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12 days in November - sorry its long

Level Contributor
509 posts
55 reviews
31 helpful votes
12 days in November - sorry its long

Just got back a few days ago, spent 12 days with a friend. This was my 5th trip to El Salvador, the first being back in 2013. I have seen the changes and mostly for the better in terms of safety and lodging options. Some of you might find this last trip boring….since all we did was rent a beach house on Airbnb and stayed for 1 week and then onto Suchitoto for 4 nights. Being in our 60’s we don’t surf nor go bar hopping or use Bitcoin. That being said, does not mean if you want to do those things not to…just that we had no interest in this.

This was just a trip to get ready for the onslaught of winter and give me strength to get to my next escapade in February. I wanted sun and heat for a while!

For those who will be going for the first time, here are a few tips.

The number one question on these boards is concerns about safety. In all my 5 trips I have not noticed anything since I pretty much stick to the known tourist areas. Recently there has been a big crackdown on the gangs with over 40,000 people arrested…but this does not concern tourists. There is still a special Martial Law in place giving the authorities the power to arrest first and ask questions later. Again, a tourist sticking to tourist areas will not have any problems. The usual precautions as in any travel situation, don’t carry large amounts of cash, don’t flash expensive electronics or jewellery and avoid deserted areas after dark. I have an ex-pat American friend that’s been living there for 17 years and she said that its never been safer in all the years she has been there.

Food: Don’t drink the water, always ask if the ice is made with purified water before consuming, I usually avoid the lettuce just in case. Back in 2015 I forgot to ask about the ice and had a smoothie…uh oh not smart but luckily I had some antibiotics for that reason. I always carry them now whenever I travel. I find that El Salvador has the best tasting food in all of Central America. If you are in the El Tunco area or beach areas you might want to go to Beto’s where purified water is used in the kitchen and for the ice as well. The food was delicious as well. If you haven’t had a Pupusa you would want to try these as well…ladies make them set up on sidewalks pretty much everywhere and I found these to be the most authentic and best when compared to restaurants. A Pupusa is basically a tortilla with fillings, my favourite is the cheese and bean one. Have it with a side of Curtido which is the Salvadoran version of coleslaw. We paid $1.80 for 3 Pupusas!

Transportation: Its perfectly safe to rent a car, most roads are okay however I would not drive at night due to dimly lit roads, obstacles on road…people, livestock, etc. Also driving in San Salvador with the traffic and sometimes aggressive drivers can be a little daunting. You do what you feel comfortable with. I don’t like driving at home so did not want to there. We used private drivers (from EC Tours) and that was fine for us. I used Google Maps just to see and to follow the route as we were transiting and it worked very well. There are a number of bus routes linking up many of the places from the city and local buses as well. I used the local bus from Playa San Diego to the grocery store in La Libertad, cost was 50cents.

This was the first time going in November, the other times I travelled in February. I noticed that the waves were much stronger in November. I can see why many surfers like to go in the fall, September, October and November seem to be the prime time of surfing however on my other winter trips I saw many surfers in El Tunco in February.

As I mentioned we stayed in Playa San Diego for one week at an Airbnb. It was oceanside and the price was reasonable. It ticked all the boxes for us: on the beach, hot water, pool, A/C, 2 rooms with each their own bathrooms. Owned by a Canadian, communication in English was very efficient. More info here: https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/11235391

The first night there we experienced a 5.7 earthquake that shook us up quite a bit (not having so much of those back home) and considering we were oceanside I was a little worried about a tsunami happening but nothing at all. Although tsunamis rarely happen, you will notice signs with Evacuation Route posted. As an example of Salvadorans helpful and friendly manner, on one of our grocery runs, I left my backpack on the bus! I realized as I just stepped off…tried to run after the bus to no avail. Fortunately the caretaker’s sister recognized me and and my distress and her husband drove me on his motorcycle to catch up with the bus. Just like that and I was able to retrieve my pack.

The last part of our trip, we went to Suchitoto for 4 nights, stayed at the El Tejado hotel (4th time) and everything was as expected. Its such a beautiful and walkable town, lots of choices for eating out. The Tejado had decent food and we also enjoyed dinner at Los Almendros de San Lorenzo both used only purified water in the kitchen and for ice. We had lunch at Jilian’s bakery, they also have great coffee and pastries. We walked (all downhill) to Puerto San Juan tourist centre where you can catch a boat and go on Lago Suchitilan. Several different options are available, we chose the 1 hour ride ($30) that included Bird Island to see the migratory birds. There were less birds than in February but we did see some arriving. There is a bus going to the square, but this time we just got a taxi for $3.00 to get back. There are also a number of restaurants at the Puerto.

Feel free to ask any questions, I’ll do my best to answer. Enjoy El Salvador!

12 replies to this topic
Level Contributor
15 posts
10 reviews
1. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Great info! Thanks for sharing!!

1 post
1 review
1 helpful vote
2. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Lots of good information. Thank you. I’m 78 and I’ll be traveling with my 42 years old daughter. Have you stayed on the Ruta de Los Flores? Curious how it compares with Suchitoto re safety, beauty @, things to do for five days.

Level Contributor
509 posts
55 reviews
31 helpful votes
3. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Hello! It all depends on what you like doing of course. I think that both could be interesting according to what you enjoy doing. In Suchitoto you can visit a few museums, go on a boat tour and see nesting birds, see the church and square, go to Tercios falls but whether this is enough to keep you busy for 5 days depends on which pace you like. I personally tend to go slow. I do like to factor in some downtime at the hotel pool, after all, I am on vacation.

As for the Ruta de las Flores, I have stayed twice in Juayau and once (2022 Feb) in Ahuachapan. There are also several things to do: visit a coffee plantation (finca), Thermal hot spring baths, see the colourful murals in the village of Ataco, go to the weekend food festival in Juayua, go to Chorros de Calera where you can hike through coffee plantations and see great waterfalls and swimming holes.

I don't know if you are planning to do about transportation but Suchitoto is about 1hr 30 min drive from San Salvador. As for Juayua it is about 2.5 - 3 hours drive from the airport.

Since both areas are known tourist areas they are both equally safe so it all depends on what you want to do.

United States
Level Contributor
192 posts
4. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Thanks for the nice report. I have a feeling that Uber car hiring is working in El Salvador. Is it available in the places that you visited?

Level Contributor
509 posts
55 reviews
31 helpful votes
5. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Uber is pretty much available in all those places I went and all El Salvador tourist areas

Monteverde Costa...
Level Contributor
918 posts
72 reviews
39 helpful votes
6. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Good report. we were just there 9 days with rental car. Hit Suchitoto but just as day trip. Wonderful little town. colonial and as you mentioned walkable. We will go back there on later trip.

Hit a couple of beach towns. Nothing special and a bit more expensive overall than Mexico and maybe same cost as Costa Rica.

Rutas de cafe or now ruta de las Flores was ok nice difference from other parts of the country.

We stayed in Ataco. really enjoyed it.

Lago de coatapeque is very nice as well.

We will go back for sure. Felt safe everywhere and people were mostly all in favor of Bukele doing the gang roundup.

Virginia Beach...
Level Contributor
332 posts
115 reviews
30 helpful votes
7. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

I’m knocking on 70 and sound about like you. I’m the same, went to Nicaragua in October and now looking for somewhere warm in February/March to dodge VIrginia Beach’s winter. Would like to be gone for a month - my usual mo. Considering a spot on the beach in Ecuador or Panama, but something made me think El Salvador. Have wanted to got visit but haven’t made it yet. Your trip description is intriguing. How would you stretch this out to a month? I like to stay in one spot for 5-7 days. No rush, no hurry. I’d retired horticultural professor and birder, so I like the mountains flora and fauna. Also like the beach, hammock and cold beer. Appreciate the information.

Pukekohe, New...
8 posts
8. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Hi, Thanks for your post. Would you have any recommendations if you wanted to stay around the La Libertad area but wanted a bit of peace from the surfers but be on the beach relaxing a lot of the time. Planning a trip in March or April this year. Wanting to just relax on the beach, ejoy some nice seafood, read a good book etc.

Level Contributor
509 posts
55 reviews
31 helpful votes
9. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Sorry for the late reply, I am currently planning my next aventure to Colombia. In 2022, I went 3 weeks and had plenty to do and see however as I mentioned we like to go Slow Mode. For flora and fauna, you could go to Parque El Impossible Park, we did a day trip there Feb 2022. We were situated in the La Libertad area and entered via San Benito. Here are my comments from my trip report:

EL IMPOSIBLE: We pre-arranged a hike to El Imposible via the San Benito entrance. Although we were closer to the entrance while in Ahuachapan, the hike is way more strenuous from Tacuba. The San Benito entrance offered us easier and shorter trails that suited us better. The ride to get there is very bumpy once you turn off the main highway, 30 minutes at least. Even if you travel without a tour, you pay your entrance and must use a local tour guide (Spanish speaking only). They work for tips only, so be generous if you can. We had our English tour guide that translated for us, again use a translation app if necessary. We saw lots of flora, however not any fauna on the short trail. You have more chances of seeing animals on the long trail or the Tacuba entrance. I love plants and trees so for me it was fine. Nice views at the 2 viewpoints.

Las rutas de las flores area would be good also and could be a stepping stone to Parque El Imposible. I think that Ahuachapan is a good place should you want to hike El Impossible via the Tacuba entry since its about 16KM (10 miles) away. While in Juayua (2015) I went on a waterfall hike seeing some birds. Ataco is wonderful to visit as well.

In Suchitoto, I went on a land and water birding tour with Robert Broz Moran owner of Gringo Tours. Was well worth it. However the water bird tour is doable independently. I know I could easily spend 5-7 days here.

There is also the wonderful Lago Coatepeque situated between Santa Ana and Volcanes national park. Although many visitors come here to climb Santa Ana volcano, you can take paths in jungle without having to climb the volcano. Robert took us birding here in 2015 on our way to Juayua.

@Ollie F:

I especially liked the San Diego area, no surfers but being the Pacific Ocean, there are still lots of waves. I wouldn’t expect calm beaches with white sand, not the case here and more like dark, hot volcanic sand (wear sandals until the wet part). But for walking along you will find it uncrowded and can walk for miles without obstacles or people.

If ever you are interested in a more eastern beach, I also like Playa El Pimental, beach is same description as above but less choice for accommodation than the Libertad area.

Level Contributor
47 posts
23 reviews
39 helpful votes
10. Re: 12 days in November - sorry its long

Thanks for the post ..last time we're there 10 years ago by hiring a private driver across from Nicaragua r/t..and we plan to visit again next month and plan to rent a car from airport and will do our own driving..(we usu. rent a car and drive everywhere all central and south America..but not El Salvador yet) ..Any suggestion for rental car company? Thx.

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