El Salvador is the smallest Central American country, home to world-class surfing and dark-sand beaches, sublime national parks, buildings splashed with murals and coffee plantations resting in the proximity of volcanoes. Among the reasons why it makes such an excellent travel destination is that you can explore freely, because this country isn’t as hyped as its neighbor, Guatemala, for instance. However, you should hurry up! It’s off the beaten path now, but things might change with the latest news and positive media exposure that it has gained owing to the recent events.
El Salvador was named one of the “Best in Travel in 2023” by Lonely Planet, meaning that more tourists might soon clog the beaches. Besides gaining exposure as the first country in the world to recognize Bitcoin as a legal tender in 2021, El Salvador is again in the news, as it approved a law regulating the issuance of digital assets by both private entities and the state. The efforts to attract national and foreign investors are apparent and might be effective. Here, investors checking the BTC coin price can now focus on the El Salvador travel industry and put their funds to other uses.
You may wonder how a place linked to violence, crime, and robbery can make it so far in the travel rankings of a widely-known travel guide. Well, significant strides in tourism have been made, including stopping crime, improving roads, and investing in flight routes and new hotels, making publishers give this place another look. Travelers stay in safe areas, and if you practice common sense and follow safety recommendations, you can have a pleasant trip.
Enough with beating around the bush; let’s see what this tiny tropical country offers travelers.
Beach experiences for every taste
El Salvador’s size is about 8,000 sq miles. As small as it may be, the attractions are concentrated, meaning you won’t have to walk too much to see them. And if you’re heading here for the beaches, the best ones are multiple and varied, spreading over 300 km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Most of them are in underdeveloped regions of the country. This aspect appeals to many visitors who look for simple, authentic, and convenient experiences instead of over-the-top, fancy stays.
If you’re into the latter type of travel, Costa del Sol has some of the best beaches, a wide array of excellent hotels and restaurants, and is the most developed coastal area for tourism in El Salvador. Luxury travelers head here, attracted by the beach homes, oceanfront villas, and activities provided.
El Cuco Beach would be just as famous, if it had better infrastructure and a more central location. It has pretty much everything a first-class beach should have: seafood restaurants, vendor huts, a relaxing atmosphere, smooth waves, and soft sandy shore.
El Tunco Beach, an important part of the Salvadoran Surf City project, is a surfer paradise famous for its wild weekend parties. It is a go-to if you’re traveling on a budget or backpacking, but not if you want a relaxing vacation.
Los Cobanos Beach is one of the best diving spots in Central America, perfect if you want to observe rich marine life. It is popular for scuba diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and whale watching, and has a 93 miles long coral reef, the longest one on the Pacific Coast in Central America.
Coffee plantations, Maya-ruins, and rich biodiversity
Coffee has always been an essential part of the Salvadorian economy and locals can show you how your morning cup is harvested and processed and allow you to stay on the plantation while touring the country. If you’re a coffee lover, take some of the country’s best exports home with you.
Plus, this rich-in-history small country abounds in UNESCO-listed Maya ruins, and because it’s small, you can see most of them during your stay.
If you like observing the biodiversity surrounding you, the Montecristo Cloud Forest, with its diverse flora and fauna, will recharge your batteries. It is thought to be home to 7% of the world’s species.
El Salvador foods blend indigenous foods from native groups with Spanish cuisine. Gourmands with adventurous palates might be enticed to visit this country only for the delectable local dishes and the vast variety of seafood.
You can serve tasty dishes all over the country, although the recipes can differ from one region to another. Some dishes, like quesadillas, empanadas, tamales, and pupusas are known worldwide, so if you’ve ever tried anything, you know what to expect.
What you should know before traveling to El Salvador
The prices are higher during the peak periods: the New Year, the first weeks of August, and the Holy Week. If you visit during these times, expect to pay more for hotels and deal with bigger crowds in parks and museums. Since there’s no shortage of Tiffany blue water and fine sand, you’ll enjoy a relaxing time at the beach during these periods, too.
If you plan to visit the country, consider the two seasons. During the rainy season, from May through October, you must pack quick-drying extra layers and be careful because only some roads are paved in El Salvador. Heavy rain can cause flooding, leading to longer drive times and even road closures. For a mud-free hiking and untroubled surfing session, head from November until April, in the dry season.
Last but not least, it’s important to be empathetic to the country’s recent history. The period between 1980 and 1992 was marked by a bloody civil war, whose impact is still felt today. Likely, many locals you’ll encounter, like your bartender or tour guide, lived through it. Be respectful, and don’t ask too many questions regarding this period if you see they are unwilling to share their experiences.
Less touristy than its neighbors, El Salvador has an impressive natural landscape, excellent beaches, and countless volcanoes. If simplicity and authenticity are what you’re looking for in a trip, this country won’t disappoint you.
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