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El Zonte, El Salvador

Beach Weekends on a Budget in El Zonte, El Salvador

You don’t need much to enjoy a much-needed break at the beach. Especially when you’re heading to El Zonte, El Salvador. Here’s how to do it on a shoestring.

Sometimes, in life, conversations gravitate towards topics like “what’s the point of dating, anyway?” There are post-breakup moments when it feels like you need a break and a change of scenery. And then there are days when cash is running low, and you can’t afford to get away, anyway.

But what about a trip to the beach? Whether you go solo or with a buddy, it can be a much-needed getaway that doesn’t have to break the bank.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly beach destination, consider El Zonte, El Salvador. Here’s how to make the most of it without spending too much.

The plan

The key is to plan, prepare, and avoid spending more than you want to. To start, consider avoiding lunchtime traffic and heat by driving from San Salvador to El Sunzal earlier in the day. Pack some food to munch on the way, like grilled zucchini sandwiches, and bring some snacks and drinks to store in a cooler.

I drove my old 1997 Volvo S70 with no working AC, but the lack of luxury was compensated by the good company of my two friends and a goldfish named Fish. We had made reservations at a chill beachfront hostel, where I had fond memories of beer, sleep, food, friends, and strangers.

However, things didn’t go as planned. When we arrived, we discovered that the driveway to the place was too muddy for my car to make it. We had to look for an alternative that fit our budget.

Luckily, we found Puro Surf in El Zonte

The rooms at Puro Surf are wonderful, and the place is clean and pretty, with an infinity pool, hammocks, chairs, restaurant and bar service, and surfboards to use.

Accommodations can be a gamble in El Zonte, where it’s easy to end up in an overpriced, damp room with no ventilation or a grotty bathroom. But Puro Surf is super-inviting, and we were able to smuggle in some plantain chips and a pack of beer to supplement the restaurant service.

The next day, we gathered what little money we had left and enjoyed some delicious pupusas for dinner. We left Eldorado the following day, as we had run out of provisions.

Despite the unexpected changes, I would still repeat the following on future trips: packing lunch, having a cheap dinner of pupusas, and bringing my tiny French press for DIY coffee.

Just remember to bring some extra cash if you want to have breakfast when you wake up. But even then, it doesn’t have to be too much, as a little can go a long way on the beach in El Salvador.

The beauty of El Zonte, El Salvador (A postscript)

I woke up in El Tunco once, hungry, and headed straight to El Zonte. We got to Esencia Nativa, right by the water. All we could afford was one beer for two, and a side of garlic bread. Still, the ocean, trapped between cliffs, looked beautiful. The sunlight became shadowy, the light rested on our shoulders from the terrace where we sat and watched the waves. Scarcity made the bits and pieces of what we had access to all the more enjoyable.

I bet I can come up with more of these strategic choices and end up on low-cost adventures more often.

That said, I always take forever to decide. Where to go next? What time is best? Should I stay, should I go? I need a Thelma or a Louise to motivate me and make me go from wishing to doing.

It’s always surprising how easy things, like breaking up or moving countries, can be when you have friends to help you through.

Patricia Trigueros is a free spirit, writer, and translator from El Salvador. She has the habit of drinking too much coffee and writing in English, French, and Spanish. Check out her blog or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Patricia Trigueros

Patricia Trigueros

Patricia is a free spirit, writer, and translator from El Salvador. Has the habit of drinking too much coffee and writing in English, French, and Spanish. She works as a freelance consultant. Studied French Literature in l'Université de Bordeaux and Integrated Marketing Communications in Escuela de Comunicación Mónica Herrera. When not traveling, she lives in San Salvador, El Salvador.