From Suchitoto we travelled by mini bus through San Salvador and onto El Tunco for one night then El Cuco for two nights. Both are small beachside towns, each with dark sand and large Pacific waves making them ideal surfing destinations.
El Tunco is a well known surfer hotspot with several colourful yet basic budget hotels and hostels. It has just two streets lined with small bars and shops selling beach and surf gear. Surf dudes strut around with their dreadlocks and tight skimpy shorts, backpackers hang around in the cafes and bars and the town has its fair share of hippies all of which give it a chilled and laid back atmosphere.
El Tunco is a great place for seafood restaurants. We had lunch with the Intrepid group in a seafront restaurant overlooking the beach. We had a short walk along the beach where apparently you can visit a cave but unfortunately the tide was too high at this time and it wasn’t possible to get around a rocky headland to see it.
Later on eight of us went to one of the many small shack-like bars for happy hour cocktails. The bar we chose was literally a converted passageway with a large sheet of blue plastic which served as the roof! All was good when we arrived in the sun but as we sipped our margaritas from our plastic cups, the sky grew darker and faint rumbles of thunder could be heard.
It wasn’t long before this turned into a full scale thunder storm with torrential rain bucketing down outside and causing a large expanding bulge in the plastic roof above! Concerned that it was going to suddenly explode and drown us we all scurried round in the rain to a more substantial bar next door!
By now the street had turned into a small stream but once the rain eased our group of what was now 13 braved the weather and made our way through the puddles to Monkey Lala, a hotel with a restaurant which is built on a raised wooden platform next to the Pacific. We tucked into our delicious meals with the black ocean waves crashing in the dark a few meters away.
While El Tunco had a relaxed beach atmosphere we felt that one night was enough to enable us to experience both the hippy beachy vibe and seaside hangout culture. We both preferred El Cuco, our next destination!
We spent the next two nights staying at La Tortuga Verde an eco hostel/hotel and turtle and pelican sanctuary which is located directly on the beach. There is no ATM or supermarket nearby but with such a good range of activities you can easily spend 2 or 3 days staying there without leaving the hotel.
The hostel has a number of volunteers who offer their services in return for accommodation and probably food as well. Chris had a surf lesson with David, a volunteer surf instructor from England. Within just one hour Chris managed to stay on the board for a few seconds, a moment captured by Annabelle!
Above is Yuri a local volunteer who, as well as generally helping out at the hostel he also looks after two injured pelicans. Albert is a one-winged pelican who been a resident for a while and has been nursed back to health. However Billy (the pelican above) was found recently with a broken wing. Billy is shortly due to have an operation to remove his damaged wing and Yuri takes him for a swim in the sea twice a day.
La Tortuga Verde is also a turtle sanctuary. Turtles lay their eggs in the sand along the entire stretch of wide sandy beach. Once laid local poachers often try to steal the eggs in order to sell them. If you see a turtle laying eggs and a poacher has found them first the hostel encourages tourists to give money to the locals to ‘buy’ the eggs and then bring them back to the hostel where they are placed in a hatchery. This might sound wrong but has enabled thousands of baby turtles to hatch and be given a chance to survive in the ocean.
For the two nights we were there we stayed up late both nights hoping to see a turtle lay its eggs on the beach. We missed out on the first night as two turtles did indeed lay their eggs shortly after we had gone to bed!
We saw the eggs the following morning and watched them being buried in the hatchery. We were allowed to pick up the turtle eggs. They are about the size of a ping pong ball but with a soft and pliable shell.
For the two nights we stayed in El Cuco we saw lightning each night which started at around 7 pm just after the sun had set and the sky was almost black and continued throughout the entire evening. The lightning created an impressive show of light across the sea. This was followed by thunder and torrential rain both nights (which also made turtle spotting more difficult).
We had signed up to do a boat trip where you are taken to a small island to buy fish from a local market which you then cook on a barbecue on the beach. Following this you are taken to another island to see birds and pelicans flying. Unfortunately this was cancelled so we spent the day relaxing around the resort.
Other activities on offer included salsa lessons, painting classes, yoga and massages.
Staying in La Tortuga Verde was a wonderful and relaxing experience. There are many colourful cloth hammocks throughout the resort including two on everyone’s verandah’s. All of the rooms are eco friendly and much of the food is organic and grown within the grounds. You can hear the Pacific ocean crashing continually in the background which adds to a sense of peace and tranquility. We were also lucky to see two fabulous sunsets during our stay (above and top picture).
La Tortuga Verde is larger and slightly more commercialised version of a similar rustic beach accommodation we visited at Tapik Beach in Palawan in the Philippines earlier this year back in March.