Dispatch: Surfs up in El Salvador
Tyler Trafas, founder and owner of the California surf brand: One Wave Surf, has been surfing El Salvador’s world-class right-hand point breaks for a decade. He now hosts yoga/surf retreats there each year, and offers 2Mag these tips for surfing in El Salvador.
May 09, 2017
El Salvador's Pacific Ocean coastline faces due south so there are plenty of fun beach-breaks when things are small and, when that juicy south swell gets pumping, point breaks that really come to life. On the best days, waves at the world class breaks can line up for a ½ km of high-performance surfing (turns not included).
Some of the regional classics, such as K59, offer tube sections and plenty of lip to smack with less crowds. Two great breaks for beginners are La Paz and El Zonte. Note that most wave break on cobblestone so it’s not necessarily easy on the feet, but it’s nothing like the coral reefs of Indo or Hawaii.
The fantastic people of El Salvador offer awesome hospitality to most surfers who treat the lineup with respect, including the peaks of Punta Roca, the most crowded wave in the region. Bethany Hamilton recently surfed the break during a solid swell while filming for an upcoming movie, Unstoppable, and praised the waves every day.
Tyler Trafas and his quiver of surfboards
Bocana with John
When to Surf:
Seasonally, the waves in El Salvador are semi-consistent. December to February is the ideal season for beginners, with the waves usually in the 2-4 foot range with a week or two of larger waves. March, April, and early May is a good time for both beginners and intermediates as it’s generally 3-5 feet with a few weeks of larger surf. June to September the waves can be large and are more weather-dependent as it is the rainy season. October to November is the height of rainy season as is advised to be avoided.
Where to Stay:
El Salvador has plenty of comfortable and affordable accommodation right on the surf breaks. El Tunco is the most central town, offering tourists everything from surf shops and instruction to restaurants, bars, and a variety of places to stay. Our retreat center, El Salvador Retreats, in Sunzal area, is four stories above the ocean and leads straight to a private point. The nearby Kayu Resort sits high above Sunzal point, a long boarder's dream wave. Rooms at Kayu are affordable, immaculate, and the Kayu family makes delicious fare from sunrise to sundown. Robert Rotherham, one of the pioneers of surfing in El Salvador has a very cool boutique hotel called Punta Roca Surf Resort and they use local guides to shuttle you to a wave of your choice!
Yoga at The Villa
Chef Fransico Pla, owner of Arigato Sushi.
What to Eat & Drink:
When in El Salvador, you cannot skip two meals: pupusas and ceviche. Kayu Restaurant makes savory ceviche and other seafood delights. For a fancy ambiance try the cliff-front restaurant Beto’s. There is plenty of local and artisanal food in the tourist town El Tunco. If you are dying for a salad or a healthy option, check out Day Cafe. While you are there you can sign up for a surf massage too! For a bit of fusion pop into Zen for beer and for Asian fare go to Arigato. Have a drink at the local pub Montpellier in the heart of El Tunco or catch local live music at La Guitarra on the weekend.
What to do when the surf is low:
During the day go walk around the local markets in La Libertad or go waterfall jumping in Tamanique. If you want to make a day of it, the ‘Routa de las Flores’ through El Salvador’s traditional coffee country offers stunning views, an epic zip-line, flowing waterfalls, hot springs, and very cool local towns.
Getting Around/Travel tips:
On your first visit I recommend hiring a local guide for getting around or book directly with us. Your guide can also help set up details of your trip. A $10 90-day visa on arrival is standard for most passport holders. El Salvador is generally safe for tourist and surfers alike, however if you look for trouble you may find it, but it is doubtful it will find you. Don’t forget bug spray, long sleeves, and pants for rainy season mozzie protection.
Gracias to the amazing, generous, and warm warmhearted people of El Salvador!