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Beach Weekends On A Budget – El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador

Sometimes in life conversations gravitate around topics like, what’s the point in dating, anyway? There are post-breakup moments where 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.

So how about a trip to the beach? Do it solo or with a buddy, a la Thelma & Louise?

I found a recipe for a weekend getaway on a budget. Where having no money is often not a problem. So we finished our round of beers on a Friday and went home, having crafted our last minute, low-budget plans.

El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador
Beach walking in El Zonte / Patricia Trigueros

Expectations: The Plan

The trick is to plan, prepare… and thus, avoid spending more than you want to. Driving from San Salvador to El Sunzal at lunchtime means traffic, heat and delaying the pleasure of getting there. It also means NOT eating out: you can munch on something in the car. I packed grilled zucchini sandwiches; we got snacks and booze which we stored in a little cooler; and, yes, we had homemade hummus.

I drove my old 1997 Volvo S70 with no working AC. The three of us had little money, but lots of great energy. There was a goldfish with us who we named Fish. We needed him for a photo shoot in El Zonte after we left our stuff at the hostel.

El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador
Fish the goldfish / Patricia Trigueros

We had sort of made reservations at Los Almendros, a chill beachfront spot, warmed up by my memories of beer, sleep, food, friends, and strangers… but that’s another story.

It would only cost us about $12.

Getting through La Libertad and passing San Blas and El Tunco took forever, all while balancing our friend Fish in a bowl, in the backseat. It was sweltering hot. We were looking forward to the breeze under the almendro trees as I turned left onto the unpaved road to El Sunzal. The hostel is right at the end, behind a big wooden gate.

Reality: What We Ended Up Doing

We couldn’t get to Los Almendros. I forgot at this time of year when it rains it pours. The driveway to the hostel had become a pile of mud, and there was no way my good ole Volvo would make it.

“Is there anything we can do?”

There wasn’t anything except finding an alternative, one that was not too much outside our budget. When you have little money, decisions come easier. You scratch off what you can’t afford and stretch those dollars. Where could we go for $20 or less?

El Dorado Surf Resort, El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvado
Eldorado Surf Resort, El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador / Facebook

Eldorado Surf Resort is a low profile chic spot in El Zonte, right on the beach. They are all about accommodating surfers from all over the world, and their prices vary.

Accommodations are a gamble in El Zonte. It’s easy to end up in an overpriced damp room, with no ventilation. And do you really want to shower in a grotty bathroom?

So Eldorado is super-inviting, and it’s always hard to get a room there. The rooms have all you need, and the place is clean and pretty. There’s a blue-tiled pool, no-stress chairs, hammocks, restaurant and bar service, and surfboards to use. You can relax by just seeing the place.

What to do next time

After giving Eldorado everything we had, in exchange for smuggling in plantain chips and a pack of beer, we shot photos of a lady freeing a goldfish.

El Salvador Pupusas
Pupusas / JMRAFFI / Wikipedia

Afterwards, we gathered about $4 from the bottom of my fanny pack, and that was more than enough for pupusas. We left the next day because we were out of provisions.

Next time I’ll repeat the following: the packed lunch, cheap pupusas dinner and DIY coffee (I travel with a tiny French press). I’d even do Eldorado again, with pleasure.

Bring extra cash if you want to have breakfast when you wake up though. It doesn’t have to be that much extra because a little can go a long way on the beach in El Salvador.

Esencia Nativa, El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador
Esencia Nativa, El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador / Facebook

The beauty of El Zonte, La Libertad, 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. They have a great menu, but they didn’t take credit cards. 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.

Sunset at El Zonte, La Libertad, El Salvador
Sunset at El Zonte / El Salvador Imagenes Facebook

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 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, Paty Stuff, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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