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Lapoint Surf Camp Review
I spent the last couple weeks at Lapoint surf camp in Central America, doing not much else other than surfing, eating and sleeping.
And it was incredible.
Learning to surf has been on my bucket list for a very very long time now, but it always felt too far out of reach.
Living in New York City has many perks but surfing… isn’t one of them. I mean, yes technically you can surf out in Queens at Rockaway Beach but I prefer tropical humidity and warm water :)
And while I’d taken a lesson here and there on vacation (Bali in 2018, Santa Barbara in 2022), I was more focused on enjoying my holidays at the time and mini day lessons weren’t ever enough to properly learn how to surf.
So, I booked a surf camp!
I figured immersing myself and taking a trip entirely dedicated to surfing would help me nail at least the basics.
And so, in late fall I went off to El Salvador, a country that’s quietly and quickly been making a name for itself as a surf mecca.
Originally, I put off the idea of a surf trip because I wasn’t sure about traveling solo.
None of my friends were remotely interested and if you google traveling to places like El Salvador or Nicaragua, you find a lot of fear-mongering bad press.
In fact, my mom asked me repeatedly if I thought traveling to El Salvador would be a good idea, even well after I booked a non refundable flight…
So from that standpoint, the idea of an all-inclusive surf camp was appealing.
There are camps all over the world, in both tropical and frigid places – basically anywhere the surf is good.
Most camps operate similarly – you book for a week at a time, surf daily with help from an instructor and lots of the logistics are covered.
Sometimes friends or couples go, but mostly it’s lots of solo travelers so you get a nice mix of traveling alone but still being able to meet other people.
Surprisingly, I got lots of questions about surf camp when I posted a couple instagram stories. So I figured I’d write everything down in a trip report while the camp is still fresh in my mind!
Here’s everything you need to know about Lapoint surf camps, booking a surf trip to El Salvador and highlights from the surf camp experience.
Or quickly jump to:
- Lapoint Surf Camps
- Visiting El Salvador
- Surfing in El Salvador
- Surf Camp VLOG
- Lapoint El Salvador
- Tips for Making the Most of Surf Camp
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Lapoint Surf Camps
Lapoint is a Scandinavian company with surf camps all over the world.
They’re one of the best at marketing surf holidays and their most popular camp locations are probably Costa Rica and Sri Lanka.
I did some brief research into all different surf destinations and camps, but eventually settled on El Salvador and the Lapoint camp there.
Their rates are reasonable (with free rebooking and cancellation up to 14 days before arrival) and their website booking process made everything quite simple.
I was particularly interested in El Salvador because I had read the country was one of the best places to surf on this side of the globe, with consistent surf breaks and glassy waves.
Costa Rica gets a lot of hype from surfers (and I’d love to go someday) but it’s also quite touristy. I liked the idea of visiting a new-to-me country that still felt untouched by mass waves of Americans, ha.
And as an American, traveling to El Salvador could not have been easier.
San Salvador Airport (SAL) is the major international airport in the country. There are direct flights to SAL from over a dozen US airports.
My tip for booking flights – always set a fare alert! Prices fluctuate all the time.
I flew from New York on Avianca Airlines. The low cost Columbian airline was having a sale and I snagged an incredibly cheap $170 fare and they miraculously gave me an exit row seat.
I even managed to go personal item only using just this small duffel (for a 2 week trip! which I consider a personal feat). Highly recommend Peak Design for travel and camera gear – their stuff is really high quality and keeps everything nicely organized.
The direct flight is also incredibly convenient.
From New York, it’s around 5 hours so you can book an early AM flight and arrive the same day as the first day of camp.
Visiting El Salvador
Upon landing, US citizens must buy a visa-on-arrival. It costs $12 USD (credit cards accepted) and is valid for 90 days.
El Salvador uses US currency and the same two-prong plug A that we use in the States. Not having to change money or use a travel adapter made traveling there even easier.
(Bitcoin is the other official currency, lol – you could pay for a $3 froyo with bitcoin)
The country has had a slightly checkered past but the current administration is making a ton of effort to build and modernize, as well as attract surf tourism.
I wouldn’t say it’s up and coming (that ship sailed long ago) but El Salvador is definitely still under the radar.
In fact, multiple people asked me, “you’re going… where?!”
Surfing in El Salvador
El Salvador is a tiny country in Central America, about the size of Massachusetts. And it’s the only country in Central America to not have access to the Caribbean.
But what it does have is access to the Pacific Ocean.
Thanks to its geography, El Salvador has more world-class waves on its 190 mile slip of coastline than some of its competitors in the surf holiday sphere.
- For advanced surfers, the South Pacific is most active from March to October so you’ll want to travel during the wet season for large, consistent swells.
- For beginners and intermediates, the dry season is a better time to go. November through February still provides quality surf, but on smaller, more manageable waves.
El Salvador has all types of breaks – reef, beach and point breaks – but it’s most known for its right hand point breaks.
From San Salvador airport in the nation’s capital, you can head either east or west to access the surf.
There are a couple popular ‘zones’ for surf holidays in the country.
I assume if you’re going to surf camp that you’re a beginner to intermediate, so anything from mid November to late January is a good time to go!
When I went, conditions changed from day to day and week to week, so I was able to experience surfing in different conditions.
For the most part, the waves were glassy, crystal blue and about a meter high.
But, right before I visited there had been a tropical storm that prevented surfing for a couple days, and towards the end of my trip the afternoons could get a little windy and choppy.
So if you can swing it, staying for 2 weeks is best and will guarantee you get the most out of a surf trip.
The Best Waves in El Salvador
Located in the town of La Libertad, Punta Roca is the country’s claim to fame and how it originally got its reputation as a surf mecca. The long right point break is the country’s premier point location and where it hosts surf competitions, so it’s great for advanced surfers.
El Sunzal and La Bocana
These point breaks are at El Tunco beach, where I stayed. El Sunzal is a sloping right hand point break while La Bocana is slightly more east, with a river mouth that creates more punchy waves that high performance surfers will love.
Traveling 7 miles west, you’ll reach El Zonte, a village that’s quite popular with surfers for its high performance right point and beach.
Las Flores and Punta Mango
Located in the east part of El Salvador, these right points are also quite popular. Las Flores has a long, sand bottom while Punta Mango is a bit more shallow cobblestone break.
Lapoint El Salvador
Lapoint includes roundtrip transportation from the airport, so luckily I didn’t have to worry about getting to the camp.
Travel time is roughly 40 minutes driving door to door, from San Salvador to El Sunzal.
The house itself is located right on the beach, and the location is without a doubt one of the best things about this surf camp.
From what I understand, the surf camp is affiliated with Lapoint but independently owned and managed. And, there are two options:
- booking the all-inclusive camp package
- or simply booking lodging like a bed and breakfast
There were lots of Brazilian tourists and group travelers who did the latter during my stay. If you can surf on your own, I think it’s a great option to just book accommodation without the camp.
That way you get excellent accommodation right on the beach and you have the option to either join the camp group for meals, or go into town on your own.
If you need, you can also always book individual lessons.
They’re ~$50 per lesson at the camp and there are other surf schools along the beach offering lessons as well.
Check here for lodging-only rates.
Surf Camp Vlog
I filmed a vlog of my 2 weeks at surf camp, which you can watch below or on Youtube:
Lapoint El Sunzal
Because Lapoint’s surf camps seem to be a franchise model, with each camp run independently, they all offer slightly different things in their packages.
At Lapoint El Salvador, here’s a quick overview of what was and wasn’t included.
- transfer to/from the airport
- 7 nights accommodation
- 5 surf lessons with instructor + equipment
- 3 yoga lessons
- breakfast every day
- 6 lunches
- 3 dinners
What’s Not Included
- extra surf lessons
- photos + video of you surfing
A couple things:
When you book, you can choose which level of experience you have – 1, 2 or 3.
Those with level 3 get 2 sessions of video analysis included but the beginner levels do not.
On the nights where dinner isn’t included, the group will often go into town and eat together.
You could also book an ‘Intense’ package where you have 2x surf lessons each day.
Or, you can book extra surf lessons ad hoc when you’re there.
I personally found the photos and video to be quite helpful, so I ended up paying extra for those! And sometimes there will be local photographers in the water.
If they take some shots of you, they’ll reach out to you and offer to sell you the photos.
Lapoint’s surf camp runs on a Monday – Sunday weekly schedule, so you book an entire week at a time.
If you only want to book a couple nights, or a week and a half, you’re better off booking the accommodation only and just adding on surf lessons as you wish.
The nice thing about the El Salvador Lapoint camp is they offer 1:1 instruction!
They’ll assign you to an instructor on the first day and you stay with the same instructor for your time at the camp.
I stayed for 2 weeks and did the intense package, so I had the same instructor for the whole trip which was nice.
You’ll arrive Monday, surf from Tuesday through Saturday, and have Sunday as a free day (and the following Monday if you stay on).
In general, the lineup at El Sunzal can get quite busy, but I still found it a great experience. The instructors do a great job at helping identify waves appropriate for your level and ensuring you catch as many waves as possible.
Surfing as a Beginner
Lapoint’s surf camps are split into ability levels. There’s rough guidelines (and you self-identify) but in general,
- level 1 is a complete beginner
- level 2 is someone with ~10 hours of surf experience, who wants to work on catching green waves and turning
- level 3 is an intermediate who can catch their own waves
If you’re a complete beginner, the instructor will teach you the pop-up on land and you’ll practice it in the whitewater.
Once you get comfortable standing up in the shallow white foam, you’ll head out to the ocean and work on catching green waves.
Then, you can progress to turning (always right at El Sunzal) and work on generating speed and linking turns.
And throughout the surf camp, they’ll teach you surf etiquette, the rules of the lineup and how to start reading waves and catching your own.
Most people at the camp were beginner to intermediate.
What to Pack
The sun is strong near the equator so a long sleeve swimsuit or rash guard is key.
I always pack tons of sunscreen for beach holidays.
Try to use reef friendly sunscreen if you can!
For extra protection, use zinc on your face!
They do have some to rent at the camp, but a surf hat for extra sun protection comes in handy. Some people got sun stroke during the trip.
Look for a lightweight surf hat with a chin strap, so it won’t fall off as you paddle through waves or when you inevitably get caught in the wave ‘washing machine’.
Hats designed for surfing will float, so even if they come off, you shouldn’t lose it!
We often went into town for dinner.
Depending on the time of year that you go, the beach walk won’t have any sand. Instead, it’ll be filled with tons of rocks, making the walk into town more like a rocky hike on giant uneven stones.
Sturdy sandals like Tevas really come in handy!
About halfway through my trip the beach turned back into a sandy beach but the tide level can also impact the walk, so at least one pair of non flip flops would be helpful.
Lapoint tries to be as eco-friendly as possible.
It gets incredibly hot in El Salvador, which if you’re not used to it, can get really overwhelming. There were some people who got headaches and mild heat stroke during the camp.
Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated!
A regular bath towel is provided but there aren’t any beach towels at the camp.
El Salvador uses US currency which makes it especially easy for American visitors.
Pretty much everything in El Tunco is cash-only so make sure to bring enough cash for your trip.
They generally don’t accept bills larger than $20 USD so try to bring smaller denominations. El Salvador also frequently uses $1 coins which I got a kick out of.
I was surprised just how dry my skin got from the ocean and daily surf session!
The camp only provides hand soap and literally nothing else.
You’ll definitely want to bring your own shampoo and conditioner, and even body wash. The ocean really dried out my skin and using harsh hand soap as body wash didn’t help.
I got eaten alive at night, so bring bug spray if you’re prone to getting bit by mosquitoes!
If you’re flying Avianca, they’re a low-cost carrier and charge extra for carry-on luggage and of course, checked luggage.
But, personal items are free!
I was able to use this roomy-but-compact Peak Design bag as my personal item and it was able to fit everything for a 2 week trip.
Lapoint has mostly double rooms, with a couple singles and triples.
I believe the camp can fit ~20 people and it was maxed out during my two weeks.
What’s nice is all the rooms have a balcony with an ocean view. You can literally fall asleep to the sound of the waves and wake up to see the conditions before deciding to head out!
The rooms also have private bathrooms and air conditioning.
Breakfast was always included, which was nice.
Depending on your surf session time, you can eat before or after. If your session happens to coincide simultaneously during breakfast, you can also make a plate and they’ll save it for you to eat later.
Lunches were always included as well, aside from the first day on Monday.
I thought the food was quite good – it always was fresh and healthy and had a great mix of carbs, protein and veggies.
About half of the dinners were included. On those nights, we’d eat at camp.
For the nights when dinner wasn’t included, we could still eat together. The social hosts would pick a restaurant in town and organize the menu + ordering, which was really nice.
Sometimes, they also organize special dinners at the camp. These aren’t included so they’re optional, but they’re usually a bit different and fun.
We did a sushi night one Saturday at the camp and otherwise, ate at various cafes, bars and restaurants in El Tunco.
Three yoga classes are included. If you find that you’re sore or want to improve your flexibility, doing yoga with the group is great exercise!
Lapoint also partners with a local tour provider, which offers excursions. Popular day trips in the country include:
I felt so sore that I booked massages. They have a masseuse come directly to your room and I highly recommend – she gets out all the knots.
On Sunday and Monday, it’s a free day so you can do what you like.
Some of us caught the local chicken bus and went exploring. Within walking distance is the fun town of El Tunco. A short drive away is the bigger town of La Libertad.
There’s a lively waterfront boardwalk, lots of restaurants, a bustling seafood market and even an amusement park.
What I Liked
The Lapoint experience was fantastic. I was there primarily to focus on surfing and I felt like it delivered on that front!
I think some camps cater more to fun activities or partying, but I liked that Lapoint El Salvador was pretty focused on surfing.
I also really liked the instructors. The entire team was super friendly and encouraging.
My instructor worked really hard to scout the waves and place me at the best point to catch waves. They all work together to ensure everyone at the camp gets their turn in the lineup and that everyone is improving day over day.
And what I thought was really nice was all the instructors try to help you out.
Sometimes your assigned instructor can’t see you (because the wave is in the way) so other instructors closer to the shore would give you pointers or tell your instructor how you did.
By far the best part of Lapoint El Salvador is the camp’s location.
It’s right on the beach and being able to walk out every morning to surf just steps from where you sleep is incredible.
I chatted with some of the other people at camp who had previously surfed at other areas and they all unanimously said they’d come back to El Salvador and Lapoint due to the fantastic location and amazing point break.
What Could Be Better
I had a great experience overall, but if I had to nitpick, there were a couple inconsistencies in how the camp was advertised and reality.
I booked a double room but was placed in a triple.
Even worse, halfway through the trip, repairs were made to some of the rooms, so we ended up having to have a mixed gender room, which was.. unexpected.
Every room has an incredible view of the ocean and an ensuite bathroom.
But, the camp didn’t provide any toiletries so I wish I had known to pack shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
Also, the showers are cold. At first it was an adjustment but in the heat the cold showers ended up being fine.
Another thing that was a little misleading was the length of the surf lessons.
The Lapoint website lists the camp package as including 5 surf lessons, with each being 2 hours long. On the first day though, we realized surf lessons were only 90 minutes.
And in reality, they’d often be cut a little short by the instructors, I’d say they were around 75 minutes in the water.
75 minutes was enough time in the water to learn and get an incredible workout, but it was just a disconnect from what was advertised.
And finally, there was a pretty long gap between lunch and dinner with not much to do (7 hours).
I definitely recommend bringing a book or something to occupy your time. At night, we’d play games or go for sunset drinks but in general there’s a lot of downtime at surf camp with not all that much to do.
And the camp could use maybe more seating or lounge spots.
All the food was great but I often was pretty hungry.
Some days the kitchen would be open to order snacks but sometimes it’d close early. I wasn’t always sure when it would be open and sometimes going into town felt far.
But that’s really me just being extra critical!
Overall, I had a great time learning how to surf and would sign up for another camp.
Tips for Surf Camp
I had a great experience at Lapoint in El Salvador. I think anyone would have a fantastic time learning to surf here!
But if you’re really wanting to make the most of it, I would recommend staying longer than a week.
Surfing is incredibly difficult and can take a while to learn. The longer you stay, the more you get comfortable in the water.
It can be an adjustment to use different muscles and get a feel for the surf conditions.
I stayed for 2 weeks and felt like I only just got the hang of things after week 1, so the second week was instrumental to helping improve even more.
I also signed up for the Intense camp, which is twice daily surf sessions.
While it was brutal the first couple days, I also felt like that helped a lot with improving!
You can always sign up for the regular Surf Camp and then add on additional lessons, or upgrade to the Intense package later.
Each extra surf lesson costs $50, so basically the Intense package cost gives you 1 extra free lesson.
Plus, it’s nice to get as much practice in the water as you can.
Often the mornings will be quite busy, as the conditions are super nice and glassy. By the afternoon, people are surfed out or it’ll start to get choppy so there are less people in the lineup.
The more you’re out in the water, the better you’ll get.
And finally, if you speak Spanish or have a basic knowledge, that helps a lot!
I think communication with the instructors is better if you can speak at least a little or practice a bit before you go.
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