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.

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.

Get ready to travel 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.

El Cuco Safety:

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 stay in El Cuco:

There are several hotels, hostels, and some Airbnbs in El Cuco. Check out our responsible travel guide for more info on sustainable places to stay in El Cuco. If you don’t mind rustic places, Adele’s place is THE place to stay.

Where to eat in El Cuco, El Salvador

Again, the answer is: at Adele’s! Most surf hotels offer a restaurant, but they tend to be on the pricey side. Atlakamani Surfing Resort serves healthy and local foods. They also have great vegetarian options.
Alternatively, you’ll find some pupuserias, commedores, and small restaurants in El Cuco’s center.

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.

Cash

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.

Turtles in El Salvador:

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
government and authorities, efforts are undertaken as El Salvador signed the CITES agreement, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Tap water

Do not drink tap water in El Salvador; bring your Lifestraw 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.

Biggest challenge for the responsible 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 Lifestraw, too.
Sunscreen: Protect El Salvador’s marine life and bring riff-friendly sunscreen.
Animals: Be aware of the turtles’ challenges in El Salvador.

packing

Packing List 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!

Places to visit in El Salvador

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

Copan –  a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

Copan – a pleasant if not surprising stop in Honduras

We traveled to Central America a couple of times and had the chance to see several Maya sites along the way. Each impressive in its own way. Contrary to other Maya ruins across Central America. You’ll often have Copan to yourself. The mysterious archaeological site boasts remarkable hieroglyphics and sculptures. On top of that, the town of Copan itself is drop-dead charming.

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