A few months ago, I made the fantastic decision to go on a Barebones surf trip in Surf City, El Salvador.
Since I’ve been surfing for over 13 years and traveling to surf spots around the world for the last several years, the thought never crossed my mind to attend a surf camp. I mean, I plan surf trips for myself all the time, why should I book a surf camp? However, I was really drawn to Barebones so I decided to take the plunge and book one of their November Co-ed surf trips to surf at El Sunzal, and stay with them in El Tunco. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and here is my honest review from my Barebones surf trip:
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Barebones Surf Camp in a Nutshell
Barebones typically offers two different lengths for their surf trips: a 5 day/4 night stay, and a 6 night/7 day stay. Depending on the time of year, these are beginner to advanced level trips, or intermediate to advanced only.
When I went on the Barebones surf trip in November, I booked the 5 day/ 4 night beginner-advanced camp.
What the camp includes:
- 4 night stay (or 6 nights) with shared accommodations at the beautiful surf house Casa Makoi, just steps away from the ocean
- Accommodations include an en-suite bathroom and air conditioning
- Daily breakfast made to order
- Post surf snacks
- Daily surf guiding with incredible surf coaches
- A video analysis session
- Three family dinners
- Surfboard rentals included
- Personal nutrition plan developed by an ISSA certified Nutritionist
- Exclusive 8 week surf conditioning program developed by an ISSA certified Personal Trainer
- Transport to/from the airport
Overall, this surf trip is incredible. The price is extremely affordable, and the surf lessons are top-notch. Most surf camps that I see are mostly catered to beginner surfers and have a really high student to instructor ratio- this is not one of those camps.
The instruction is great for beginner surfers, but also excellent for higher levels of surfers who want to work on more advanced surfing maneuvers.
Plus, Barebones Surf is owned by two incredible women, Michaela and Chloe who are not just great surfers but also amazing people. They employ all locals for their camp, which also allows anyone who books a Barebones surf trip to have a truly immersive local surfing experience, and talk to locals in El Tunco and meet some of the local surfing legends like Jose “Bamba” Diaz, the President of the Salvadorian Surfing Federation, an ISA (International Surfing Association) Certified Coach and Judge, and the head of the surf guiding for Barebones surf trips!
If you’re considering a surf trip to El Salvador, I highly recommend a Barebones surf trip, no matter what level of surfer you are, you will definitely progress!
Where is Barebones Surf Camp
When you book a Barebones Surf Trip, you’ll be staying in the little surf town of El Tunco, steps away from the beach. However, you’ll be surfing at the worldclass wave El Sunzal, about a 15-20 minute walk on the beach away from the camp.
The location is perfect because you’ll be staying very close to all the amazing El Tunco restaurants, surf shops, and the heart of town, but you’re only a short walk away from the waves in El Sunzal.
El Tunco is about a 45-60 minute drive from the San Salvador Airport, depending on traffic. Which is honestly incredible, because you can land in the airport, and be at the beach in under an hour.
I’ve spent a lot of time surfing in Costa Rica, and most of the surf spots are HOURS from the airport, which makes shorter surf trips difficult.
This is not the case with Barebones- if you only have a few days time available to go on a surf trip, you can really maximize your time with Barebones because you’ll hardly spend any time traveling to/from the airport.
Barebones Surf Camp Accommodations: Casa Makoi
Barebones Surf is partnered with Pedro “Makoi” Castillo, a local business owner, professional chef, experienced surf guide, and the owner of Casa Makoi for accommodations.
Casa Makoi is a lovely guesthouse located a 30 second walk from the ocean, and a 2 minute walk from shops, stores, and surf shops in El Tunco.
Accommodations on a Barebones Surf Trip include a stay in a shared room (4 people max) with an ensuite bathroom.
Private rooms are available for an additional price, just request it when you book your surf trip!
The rooms at Casa Makoi are lovely, updated, and have all you could need and more for a surf trip. The bathrooms are nice as well, and keep in mind that the water is not heated for the showers. This is pretty standard for most accommodations in El Salvador, and honestly, taking a cool shower after a few hours in the surf is the most refreshing feeling- I promise you won’t miss the hot water.
Casa Makoi is a beautiful three story guesthouse with tons of amenities and places for relaxing. The ground floor has a large courtyard, with several long tables underneath fans that are perfect for socializing with your fellow surfers, or even getting a bit of work done if you’re working remotely.
There is also a brand new plunge pool on the ground floor.
The middle floor has a sweet little relaxing space with fans, couches, hammocks, and chairs- the perfect place to chill after a few hours in the water.
Upstairs is really neat too, there are more couches, seats, and hammocks for relaxing. It’s like a little monkey loft!
Casa Makoi is also a pizza restaurant, and Pedro is a professional trained chef so it’s no surprise that the food is delicious.
The Barebones surf trip includes daily breakfast, a post-surf snack, and three family dinners.
The daily breakfast is made to order each morning, and you have a few different options that are included. I always went for a typical breakfast, usually with rice/beans, some fruit, eggs, plantains, cheese, and bread- or some slight variation of that plate.
The post-surf snack is usually a nice mix of yogurt and fruit.
The three family dinners during my Barebones surf trip included a pupusa dinner the very first night, a (delicious) pizza night while we did video analysis, and the last night had amazing fresh fish and chicken tacos.
On nights where dinner isn’t included, there are several great restaurants to explore, and we all went out as a group which was nice.
Amenities at Casa Makoi in a nutshell:
- Shared accommodations with en-suite bathrooms
- Air-conditioned bedrooms
- Hammocks, couches, chill spaces
- Tables and workspaces
- Plenty of fresh drinking water throughout the house
- Outdoor surf shower
- Surfboard racks
- Security on site 24/7- it’s very safe!
- And of course Pepe, the sweetest surf camp dog.
Surf Lessons at Barebones Surf Camp
Let’s get to the good stuff- the surfing! Depending on which length of camp you book, the surf trip includes either 4 or 6 guided surf sessions. On the first day, the instructors take you out to the beach early to watch the waves for a bit, and get the layout of the break and where to paddle out/sit to catch waves. Then you all paddle out together, and they show you exactly where to sit to catch the best waves, and give you tips in the water for improving.
I had never taken a surf lesson before, even after 13 years of surfing so I didn’t know what to expect- but it was SO HELPFUL! Bamba and Brian helped me so much with cutbacks and turns, and showed me exactly where to sit to get waves- there is definitely a learning curve to surfing at Sunzal! There will be a few other surfers in your coaching group from the camp, but you still get plenty of one-on-one personalized attention from the coaches- it’s great, and I can’t recommend it enough- no matter what your skill level is.
Surfboards are included, and Michaela and Chloe talk to you before-hand to see what type of board you want to surf, and get it for you.
Video Analysis at Barebones Surf Camp
One of the best parts of the Barebones Surf Trip is the video analysis. During the day, a local videographer gets tons of footage of everyone surfing. Then at night, during the pizza dinner, we all sit upstairs and watch the footage on a projector screen. Bamba breaks everything down for us, shows you exactly what you need to work on to progress, and what tiny little movements might be holding you back in your surfing. He’s a real wizz!
One video analysis is included in the Barebones surf trip, and you have the option to book more video analysis if you’d like.
Barebones Surf Camp Optional Add-Ons
With everything the Barebones Surf Trip includes, you’ll definitely be busy, and there is really no need to add anything else. The camp alone is incredible value, and will take up most of your time.
However, there are some really cool things to see and do in the area, and there are a few optional add-ons you can do during your trip:
I was so busy surfing I didn’t have a chance to book a massage, but they’re really affordable and I heard nothing but good things.
I did a few yoga classes at the local studio, and loved it. There was a surf stretch class that felt INCREDIBLE after hours in the surf and my flight. We also got a special discount for being a part of Barebones.
In water photography
Photography shoot (on land)
I didn’t personally book a photography shoot but I did meet the photographer, Clara, and get a chance to look at some of her work- it’s truly beautiful.
Extra nights of accommodation
Extra surf coaching
Why I recommend Barebones Surf
I strongly recommend a Barebones Surf Trip to anyone who wants to meet incredible people, surf the incredible waves in beautiful El Salvador, and who doesn’t want to break the bank on a surf trip but is still seeking value.
Most surf camps have VERY high price tags, but Barebones is really truly affordable. Especially for what the camp includes! And when I got there, everything was even better than I expected.
I think the best part of Barebones is the people. Chloe and Michaela are incredible, and every single local they work with is wonderful. It was truly an amazing experience getting to meet and surf with so many locals, and if you’re considering booking a Barebones Surf Trip- I encourage you to do it!
Final thoughts on Barebones Surf
That pretty much sums up my thoughts and experience from Barebones Surf Trips. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did receive a discount on my surf trip in exchange for writing an honest review.
However, these are my honest opinions, and I would book another Barebones surf trip in a heartbeat.
If you have any other questions about Barebones, drop a comment below and I’m happy to help.