On Saturday morning, I was ready for a break from the mountains, and I jumped a 3hr bus to El Cuco. El Cuco is one of Eastern El Salvador´s more popular coastal towns, and is known for being a big party destination in the summer. There are several noticeable differences between the beaches in El Salvador and those found in Orange County.
On Saturday afternoon, I took a hike around the hills and valleys away from the main town. I had heard about some good surfing by El Cuco, but thought that most of the breaks were a away and hard to access. All of a sudden, I stumbled onto a sign for this, and a path to one of the more famous surfing spots in Central America, Las Flores. Las Flores lies within a hidden valley, with thick forest all around hiding it from view. After a few minutes talking with security about their families in Gotera, I was allowed to “sneak” in and “promise” to buy $25 worth of food.
Suddenly found myself surrounded by Brasilians, Argentinians, and Americans at one of the country´s most famous surf resorts. This place was incredible – 80 degree water, hamocks, and uncrowded waves that break for 300 meters.
The coolest part, though, was getting away from the wealthy gringos and hanging out in the local camp next door, where all the hotel staff lives. I stayed there for a long time, eating and sleeping and talking about the thirty-year history of surfing (and incoming gringo surfistas) in El Salvador. One group of women had used a microloan to set up a campsite and several huts on the beach, and was doing good business with the gringos smart enough to not pay $200/night at the hotel. Other teeneagers who could blend in at Huntington Beach lounged around with their boards, only to jump up and run with their crafts and necklaces to any interested-looking gringo walking by. Like many of El Salvador´s popular tourist sites, the wealth disparity was immediate and pronounced, but at lease here the waves were free and waiting for everyone.
The swell was big, and I agonizingly decided not to test it out after seeing a board snapped in half. But I am already ready to go back.
I stayed in a “ranchito,” which was a big plot of land turned into a mini-hotel on the water.
Over two days, I saw sea turtles, flying fish, oysters, clams, lots of crabs, a ray, big spiders, lizards, one frog in my room, and roosters. I also saw a lot of fish. The fish, and everything else for that matter, are never refrigerated. Instead, there´s some sort of process for drying out both fish and red meat so that it doesn´t spoil for several days. Or at least everybody pretends that it´s not spoiling for several days. This is still kind of baffling to me, but so far so good with my stomach. Thankfully no stingrays or jellyfish, which I had heard about.