Eating pupusas, drinking good, cheap coffee, hiking up volcanoes and swimming under beautiful waterfalls. Seeing monster surf thrashing a little surf town. El Salvador travel guide, summarizing food accommodation and transport in this awesome country.
EL SALVADOR BUDGET
All inclusive $20.50 per day (accommodation, food, transport, activities). We were surprised that we spent so much here, one of our highest budgets in Latin America. Accommodation was not cheap.
The people in El Salvador were very friendly, helpful and honest. Transport is cheap, I loved the jungles and natural beauty and off course pupusas were cheap and plentiful. Walking around the friendly, safe, small towns was great.
Littering, many people threw rubbish out of bus windows! Cities are dirty and polluted.
I immediately liked El Salvador, a small country thus travelling anywhere was quick and cheap. We could still travel by ‘chicken bus’. Now not so flamboyantly painted, without music and with a little bit more space than in Guatemala. I was expecting more of the same, massive jungles and was really looking forward to surfing; since the waves in El Salvador are legendary.
Ruta de Las Flores
The Ruta de Las Flores is a winding route of about 40km through brightly coloured colonial towns and many coffee plantations. Wildflowers growing along the road are responsible for the name. The flowers are in bloom between November and February. The Ruta officially begins in Sonsonate, which is easily reachable from La Libertad, the main beach town and transportation hub for El Salvador’s beach area. The route then winds through the towns Apaneca and Ataco ending in Ahuachapan. From Juyayua we explored the route by chicken bus, take bus 249 and 53.
This town is a great base to explore the ruta de las flores from. We started our travels through El Salvador from here. It’s home to some amazing waterfalls on the flower route!
We stayed in an amazing hostel with a beautiful garden; the town is really small, nice and easy to walk around in with many eateries serving very cheap food. The national dish, papusas, became our favorite! The highlight of Juayua were the amazing waterfalls, Los Chorros De Callera. Located about 40 minutes’ walk from the hostel. We ended up walking here almost every day.
Juaya waterfalls, Los Chorros De Callera. El Salvador travel guide
An unreal volcano outside a unlovely city: The three volcanoes in Parque National Los Volcanes looked like a must see and we thought logistics and costs would be simpler and less staying in Santa Ana, than in the area surrounding the volcano, in retro spec this was a mistake. The volcano is the highest peak in El Salvador and was an easy hike yielding spectacular views of the moonlike landscape around the crater, the bubbling turquoise crater lake, the nearby lake Coetepeque and the neighbour Izalgo volcano.
We did the hike with two compulsory police escorts, apparently muggings used to be common in this area, the same risk as hiking at home in South Africa. The three hour round trip by bus cost $2, the guides and police escort $4 and the park entry $1. We decided Santa Ana was our last big city in Central America, all the small towns were beautiful, but big cities were dirty, did not have many interesting sights and the bus station was often in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in Casa Verde an amazing hostel where we spent most of our time in the city. I would recommend rather staying in one of the budget places close to the volcano and walk around in this beautiful area than in the bland, polluted city, spending all time in the hostel and doing daytrips.
PLAYA EL ZONTE
Destroyed surf zone: Yearning to swop jungles, volcanoes and colonial towns for hammocks, palm trees, white sandy beaches and surfing on nice forgiving waves we headed for the well-known surf coast of La Costa del Balsamo. Unfortunately for us the biggest swell in twenty years was also heading this way. We went to Playa El Zonte, according to blogs and reviews a nice secluded rural village with long forgiving waves that are never too crowded. We arrived the day after the big swell came through, the nice sandy beaches we saw in pictures were no more, the beach was covered in big boulders, the big swell passed but conditions were still not great and the next day the second monster swell arrived.
Playa El Zonte
The power of the ocean is just unreal, thousands of massive rocks washed out and covered the beach, many of the hotels, restaurants and shops took quite a beating with walls being demolished. Playa El Zonte looks like a nice, tiny town, the surf break is so close to where we stayed you can roll out of your bed and start paddling, the hostel was nice, I felt sorry for the people that suffered losses by the big surf, but unfortunately for us we did not want to wait a couple of days for the waves to get back to normal and there was no beach left to run on or swim at so we decided to slowly start making our way towards Honduras to do some diving!
We did two more fairly insignificant stops, we spent 2 days in small colonial town SUCHITOTO where we walked around the town and the surroundings and ate many papusas in the central square. Our last night in El Salvador was spent in the town of LA PALMA, Lonely Planet managed to make this little town sound much more interesting than what we found, we walked up the highest peak in El Salvador from here, the walk was up a road all the way to the top, where you can find a sign indicating the border with Honduras.
It was all about pupusas, this traditional Salvadorian dish is a handmade corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and refried beans and sometimes other fillings. These delicacies go for about 40c each and you need 2 or 3 for a meal, they are served in pupusarias usually only open in the mornings and evenings. Streetfood with rice, chicken and vegetables with a coke usually goes for about $2 during lunch. Since this is coffee country, coffee is very cheap, I bought 200g of good ground coffee for $1.5.
Travelling by chicken bus, these old US school buses is the best way of transport similar to Guatemala it costs a dollar per hour or less. The chicken buses in El Salvador where not as extravagantly painted as in Guatemala, many still sporting their original yellow colour with less entertaining touters, singers and preachers than in neighbouring countries.
Juyua – Casa Maseta, $10 per person in either dormitory or private. This is an awesome hostel with beautiful garden, great kitchen, nice tv room with many movies and nice places to walk to.
Santa Ana-Casa Verde, one of the best hostels that I have ever stayed in, amazing kitchen kitted with hard ware, spices and a unlimited supply of free coffee beans, swimming pool with volley ball net and basketball hoop, great movie room, not much to do in the city.
El Zonte-Esencia Nativa, $10 dormitory, nice hostel on the beach, no kitchen.
Suchitot-El Grinco, $7 dorm bed $9 private room very basic kitchen, not bad.
La Palma-some hotel, $10
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