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Cruising Reports For El Salvador: Bahia Del Sol & Barillas Marina

By doina — last modified May 05, 2005 10:39 AM

Published: 2005-05-05 10:39:11
Countries: El Salvador


Latitude 13°18.03 N (Hotel Bahia Del Sol), Longitude 88°53.54 W

If you decide to by-pass Puerto Quetzal, you’ll find El Salvador’s Bahia Del Sol a pleasant anchorage and marine resort to enjoy after the long sail down the coast from Mexico. It lies one mile on the inside of Estero de Jaltepeque. (Hal-tay-pek-eh). The region is also known as Costa Del Sol.

There is a sandbar at the entrance of Estero de Jaltepeque. As is with most bar entrances, sometimes it’s flat and sometimes it is too rough to enter. The bar changes seasonally so a guide boat is necessary. Professional sailors Murray and Colette on s/v Tarazed have inherited the job of guiding boats safely across the sand bar into the calm waters of the estero. They take this job seriously and have escorted over 120 boats in and out of the harbor without incident.

There is a GPS meeting waypoint marked at 13° 17.04 N, 88° 54.02 W. Call s/v Tarazed a few hours in advance on channel 16 VHF (even during the night). You can email them at [email protected] several days before so they can prepare to escort you. If Murray and Colette are unavailable, try radioing Diane on s/v Windbird. Diane lives at anchor in the Bahia and she will get in touch with Murray and Colette by cell phone.

If you arrive too early or too late at the entrance, and can not be escorted in immediately, it is safe to anchor in 10.9 meters (36 feet) at the same given GPS meeting waypoint. (13° 17.04 N, 88° 54.02 W). The anchorage may be rolly but the holding is good in sand and there are no rocks or reefs anywhere. Boats have anchored at this waypoint sometimes for days.

Vessels are escorted into the estuary on an incoming tide near high slack water between sunrise and sunset. There is no charge for the service. The entrance or “Boca” is approximately 30 meters (100 feet) wide with an average depth of 10 meters (33 feet). The actual sand bar at its shallowest depth is 3.6 meters (12 feet) at slack tide. There are breakers and surf on both sides of the channel. It is best to arrive at the meeting waypoint slightly before high slack tide to allow time for a crossing at high slack. Call the marina for tidal information and a swell report. The swell runs highest between May to October. May is the month that signals the start of rainy season and extra precaution must be taken when crossing the bar.

Once inside Estero de Jaltepeque the water quickly flattens out and remains so throughout the year. The anchorage provides good holding. Moorings are also available in front of the marina for US$5. per day. Bahia Del Sol is an ideal port where you can safely leave your boat for an extended period of time.

Check-in procedure is as easy as it gets. Polite and professional port officials come out to your boat and process all paperwork on the spot. The cost for checking in is US$10. per person for a 90 day visa without the complicated port to port paper chase formalities common in Mexico. There is no cost for an international zarpe. Request your international zarpe before departing El Salvador for your next country of visit.

The Salvadoran navy keeps 2 patrol boats at the marina so you can expect excellent security as well. The hotel also has a rotating staff of 8 night watchmen that keep an eye on boats, moorings and the floating dinghy dock.

Marco-Antonio Zablah is the owner of Bahia Del Sol resort. He and his lovely wife speak perfect English. Marco is working hard to encourage growth and tourism to this fascinating region of Central America. All foreign flagged vessels are given 30% off everything at the resort including meals, beverages. Use of the pool, showers and shore-side amenities are free for the duration of your stay. There is a 2 for 1 Happy-hour on Monday and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 16:00 and 18:00 hrs. Wednesday night is cruiser’s night. Slides and seminars are often shown in the club house.

For those who wish to anchor in the estuary, the holding ground is excellent in 4.5 meters (15 feet) to 6.5 meters (20 feet) of sand. A 3 knot tidal current floods and ebbs inside the estero. Diesel and gasoline are available at the fuel dock beside the hotel. There is also a tidal grid available for vessels up to 35 feet depending on draft and keel configuration.

San Salvador, the nation’s capital is a 1 hour drive by car from Bahia Del Sol or 2 hours by bus. For a few extra dollars and a whole lot of convenience, a local Costa Del Sol taxi driver named Jose can drive you around the city all day and back to the bahia for a very fair rate. Ask for him at the front desk or phone at 738-9040.

Just about everything that can be found in the USA can be found in San Salvador. There is a Price Smart super store and Office Depot next to a super modern shopping mall called Metro Centro in the capital. Banking can be done in San Salvador or in the nearby city of Zacetecoluca. ATM machines are common throughout the country. Banco Cuscatlan accepts the widest range of debit cards and credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Credomatic and American Express. Banco Salvadoreno cashes traveler’s checks for commission, as do most of the other banks. The official currency of El Salvador is the US dollar.

Fuel, water, ice and propane are available at the marina. Telephone service is available at Bahia Del Sol’s reception office. The staff is friendly and accommodating.

There is a small internet café in San Marcelino, a community 20 minutes along the Costa del Sol road by bus. For local provisioning, there is a little Tienda next to the internet café called “Tienda Carmencita”. Or you can ride the bus another 10 minutes to the “Supermercado”, also along the Costa Del Sol main road. The “Supermercado” is reasonably stocked with an assortment of canned goods and other basic luxuries including wine, cheeses and sausages.

For a more efficient day of shopping, banking and internet without going to San Salvador, you can catch a bus to Zacatecoluca, 1 ½ hrs from Bahia Del Sol.

All you can provision with is available in Zacatecoluca. A fully modern supermarket, with the highest of standards, named Dispensa Don Juan, has everything you can ask for at affordable prices. In the same plaza as Dispensa Don Juan’s, you will find an InfoCenter internet café. The facility is modern, air-conditioned, clean and inexpensive ($1.00 per hour for high speed internet). You can also connect your laptop to their LAN. Buses run to and from Zacatecoluca to the Costa, throughout the day. The last bus departing Zactecoluca for Bahia del Sol is at 16:45 hrs.

Every Saturday night Bahia Del Sol hosts a band and banquet party next to the pool. It’s a fun atmosphere of song and dance. The restaurant known for its spectacular seafood platters and giant fresh water shrimp is delicious but can be pricey for the average nomadic voyager. However, with the 30% cruisers discount, it tastes even better and the music is terrific. For cheap-eats, one can walk 10 minutes up the road to “Pupuseria Emily” and enjoy a beer and pupusa for a few cents more than a dollar.

Restaurant “Mar y Sol” (known as Julio’s by the locals) on the shores of Bahia Del Sol, has become a popular weekend dinning place for friends and cruisers. The outdoor setting is clean. “Mar y Sols” sits on the shores of the bay, so you can tie your dinghy up to the break-wall in front of the restaurant. The view of the bahia and yachts at anchor is pleasing. The food is excellent and well priced and proportioned.

For more information on Bahia Del Sol and cruising Estero de Jaltepeque write to: Hotel Bahia Del Sol, 3 Calle Pomiente, Casa #3952-B, Colonia Escalon, San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A. Tel: 503-338-0001 or 503-338-0017. Fax: 503-264-4949. E-MAIL: [email protected]

Or Contact: s/v Tarezed, Colette and Murray Barrett [email protected], PH: 503-724-8073 or 503-724-8221.


Latitude: 13° 15.735 N, Longitude: 88° 29.437 W (Marina)

This attractive marina is located 9.8 miles upstream in the estuary of Bahia de Jiquilisco (he-key-lis-co). A sand bar surrounds the outside of the entrance and local knowledge is a must. Though easier to enter than Bahia Del Sol, it is still recommended that approaching offshore vessels call Barillas Marina on VHF Channel 16 one hour in advance of arrival for an escort. The marina will dispatch a panga to pilot you safely through the channel. The operator is experienced and will lead you all the way to the marina. The service is free and operates in daylight hours only.

It takes about 30 minutes for the panga to arrive at your side. The offshore GPS meeting waypoint is at 13°07.02N and 88° 25.16 W. The lowest depth in the channel is 2.7 meters (9 feet) at low slack tide. It is best to enter on a rising tide. Radio the marina for tidal information.

On occasion the offshore meeting waypoint can change depending on wind and swell direction. Confirm the offshore meeting waypoint by VHF radio with the marina one hour in advance so they can send the pilot boat to you. Barillas Marina is in the process of anchoring an entrance buoy to mark the channel.

Bahia Jiquilisco is one of the best cruising grounds on the West Coast of El Salvador. A mangrove sanctuary of ecology and wildlife twist and turn in a kaleidoscope of directions. The occasional remote-fishing village charms the shores and palm fringe beaches. There is plenty to explore.

Barillas Marina is a full service facility with 80 heavy moorings capable of holding vessels up to 60 meters (200 feet). The cost is US$8. per day per vessel regardless of LOA. Check in procedure is clean and simple. The Port Captain and Immigration office are under one modern roof at the marina. Friendly officials check you in and out hassle free. If this is your first port of call in El Salvador, the cost for checking in is US$10. per person for a 90 day visa. If you have checked into a previous port in El Salvador, no additional charge is added. Security in the bay is second to none. There is a first class floating dinghy dock situated near the club house and swimming pool.

Bahia Jiquilisco is away from population areas and is far from the hurricane zone. Though a hurricane has never hit the West Coast of El Salvador, should such a phenomena ever occur, the 12 miles of winding estuary that separate the marina from the sea would make Barillas the perfect hurricane hide-out. It is a place where one could leave a boat for an extended period of time and travel overland or return home to North America or Europe.

Security guards check unattended boats and their mooring lines by day and by night. In the event of an emergency they will contact you.

Internet access at BMYC is available either by using your own computer or the Internet cafe on the premises. Price varies according to your service provider. Internet connection and 110volt power are also available under each palapa by the swimming pool.

The fuel dock dispenses clean US refined Texaco fuel, (gas and diesel). An unlimited amount of pure fresh drinking water is supplied from a deep artesian well. A fresh water hose and wash down service is permitted at the fuel dock for those wishing to rinse any salt from the decks of their vessel.

The marina provides transportation service to the town of Usulutan, every Tuesday and Friday. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes. The service is free. A reasonable rate is offered on other days depending on number of passengers and time needed for the vehicle rental and driver. Check with the office for more information. Banking and provisioning can be done in Usulutan.

Barillas Marina owner’s Juan Wright along with his wife and friendly staff all speak perfect English. Haul out arrangements can also be made with the shipyard next door. Duty free parts and shipping is available. Barillas Marina’s operations manager Heriberto Pineda can help you with any additional questions.

For those wishing to arrive by light-aircraft, there is a designated landing strip at 13° 15.54.94821 N 088° 29.56.87491 W. Elevation: 4.682 mts.

For more information on Barillas Marina Club and cruising Bahia de Jiquilisco write to : Barillas Marina Club, 79 Av. Norte y 9a. Calle Pte. # 4050. Colonia Escalon, San Salvador, El Salvador, Centro America. Tel: (503) 632-1802, Fax: (503) 632-1819, Cellular: (503) 871-1738. Web site:

E-mail: [email protected]

Eric Blackburn, S/V Chickadee

the above are excerpts from “Cruising Central America”