25km (16 miles) of coast from Puerto La Libertad to Playa Zonte

The Balsamo Coast, the winding 25km (16 miles) of surf, sand, and cliff-side beaches stretching from Puerto La Libertad to just past Playa Zonte, is one of the highlights of El Salvador. Along this strip are some of the country's most beautiful black-sand beaches and traveler-friendly villages. The Balsamo Coast is currently best known, however, for its world-class surfing -- the coast is said to be home to the best breaks in all of Central America. The point break in the little village of Playa Sunzal is an excellent place to learn to surf, as the big waves are more than 500m (1,640 ft.) off the beach with smaller, lesson-friendly waves closer to shore. The Balsamo Coast's other famous break, Punta Roca in La Libertad, is an internationally renowned surf spot best left to the experts.

The Balsamo Coast offers plenty for the non-surfer to do, as well; hiking, fishing, swimming, and horseback riding are all within reach, and the coast is just a 1-hour drive from the shops, restaurants, and nightclubs of San Salvador.

Beginning in the port city of La Libertad and traveling west, the main villages of the Balsamo Coast are Playa Tunco, Playa Sunzal, and Playa El Zonte. (And in between these four towns are signs pointing to smaller oceanfront and fishermen's villages that are waiting to be explored.) Playa Tunco is the most developed and interesting of the main villages because it has beachfront restaurants, unique hotels, and Internet cafes, along with a coastline that's great for surfers and swimmers. Playa Sunzal is a tiny village about .8km (1/2 mile) farther west, with a famous surf break, a few backpacker surf hostels, and a handful of pupusarias. Playa El Zonte, the farthest west of the Balsamo Coast's developed villages, is a .8km (1/2-mile) stretch of hotels and restaurants fronting a beach that's also a good spot for swimmers and surfers. The region's main town, La Libertad, is a crowded, hectic oceanfront city best known for its long fisherman's pier and Punta Roca surf break. It also has a reputation for being among the country's most dangerous cities, though it has recently undergone a facelift along the waterfront and is now safe to visit during daylight hours. However, there's no reason to stay overnight in La Libertad considering the better options along the coast.