When my friend and I booked our flight on Avianca airlines to Peru we had no option but to book our flight with a long layover in El Salvador. 7 hours to be exact. Because both of us have somewhat adventurous spirits we definitely didn’t want to stay at the airport that long and we started looking up what to do on a long layover in El Salvador. We looked on Trip Advisor and all over the internet, but didn’t seem to find any real viable options. One option was to go tour the city in a cab although they said San Salvador isn’t the safest place.
I spoke with one of my colleagues who said El Salvador beaches were amazing and that we should try and visit Playa El Tunco. So, we decided to arrive in El Salvador, try and leave the airport, and go to Play El Tunco. Adventuress Kate also recommends Play El Tunco as a great place in El Salvador.
Here’s what we did…and I highly recommend you do it too if you have a layover in El Salvador.
Step 1: The Tax.
We realized quickly that you have to pay an airline tax to leave the airport and come back. El Salvador’s airport is long and skinny with a lot of people in wheelchairs (weird?) and we found the Avianca desk at one end of the terminal to pay the tax. They made us pay $37.00 USD to leave the airport and come back in. Be prepared for El Salvadorians to takkkeee theirrrr time. We thought it was a little expensive, but worth not sitting in the airport all day.
Step 2: The Visa.
We went down to the customs gate and bought our Visas to get into El Salvador. This costed us $10 and is the minimum Visa you can get which gets you 90 days in the country. They also took their sweet time to do this, but were very kind, excited to talk to us and gave us recommendations of food to eat…mainly papusas.
Step 3: The Cab.
We asked the officers at the gate where to get taxis to El Tunco and they guided us outside to a taxi who said he would take us to to El Tunco for $30 USD. We got in and asked him to take us to Playa El Tunco and tried to tell him to take us to the public part. We were clueless.
Step 4: The Ride.
The beach was about 45 mins away from the airport, but we had time to kill. The drive there was interesting enough and it was fun to see the beautiful coastline and countryside of El Salvador. Our cab driver ended up dropping us off at the main walkway down to El Tunco and we got out and hoped we’d find a ride back later!
Step 5. El Tunco.
This place was SO COOL! Very beachy, full of surf shops, burrito and papusa shops, fresh juice places, hostels with hammocks, and a wonderful beach. We went down to the beach and hit the water first. We wished we had rented surf boards or taken a lesson because the water was so warm! It was a great change of pace from traveling on a plane over night!
Step 6: Papusas
We laid around and hung out at the beach for a few hours and then got up to go eat some papusas at a local shop along the beach called Fifi’s. My favorite papusa was the chicharon con queso and the homemade salsa they provide with papusas was AMAZING. You can get these in the airport too and I highly recommend trying them.
Step 7: Getting Back.
After a few hours we decided it was time to head back to the airport. Unfortunately there weren’t any cabs around so we asked the guys guarding the gate to the beach and they said their friend could drive us. This would have normally probably been sketchy to do in El Salvador…okay it was. But something in my gut said we were safe and it ended up working out great! I recommend asking the gate guards for a ride or someone in one of the shops.
Step 8: Airport.
We made it back to the airport with probably too much time to kill and could have stayed longer at the beach. It look us about 20 mins to get back into the airport and 45ish minutes to drive back. The airport in El Salvador doesn’t have much going for it, but there is a bar if you need to sit there for 7 hours. I highly recommend biting the bullet and going to the beach though!