6 Best Day Trips in El Salvador

  • Date Published: February 1, 2020
  • Last Edited: February 8, 2020
  • Topic(s): El Salvador, Travel, Central America

Calling all first-time travelers to El Salvador!

If you’re coming here on a business trip, to visit friends and family, or just to catch some of the best waves of your life, day trips in El Salvador will surprise you at all the little hidden wonders. And I say little because yes, this is a tiny country. 

“Los mejores tesoros vienen en envases pequeños” / “The best treasures come in small packages”. 

I remember my mom used to tell me that when I was a little girl. You see, I’m not very tall, and while growing up, that was something that bothered me. With time I grew, of course, and I realized that just because I was smaller than average people my age, I had the same capabilities and more. 

Sometimes people can underestimate you, but you know what feels good? Showing them, they’re wrong, and that just because you look a certain way that doesn’t take away how great you are. I think what I enjoy the most is the element of surprise. People expect something from you just because you look a certain way, but when you show them your full capabilities, they are shocked.

People that have never been to El Salvador underestimate our country. And when they do visit they are shocked (in a positive way, of course) and leave only wanting to return. If you’ve had El Salvador on your radar for quite some time but have still not fully decided on stopping by, reading this will give you the extra push you need.

I previously wrote a blog on the top 10 reasons why you should visit El Salvador, which will give you a broader sense of what this country has to offer. Today I want to focus on one of those ten reasons that I think brings out that surprise factor from tourists visiting El Salvador. 

Everything is less than two hours away. You can take literally day trips from the city to anywhere in the country and arrive at your destination in a few hours. 

Whether you feel like going to the beach, climbing a volcano, or even doing both in one day, El Salvador is the place where you can make that happen. Here are the top 6 best day trips to take in El Salvador:

  1. Coatepeque Lake

Coatepeque is one of the most touristy spots in El Salvador. The lake used to be a volcanic crater that later turned into a Caldera. It is located in the municipality of El Congo, in the town of Coatepeque.

The lake is located in the department of Santa Ana, which is found 40 – 45 minutes away from San Salvador. Getting to Coatepeque is easily accessible through paved roads. You’ll notice dirt roads once you arrive in proximity to the lake. You’ll get to the restaurant, hotel, or place you’re staying after commuting through dirt roads for just a short distance (10 minutes max). 

It’s approximately 25.3km, has a depth of about 115m, and it even has a small island called “Teopan” in the middle. Coatepeque lake is mostly owned by local people and families who have a house around shores of the lake, staying during the weekend or during long holiday weeks like “Semana Santa” (which is usually around spring break) or “Fiestas Agostinas.” 

Fun Facts:

In 2013, El Salvador and Coatepeque lake competed to become the 8th wonder of the modern world, where it ranked in second place.

The lake changes color. We don’t know for sure what causes its color to change, but during certain times of the year, the lake changes its dark blue to a warm turquoise. 

Due to Coatepeque’s increase in tourism, it has created a high demand for the construction of new restaurants, hotels, and event venues. 

Cardedeu El Salvador is one of the top tourist attractions that offer:

Hotel and Resorts

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Event Venue: Coatepeque is a popular destination for weddings, this event venue even has a church and rooms to accommodate guests.

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Enjoy different water activities like jet skiing, paddle boarding, kayaking, or take boat trips while staying in Coatepeque. And as if that wasn’t enough, Coatepeque has the perfect weather all year round; always sunny and never too hot. 

  1. Hiking Santa Ana Volcano

Now, moving on to our next destination. Santa Ana volcano is the top-visited volcano in El Salvador. 

Fun Fact: El Salvador has around 20 active volcanoes

Due to its accessibility and breathtaking views, Santa Ana has been a popular destination. Santa Ana is approximately 45 minutes away from San Salvador; it’ll take you about another 30 to 45 minutes to get to Cerro Verde National Park, which is at the base of the volcano and where the hike starts.

Ilamatepec is the proper name of the volcano, and it’s El Salvador’s tallest and most active volcano, at almost 7,850 ft (2,400 m). It offers beautiful panoramic views of other volcanoes and mountains. Once you get to the park, you’ll have to pay $1 to enter. From there, you have to wait for the guided tours that leave at 11 am. These tours are also escorted by a couple of police officers to ensure safety. 

The hikes difficulty ranges from medium to hard, but anyone can do it as long as you go at your own pace. An athletic person can climb to the top in about an hour and a half. While soaking in the breathtaking views and cool breeze, make sure to capture a couple of pictures for your memories!

  1. Beach life / Surf City

day trips

El Salvador is well known for its beautiful beaches and fantastic surf. The Salvadoran government has started a new project called Surf City, which aims to attract surfers from around the world. This year, El Salvador is selected to host the 2020 ISA (International Sur Association) world surfing games at La Bocana, El Sunzal (La Libertad), this upcoming May. 

If the reason why you’re considering El Salvador as your next travel destination is to catch some sound waves, you’re in for a treat. The most famous surf spots are located in La Libertad department, which is only a 30-45 minute drive away from San Salvador. 

Some of the most popular surf spots in La Libertad are:

El Sunzal, 45-minute drive from San Salvador.

El Zonte, 55-minute drive from San Salvador.

El Tunco, 35 to 45-minute drive from San Salvador.

With more and more tourists visiting La Libertad, this tropical paradise has recently filled with delicious restaurants, world-class surf academies, and beautiful hotels and resorts. 

Some of my favorite spots are:

NAWI Beach House

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Michanti Home of Adventures

day trips

Puro Surf, Hotel, and Surf Academy

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Palo Verde, hotel and resort

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Betos, La Libertad, restaurant

Boutique Hotel

  1. Ruta de las Flores

Ruta de las Flores is a scenic route that encompasses several small towns from El Salvador. This is a perfect day trip through pueblos including Apaneca, Ataco, Juayua, Salcoatitan, and Nahuizalco. You can get there from San Salvador in about an hour and a half

day trips

Day trips like these are perfect for a weekend ride through the countryside with the family. 

It’s called “the flower route” due to its picturesque scenery filled with flowers. Each town has a distinct colonial vibe; most of them have a colonial church in the town center overlooking a central park or plaza. Each town is decorated with restaurants and little autochthonous shops.

Visitors leave their cars in the town center, usually near the central park or wherever you can find space. From there you walk around and visit the little shops that offer Salvadoran souvenirs, traditional food, maybe take a walk into a small museum, or eat at a nice restaurant in town. 

In some pueblos like Ataco, you can even see locals dressed in their Nahuatl clothes.

If you’re a coffee lover like me, you’ll be thrilled to see all the coffee plantations along the road overlooking El Salvador’s beautiful mountain ranges. Once you get to town, you’ll be able to taste the freshness of the coffee, straight from the ground to your cup.

  1. Salto de Malacatiupan

day trips

El Salvador is filled with crystal clear waterfalls. One of the most visited waterfalls is “El Salto de Malacatiupan,” located in the department of Ahuachapan in the city of Atiquizaya.  Atiquizaya is an hour and 50-minute drive from San Salvador. 

It should take you about 20 minutes to get to the actual waterfall. Arrive by car, park, and walk alongside a small river until you reach the waterfall. Just follow the water and the rocks, and you’ll get there. The locals will be more than glad to give you directions, but if you want something a little more trustworthy, you can always call the local authorities, and they will provide you with a tour guide.

These waterfalls have been a popular spot to post on Instagram. So if you want to give your friends back home a little FOMO this is the place to do it.

  1. San Salvador Volcano (Lookouts)

I think that out of all of the day trips I’ve mentioned today, this is the closest to town. I know I’m talking about a volcano, but this is a different experience than actually hiking one. This day trip includes breathtaking views and fantastic culinary experiences.

If you drive you’ll get there in 15 to 10 minutes, it all depends on which part of town you’re coming from and on traffic. Along the road, you’ll be able to see a few public lookouts to enjoy beautiful city landscapes. You’ll also find a variety of restaurants and coffee shops, all of them with a scenic view.

The environment is fantastic all year long; chill air, amazing sunsets, a nice meal, a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine. 

Here are a few of my favorite spots there are Tinto, wine bar, Bens Coffee and La Pampa, El Volcán

Tip: The best time of the year is the windy season in December & January. Temperatures drop a little more than usual.

El Salvador is the country if you’re looking for a place that has it all. These top 6-day trips will keep you wanting for more. If you’re here for only a few days, you can even make two of these day trips in one day! It’s a perk of living in a small country 😉 

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