A quaint, quiet village with minimal amenities, a consistent surf wave and stunning sunsets, this is the place to go when you need to slow your life down. Because frankly, nothing happens fast here… and that’s just fine.
My husband, 2 children and I spent 3 months here, volunteering at a small school, Escuela Libre El Zonte. It was an incredible experience and we had the wonderful chance to be a part of the community. This is our account of how we viewed El Zonte and a few recommendations of how to get the most out of what this area of El Salvador has to offer.
While You Are Here:
1. Take a surf lesson:
Surferos and Puro Surf run regular surf lessons and camps for all levels. It is well worth the time and money as the instructors offer incredible expertise and local knowledge. Get the most out of your time on the water and the chance to explore more local beaches down the coast.
Where to Stay:
Accommodations are available for every budget. Most have pools and wifi and all have personalities. A few of our favourites are:
Where to Eat:
Not to be underestimated are the restaurants of El Zonte.
Directly above Vikingo restarant is a newly opened tattoo parlour called Calacas –perfect if you are looking for a surf inspired local artist.
As mentioned above, several of the local hotels have tasty meals worth checking out. Our favourites include: Esencia Nativa. ($5-15)- try the nachos!, Olar de Mar at Palo Verde Hotel ($8-$30) – the steak and octopus are definitely worth the visit and Covana at Puro Surf Hotel ($8-$16) – always a delicious catch of the day and an assortment of local craft beers and 100% Salvadorian rum.
Like several of the little towns along the coast, El Zonte is separated by a river. The west side beach has the longest, sandiest stretch of beach and is perfect for sunset viewing. It is the place to be as the sun goes down and offers shallow water for a swim and plenty of room for a spontaneous game of beach soccer. Be aware that the majority of the restaurants are on the east side and crossing the river in the rainy season can be slightly more difficult due to the levels of the water, however access can always be achieved by walking up to the main road (about a 10 minute walk).
As much as it is great to chill in El Zonte, there are some cool spots to check out nearby.
Other Places to Check Out:
Tidal pools in El Palmacito: Only a few kilometres down the road, it is a neat place to hang out and relax for an hour or two in the huge man-made salt water pools.
El Tunco: The place to go if you want shopping, nightlife, a variety of restaurants and the largest selection of beer around. For the surf driven, it provides an incredibly consistent and forgiving wave in Sunzal (most western point) and more advanced riding as you move east. Sunzal Surf Company offers a great quiver of board rentals as well as a yoga studio and retreat center. Ten minutes from El Zonte by local bus, the ride will cost you 25 cents and provide an entertaining and culturally enriching experience (chickens may or may not be included). We enjoyed Tunco’s energy, but also loved returning to El Zonte for a good night’s sleep.
The mountains: I would highly recommend a trip north west. We went for 3 days and 2 nights and felt like we got a great taste of that area. It’s cooler and drier so bring warm clothes (pants and a sweatshirt). We loved Juayúa, renouned for its coffee plantations and really enjoyed our stay in Hotel Anahuac. Buy your coffee there and visit the waterfalls.