The Complete Guide to Surfing in El Salvador

Magicseaweed

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Updated 46d ago

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El Salvador hosts some of the longest and most perfect waves in all of Central America, and is particularly known for its roping righthand pointbreaks, which people have been surfing for half a century. In fact, the country’s cobblestone gems were a staple for an intrepid group of expats in the ’70s, and today, native Salvadorians have carved out their own niche in the growing surf scene.

Brief History
By the time Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson stumbled upon El Salvador’s points in 1971, the friendly righthander at El Sunzal was a known — but seldom spoken of — wave that drew a handful of adventurers to the La Libertad region. But aside from that, there was no real surf scene to speak of in the country, making the early ’70s the golden age of Salvadoran exploration.

© 2021 - Billy Watts

By the time the civil war began in 1979, the majority of the country’s pointbreaks had been documented, including Punta Roca (aka La Punta or The Point) in La Libertad, which has become the region’s crown jewel. A fledgling surf community built up around Sunzal, with English-Salvadoran Bob Levy at its centre, but surf tourism slowed down considerably between 1979 and 1992 due to the ongoing civil war and political instability. But sometime after the Chapultepec Peace Accords, expat Bob Rotherham’s talented son Jimmy Rotherham put Punta Roca on the global radar in the early 2000s. Since then, the surf scene in the country has seen a steady increase, with camps popping up around all of the best-known waves, including Punta Roca, El Sunzal, and more eastern points like Las Flores and Punta Mango. Today, El Salvador is the go-to destination for surfers looking to escape to Latin America for a healthy dose of righthand perfection.

Getting There

Josh Kerr

Josh Kerr

© 2021 - Billy Watts

San Salvador is the country’s capital and largest city, and home to its main international airport, which is conveniently located between La Libertad and Oriente, the country’s two main surf zones. Numerous international flights per day make the country an easy trip, as does the fact that El Salvador uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency (along with the Salvadoran colon). Land transportation to La Libertad and Oriente is safe and convenient, and the country’s coastline is only around 190 miles long, making road trips between the various points short and sweet.

Crowds

Caio Ibelli.

Caio Ibelli.

© 2021 - Billy Watts

As a rule, pointbreaks tend to be pretty busy, their perfect symmetry and relatively user-friendly nature drawing crowds. Pointbreaks in a beautiful Central American country with warm water, a plethora of surf camps, and an internationally accepted currency are even busier, so you shouldn’t expect to surf El Salvador’s marquee points alone. That being said, with long waves come long paddles and/or long walks and with hot weather comes fatigue, so during a solid swell, there is usually more than enough to go around. Plus, the majority of the surf population is centr

Hazards

Wardo

Wardo

© 2021 - Billy Watts

While El Salvador has become much safer over the past two decades, in terms of political stability and violent crime, there are still isolated incidences of petty theft and drug abuse. While you shouldn’t be overly worried, it’s a good idea to keep your nose clean and keep your valuables locked down. Meanwhile, the main hazards in the water are likely to be the slippery cobblestones that line the points, which may be a new experience for beginners and some intermediate surfers. Also, the sun is quite intense in El Salvador, so come prepared with adequate protection and stay hydrated.

Regions

© 2021 - Duncan Macfarlane

•La Libertad: Located a short 25 miles to the west of the main international airport, the La Libertad region was the first area explored and developed by surfers, and remains the center of the Salvadoran surf scene. In addition to marquee spots like Punta Roca (which breaks similar to Rincon) and El Sunzal (think a warmer, less-crowded Swamis), the La Libertad area is home to a range of other breaks, including El Zonte, K59, and La Bocana. Easy access to the capital city of San Salvador and a plethora of surf-oriented businesses make this the logical zone in which to begin an El Salvador surf trip.

•Oriente (the East Coast): The Oriente region lies around 100 miles east of the international airport, and is often referred to as the “East Coast,” although the best-known waves in the area actually face south. The scene that has developed around the neighbouring pointbreaks of Las Flores and Punta Mango has become the de facto hub of Oriente surfing, with numerous surf camps and other surfer-facing businesses. But for those looking to seek a bit further afield, there are other, lesser-known waves that can be explored independently or through a tour.

When to Go

© 2021 - Duncan Macfarlane

Dry season (summer): The dry season in El Salvador corresponds with the Southern Hemisphere summer, and stretches from November through April. Because the country’s entire coastline faces south and is shadowed from northwesterly swells that originate in the North Pacific, the dry season is considered El Salvador’s surfing offseason. Still, Surfline’s 40-year swell database shows you can definitely get fun waves outside of the primary swell season. One particular statistic that sticks out is the noticeable uptick in fun- to medium-sized swells from March into April. That is the time of year that the South Pacific is in transition and we begin to see a marked increase in the size, frequency and latitudinal extent of storm activity, fueling an uptick in average surf. Those months can also be blessed with lighter winds versus what we typically see during the winter surf season. Even the slowest months of the year, December and January, can occasionally offer decent offseason swells though that time of year is historically better for newer, beginner surfers due to the smaller average wave heights.

Wet season (winter): Stretching from May through October, the Southern Hemisphere winter is also El Salvador’s wet season and, more importantly, its surf season. The Southern Hemi swells needed to light up the country’s points are common during this time, and the temperatures tend to be a bit cooler than during the summer. That being said, local storms are also more common, which means there’s a good potential for rain squalls in the afternoons.

Josh Kerr

Josh Kerr

© 2021 - Billy Watts

Summary
While El Salvador is a geographically small country, it is rich in world-class waves — particularly its rippable, righthand points. Convenient access from a wide range of international destinations, widespread use of the U.S. dollar, and a now-stable political situation make El Salvador one of world’s easiest surf trips.

Surf Camps in El Salvador
Palo Verde Sustainable Hotel

Hotel Farallones

PURO SURF HOTEL

HOTEL GARTEN VILLAS

HOTEL GARTEN BEACH CLUB

Mi Chanti

Hotel Las Flores Surf Club

Hotel Casa De Mar

Papaya Surf Hotel

Mizata Point

ATAMI ESCAPE RESORT

Hotel Punta Mango

Tortuga Village

Mandala Eco Villas

Hotel Estero y Mar

PARAISO ESCONDIDO HOTEL VILLAS & RESORT