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Sailing El Salvador: Captivating landscapes make this a must-see cruising destination

Yachting World

  • October 28, 2020

Suzy Carmody stumbled upon a sociable cruising community as she explored El Salvador with its colonial cities, Mayan ruins, volcanic craters and black sand beaches

sailing-el-salvador-Bahia-del-Sol-distant-drummer-credit-Suzy-Carmody

Distant Drummer anchored in Bahia del Sol. All photos Suzy Carmody unless otherwise stated

We dropped anchor in the middle of the night and waited until daybreak for our rendezvous. We were at the agreed point to meet our pilot who would safely see us into Bahia Jaltepeque, El Salvador.

The long sand spit that protects the lagoon at Bahia Jaltepeque also creates a zone of dangerous shoals and breakers at the entrance, and it is strongly advised not to try and cross the bar without a local guide. The surf breaks continuously across the sandbar and the safest time to cross is at high tide.

Before leaving Huatulco in Mexico we had emailed Bill Yeargan, who lives in the bay and helps coordinate between visiting cruisers and the local pilot. Arrangements were made, and early that morning the pilot arrived in their highly mobile panga, to guide us through the channel while Bill’s reassuring voice on the radio directed our course.

sailing-el-salvador-distant-drummer-surfing-credit-Suzy-Carmody

Distant Drummer surfing the bar into Bahia Jaltepeque

We stuck to the pilot boat like glue as it disappeared below the swell and rose up on the next wave. Surf was crashing in front of us, and we were surrounded by white froth. Distant Drummer , our Liberty 458 cutter-rigged sloop, topped 14 knots as we surfed down the front of a roller. It felt like a sleigh ride: fast and exhilarating but nerve-wracking as we concentrated on the helm.

When we had originally planned our cruising season in Central America we were in two minds about visiting El Salvador. El Salvador’s Pacific shoreline is famous for its surf breaks, and the two most popular cruising destinations in the country are estuaries protected by sand bars. The thought of crossing shoals and breakers was a little off-putting.

However, as we waited in Mexico for a weather window to cross the Tehuantepec Gulf we met several north-bound cruisers who waxed lyrically about the wonderful time they’d spent in El Salvador.

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Assured that the sandbars were not a problem as long as you used the services of a local pilot, we let serendipity (and the pilot) guide us and enjoyed three fantastic weeks anchored in Bahia Jaltepeque.

There was no shortage of interesting destinations to visit; colonial cities and Mayan ruins, volcanic craters and black sand beaches, coffee plantations and local markets. At Bahia del Sol we crossed paths with the Cruisers Rally to El Salvador and enjoyed exploring the mangroves, surfing at the river mouth and hanging out by the pool with new friends. With its dramatic landscapes El Salvador is a captivating place to visit and well worth a stop-off on your cruising itinerary.

Dodging the T’peckers

The Tehuantepec Gulf between Mexico and Central America is famous for its violent, squally Tehuantepec winds, or T’peckers as they’re affectionately known. Strong northerly winds, associated with high pressure systems in the Gulf of Mexico, funnel through low points in the isthmus and shoot across Tehuantepec like a jet flame.

sailing-el-salvador-pacific-surfing-beach-credit-Getty-Images-Melissa-Rivas-EyeEm

Laid back Pacific surf spots. Photo: Melissa Rivas / EyeEm / Getty

These gales blow for three or four days at a time, often reaching storm force conditions, and kick up a short, steep and generally nasty swell. However, T’peckers can be reliably forecast so planning a crossing of the Gulfo de Tehuantepec is quite straightforward.

Huatulco is a popular place to wait for a weather window. This area of southern Mexico was developed for tourism in the 1980s. The craggy coastline is indented with small, pretty inlets whose golden sandy beaches are fringed with palm-fronded palapa restaurants and ringed with luxury resorts.

However, gunkholing along the coast is not for the faint-hearted; many of the bays have narrow entrances that are strewn with rocks and navigating in and out can be slightly nerve-wracking, and definitely best not attempted in a serious swell.

sailing-el-salvador-Santa-Ana-credit-Suzy-Carmody

The Municipal Palace at Santa Ana

Once inside the holding is good but the most sheltered spots are often filled with pangas (local fishing boats) leaving visiting cruisers to roll in the swell. The weekends are often hectic with tourists but we enjoyed a few quiet weekdays rocking on the pick before going into the marina in the town of Le Crucecita to complete our checking out formalities.

It was a four-day passage from Huatulco to Bahia Jaltepeque. The first two days were spent crossing the Tehuantepec Gulf before the next T’pecker blew through. As we departed Huatulco a 20-knot breeze was blowing from the south-west, this is quite common during the periods between the T’peckers and allowed us to fly across the dark blue water on a starboard reach.

We lazed in the cockpit under an azure sky and baking sun to revel in the pleasure of life at sea. But, nothing lasts forever. During the night the wind dropped to turn off this welcome turbo-boost and the following day we motorsailed until the wind veered to the north-east ahead of the T’pecker. We were then able to raise the asymmetric spinnaker as we crossed the border into Guatamalan waters.

sailing-el-salvador-map-400px-square

So we decided to give Quetzal a miss and passed it by on our third night of the passage, as a series of powerful squalls kept us on our toes. Fork and sheet lightning flashed across the sky as we used the radar to help us navigate a path between the storms.

Surfing the bar

We entered El Salvador at Bahia Jaltepeque. Also known as Estero Jaltepeque, it is the meeting point for many small tributaries into the Rio Lempa basin, creating a large lagoon. Having safely surfed into the lagoon we turned west and tied up behind the sand spit at the Bahia del Sol Hotel marina.

We received a hearty welcome and a delicious rum punch from Bill and his wife Jean who also assisted us with check-in. There are no customs requirements for yachts entering El Salvador and the immigration office is in the hotel grounds so formalities were soon taken care of. We chose to anchor out and found a nice sandy spot opposite the marina.

El Salvador is well off the beaten track so we were a little surprised to find quite a gathering of cruising boats in the marina. We soon discovered that we’d gate-crashed the Cruisers Rally to El Salvador. This was a destination rally organised by Bill and Jean. There were yachts that had arrived southbound from Mexico and northbound from Costa Rica and Panama , as well as several cruisers who left their boats at Bahia del Sol during the hurricane season .

sailing-el-salvador-Izalco-credit-Suzy-Carmody

Izalco town in the shadow of the Izalco volcano

Although we’d arrived independently, we were made very welcome and included in the fun and games, dinghy raft-ups and happy hours which Bill and Jean’s sailing community enjoy. Today, they organise the ‘Cruisers Vacation in El Salvador’ for independent cruisers and boats arriving with rallies such as the Panama Posse.

The estuary at Bahia Jaltepeque stretches west from the entrance for more than 10km before the waterway peters out into tendrils among the mangrove islands. The nearest grocery store is in the town of San Luis la Herradura, a 20-minute dinghy ride away.

An early morning provisioning trip gliding through the mirror-smooth lagoon, listening to bird song and the wake sloshing quietly against the mangrove roots, was a memorably serene shopping experience. Dogs playing on the sand banks at low tide were a good indication that crocodiles were not active in the lagoon, and on further enquiry we discovered that crocs were not a problem: they’d all been eaten during the civil war of the 1980s and ’90s.

sailing-el-salvador-tuktuk-credit-Suzy-Carmody

Getting about by tuktuk

Volcanoes and Mayans

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America; it takes just five hours to drive the 300km along the Pan American highway from the western border with Guatemala to the eastern border with Honduras. Although most destinations are possible as a day trip from Bahia del Sol, we decided to hire a car and discover the country at a more leisurely pace.

A chain of more than 20 volcanoes forms the backbone of El Salvador with some of the highest peaks in the western part of the country. Where the flanks of these mountains plunge directly into the Pacific Ocean the coastline is deeply incised with rocky headlands and black pebbly inlets. A steady Pacific swell lures surfers to the numerous shore and point breaks along the coast.

We followed the road west from La Libertad, hugging the contours of the shoreline as it curves around the bluffs before stopping for the night in el Tunco, a surfers’ hangout, and enjoyed a rum punch or two watching the last of the action on the waves as the sun went down.

sailing-el-salvador-el-Tunco-dusk-credit-Suzy-Carmody

Dusk at the beach, el Tunco

The next day we turned inland and climbed up into the interior highlands. Dense arid bush covers the lower slopes but higher up the patchwork fields of coffee plantations decorate the landscape. The villages are poor; adobe huts line the road with small shops selling handcrafts, phone cards and pilsner beer, as skinny Brahmin cows wander along the verge.

The larger towns are a bustle of dirty streets clustered around a market, usually under the imposing white façade of a church built long ago by the Spanish invaders. We crossed a chain of volcanic peaks that includes Volcan Izalco, a volcano so active in the last 200 years that sailors nicknamed it ‘The lighthouse of the Pacific’.

Into the volcano

Mayan people lived in the volcanic area from 1,200BC and ruins have been discovered there. We visited Tazumal, an archaeological site that has been extensively unearthed and restored. The centrepiece is a 23m-high step pyramid, amidst a complex of platforms and buildings: a flight of steep stairs runs up to the pillared first terrace and a second longer flight leads up to an altar, which looks very much like a butcher’s slab. The site is certainly evocative of blood crazed priests and cruel, malevolent gods.

sailing-el-salvador-Tazumal-credit-Suzy-Carmody

The Mayan temple at Tazumal

Our last stop before reaching San Salvador was a short hike up the Volcan de Salvador. The road to the top was not very easy to find but after a few dead ends and enquiries of bemused locals we were able to drive almost to the rim of the crater. Then a short walk took us to a viewing platform from where it was possible to look down into the crater itself and see the ash cone.

The capital city of San Salvador is a shopping mecca for commodity-starved cruisers. It has several Western-style malls and many well known American stores and food outlets. The centre of the city is not as attractive as Santa Ana; fire and earthquakes have destroyed many of the historical buildings and tussling with the traffic can be quite challenging. So we decided instead to wander around the cool, quiet galleries of the Museo de Arte to understand El Salvador’s turbulent recent history.

Back in Bahia del Sol we found Distant Drummer was now also home to a pair of mangrove swallows who’d decided to nest under our sail cover. The social activities of the rally were in full swing and failing to show up for sundowners in the hotel pool was almost an offence! Bill and Jean invited us to their house for drinks followed by pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, which is like a cross between a taco and a waffle stuffed with a meat or cheese filling; a bit stodgy but very moreish!

sailing-el-salvador-pupusas-credit-Suzy-Carmody

Pupusas street food

One morning we set off with two other dinghies to surf the river mouth. The mighty Rio Lempa is the country’s longest river and the lifeblood to more than three quarters of El Salvador’s population in providing water and electricity. Our directions through the mangroves were somewhat vague, but we only ran aground once before we made it through.

The surf breaking on the bar was wild and boisterous but the waves inside were smaller and offered some enjoyable surfing. The only negative we noted was the amount of plastic bottles and flip flops that decorated the beach: littering sadly seems to be a national problem.

For a cruising destination El Salvador has much to offer. As it lies below the hurricane belt, the country can provide safe haven all year around. With the help of the pilot, crossing the bar was unconcerning, and once inside the lagoon provides a calm anchorage with good holding even in the strong tidal currents.

Alternatively marinas and moorings are available in both Bahia Jaltepeque and Bahia Jiquiliasco. The country has a wealth of history and natural attractions, great rum and kind-hearted people. We are so glad we changed our plans to visit the smallest country in the Americas.

About the author

Suzy and Neil Carmody have spent 14 years living aboard Distant Drummer , cruising south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand. They sailed down the west coast USA and Central America and are now in the Caribbean. You can read their blog at: carmody-clan.com

First published in the October 2020 issue of Yachting World.

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Embark on an Authentic Escape to El Salvador Itinerary

Explore the captivating landscapes and cultural treasures of El Salvador, where Pacific beaches like Playa San Blas and surf havens like El Sunzal beckon with their pristine beauty. From ancient Mayan ruins to vibrant local markets, El Salvador invites travelers to embark on an authentic journey, discovering the richness of its heritage and the warmth of its people.

Day 1 - La Libertad to Playa San Blas

Depart from La Libertad and set sail towards Playa San Blas. Enjoy a leisurely morning on board, taking in the coastal scenery. Arrive at Playa San Blas and anchor in the tranquil waters. Spend the afternoon indulging in water activities such as paddleboarding or kayaking. Explore the pristine beach and surroundings. As the sun sets, enjoy a delectable dinner on board, surrounded by the serene ambiance of Playa San Blas.

Day 2 - Playa San Blas to El Sunzal

Cruise to El Sunzal, a renowned surf spot. Start the day with a delicious breakfast on deck. Spend the afternoon surfing the waves of El Sunzal or exploring the coastal landscapes. Dock at the marina and venture ashore to experience the local culture.  Dine at a beachfront restaurant, savoring fresh seafood and enjoying the laid-back atmosphere of El Sunzal.

Day 3 - El Sunzal to Mizata

Arrive to Mizata, enjoy a peaceful morning on board, soaking in the sun. Engage in surfing or relax on the pristine beaches of Mizata. Anchor in a sheltered cove, offering privacy and tranquility. Experience a beachside dinner under the stars, catered by the yacht’s chef, surrounded by the beauty of Mizata.

Day 4 - Mizata to Los Cobanos

Cruise to Los Cobanos, known for vibrant coral reefs. Begin the day with a refreshing swim or snorkeling session.  Explore the underwater wonders through scuba diving or snorkeling. Anchor in Los Cobanos for a serene afternoon. Enjoy a gourmet dinner on deck, recounting the day’s underwater adventures.

Day 5 - Los Cobanos

Embark on your day in Los Cobanos with a leisurely breakfast on board, surrounded by the tranquility of the Pacific Ocean. Anchor in a secluded cove and indulge in water activities such as snorkeling or paddleboarding. Explore the vibrant underwater world, teeming with marine life, or simply unwind on the yacht’s deck, soaking up the sun and coastal breeze. As the evening unfolds, enjoy a magical dinner under the stars.

Featured Luxury Yachts El Salvador

164' | heesen | 2008, 157' | trinity yachts | 2006, 130' | westport | 2011, 224' | t.b.a | 1971, 177' | custom | 1993, 80' | sunreef yachts | 2019, 105' | sunseeker | 2002, 91' | pershing | 2013, 141' | custom | 2014, 92' | viking yachts | 2016, inquire el salvador.

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El Salvador - Facts

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  • El Salvador lies on the west coast of Central America, bordering the Pacific Ocean. It is surrounded by Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It has a diverse landscape of beaches, mountains and jungles.
  • The total population of El Salvador is 6.5 million people with 2.1 million inhabitants living largest city and capital, San Salvador. Spanish is the official language.
  • The currency is the US dollar. For details see General Info .
  • El Salvador uses UTC -6 Central Standard Time. For specifics see General Info .
  • El Salvador has two main seasons: Dry Season (November to April) is arid and warm with little rain. Rainy Season (May to October) is when the risk of tropical storms and hurricanes are higher. See Weather section below for more details.
  • Cruising boats are welcome to stop in El Salvador. There are two ports where recreational boats can visit: Bahia del Sol  and Isla Meanguera in the Gulf of Fonseca.    Acajutla is a commercial port and is not recommended for recreational cruisers and La Union has no infrastructure for visiting yachts.
  • Boats travelling in the Gulf of Fonseca are likely to be intercepted, and possibly boarded, by Navy patrol boats who check for proper zarpes. Be aware that three different countries border the Gulf.
  • Cruising boats are discouraged by the port officials to arrive in Acajulta because it is a shipping port.
  • Both Bahia del Sol and Barillas have convenient access to major supplies if you can spend a few days to travel to nearby large cities where you can find almost everything you need.
  • The abundant sea life attracts local fishermen and long lines that are common along this coast. The lines may be marked with a black flag and a strobe light, but some have only with a few plastic bottles tied to the ends.
  • For more information see Yachting Essentials .

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El Salvador was last updated 12 months ago.

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Boat & Catamaran charter in Salvador   - Yacht Rental

Boat & Catamaran charter in Salvador - Yacht Rental

Salvador yacht rental.

Salvador, with its rich history and mesmerizing coastline, offers a unique blend of cultural richness and nautical pleasures. Yachting.Rent brings the beauty of Salvador’s waters to your fingertips, making your sailing dreams a reality.

Immerse yourself in the allure of Brazil’s northeastern coast as you charter a yacht from Salvador’s bustling ports. Yachting.Rent provides an extensive range of state-of-the-art vessels, curated to meet the varied needs of our esteemed clientele. Whether you’re envisioning a romantic getaway or a large gathering with friends and family, our fleet is diverse enough to cater to any desire.

Each yacht in our collection is meticulously maintained, ensuring safety without compromising on luxury. From the moment you step aboard, you’ll be greeted with world-class amenities designed to make your voyage comfortable and memorable. Spacious cabins, sun-kissed decks, modern navigational equipment, and premium entertainment systems – every detail is crafted to perfection.

Salvador’s coastline, dotted with pristine beaches, hidden coves, and turquoise waters, becomes your playground. Navigate through the All Saints Bay, marvel at historical forts from a unique vantage point, or anchor near a secluded beach to indulge in a tropical paradise. The vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture of Salvador, coupled with the serenity of the Atlantic, offers a sailing experience like no other.

Additionally, our dedicated crew is always ready to serve. From experienced skippers guiding you through the best routes to chefs preparing gourmet meals with local ingredients, every aspect of your journey is taken care of. For those who wish to take the helm themselves, Yachting.Rent offers bareboat charters, giving seasoned sailors the freedom to explore Salvador’s waters on their terms.

Yachting.Rent isn’t just about renting a yacht; it’s about providing an unparalleled Salvador sailing experience. With our commitment to excellence, we ensure that every moment spent on our yachts is a testament to luxury, adventure, and unforgettable memories. Sail Salvador with Yachting.Rent and embark on a journey that transcends the ordinary.

Daniel Goldman

CEO of Yachting.Rent

Boat & Catamaran charter in Salvador

Dufour 430 GL - Sunny Mango_DB

Dufour 430 GL – Sunny Mango_DB

Dufour 500 GL - 5 cab. Rubens_DB

Dufour 500 GL – 5 cab. Rubens_DB

Sun Loft 47 - 6 + 1 cab. - Galdor

Sun Loft 47 – 6 + 1 cab. – Galdor

Sun Odyssey 419 - Vuillard

Sun Odyssey 419 – Vuillard

Bali 4.5 - 4 + 2 cab. - Velasquez

Bali 4.5 – 4 + 2 cab. – Velasquez

Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40 - Salako IIv

Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40 – Salako II

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Why Choose Us

Yacht charter in Salvador

Salvador, a city of historical significance and vibrant culture, serves as a backdrop to some of Brazil’s most stunning coastal scenes. With Yachting.Rent, you can delve deep into the heart of these waters, chartering a yacht that will elevate your Salvadoran experience from memorable to unforgettable.

Yachting.Rent is the premier choice for yacht charters in Salvador. With a steadfast commitment to quality and a passion for delivering unparalleled experiences, our mission is to make the magic of Salvador’s coastline accessible to all. Whether you’re an experienced sailor looking to explore on your own terms, or a novice eager to experience life at sea under the guidance of our seasoned crew, we cater to every nautical need.

Our fleet boasts a diverse range of vessels, each tailored to meet a specific set of desires. From sleek, agile yachts designed for intimacy and speed to larger vessels equipped with luxuries fit for a grand party at sea, the choices are as vast as the horizon. What remains consistent across our fleet is our commitment to maintaining each yacht in impeccable condition, ensuring safety, comfort, and unparalleled luxury.

Navigating the waters of Salvador is more than just a journey; it’s an immersion into a world where history, culture, and natural beauty collide. Anchor near the historical forts that have witnessed centuries of stories. Discover secluded coves and beaches where the rhythms of Afro-Brazilian drums merge seamlessly with the sounds of the waves. With Yachting.Rent, these experiences aren’t just dreams; they’re an itinerary waiting to be explored.

Moreover, our dedicated team ensures your journey is smooth from start to finish. Opt for a skippered charter, and our knowledgeable crew will guide you to the best spots, sharing tales of Salvador’s rich past and vibrant present. For those who wish for an undiluted sailing experience, our bareboat charters offer the freedom you seek.

With Yachting.Rent, a yacht charter in Salvador becomes more than just a rental – it’s an invitation to experience the best of Brazil’s coast, wrapped in luxury and personalized service. Dive into Salvador’s maritime treasures with us, and let the adventures begin!

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About Salvador

Why is Salvador a good sailing destination?

Salvador, the heartbeat of Bahia, is not just known for its rich Afro-Brazilian culture, historic colonial architecture, and pulsating rhythms of samba, but it’s also emerging as a top-notch sailing destination. Yachting.Rent presents compelling reasons why Salvador is a sailor’s dream and an exploration worth undertaking.

The Natural Canvas: Salvador’s coastline is a mesmerizing blend of serene bays, hidden coves, and open seascapes. The turquoise waters of the All Saints’ Bay (Baía de Todos os Santos) is one of the largest bays in the world, offering a plethora of anchoring spots and secluded beaches. As you glide on these waters, you’ll be treated to views of verdant islands, traditional fishing boats, and distant horizons, painting a picture of pure maritime bliss.

Historical Allure: Sailing in Salvador offers more than just natural beauty. As you approach its shores, you’re essentially navigating through pages of Brazilian history. Majestic forts, colonial-era lighthouses, and churches dot the coastline. Dropping anchor near these monuments not only offers scenic beauty but also a deep dive into Brazil’s vibrant past.

Cultural Richness: Salvador is the cradle of Afro-Brazilian culture. The rhythms of samba, reggae, and axé often waft across the waters, inviting sailors to partake in the festivities onshore. A sailing trip can seamlessly transform into a cultural immersion, with local festivals, traditional dance forms, and delectable cuisine beckoning from the land.

Optimal Sailing Conditions: Salvador’s tropical climate ensures a consistent sailing season. The winds are predominantly from the east, providing a steady breeze perfect for sailing. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a beginner, the conditions here are both challenging and forgiving, making it a destination suitable for all.

Accessible Amenities: With Yachting.Rent, you’re not just getting a boat; you’re stepping into an ecosystem designed for sailors. Modern marinas, repair facilities, and top-notch provisioning services ensure that your sailing journey remains hassle-free. Our local expertise ensures that you’re always a stone’s throw away from essential amenities.

Diverse Marine Life: The waters around Salvador are teeming with marine life. From playful dolphins accompanying your vessel to the vibrant coral ecosystems that beckon divers, the underwater world here is as captivating as the sights above.

In conclusion, Salvador, with its blend of culture, history, natural beauty, and optimal sailing conditions, is more than just a destination – it’s an experience. With Yachting.Rent, you’re not just chartering a yacht; you’re opening the gateway to an unforgettable maritime adventure in the heart of Brazil. Join us and discover why Salvador is the sailing treasure waiting to be explored.

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What Choose

Sailing boat or Catamaran, what to sail in Salvador

When it comes to cruising the sparkling waters of Salvador, the choice between a sailing boat and a catamaran is a significant one. With Salvador’s expansive coastlines, tranquil bays, and vibrant culture, ensuring you have the perfect vessel to enhance your experience is paramount. Yachting.Rent offers insights into making the right pick for your maritime adventure in this Brazilian gem.

Sailing Boats: The Classic Choice A traditional sailing boat is reminiscent of the age-old romance of the seas. It offers an intimate connection to the water, the wind, and the waves. When you’re in a sailing boat, every ripple, every gust, and every change in tide is felt, offering an authentic sailing experience. This is perfect for those who love to feel one with the elements. Salvador, with its consistent breezes and calm bays, allows sailors to truly harness the wind, making it a pleasurable experience. The narrow hull of a sailing boat also allows for easy maneuvering in tighter spaces, making it ideal for exploring hidden coves and smaller inlets.

Catamarans: The Modern Marvel Catamarans, with their twin hulls, are the epitome of stability and space. They offer a broader deck area, perfect for lounging, sunbathing, or enjoying a meal with the panoramic views of Salvador’s coast. The inherent stability of a catamaran makes it a top choice for those who may be new to sailing or prefer a smoother ride, especially when the sea gets choppy. Additionally, catamarans draw less water, enabling you to get closer to the beaches or navigate shallow waters without much hassle. For those prioritizing comfort and space without compromising on speed, the catamaran is a natural choice.

Making Your Pick with Yachting.Rent With Yachting.Rent, you’re not just selecting a vessel; you’re choosing an experience. Our experts are on hand to guide you based on your preferences, group size, and sailing itinerary. If it’s intimacy, tradition, and a closer connection to the water you seek, the sailing boat is your vessel. However, if spaciousness, stability, and modern comforts rank higher on your list, then a catamaran will serve you well.

No matter the choice, Salvador’s unique blend of Afro-Brazilian culture, historical landmarks, and azure waters awaits. With Yachting.Rent, ensure that every moment on these waters is spent on the perfect vessel, tailored to elevate your sailing experience. Join us and set sail in Salvador, a journey where the vessel is as significant as the destination.

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El Salvador's Bukele wins supermajority in Congress after painstaking vote count

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele and his New Ideas party have won the supermajority the leader needs in Congress to govern as he pleases

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- El Salvador President Nayib Bukele and his New Ideas party have won the supermajority the leader needs in Congress to govern as he pleases, electoral officials announced Monday.

The announcement comes after a painstaking vote counting process, which has raised the hackles of electoral watchdogs and the country’s weak opposition, who cite irregularities.

Bukele handily won re-election Feb. 4 with 84.7% of the vote. What had remained up in the air was if Bukele’s New Ideas party would be equally as successful in legislative election s. On Monday, officials announced that New Ideas won 54 seats of the 60 congressional seats. Allied parties won an additional three seats.

Despite not having the final results, the leader had already declared victory in the presidency and in the congress the night of the election, saying “El Salvador has broken all the records of all democracies in the entire history of the world.”

“Never has a project won with the number of votes we have won today," Bukele said. “It is literally the highest percentage in all of history.”

Now — with the vote actually certified — the supermajority effectively gives the self-described “world’s coolest dictator” even firmer control of all three branches of government.

The 42-year-old leader is massively popular in El Salvador due to his war on the country’s gangs, which resulted in a sharp drop in violence. But Bukele has also been accused of undemocratic moves, including carrying out an electoral reform that critics say stacked the vote in favor of his New Ideas party, particularly in legislative and local elections.

Last year, the congress passed electoral reforms that reduced the number of seats in the unicameral chamber to 60 from 84, a move expected to favor New Ideas.

Bukele needs congress to continue emergency measures approved month-to-month for his gang crackdown. Previously, the leader clashed with opposition parties in congress blocking his initiatives, even showing up to congress with armed military officers.

“Now, he doesn't need any other party," said Eduardo Escobar, a lawyer with the nongovernmental organization Citizen Action who explained that before the election Bukele would at least have to pull on support from allied parties.

Congressional control will also potentially allow him to alter the constitution – which bans leaders from holding consecutive terms – to stay in power.

While constitutional lawyers argue it’s illegal to make such changes, Bukele already sparked controversy by running for reelection. His party’s majority in congress and a friendly court they stacked allowed him to dodge the constitutional ban.

In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this month, Bukele’s vice president left the possibility of seeking a third term open if the country’s constitution is changed.

New Ideas’ grip on congress could also allow the leader to address the country’s slowing economy and rising poverty rates. It will also permit the party to boot out critical voices from courts, and a number of other government offices.

But electoral observers and critics continue to raise alarm about the process it took to get there.

The vote count has become a subject of scrutiny after a number of irregularities and glitches resulted in the collapse of the system transmitting results. Because of the chaos, El Salvador’s electoral body called for a manual count of the legislative election votes and part of the presidential votes.

Members of the opposition have highlighted alleged irregularities, such as ballots being marked with pen instead of the designated crayon or not being folded. Some of those parties, highly unpopular among Salvadorans, have called for another round of voting.

Electoral observers from the Organization of American States continued to raise alarms about lags and “lack of control” by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal on vote counting which left decisions “in the hands of the representatives of the political parties.”

The New Ideas party “assumed a dominant and intimidating attitude against people representing other parties and against observers,” the OAS said, citing one instance in which party members blocked observers from witnessing vote counts. It also denounced “attacks” against hundreds of journalists.

It stopped short of calling for a new round of voting, as some opposition parties have.

Still, Escobar, the Citizen Action lawyer, said he still hasn't seen evidence of “systematic” or widespread irregularities that could significantly impact Bukele's firm grip on power.

“Have there been irregularities? Yes, surely,” Escobar said. “My question is how much could (the irregularities) have actually impacted the results? ... Sure, that could have had an impact, but not so much that it could totally change the trend” of voters favoring Bukele and his party.

Janetsky contributed from Mexico City.

Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

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  24. El Salvador's Bukele wins supermajority in Congress after painstaking

    El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, left, accompanied by his wife Gabriela Rodriguez, wave to supporters from the balcony of the presidential palace in San Salvador, El Salvador, after polls ...