Exploring El Salvador

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.” – Anthony Bourdain

I decided to take an impromptu trip to El Salvador this summer. I had many reasons why I wanted to go but the most obvious reasons: I wanted to get to know my country on a deeper level and I also wanted to capture it’s beauty to change the narrative. I have been traveling to El Salvador since I was born and I know that it has a lot to offer, things that aren’t talked about in the media. So I wanted to shed light on this beautiful country that I call home in hopes of showcasing the beauty and culture that has marked me in many ways. (That will be a whole other post)

Many times when I tell someone I am going to El Salvador I get remarks such as, “Ew, why are you going there? There’s nothing to see or do” or “Good Luck hope you make it back alive.” As a seasoned traveler I would like to point out that there is danger everywhere. It is all about traveling smart and avoiding certain areas and being out at certain times, that goes for traveling in general.

Because my trip was filled with adventures from sunrise to sunset I will break it down by days. I was able to visit a total of 10 Departments – those are equivalent to states. There are 14 total so next go around I plan on visiting them all.

Day one

Arrived at the Airport San Óscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (Previously known as Comalapa International Airport located in La Paz) around 12am, made my way to Usulutan where I would be staying for a night. Slept for a bit and then visited my fathers grave in Uluazapa just in time for father’s day. After visiting my dad’s grave I stopped by Pollo Campero- it’s a must.

Day two

Woke up super early to get a head start and get ready for a long ride. I was going to start my travels on the western part of el Salvador and work my way to the East. I was headed to Santa Ana where I wanted to see El Lago de Coatepeque, Volcan Ilamatepeque and Cerro Verde at night. Per usual things never really go as planned but that’s the fun part. Santa Ana was a 3.5 hour drive from Usulutan. We made a pit stop in San Salvador and checked out Los Chorros, entry plus parking for Salvadoran citizens was a total of $4USD ($2 per person and and $1 Parking).  Los Chorros is a combination of nature and fun, the water that fills the pools come from various births of water that seep from the Volcano in San Salvador.

Los Chorros Turicentro – CA-1, San Salvador

Another pit stop in Izalco because look at that view.

Three and a half hours later and we were ready for lunch , I wanted to have lunch on the water but I was also starving so I decided on El Tekunal, let me tell you… BEST DECISION EVER.

The pork ribs and the shrimp were delicious. Super affordable and not to mention we had an amazing view. They also had a variety of drinks from cocktails, Natural juices, sodas, and coffee. Did I mention the mojito was super good and only $4USD? Oh lets not forget about the dessert. A freshly made cheesecake with a maracuya (passion fruit) topping.

Also funny story, the main reason I wanted to go to Lago de Coatepeque was because I wanted to see the turquoise water. It turned turquoise the day after I left Santa Ana. Just my luck.

Restaurante Tekunal – SAN01S, El Salvador

After lunch we headed over to Cerro Verde because we wanted to drop off the luggage and see if I could hike to see Ilamatepeque’s crater, I didn’t make it because groups leave at 11am and it’s a 4 hour hike round-trip. I did however get to watch the sunset at Cerro verde and it was breathtaking. I stayed in a little bungalow in cabañas Campo Bello super affordable $60USD a night. (If you want to save $25 on Booking.com you can use my code 4655F388)

Cabañas Campo Bello – Cerro Verde, Santa Ana

Here are some tips if you decide to book your stay there. Learn from my mistakes! If you would like your trip to run smoothly I’d suggest the following:

  • Pack food. It is very much like a campsite. There is not a kitchen or any appliances. They do have a little grill outside that you can make use of. There are no restaurants or food nearby.
  • Take Towels and Blankets. The site does not offer towels or blankets and it does get chilly and night. The hot water does not always work, so you may be cold after a shower.
  • Buy wood for a campfire. Upon arrival, I realized I could have made a campfire but there wasn’t any wood for sale and the road to get there is pretty rough.
  • If you want to go hiking- you should be there before 11am because that is the only time the group leaves. It is a 3hour hike roundtrip.
  • If you are planning a trip here just be advised that it is like you are camping, the only difference is that you don’t sleep in a tent, you sleep in an igloo.

Day 3

By 6am we were on the road again. Next Stop Ahuachapan. I was headed to Apaneca to check out the maze. But first coffee. After I had my cup of coffee I decided I wanted to try and navigate the maze. I met some cool people from California and some of their friends (Shout out Orfa, Uriel, Oscarito and ili) . We managed to find the exit together after a million dead ends.

Laberinto Albania- Ruta de las Flores (Apaneca), Ahuachapan

On the way to my next destination I took many detours. I stopped by Molina’s farm. It was just one dollar to get in and they had GOATS. If you know me, you know I LOVE goats.

Also drove by this chic café/ store and felt the need to check it out. The cafe was called Axul like Azul (blue) replacing the “z” just made it sound cool and to be honest I totally fell for it.

Back on the road and headed to Sonsonate, I wanted to check out a place by the name los Cobanos. The water there looked super blue and they had normal color sand (El Salvador’s Beaches have black sand).   I wasn’t impressed but I can say I’ve been.

After los Cobanos I headed to my final destination for day 3. I was headed to Palo Verde in El Zonte, La Libertad. This is an ecofriendly hotel average cost is about $120 USD. The facilities, food, and staff were amazing not to mention the views were also great.

Day 5

Stayed the night in Suchitoto in a place called El Tejado, I booked last minute so I paid $85USD. Had a delicious dinner at Lupita del Portal. You’ll have to try a strawberry mint lemonade I promise it tastes SO GOOD.

El Tejado was a cozy spot, had a nice view to La Laguna de Suchitoto. It also had cute little parrots and a pool, which I enjoyed and had basically to myself. The city itself is super colonial. The roads are made from rocks and the houses look ancient but believe me when I tell you IT IS BEAUTIFUL. Also the food there was AMAZING.

El Tejado- Suchitoto

I visited Casa 1800 because I wanted a cute picture on the famous chair but it was broken.

Then I Checked out Alejandro Cotto’s House/ Museum and learned a lot. One cool thing I learned: King Juan Carlos I of Spain visited Cotto’s house and gave him a medal in recognition for all of the work in the arts and activism Cotto did for El Salvador.

I also ventured in and bought souvenirs at Casa de la Abuela. Aside from being a coffee shop and souvenir store Casa De La Abuela is also a petite hotel. When I was done shopping for souvenirs I took advantage of the location and took pictures in front of the cathedral. Suchitoto is such a cute city! There is a chance for cute pictures in every corner.

After I was done being a tourist in Suchitoto I headed to San Salvador to visit family and have dinner. We found a cute restaurant called Pueblo Viejo. I do recommend. Unfortunately, I was too hungry and forgot to snap some pictures. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Day 6

I was finally back home at grandma’s house so I decided to sleep in. It was going to be a very chill day after all. I headed to the airport because one of my besties was coming to join me on my adventure. I was an hour late (sorry Ruthie).

Hacienda La Carrera- Usulutan

Once we were united we drove off and of course I had to get her her first coconut. While waiting for our coco’s on the side of the road it hit us that we were starving. Initially were set to go to La Libertad’s center but due to traffic on La Litoral (one of the main roads) we took a detour and had food at this random restaurant near the beach Las Flores.

Somewhere in La Libertad

After a delicious lunch we were on our way to our Airbnb in Cuscatlan to rest for a little and drop off our bags. The Airbnb was a dream, if I could move there I would and I’m not even a city girl.

Once it started to get dark we decided it was time to head to Los Planes de renderos. There you can see the city lights and it’s just so pretty. They also have bomb pupusas and hot chocolate.

Los Planes De Renderos- San Salvador

Day 7

It was once again time to head to Grandma’s in Usulután but not before breakfast. We made a pit stop at a gas station that had an interesting little restaurant called “la campanita” we tried their tortilla soup and bread pudding. Let me say this I’ve never had so many delicious desserts- I was so amazed by the taste and price.

Once we arrived in Usulutan we headed to Alegría. First we checked out the lagoon. The lagoon formed in the crater of volcano Tecapa. You could definitely smell the sulfur. The volcano has erupted before long ago in prehistoric times. Now the lagoon is known as America’s Emerald.

Laguna de Alegria- Alegria, Usulutan

The rain forced us to move on to our next adventure- The town of Alegría. There we explored a nursery by the name Cartagena. In Cartagena they have a cafe, restaurant, and different types of birds. The view there is surreal.

Cartagena – Alegria, Usulutan

Aside from the nursery it also had a cute little plaza and a lookout called Mirador de las 100 Gradas. We started to make our way down until we realized the way up was going to suck, so we opted out to eat mangos instead.

Mirador de las 100 Gradas- Alegria, Usulutan

Day 8

Vamos a la playa a mi me gusta bailar! Ruth (my bestie) had asked for one thing- a trip to the beach. So I took her to playa El Cuco. Since we weren’t sure about our plans and if we wanted to stay the night we sort of winged it. We ended up staying the night at Vista las Olas and had the time of our lives.

Vista Las Olas- Play El Cuco, San Miguel

Day 9

Started our day in a small town called Chirilagua, I wanted to show Ruth the Markets as well as buy some tropical fruits.

Day 9 was very special for me. I took a trip to La Estrechura located in Chirilagua, San Miguel. That’s the cantón where my father grew up. In 2017-2018 I made a promise as Miss Sister City and committed myself to a cause- The construction of new bathrooms for the school in the village in hopes of reducing the gender inequality in education. On this day I was able to see all of the hard-work and dedication he HTA I’m a part of and the community put forth to make my vision come to life.

Centro Escolar La Estrechura- La Estrechura, Chirilagua, San Miguel

I also showed Ruth the community center in the canton that was built and named after my father.

Let’s take a minute to appreciate this place.

Day 10

Another special day. Thanks to the help of some friends I was able to give back to my mom’s hometown in Hacienda La Carrera. We took clothes, school supplies, games, and shoes for the students. The look on their faces is everything you need to realize that doing things like this is what makes it all worth it. Shout out to: Leslie (My sister), Jocelyn, Javi, Conquer Thrift and AdoboDMV for making this possible.

Centro Escolar Jose Roberto Wright- Hacienda La Carrera, Usulutan

Once we left the school it was time to send the post cards I had bought, buy things I wanted to bring back and pack my bags.

Correos- Usulutan

I hope this itinerary is helpful if you’re planing to travel to El Salvador.

If you have any questions or suggestions on what else you’d like to know please write a comment.