Before departing we were unsure what to expect. If you are a regular NPR listener like ourselves, the news coverage broadcasted about this country is often bleak, violent, and hopeless. However, we are never ones to shy from an adventure, so despite the warnings and concerned comments, we packed our bags ready to discover the surf, colonial towns, and coffee farms of El Salvador.
SPOLIER ALERT: WE WERE BLOWN AWAY.
Before proceeding, we think it is important to note that we ended the trip feeling like El Salvador is a deeply misunderstood country. Though El Salvador has a complicated history of civil war whose remnants are still felt in various aspects of society, it is unfair to paint this country and its people with one brush. It is unfair to a country, which you will soon see, has immense potential to create a thriving tourism industry that could lift thousands out of poverty. Every country (including the United States of America) has its issues, but those challenges should not be the only characterizations that define it.
We never felt unsafe, we never felt threatened or encountered any of the hundreds of warnings that you read about at the US Department of State travel warnings website. Unlike the U.S. Media, let's focus on what is good about El Salvador. We want to share a narrative that will have you
DAY ONE: We started the trip exploring the capital, San Salvador; one of the CALMEST capitals we have visited in Latin America. San Salvador is a good launching point for various destinations throughout the country. Within twenty minutes one could be on the coast surfing or travel forty-five minutes in another direction and volcano hikes were waiting.
EL CAMINO TIP: If your time is limited (a week or less), we would skip San Salvador all together and head straight from the airport to the coast. There is too much to see and often the case, not enough vacation days to see it.
DAY TWO: The next day we headed out to visit the colonial town of Suchitoto and the surrounding area. We visited an indigo farm and the bizarre rock formations that make up the waterfall, Los Tercios. Most of the day was spent roaming the picturesque town and we ended the night at the colonial hotel of Los Almendros.
WHAT WOULD WE DO NEXT TIME: Learn how to make the typical Salvadorean
DAY THREE: We spent the day visiting various archeological
EL CAMINO HIGHLIGHT: Lunch at Finca San Antonio. The family that owns this farm discovered the top of a Mayan pyramid in their backyard. This pyramid has not been excavated, but you can have lunch right below it and see the very top of it sticking out of the lush forest canopy. It was one of those travel moments where you really felt you had discovered something special and unknown. You can see a picture below.
DAY FOUR: We started the morning by touring the coffee estate of El Carmen that is part of a 36 kilometer stretch of winding roads called Las Rutas
EL CAMINO TIP: While the coffee tour was informative and organized, see if you can visit a coffee farm that is Fair Trade certified and guarantees their workers a fair wage. There is a lot of abuse of worker treatment and payment within the coffee industry and we believe it is important to always try to support those farms that are taking the harder, but the more moral path forward. It was unclear if El Carmen strived for a high standard of fair worker treatment.
DAY FIVE: We ended the tour in the beach town of El Tunco part of the La Libertad area.
EL CAMINO HIGHLIGHT: All of El Tunco was a highlight, but we particularly enjoyed the incredible view at B Hotel. The hotel is built into the side of a cliff and high up from the ocean water. The infinity pool is a minimalist's dream...
The rest of the week was spent getting to know the small tour operators in the country to better understand how travel companies, such as El Camino Travel, could best work with them. In between meetings, a group of us would sneak off for midday surf sessions and lessons at La Libertad, a twenty minute drive from the capital. We would post up with our friends at Adventure Sport Tours (AST) La Terraza who have a stunning view of the town.
Thank you El Salvador for your hospitality and generosity, and for putting on a good show. We can't wait to get back!
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