The nearest island, Isla Zacatillo, has the largest community, and numerous coves with sandy beaches can be explored here. The principal village has a few stores and lodgings in a wooden shack over the bay.
For solitary beaches, head for Isla Martín Pérez, just south of Zacatillo. More mountainous Isla Conchagüita offers hiking opportunities. Fishing boats are neatly lined up under enramadas (arbors or protective awnings, typically made of wood or branches) along the beachfront of the main village. There are prehistoric rock carvings on the way out to Playa Brava, a black-sand beach an hour’s walk from the village.
The pick of the islands is the furthest from the mainland. Isla Meanguera was long the subject of territorial disputes with Honduras and Nicaragua, until an international court declared it part of El Salvador in 1992. In addition to a small village, the island has Playa Majahual, a spectacular black-sand beach with warm, calm waters perfect for swimming. It’s a 45-minute walk from the ferry landing. La Tortuga Verde in El Cuco offers recommended day trips to Isla Meanguera (per person US$35 to US$75 depending on group size).