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Pacific Adventure in El Salvador

Casa De Mar

Casa De Mar

Although El Salvador’s civil war has been over for more than 20 years, adventure travel in the smallest Central American country is just beginning to take off. Along the country’s stunning beaches on the Pacific coast, visitors encounter small inns overlooking the ocean, friendly local surfers, fishermen along the mangrove-lined channels and family owned waterfront restaurants featuring fresh ceviche and grilled shrimp.

El Salvador’s miles of beaches are more than just beautiful—they have some of the world’s best surfing spots. Just 45 minutes away from the airport in San Salvador is La Libertad and the surf spot Punta Roca, a perfect right point break with long, powerful barrels. A short distance up the road are Playa El Tunco and Sunzal, more point breaks that offers long rides for beginners and advanced surfers alike. On the less-traveled eastern coastline, Punta Mango breaks with a tube in most of its sections and the surrounding mountains offer serene views—plus there’s a wealth of options for saltwater fun no matter how much surfing experience you have.

Surfers may be here in force, but you don’t have to be a hard-core surfer with your own quiver of boards to care about this region. Even beach areas nearest San Salvador lure city dwellers on weekends and tend to be blissfully quiet during the week. Surf schools such as Epic Surfing Adventures choose forgiving breaks with a sandy bottom for newbies, and packages include daily surf lessons, hotel room, three meals per day and airport pick-up and drop-off.

Hit the water in a more leisurely manner with stand-up paddleboard tours in nearby crater lakes and estuaries with Sunzal Surf Company, which include guides, equipment and transportation. The same outfitter also offers guided hikes through a canyon just a 25-minute drive from Playa El Tunco to the waterfalls of Tamanique, where a refreshing splash in the waterfall pool is a welcome goal on a hot day. Get a different view at the oceanfront Balancé yoga studio at Playa El Tunco. Did you know that yoga helps your surf stance?

If you’d rather just look at the water, wandering through the beach towns is an adventure in itself. Take a stroll down the boardwalk at La Libertad and visit the bars, restaurants and small shops along the wharf. Thanks to the El Salvador’s long coastline, fresh seafood is a highlight on menus across the country, and La Libertad’s seafood market extends all the way onto the pier, where local fishermen sell the catch of the day from their boats. Despite the rich array of ocean bounty, be sure to taste the Salvadoran specialty, pupusas—fried corn masa filled with cheese, beans and pork—served with curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw.

WHERE TO STAY: New eco-boutique Hotel Los Mangos in eastern El Salvador overlooks world-class surf break Punta Mango, which means you don’t have to walk far to check the surf conditions. Perched between the jungle and the ocean, Las Flores Resort offers contemporary guest rooms and suites on a black sand beach near El Cuco. In El Sunzal, Casa de Mar has direct beach access to Sunzal Point, and the spacious suites include large private decks. Boca Olas Resort Villas at El Tunco is a short walk from the La Bocana surf break, and the 22 rooms have ocean views.

WHERE TO EAT: You can’t get any closer to the water without getting wet when you eat at La Hola Beto’s in El Sunzal—the perfect spot to enjoy ceviche. Compare ocean views when you visit Café Sunzal, where you can watch surfers in the water below as you snack on fresh seafood. In the eastern beach areas, duck into restaurants at Hotel Los Mangos and Las Flores Resort for the tastiest meals, from fresh smoothies to fish tacos to grilled fish and meats.

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