El Zonte Itinerary
How long was your stay?
How did you travel?
Tell us why you traveled to this destination.
I went on an all women’s surf, yoga, and empowerment retreat with 10 other women from around the world!
What was your itinerary?
Day 4: Hiked up Volcano Santa Ana, then had traditional food.
Day 5: Traveled to El Tunco, visited markets, street food and bars.
Give us all the details! Tell us where you went and what you did on your trip.
While I was there for 7 days due to the retreat, a lot of what we did was retreat specific, so I am going to give an itinerary for 5 days with all of the things we got to see and do!
Day 1: El Zonte is a coastal town famous for its surf that is about an hour’s drive from San Salvador International Airport. You can get a taxi or travel that way if you rent a car. The very first thing I did in El Salvador was surf! There are multiple places for all levels of surfers to surf and countless surf schools in the area. The best one (I may be biased) is at Esencia Nativa Hotel. Not only is the hotel right on the water, but they offer fantastic surf lessons with great local coaches who really know the water and the sport. If you’ve never surfed, get out of your comfort zone and book a lesson for your first day! They are usually an hour long and about $50. You can take multiple across your stay! If you don’t need a lesson, you can rent boards at various places on the beach. For lunch, there are many beachfront restaurants to choose from—from locally owned spots to more upscale areas like Paulo Verdes Hotel. Get a coco loco to cool off! It’s a staple.
In the afternoon, we explored the small town of El Zonte. There are small markets and some vendors, but not a ton of shopping. You can walk the whole town along the beach, and there are even some beach caves to explore.
For dinner, a fantastic place to go is El Vikingo. It is owned by a Belgian couple, and they serve Thai-American fusion food. Extremely reasonably priced as well!
Day 2: We took a sunrise walk and then spent the first half of the morning just being at the beach, laying out, swimming, surfing, etc. Whatever beach activities you’d like – they have! The locals and the local dogs are all extremely friendly and inviting. For lunch, we ate at Olas Permanentes. It’s right on the stretch of beach, basically on the sand, and they have good food and cocktails.
In the evening, we took a sunset yoga class that they were offering on the beach. You can see little fliers around town for classes like this, and it’s easy to find the info to sign up or to show up, pay and join! It was lovely. Next to Olas Permanentes is a hotel with a pop-up beach bar called Looking Good. They serve really unique cocktails and often have a pretty lively crowd from sunset onward each night. You don’t have to be a guest to enjoy the bar or the outdoor seating area fitted with chairs and hammocks!
Day 3: In the morning, we drove about 25 minutes from El Zonte to La Libertad, where there is a very easy hiking path to San Antonio Waterfall. The entrance isn’t really marked, so it would do well to search on google exactly where to stop off or ask a local before going. If you stay at Esencia Nativa, they have all the information and sometimes have set excursion trips for you to take. The hike is more like a moderately tricky walk, and at the end, you’ll get to a beautiful waterfall that cascades over basalt rock. We swam, climbed the rocks under the waterfall (ONLY in the dry season when it’s emptier), and had a picnic lunch on the sand. We spent the entire first half of the day there before heading home.
After a good nap, we signed up for a Surfskate class in the afternoon. This is a skateboarding specific to the feeling of a surfboard. You can also find these fliers around town and sign up for a class if you are interested. We had dinner at a place called Michanti, another more upscale hotel. On Tuesdays, they have a live DJ and $6 taco plates for taco Tuesday. It gets hectic, lively, and so fun! We stayed there well into the night.
Day 4: There is another excursion option to go hiking up Volcano Santa Ana. Esencia Nativa also has this option, but there are other guided tours you can set up and take from El Zonte. The hike takes about 3-4 hours, depending on fitness level round trip, and the views are breathtaking! This is another activity that would take you half of the day. Bring lots of water, sunscreen, and snacks! When you get back and rest, for dinner, indulge at a Pupuseria and get an El Salvadorian classic, the famous pupusa! They are delicious and extremely cheap and come in endless flavors. It is a tortilla pocket stuffed with whatever you’d like in it, served with sauerkraut and salsa. WARNING: the sauerkraut in El Salvador CAN make you very sick if your stomach is not used to it. Ask if they’ve used vinegar in the fermentation process or not.
Day 5: There is a town about 15-20 minutes down the coast from El Zonte called El Tunco, and while it’s known in the area as a big party town, it’s also known for its excellent shopping, restaurants and lively character. There is also a beach there to surf at if surfing is your thing. We spent most of the day exploring shops, trying the local food and markets, and hanging by the beach. Of course, finding a perfect spot for sunset is amazing in Tunco. We stayed through the evening going to the bars and clubs. Many of them have different kinds of live music, from DJs to bands, so that you can search for your vibe. They stay open late, like past 2 am! There are always new bars, parties, or shows popping up, and it can be really fun to go with the flow! Note that if you don’t have a car, you’ll have to hire a driver or a taxi back to Zonte – even at 3 am!
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
San Antonio Waterfall Hike / picnic
Santa Ana Volcano
Michanti Taco Tuesday
Making friends with locals – these are small towns, so you’ll see the same people everywhere!
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
Watch out for surf localism. If you’re a new surfer, very early morning is when the gentlest waves will be, but also the best, so make sure that you have an instructor with you or, if you are alone, that you know surf etiquette well enough not to upset people. I got screamed at by a group of locals for something that wasn’t even my fault! Just be smart, kind, and apologetic if anything happens, and it’ll be fine.
A few of us got really gnarly food poisoning on our last day from the sauerkraut we ate the day before. Like mentioned above, be really careful with it! If you have a sensitive stomach, I’d suggest skipping it.
Don’t drink the tap water (of course.)
I would have loved to spend more time in the towns surrounding Zonte, like Tunco and other smaller ones along the coast!
Rent a car – you won’t need it for Zonte, but if you want to go on any other excursions it’s more accessible and cheaper.
@Abbskeens – (insta)
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