La Libertad: El Salvador’s Surfing Paradise
For surf lovers, the Pacific coast is renowned for having prime surfing locations from Canada all the way down to Chile. During my stay in El Salvador I’ve met several groups of people who traveled all along the coast of Central America in search of the best waves. Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador are the three most popular countries to practice the sport in the area. In El Salvador, the department of La Libertad is where most people come to surf. El Tunco is the most popular town of La Libertad and many people stay in this party town and travel everyday along the coast looking for the best waves.
El Salvador is probably the most underrated country of Central America and one of the less visited countries of the region amongst travelers. Most people who actually make it to the country are heading to El Tunco. Renowned as a surf & party town, people come to surf or just for a quick stop between Nicaragua and Guatemala. During my visit, I was one of the rare people who did not come to surf and who stayed more than two days.
The beaches are absolutely beautiful, but the only way to jump in the water is to carry a surf board. The waves were quite intimating during my visit and as much as I love adrenaline, I didn’t feel like it was the right place for me to try surfing for the first time. All the beaches are composed only of volcanic rocks so it can be dangerous to walk along the shore. Along the coast, you won’t find anyone swimming. The height of the waves combined with the rocky shore make it quite dangerous. You can sit by the beach and enjoy watching surfers as the sun rises and goes down, but most afternoons the heat is so intense that there is no one out in the ocean.
If you’re looking for a great surfing community, cheap prices and awesome parties, El Tunco is the place for you. If you prefer more remote areas, I would recommend staying in El Sunzal at Los Almendros. While I was there I spent most of my days relaxing by the pool and watching surfers. This hostel is a little more remote from the town, but accessible by the beach. Unless you can afford air conditioning, having a pool is a must during your stay in La Libertad. The heat of the afternoon is so strong that sitting in the pool for hours or taking a nap in a shaded hammock are the best ways to pass the time.
I’ve debated several times taking an introduction course to surfing during my two weeks stay. Almost everyone that I met was on a surfing trip or interested in trying it for the first time. I’ve seen several first timers get injuries, mostly hitting the rocks while entering or exiting the water. The height of the waves in the region makes it a more challenging location for first timers. I’ve even met experienced surfers who sometimes had to cancel their surf days because of the unforgiveness of the waves. If you are coming for an introduction to surfing, make sure you take a good teacher because this can be a very dangerous sport.
This was my favorite day in La Libertad! I booked a tour that took me through the mountains of Tamanique where a short hike led me to the beautiful Tamanique waterfalls. Surrounded by a canyon, the waterfalls are stunning, but the coolest thing to do here is to enjoy the cliff diving in the canyon. After our little hike in the heat of the tropical weather, the cold water of the canyon was absolutely refreshing.
Port of La Libertad
For a quick afternoon stop, the port of La Libertad is a good place to visit. Located next to Punta Roca, one of the best waves of the region, this is the biggest town of the department. If you’re looking for the bus station or a big supermarket, you will find it in La Libertad. The port itself is recognizable by its famous market bridge where people sell seafood everyday. If you’re looking for the best fresh fish, head there between 5 am and 6 am and buy directly from the fishermen coming back to shore. Most of the seafood here stands all day in the unbearable heat only to be frozen again at night and sold again the next day. I found it hard to understand that people would buy seafood in such appalling conditions, but this is Central America. I’m also always really careful with where I buy meat and fish. On the other hand, I also know that restaurants have to provide this food and they probably buy it from the same markets. Since I’ve never had food poisoning in El Salvador and I’ve had my fair share of meat, I guess it’s okay.
Filming a Surf Competition
During my stay, I had the opportunity to go to the female surfing competition El Salvador Impresionante and I got to film it. This was one of my most challenging drone filming experience as we were as many as five drones filming the surfers at the same time. Drone videography has definitely revolutionized how we look at surfing and it was interesting to see that many drones at an event in El Salvador.
If you’re planning on traveling in La Libertad, I would recommend also visiting other parts of the country. As great as the beach can be, if you want to have an authentic Salvadoran trip and experience the famous local hospitality, head towards the small pueblos along the La Ruta de Las Flores where you can enjoy a more authentic experience.