If you're heading to El Cuco, chances are you're going to be staying at Tortuga Verde. After we spent five nights there, it's difficult to understand why you would stay anywhere else!
Having read numerous blog articles, glowing TripAdvisor reviews and an effusive Lonely Planet endorsement, we knew to expect a slightly better than average hostel. What we found was a beautiful tropical hideaway, on par with a swanky resort, replete with not one but two entertaining rescued pelicans.
Prior to El Cuco, we had been a little underwhelmed with the beaches of El Salvador. Excellent for surfing they may be, but El Tunco was ugly and we struggled to find any others to satisfy. Although lacking the perfect white sand, Intepuca Beach is really as good as it gets in this small country, and Tortuga Verde has planted itself right on the edge.
Having stayed in a number of hostels over the last six months where toilet seats and clean sheets can be considered a luxury, it has taken progressively less to impress us. When we were shown our room at Tortuga Verde, we had to question the price. Twice. $25 buys you your own room with perfect white walls, a comfy bed with crisp linen, actual proper willows and a bathroom large enough (and clean enough) to sleep in with the added bonus of a private porch complete with swinging hammocks and mood lighting.
It was perfect.
what to do
The Bible, Koran and Torah of guides to the area is in the book put together by the owner Tom. Start off any stay by swinging in a hammock and getting acquainted with it.
The hostel has on-site surf instructors with a one hour lesson (including board) costing $10. Alternatively, you can rent a board for $10 for the day and surf right on the beach in front. For the better surfers amongst you, there is a daily shuttle at 6 a.m. to the harder to reach breaks costing $5 return.
Daily free yoga sessions are held in the beach-side studio - there really is nothing more relaxing than child's pose listening to the sounds of the waves!
For those looking to pick-up a new skill, there is a slack-line next to the yoga studio where the less balanced amongst us may spend more time perfecting a dramatic dismount than walking on air, but it's a great way to spend a couple of hours (Andrew made it all the way across after two days!)
As the name suggests, this is also a leading turtle sanctuary in El Salvador, committed to providing an environment for the safe hatch and release of sea turtles. If you're there during the right time of year, you can help their efforts and may even see a laying turtle, help collect eggs or release the babies safely into the sea.
Above all, this is a place to relax (particularly as wi-fi has not yet been installed for guests). Grab a book from the library, pick a spot on the beach or near the pool and enjoy an ice-cold beer!
where to eat
There are excellent food choices (with really large portions and wonderful vegetarian options - we strongly recommend the tofu fajitas!) at the resort - the newer Cosmic Cocina also provides an alternative to the main restaurant. However, for those on a budget, having to eat every meal here can become quite costly (particularly with 10% added to everything). Thankfully there are a few alternatives dotted nearby.
Although her opening hours can be a little erratic to say the least, a few doors down on the right is a great pupusa stand where you can find the ubiquitous three frijole and queso for $1.
Our top recommendation however are the restaurants at the far end of the beach where you can have a HUGE portion of fresh fish, rice, bean and salad for $5. They also do breakfasts for around $3. These restaurants can be reached by turning right out of Tortuga Verde's main entrance, and walking about 10 minutes down the road until you meet the ocean. Alternatively, from the beach, turn left, and you'll find them about 10 minutes away.
Although a 45-minute walk away, El Cuco also has quite a few of pupusa stands and ocean-front seafood restaurant, but the town itself holds little of interest.
how to get there
Make your way by bus to the town of San Miguel (don't linger too long). From the bus station, you need to catch the bus 320 to El Cuco (costs: approx. $1, takes 90 minutes).
On arrival in the town, there will be a few taxis who will take you to the hostel for $5 (this really is the set price unfortunately, despite it being only a few kms). If your pack is not too large, cumbersome or heavy, and you arrive in daylight, then you could try to walk the 45 minutes there.
Dorms and privates, cable tv, two restaurants, hammocks and loungers, beach access, 24-hour security, tours, slack-line, yoga classes, massage, swimming pool internet only available via purchased dongles, volunteer opportunities and long-term stay deals.
*Update August 2016 - there is now wi-fi available at Tortuga Verde although it's, understandably, slow.
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