It’s month two into my journey through most of Central America, and after an unexpected extended stay in Lake Atitlan Guatemala, I’m feeling a bit rushed to continue moving south.
I have two options, go directly from Antigua, Guatemala to Leon, Nicaragua which would be a 16 hour overnight bus journey, or stop in El Salvador.
El Salvador does not have a good or safe reputation, except from the people I’ve met traveling. Because of this, I decided that I would stop in El Salvador for a couple nights to check it out for myself. Also, to help break up the 16 hour bus journey from Antigua to Leon!
After considering several options for where to stay for a few days, I decide on El Tunco, even though it’s a “party town” because it’s logistically the easiest beach town to get to in El Salvador.
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I have to admit, I was a bit worried about showing up to this beach "party" town.
I’m not really the kind of girl who likes to drink too much, stay up too late, and feel really terrible the next day. I enjoy going out every now and then, but I much prefer to meet a group of cool people, be active and have a couple drinks in the afternoon sun.
But I kept hearing how much of a party town El Tunco is, thus my slight apprehension towards staying a few nights in the town.
I arrived in El Tunco at 7:30 in the morning. It was a sleepy, peaceful town this early. A few locals and surfers were out. Almost all of the shops and restaurants were closed.
I checked into my hotel, left my bags, changed into my swim suit and headed for the beach.
It’s a rocky beach, and the waves crash close to the shoreline so I didn't feel comfortable surfing, but I found a cozy spot on the beach and gazed wondrously at the beach.
At this point, it has been six weeks since I had been on the beach (since Belize) so no wonder I practically ran to the water.
I sat there on the beach and watched the water move towards the shore, listening to the sound of the waves crashing. I closed my eyes and meditated there for a while. It was so peaceful and I contemplated what the town was going to look like in a few hours.
Around 11 am I headed back to the hotel to sort out some breakfast. The town is still quiet.
Mostly surfers with their boards out and about.
After food I head back to the hotel to swim in the pool. Again, the town still feels quiet.
I spend the afternoon swimming, reading and chatting with other travelers.
Around 5pm, a group of us head out for sunset and a drink and at this point I’m expecting hordes of young people drinking in the street and dancing in the bars. This was definitely not the case.
Yes, there are lots of people out on the beach, adoringly gazing at the setting sun, but it’s sure no young drunken mess.
I think to myself, okay, I bet the party begins after sunset, after dinner and a few pre-drinks. Probably around 8 or 9pm the town will be hopping.
After a few Tonas at the beach bar, we go for pupusas for dinner.
TIP: If you have never tried pupusas, I recommend you fly to El Salvador and try them immediately. Think thick, bread-y tortillas stuffed with your favorites like beans, cheese, garlic, shrimp, chicken and more served hot with salsa and cabbage slaw.
Again, I’m expecting 22 year old frat boys yelling at each other, encouraging their mates to drink more while stumbling over the curb. After all, El Tunco is the party spot, right?
Nothing. Still no party.
At the pupusa place, I ask the lovely woman who runs the shop what’s happening, why there is no party, if this is usually the case or a random fluke.
She says it’s usually like this on Mondays, very quiet. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the same. Thursday it starts to pick up, and Friday and Saturday are the party nights.
This was absolutely shocking to me.
Surely travelers don’t adhere to drinking on weekends. For travelers, every day is Saturday. Why was this party place only a party on the weekend?
She tells me that El Tunco fills up with locals from San Salvador. Herds of people from the capital come to El Tunco to hang out on the beach on the weekends.
We head home after pupusas and beer, and still the streets are empty.
So yes, El Tunco is the party beach of El Salvador. But only on the weekends. And it’s not just tourists and travelers that fill the streets on the weekends, but lots of locals too. Which makes for such a fun, more authentic night out.
Even if you are not a “party person”, do not miss El Tunco, El Salvador.