WHY VISIT El Salvador
Fun fact, I’ve been to El Salvador twice…but never properly
- Once, on a layover during Christmas time, when I was a child. I remember being thrilled to be in another country but knew that because I didn’t leave the airport, I could not include as countries I have visited. (My travel bug started very early, you see.)
- Second, when I road-tripped from Nicaragua to Guatemala during my sabbatical.
El Salvador vacations is skipped by many backpackers, like myself, but I did promise myself that I would return after discovering El Tunco during my sabbatical.
El Tunco is the little slice of beach town heaven where my shuttle from Nicaragua to Guatemala picked up passengers back in 2017. I still remember being in awe as the shuttle drove through the main street. I didn’t even know the name but pinned my location in my phone map application and told myself I would do more research when I had the chance.
After doing research, I learned that El Salvador tourism is booming and government have applied many changes and improvements to promote tourism in El Salvador and make this country safe for tourists and citizens alike.
I knew I had stumbled upon a gem back in 2017 and after finally returning to properly visit El Tunco and El Salvador, I can confirm this indeed is a gem worth visiting.
Discover the places to visit in El Salvador using the destination guide BELOW
El Salvador TRip ITINERARY
3 – 4 Day Trip
3 days in El Tunco ( with 1 night near El Salvador International Airport)
El Salvador TRAVEL TIPS
|Tourist visa is $12 USD and can be paid upon arrival.|
|In El Salvador they use the USD and bitcoin currency.|
|Cash is more acceptable here.|
|Arriving late at night, say, past midnight, like I did? I recommend staying near the airport to ensure you can rest and take advantage of the next day bright and early. |
Stay: Miraflores Hotel ($38 USD) for a private room with airport pick up service available ($10 USD), which I encourage you use especially when arriving at night for a seamless check in process.
El Salvador TRAVEL QUESTIONS
|Is El Salvador safe to visit?||El Salvador is a very safe country to visit as a tourist. The government had applied many efforts to ensure the safety of its citizens but also tourists to push tourism forward.|
|How many days do you need to visit El Salvador?||To thoroughly visit El Salvador, 4-5 days is a good amount of time to enjoy the country either basing yourself in San Salvador or El Tunco.|
|Is El Salvador cheap?||El Salvador can be budget friendly but it does depend on the type of vacation you want to experience. Private accommodation can range from $35 USD to $250 USD. Meals can be as cheap as $1 USD for a pupusa, $2.50 for a burger with fries or $20 USD for a seafood meal.|
|Is El Salvador worth visiting?||El Salvador is definitely worth a visit. It’s small enough to visit on a long weekend but it also has tons of activities to do such as surfing, relaxing in the beach or jungle or hiking volcanoes.|
|What language do they speak in El Salvador?||Spanish is the main language spoken in El Salvador but as with many tourist locations English is also spoken.|
Leveraged a combination of shuttles, private taxis and drivers to move around the country.
🚗 Car – Roads in El Salvador are very easy to drive as many road improvements are being made. If you are traveling with a group, I would advise renting a car as this will allow you to visit many cities and attractions.
🚗 Private Driver – Hiring a private driver is encouraged. I worked with two drivers during my trip.
- David El Salvador Taxi Service – Super professional, shares driver details so you ensure you are in safe hands and prices are reasonable.
- Manuel Hernandez – This is the driver that is offered by Miraflores Hotel but he also operates around El Salvador. Friendly and ensures you have a relaxed and safe journey. (WhatsApp – +503 7906-2446).
🚗 Shuttles – There are various shuttle companies that offer transportation to the various major cities in the country for those who want to save money and travel in a group. See some of the various providers HERE.
🚗 Taxi – Your accommodation can help source a taxi and confirm the rate prior to departure.
🚗 Uber – While available here it is not as reliable to secure especially if you aren’t in the capital. Regardless, give it a try to ensure you know exactly what costs will be.
BEST TOUR TO TAKE IN EL SALVADOR
Given my short amount of time and the proximity of everything, I opted to do the Combo Tour – Volcanoes, Lake and Mayan sites including Joya se Ceren day tour provided via Viator.
The tour included the below highlights that must be included in anyone’s visit to El Salvador:
- Cero Verde Volcano
- Pre-Columbian city of San Andrés
- Joya De Ceren
- Típicos Margoth – Tasty cantone style restaurant featuring an array of Salvadorian cuisine including tamales, pupusas and canoa.
- Lake Coatepeque – Stopping for lunch at La Octava Maravilla
- Casa 1800 – Near Cero Verde volcano, this restaurant/hotel offers spectacular views of the volcano on a clear day and tasty coffee. Entry is $2 USD but you are given a voucher for the same amount, to use toward food and beverage, for example a coffee is only $2 USD.
Where I Went in El Salvador
El tunco is part of an area called “La Libertad” and known for its beaches and surfing.
- Hostel – Papaya Lodge ($15 USD a night for a bed with breakfast included)
- Mid Tier – Hotel & Bar La Guitarra ($57 USD a night for a private room)
- Hotel – Boca Olas Resort Villas ($164 USD a night for a private room)
- Esquina Los Amigos – Very local vibes, highly recommended by Salvadorans and I can see why. This became my go-to pupuseria while in El Tunco.
- Pita Jauz – Chocolate covered fruit, pitas, breakfast and burger joint.
- Pargos – Seafood restaurant located right on the beach of El Tunco.
- Pupuseria El Sol – Another great option for pupusas.
- La Bonita Beach Club
- Kakos Gastrobar
- Monkey LaLa – Perfect place to grab happy hour drinks and catch the best sunset view in El Tunco
- El Zonote – Another beach area about 20 min drive from El Tunco. Grab lunch at Pupuseria Geisy, La Zonteña, or Merendero El Teco.
- Yoga – Balance Yoga Retreat offers classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3:00pm. $10 USD, mat included.
- El Salvador Day Trip – Combo Tour – Volcanoes, Lake and Mayan sites including Joya se Ceren
- Massage – I had my massage at Day cafe & Salad Bar. While I wouldn’t rate it, it did the job of relaxing me. “El Tunco Local” also offers massages, but I can’t speak to the quality. ($18 USD for a 1/2 hour or $35 USD for a full hour)
- Surfing – It’s surf city after all. If you are new to the sport there are plenty of places that offer lessons. This DAY TRIP combines a day visit to the popular Nawi Beach House and a surf lesson. The perfect combination.
- Sunset either in front of the rock on the beach or Monkey LaLa.
DAY TRIPS IN EL SALVADOR
Given the size of the country, it’s very easy to do day trips from any of the major cities including the capital, San Salvador, El Tunco and Ruta las Flores.
- Nawi Beach House: (45 minutes drive from El Tunco) Located in the Mizata area Nawi Beach House is a beautiful beach club and very instagrammable, so great photo ops. Day pass includes a welcome drink, horseback ride, and access to their infinity pool. (Day pass – $20 USD)
- Rainbow Slide at Picnic Steak House: (50 minutes drive from El Tunco) Located close to the San Salvador Volcano. This restaurant allows you to slide down the Imagine slide and also enjoy some amazing outdoor activities without having to eat here. (Fee – $5 USD)
- Lake Coatepeque: (1 hour and 35 minutes drive from El Tunco) Lake Coatepeque is a large crater lake surrounded by wooded hills and an active volcano underneath it. While it may be a bit farther from the beach, it’s highly recommended. You can drive up to the lake and have lunch by the water.
- Ruta las Flores: (2 hour drive from El Tunco) Five colonial towns along a 20 mile stretch that is filled with colorful buildings and coffee plantations. Which means that if you are a coffee lover then checking out a plantation list should be high on your travel bucket list.
What To Eat In El Salvador
- Pupusas – The National fish of El Salvador. A corn or rice tortilla that is filled inside with various fillings including cheese, beans or meat.
- Licuados – milkshakes made of various types of fruit. A popular version is “Guineo” which means unripe banana.
- Nuegados – Dumplings of yucca with sugarcane syrup.
- Horchata – Unlike the Mexican version, this is more nutty and cocoa. Simply delicious!
- Tamale – Salvadorian version of a tamale. Variations include meat, pisque (beans) and chipilin (green leaf)
- Canoa – A baked plantain with milk custard and raisins inside.
- Casamiento – A rice and black beans mix.
Discover where else to visit in Central America?
See my Travel Guide Section for tips and recommendations for other bordering countries from El Salvador including Guatemala & Nicaragua. Learn how to get there, where to stay, eat and what to do!