As summer turns to fall in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time for surfers to start packing their bags for surf spots south of the equator, and while classic surf hotspots like Australia get a lot of attention, El Salvador is an often-ignored destination that deserves a second look . El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. Don’t let its size fool you though, it has arguably the highest concentration of great waves available in a small, easy-to-travel area as well. While it might not yet be on the radar of many surfers, an El Salvador surf trip should be on the bucket list of anyone who feels the call of the waves, no matter what their skill level, ability, or experience.
South American Surf: Prime Waves!
El Salvador has just under 200 miles of coastline for the entire country, but it’s absolutely peppered with surf breaks. The coastline also receives some of the biggest swells in the Pacific Ocean, and this, combined with its numerous point breaks, makes for exceptionally long rides. El Salvador’s peak surf season runs from March to October, during their rainy season. During this season El Salvador receives exceptionally consistent and large waves, with waves up to 12 feet high rolling in all day at certain spots. It also has a large number of very beginner-friendly surf spots, with smaller, smooth waves that roll in so consistently that there’s no need to jockey in the lineup for your turn. Many of these beginner waves also break in deeper water, so there’s less chance of getting tumbled in the rocks.
Two Top Surf Spots
El Salvador is best known for two exceptional breaks: Punta Roca, and Punta Mango. Both of these areas have world-class waves during the rainy season, and have hosted surfing competitions in the past. The country is also home to several other famous spots with large, powerful waves. However, the coastline is littered with smaller, more accessible beaches that accommodate every style and skill level of surfing.
Unlike some destinations that require specialized equipment to fully enjoy the local surfing, El Salvador has something for everyone. Whether you bring your longboard, or shortboard, El Salvador has breaks that work well for both, and everything in between. Looking to dial in your airs? El Salvador has waves perfect for that. Just getting started surfing? El Salvador has many beginner and intermediate friendly beaches with predictable waves that allow you to smoothly and safely progress your surfing.
How’s the Weather Down There?
It’s generally warm in El Salvador, with temperatures hovering in the 80’s. During the surf (rainy) season, afternoon storms do occur, but they generally blow over quickly. The water temperature is also warm, generally somewhere around 75-80°. That means that you don’t need to pack a thick wetsuit; a thin summer suit or a rashguard should be just fine.
Thanks to this temperate climate, packing for El Salvador is very straightforward. Beyond a warmer layer for the evenings, and a raincoat, you don’t need to worry too much about technical gear. Instead, your surf gear and a few changes of casual clothes should suffice. It is important to bring booties, as many of the beaches are rocky.
If you don’t like lugging your board through the airport, or don’t trust airline baggage handlers with it, there are many surf shops throughout El Salvador who will be happy to rent you a board for the duration of your trip. Just make sure to plan ahead and make sure they have the type of board you’re looking for available.
Used boards are also available for sale in many areas. Because of the country’s long and consistent waves, there are often travelers in the area looking to sell their used boards before they return home. So it’s possible to buy a board second-hand when you arrive and then sell it to some other lucky surfer as you leave.
How to Get to El Salvador
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El Salvador is a remarkably easy country to travel to. There are several non-stop flights from both Houston and Las Angeles available, and once you’ve arrived, the country is very easy to navigate via public or private transportation. It’s also generally a pretty cheap country to travel in. Buses, car rentals, and hotel stays are all relatively affordable.
Like any adventure travel trip, a surf trip to El Salvador does come with some potential risks. While El Salvador has had some issues with gang activity in the past, the country has been working hard to combat this, and in general, the more surfing-oriented parts of the country are much safer than urban centers.
Beyond surfing, El Salvador has a lot to offer. On your down days explore the tropical delights the country has to offer. El Salvador’s mangos are world-famous, and their peak corresponds well with surf season. El Salvador is also home to excellent seafood culture, it’s hard to find fresher fish, shrimp, and lobster than what’s available from El Salvador’s oceanside vendors. El Salvador is also home to a rich history, with some of the most well-preserved Mayan ruins in the world. So when you need to give your body a break from surfing, grab some fresh seafood, and hike through the remnants of a thousands of years old civilization.
But the highlight of El Salvador remains the surfing, from popular, world-class waves, to undiscovered hits, El Salvador has something for everyone.