Tucked away high in the mountains north of El Tunco beach on El Salvador’s wave-lashed Pacific coastline, the waterfalls of Tamanique were a true highlight of our time in El Salvador. Quiet and uncrowded (when we were there anyway!) – these incredible falls are a must-see for anyone finding themselves winding their way up this most beautiful of coastlines.
Here I will share some photos and some tips on getting there. Of course, you could always simply book a tour through one of the many operators available in El Tunco, but this guide is for those who are on a stricter budget, or simply prefer doing things independently.
Firstly, let’s start nice and simple – with a map! Check out the map below for a rough idea of how to get to the waterfalls. The app ‘Maps.me’ actually details the walk to the falls accurately while also working offline. (Plus it’s free!)
Your first step is the get to the village of Tamanique. From El Tunco this is actually super simple, just stand at the junction of Carr Tamanique and Highway Two meet and wait for a bus. If in doubt, ask anyone in town and they will point you in the right direction. The bus cost us around a dollar for each of us.
After a scenic, hour-long drive through gorgeous countryside, you will arrive in the village of Tamanique. We had not intended on hiring a guide, but after a young guy offered to show us the way for a few bucks, we thought we would take him up on the offer. While it was not really essential (especially if you have maps.me), it certainly helped us to find the waterfalls as they are literally hidden deep in a jungle-covered ravine. There were plenty of opportunities to get lost and miss turns, so it was useful to have some local knowledge! It was literally a local teenager making a bit of extra cash, and we were happy to do business!
The trek down to the falls was an adventure in itself, and it really made us realise how ‘off-the-beaten-track’ the El Salvadorian tourism economy remains. It was refreshing to be free from hawkers, shiny trinket shops, and neon-lit signs offering tours. We made our way through little agricultural small-holdings where local farmers harvested by hand with machetes, we crossed streams using moss-covered stepping stones, we climbed down steep muddy inclines using a rope tied to a tree to control our descent, we used fallen trees to cross boulder fields, and we climbed up and down homemade wooden ladders rigged together with twine.
After the fun descent down, all we had to do was make our way upstream along the canyon floor through the forest and I do no exaggerate when I say that I was blown away arriving at the waterfalls. Hearing their roar gradually increasing in volume as we tramped through a lush ravine. The area was so alive with animal life, and so resplendent in exotic tropical plants that felt we were arriving to a ‘lost world’. I was almost expecting to see a T-rex or a butterfly the size of a car! Maybe I have watched too many movies!
Once we had arrived, we paid our guide and he left us to make his way back to the village, and we told him we were going to make our own way back. It was nice to have the place to ourselves.
There is fact four waterfalls here, the upper ones are much smaller and run deep in the rock. The water moves fast, but you can jump down from the sides into the pools, which is very refreshing after a sweaty walk! The lower falls are much taller, with the bottom one stretching around twelve-metres high. (40 feet) The bottom waterfall has a large splash pool which is fantastic for swimming in – if a little cold!
As you can see, there was no one else there! Partly because we got there early in the day; one of my rules for getting the most from your travel experiences – get there early!
However, the hidden nature of this area makes me imagine that it never gets super busy, but on our way out of there a few hours later, we did see a number of other groups heading down to the falls. Also, on national holidays, I bet the area gets packed with locals. El Salvadorians are super friendly though and I have no doubt you will be welcomed regardless!
Thanks for reading.
If you find yourself on the coast of El Salvador (and I recommend you do), make a trip these stunning waterfalls. You won’t regret it!
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