I don’t think I’ve formally announced it, but I have a goal of visiting every country in the world in my lifetime. One of the best things about it is that it pushes me to visit places I otherwise wouldn’t travel to. Like El Salvador. This Central American country hasn’t been high on my list, mostly because I’ve never heard anyone talk about it. But now that I’m traveling through the region I can’t help stopping here. And what I find is some of the most beautiful beaches, luxurious hotels, and best surfing in El Salvador.

Surfing in El Salvador

El Salvador

When my flight arrives from Honduras, I find myself in a sparkling new airport that sets the tone for a good trip. My hotel is an hour’s drive away, and en route I take in the lush vegetation and flowering trees in the hills.

Red Flowers in El Salvador

I’m staying in La Libertad on the beach in El Zonte. As soon as my driver pulls up to the hotel, I know I’ve made the perfect choice. Not only is Puro Surf in a beautiful location, but it’s every bit as stylish and luxurious as I hoped.

Puro Surf, El Salvador

Rooms grace a hillside leading down to an open-air restaurant and infinity pool with inflatable flamingos gliding along it. My room has an ocean view and great style, and the property has everything from a yoga room to a surf school. As I unpack, I’m glad I’ve splurged on such an amazing place.

Puro Surf Hotel, El Salvador

El Zonte, El Salvador

Speaking of amazing, the beach just below the hotel is gorgeous. Black sand glitters in the sun and the roaring waves of the Pacific Ocean charge forward with relentless energy. It’s a stark contrast to the gentle Caribbean where I walked this morning, and makes my inner Californian feel like I’ve come home.

El Zonte, El Salvador

I spend most of my time in El Zonte on the beach. It has some of the best surfing in El Salvador, and there are lots of people riding the waves. Birds, too. I watch groups of pelicans glide along the tops, swooping down to play in the spray.

El Zonte, El Salvador

Back on shore there are rock arches, tide pools, and beachfront restaurants with delicious local food. I wake up at sunrise every morning and walk along the sand, marveling at how warm the Pacific is here compared to its chill in San Francisco.

El Zonte, El Salvador

Despite what I’ve heard about El Salvador, I feel completely safe here. In fact, there’s a marked absence of both human and animal pests. Unlike everywhere else I visit in Central America, I don’t get a single insect bite and not one man harasses me as I walk by. It’s a refreshing break.

Palm Trees in El Salvador

Also refreshing is sitting poolside at my hotel in the afternoons. And while I mostly eat at the local restaurants on the beach, I have delicious fish tacos at Puro Surf one day. Relaxing here is a great mid-trip break and a perfect way to restore my energy for the next leg of my journey: Nicaragua.

El Salvador

As I leave El Salvador, I’m sad to have not spent more time here, but happy that my goal of visiting every country has brought me in the first place. El Salvador has been the best surprise of my trip, and I’ve been amazed by the beauty of El Zonte. I hope my goal of visiting the rest of the world won’t keep me away for too long.

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Surfing in El Salvador

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