Amongst the many Australian larrikins I recently met in Nicaragua, I only met one, Tim, who like me was heading North to El Salvador. All other surfers I met were going south, with their head full of awesome surfing memories from their recent El Salvadorian adventure. Our rough plan was to surf Las Flores, then Punta Roca in La Libertad, and finally El Tunco and El Zonte (see below transport and accommodation information). It is a fairly classic itinerary for anyone doing a surf trip through this part of Central America. Our hopes were high, but we knew that a South West swell was required and they are typically rare around October. After 3 days of small surf in Las Flores, a long right hand point-break, the forecast didn’t give us much hope: 2feet at 12 seconds for the next 8 days! We stuck to our original plan, but only stayed 2 or 3 days at each spot…
Luckily, and as per the title, it’s not all about surfing! The journey was still enjoyable and filled with pleasant simple things that make traveling interesting:
– Traveling to our next destination on a 2-hour boat ride with a Nicaraguan fisherman on his way to El Salvador to sell his catch. By the way, this allowed us to by-pass the notoriously dodgy border crossing of Honduras and see some beautiful coast lines
– Getting lost in the San Salvador market, which would easily be bigger than all of the Melbourne & Sydney markets put together
– Meeting random travellers and overly friendly locals who are as helpful as a best mate would be, and who are surprised to find out that Australians speak English!
– Making the decision to get to the next country, as quickly as you would decide to go to the movies on tight-ass Tuesday.
We are now in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, waiting again, but this time the forecast is a bit more promising. It took us 3 days to get up here!
Surfing El Salvador, from South to North
Nicaragua to El Salvador by boat:
Catch a boat from Potosi to avoid crossing the whole of Honduras, and to enjoy great views of coasts of Nicaragua, El Salvador & Honduras! Potosi is about 2h North of Chinandega, which itself is about 1.5h north of Leon, by Chicken bus ($1.5).
There is one place to stay in Potosi and it’s basic but nice ($20 per room for 2 people). The owner is called Raphael, great guy, and he can help you organise your boat with the local fishermen. They might not go everyday so plan to stay in Potosi a night or 2. The boat costs approx. $25 and takes 1 hour 45min to the coastal El Salvadorian town of La union. There is also a more official boat but it requires online payment, costs $65 and only goes on Tuesday 8am and Friday 8am. There is a small immigration office near the Jetty in Potosi and when you arrive in La Union: all really easy. There is no exit fee for Nicaragua and $10 entry fee in El Salvador.
Catching the bus would take 8 hours with Tica Bus and means that you will have to pay entry & exit fee in Honduras.
Getting to Las Flores & Punta Mango from La Union & Las Flores accommodation
Las Flores (long & fun right-hand point) would be the first surf spot you would find coming from the South, and it’s a great set-up: 2 relatively cheap accommodations right on the beach ($25 per night for 2), and a few fancy ones above that. No shops, no restaurants.
From la Union, catch a chicken bus to San Miguel, just around the corner from the immigration office ($1, 1h45min). From San Miguel, catch another one to El Cuco ($1 and 2 hours). You can stay in El Cuco for $5 per night and walk to Las Flores for a surf (only walkable at low tide – 15min). From El Cuco to Las Flores, a taxi is $3 for the 3km-road, or hitchhike.
To get to Punta Mango, get a boat from Las Flores: 30min & $10.
There is no ATM in Las Flores or El Cuco.
Getting to Punta Roca & accommodation
It would take 4 chicken buses & 8 hours to get there from Las Flores, but a mini bus can be organised: $100 for 8 people and 3.5 hours.
Punta Roca in La Libertad is meant to be a great right-hander. It was very small when I was there unfortunately. Staying in La Libertad is nice although it might be crowded during weekends & peak season as it is only one hour from the capital San Salvador. There is a nice place with rooms for rent ($15 to $35 depending on the season) in front of T-Bar and the resort AST on the board walk, and a couple of surf hostels a bit further along, walking away from the wave.
From Punta Roca to El Tunco / El Zonte / K59
Super easy: get on a chicken bus on the main road, and 20min later you are in El Tunco, or a bit further for El Zonte & K59. El tunco is a small friendly surfer village with a main street full of bars, restaurants, a couple of basic surf shops and some great hostels. I would recommend Tunco Lodge: $8 for dorm, A/C, Swimming pool, pool table, free water refill…. Can’t go wrong……mate!
Leaving El Salvador towards Guatemala & Mexico
From El Tunco, you can take a Minibus (with aircon) to San Salvador ($1.5) or a chicken bus (50 cents) to San Salvador. Ask the bus driver to stop for you at Ceiba de Guadalupe and take a 3-dollar cab ride from there to the Tica Bus or King Quality bus station. Both have a bus leaving every morning between 6 and 7am, to Tapachula on the Mexican border. There is a cheap hotel at the Tica Bus station in San Salvador.