The Black Sand Black Hole of Tunco

There are those places that you find, when travelling, that you sort of get stuck in. Everyone knows about them, everyone talks about them, and everyone has their own. For us, this was El Tunco, El Salvador.

Tunco Glory

We came to the tiny beach town for a few days. Tim would surf, and I would do what I do best in tiny surf-y beach towns: a splendid combination of eating, reading, sunning, nothing, and the occasional (with efforts to be consistent) yoga practice.

Rooftop Yoga

Rooftop Views

There’s basically nothing to dislike about this town. Far safer than most places we’d been, Tunco is small enough to make the use of a bicycle or car strictly unnecessary. Shoes can be found on maybe 50% of the feet wandering around town, though this can be an issue on the hot paving stones of the main road. A block closer to the beach, and you’re walking on sandy lanes as you pass by numerous juice bars and cheap eats – we rarely spent more than $4 a meal.


The beach itself is soft black sand that sparkles in the every-present sun. More than a few waves can be found in this bit of the world as well. Within walking distance of Tunco proper are Sunzal and La Bocana, both immensely popular waves with locals and tourists alike. Hop on a chicken bus in either direction for anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes, and you can be at numerous other surf destinations, including Punta Roca at La Libertad, El Salvador’s most famous wave.

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

We stayed at La Sombra, one of many surfer-geared hostels steps from the beach. Small kitchen, pool, and great crew of people included. The slackline naturally found a home stretched across the pool, where everyone had a good time giving it a go and subsequently splashing into the refreshing water when those go’s failed. (This was all before some kill-job spoiled the fun by complaining about the splashing noises – at two in the afternoon – and we were asked to take it down. I harbour deep resentment for this person.)

SlacklineOur lovely neighbours showed us some of the limited bouldering and climbing available, and we took advantage of it one evening.


Our existence in El Tunco seemed to stretch effortlessly from a couple of days onwards. We really just didn’t want to leave. A few days after arriving, I also suffered my first real tummy bug of the trip, which gave us a further excuse not to leave. I spent the better part of three days curled up in bed, with easy bathroom access, and didn’t think I would fare too well on an all-day chicken bus mission.

We had plans to explore more of the coast of El Salvador, but as time kept ticking, it became harder and harder to tear ourselves away. Reports coming from that direction weren’t exactly selling it to us either. Tim and I had, quite some time ago, dropped any slight desire we may have had for checklist travel, and had little interest in worrying if we “should” go somewhere. Finding somewhere you enjoy so much is sort of the goal, isn’t it? So why tear yourself away because you feel like you should see more places in El Salvador? I realise there’s a fine line here between not exploring enough and trying too hard to do it all, but we feel as though we’ve got a good balance at the moment.

So, all in all, we stayed in Tunco for about 12 days. Many people we met along the way had set up shop there for a month or longer, and it’s easy to see why. El Tunco will, without question, be a cherished memory for a long time to come.

Tunco Beach

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks


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