Esteron seems endless, and the sunsets are just breathtakingly beautiful. The almost secluded beach is also a turtle nesting ground.

Playa Esteron - turtle nesting ground

We spent most of our time at Playa Esteron indulging in the sheer joy of doing nothing. Right next to La Tortuga Verde, we found Adele and her family. She served the most delicious El Salvadorian dishes and charmed us with her kind ways. Our favorite, by far, was the vegetarian enchiladas for just $1.50. After becoming regulars at her restaurant, we moved into her guest house. For 10$ per night, we got an entire house (admittedly a little rustic) right by the beach. We couldn’t believe our luck! We went to sleep, hearing only the ocean, and woke to the most stunning ocean view. On top of that, Adele and her family spoiled us with a super tasty breakfast!

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Playa Las Flores - surf world-class waves

Playa Las Flores lies just 3 km west of El Cuco. It’s a surfing haven! Playa de las Flores offers waves for beginners and intermediate surfers. The challenging right-handers attract surfers from across the world. Waves are most consistent from May to October (wet season). But you’ll also find some great waves in March and April.

Practical travel tips for El Cuco, El Salvador

Transport to and from El Cuco, El Salvador


No matter where you come from, Nicaragua or El Salvador, you'll have to switch buses in San Miguel. Bus travel in El Salvador is pretty comfortable and cheap but slow. Once you arrive at the San Miguel bus station, you probably won't even have to ask for help. Many locals will offer to help you. Once you arrive in El Cuco, the way to go is by pick-up or hitchhiking. It takes about 1,5 hours to get from San Miguel to El Cuco.

When is the best time to visit El Cuco?


El Cuco gets popular with local and foreign tourists in August. Therefore the prices rise. Spring and fall are pleasant times to visit. It's generally busier on the weekends as many El Salvadorians come to enjoy the beachside.

Is El Cuco safe for travelers?


During our stay in El Cuco, we felt safe at all times. Dani forgot her brand new iPhone, and thoughtful kids gave it back to her. However, El Cuco is not free of gangs. But like anywhere in El Salvador, it is much safer for tourists than for locals. So don't be too concerned about the bad headlines. The welcoming El Salvadorians will always look out for you. If you head to the center after dark, arrange for transport back, as it gets a bit sketchy.

Where to get money in El Cuco?


El Cuco is a sleepy little village. Make sure to take efficient cash with you. There is no ATM! If you run out of money, you'll have to go to Chirilagua to take out money.

Can I see turtles in El Cuco?


Yes, depending on the time of the year you can see turtles.

El Salvador is home to four different species, many of them endangered. Turtle eggs are still a common specialty in El Salvador. Until forbidden in 2009, one could easily find "the delicacy" on restaurants' menus.

Nowadays, a more significant effort is undertaken to protect turtle eggs from poaching. Tom Pollak, the owner of La Tortuga Verde, has purchased thousands of eggs yearly, hatched them, and set them free. While there is a lack of commitment and enforcement from the government and authorities, efforts are undertaken as El Salvador signed the CITES agreement, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Can I drink tap water in El Salvador?


After a personal experience with some parasites, tap water in Nicaragua is not good to drink! Bring a self-cleaning water bottle to get clean and cool drinking water.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?


Trash: As anywhere in Latin America, a lot of street food is served in plastic or one-way containers. Make sure to bring your foldable food container with you. Don't forget to bring your water filter or UV bottle, too.
Sunscreen: Protect El Salvador's marine life and bring riff-friendly sunscreen.
Animals: Be aware of the turtles’ challenges in El Salvador.

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

Do not skip El Salvador! It’s one of the most amazing countries to visit in Central America!

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.

read more