The Wild East Wave Guide: A Breakdown of El Salvador’s Best Surf Spots
Surfers first ventured south to El Salvador from California’s now crowded beaches during the 1970s, when the coastline of Central America was virtually unknown to the surf community. What they found was a series of unsullied right-hand waves, a regular footer’s dreamland. The allure of El Salvador’s perfect surf was so profound that surfers continued to trickle down to the country’s coast throughout the turbulent civil war that dominated the 1980s. Nearly the entire coastline of El Salvador is south facing, which means south swells and southwest swells come up from the antarctic and hit the coastline in full force. The jagged coastal topography of El Salvador allows waves to wrap around many of its protruding features, resulting in a series of world-class right-hand point breaks. Since the early days of surf exploration, El Salvador has transformed into an iconic surf destination that attracts visitors from all over the world. The country has two main surfer zones, La Libertad region in the west and what is known affectionately as “The Wild East.” While surfers have been wading into the waters of La Libertad for decades, The Wild East is a relative newcomer to the surf tourism scene.
Las Flores is the gem of the Wild East, and perhaps one of the most coveted El Salvador surf spots. Located just below our luxury El Salvador surf resort, this wave is a favorite amongst Las Flores Resort guests. Like the other noteworthy waves on El Salvador’s south-facing coastline, Las Flores in a powerful right-hander. This sand bottom point break is ideal for experienced and intermediate surfers, with long rides, carvable walls, and fun barreling sections. Of all the El Salvador surf spots, Las Flores may be the longest; lengthy 300-meter rides are not uncommon. The break is ideal for larger swells and performs best at low tide. Incoming swells wrap around the palm tree covered point and wall up over the rocks, they then form perfect peelers across a seemingly endless system of sand bars. Las Flores is often compared to Rincon in Santa Barbara, Jeffery’s Bay in South Africa, and Bells Beach in Australia, for its long, carvable right-hand walls. The wave does have varying personalities, depending on swell and tide, however. During a larger swell of six to eight feet, at low tide, the take-off at Las Flores is hollow and critical, suited best for advanced surfers. During high tide, or on a smaller swell of three to five feet, the takeoff is mellow and playful. The wave that gives our El Salvador surf resort its name is perfect for every type of board. Draw long, cruisy lines on a fish, cross step up and down a longboard, or lay into big turns on a shortboard at Las Flores.
A short boat ride in one of our trusty Panga boats is all it takes to transport you to an advanced surfer’s wonderland, Puta Mago. This nearby, famed El Salvador surf spot is a favorite amongst highly skilled surfers. With a solid south or southwest swell and on an incoming tide, Punta Mango comes alive. The righthand point break offers racing walls and deep barrels over a barnacle-covered reef. At size, the takeoff becomes a hollow critical barrel section with an additional barrel section inside. The wave starts to work at three feet, but is ideal between four and seven feet, and closes out in swell over 8 feet. Due to the barnacle-covered rocks on the inside, reef booties are recommended, but not required. Punta Mango is perhaps the hollowest wave in the region, given the right conditions.
Toro de Oro
Toro de Oro sits a mere single kilometer west from our El Salvador surf resort, but because of the jagged volcanic rock shoreline, this wave is best accessed by boat. The wave at Toro de Oro responds well to a southwest swell as opposed to a true south swell. When it’s working, Toro de Oro produces long, critical rides. Toro de Oro is another classic El Salvador right-hand point that works best in a four-foot swell, but the wave can hold size as well. The wave breaks in deep water with a forgiving, user-friendly takeoff and produces long 200-meter rides.
Located in between Toro de Oro and Las Flores, La Vaca is another stellar wave that guests at our El Salvador Surf resort can access with ease. While La Vaca does not offer the same long, leg-burning rights of Las Flores or Punta Mango, the wave is a hollower and a more critical option for experienced surfers. La Vaca offers steep drops, deep barrels, and critical sections with fewer surfers out in the water than at Las Flores. The wave works best at low to mid tide with a swell of four to six feet. Located just 300 meters west of Las Flores, La Vaca is the perfect option for guests looking to get barreled.
El Cuco is located directly in front of the town and is a classic, thumping Central American beach break. This peaky beach break offers hollow waves and favors lefts. El Cuco is a high tide alternative to many of the nearby waves that become weaker at peak tide.
A boat trip to Punta Bongo will take you away from the crowds to another classic El Salvador surf spot and phenomenal right-hand point. Punta Bongo behaves much like Las Flores, but without the same world-class quality. Still, there are waves to be had and the crowd factor is a minimum. Punta Bongo works best at low to mid-tide.
The Wild East is littered with classic El Salvador surf spots, many of which did not make the list. The Wild East contains kilometers of virgin, undeveloped coastline with classic point and beach break setups. While it may not be the undiscovered paradise it was in the seventies, El Salvador and the Wild East, specifically, remain a surfer’s paradise.