Apart from appealing colonial towns and excellent ecotourism (most notably volcanoes) (LINK) Central America´s smallest country is bathed by the Pacific Ocean along 300 kilometres (186 miles) of coastline, and is blessed with around 50 fetching beaches. The best time to visit is November through April, when the rainy season has ended, and here are five of the most appealing. Ready to dive in?
One of this country´s most popular playas is located in La Libertad, just under an hour´s drive from capital San Salvador, and it´s known for its active waves, which make it great for surfing (and body surfing). And if you haven´t tried it before, there are several surf schools ready to teach you (if you´re a total newbie) or take your existing board skills to the next level. There are also a number of hotels, restaurants, and bars that make it easy to hang out for several days.
Farther west along the coast (and an hour and a half from San Salvador, this paradisiacal beach in Sonsonate is part of a protected area and features fine golden sand, volcanic rocks in the water, and colourful reefs just offshore – part of the largest on Central America´s Pacific coast, at 157 kilometres (98 miles) long – making for.fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving. Apart from that, from October through January you can book boat trips to spot whales, dolphins, and giant marine turtles. And of course there’s no shortage of are dining and lodging options here, as well.
Barra de Santiago
Another 15 minutes west of Los Cóbanos (and an hour 45 minutes from San Salvador), this expansive strand with vigorous waves (more great surfing!) is part of a rich ecosystem covering 2,000 hectares (just under eight square miles) – especially mangroves and estuaries – also protected, under the terms of an international wetlands convention. So in addition to the usual beachy pursuits – which by the way include snorkelling, scuba, water skiing, and sailing – you can get some great ecotourism in, taking a boat tour through the mangroves; checking out nearly 80 species of birds; and during certain times of year witnessing the amazing site of mama sea turtles laying eggs and months later their babies hatching and racing to the water.There is, again, a good choice of places to overnight, and the local restaurants, unsurprisingly, specialise in seafood but also offer plenty of other options (including international fare).
The closest of our selection to the capital (just 45 minutes away) it´s not necessarily the most beautiful – black volcanic sand dotted with grey stones – but the consistent swells have made it El Salvador´s surfing capital. That plus its closeness to San Salvador have also made El Tunco one of the country´s most popular beaches, with a cool, funky, fun atmosphere and plenty of bars, restaurants, and places to stay. It´s quieter on weekdays but turns into quite the party town on weekends, including nighttime beach bonfires and musical performances. And no matter what time of the week you visit, this strand is known for its spectacular sunsets.
Driving from San Salvador about two hours east along the coast instead of west, this long, wide beach of smooth, soft, and also volcanic black sand is both popular and laid back (both surf-wise and atmosphere-wise). The sand is great for a run near the water, and you´ll also find pick-up games of volleyball and football being played. And the little fishing village behind all of this, also named El Cuco, is relatively undeveloped but there are a number of inexpensive eateries specialising in seafood and Salvadoran fare, as well as modest hotels and hostels.
Learn more about these and other Salvadoran beaches at ElSalvador.travel.
Photos: from Elsalvador.travel