Moon El Salvador (Moon Handbooks) - Jaime Jacques (2014)
Discover El Salvador
From Cool Cloud Forests to Warm Waves
The rugged, relatively unexplored landscape of El Salvador will keep outdoor enthusiasts happy with plenty of variety and adventure, from hiking through the steep tropical forest of Parque Nacional El Imposible to diving in crater lakes near the capital or surfing the warm waves on the coast.
One of the best things about visiting San Salvador is the outdoor activities that can be found on the outskirts of the city.
✵ Parque Nacional El Boquerón offers easy walks around the crater, or tough hikes that go all the way down inside.
✵ Puerta del Diablo offers short but steep hikes that lead to spectacular views.
✵ Visit Lago Ilopango, where you can spend the day diving in the country’s largest crater lake.
Western El Salvador
The western part of the country is a hiker’s haven, with three national parks and much of the country’s only remaining virgin forest.
✵ Parque Nacional El Imposible is the largest and most biologically diverse protected area in the country, with intermediate to very difficult hiking trails, excellent bird-watching, and well-maintained campsites.
Parque Nacional El Imposible
✵ Parque Nacional Montecristo-El Trifinio is another hub of biodiversity, with a cool cloud forest trail that ends at the highest point in the park, where the borders of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala converge.
The rumors are true. El Salvador is a warm-water, right point haven with enough waves to keep everyone happy. The surf season here is March to October and coincides with the rainy season, when swells coming from the south can reach up to three meters high.
The most popular surf spots are in the west. La Libertad, Playa El Tunco, Playa El Sunzal, and Playa El Zonte attract many visitors; but if you are up for exploring, there are less publicized, hidden gems to be found all along the west coast. Fortunately, these are close enough to each other that you can easily bounce around between them, all in a day’s surf. Most hotels provide transportation to and from the best surf spots, or if you are on a budget, it’s easy to hop on the bus with your board and travel between beaches. However you choose to get there, the next wave is never more than half an hour away.
The ultimate waves in El Salvador are Punta Roca in the west, and Las Flores and Punta Mango in the east.
Playa Las Flores
✵ Some say Punta Roca is one of the best waves in Central America; some say it is the best. Either way, a serious surf trip to El Salvador is not complete without at least one visit to this famously fast, hollow right point break located in La Libertad.
✵ In the east, five minutes west by car from the fishing village of El Cuco, you will find Playa Las Flores, the gorgeous sandy beach with a very long, consistent right point break.
✵ Punta Mango is 15 minutes west of Las Flores, only accessible by boat or a 4WD vehicle; and don’t get your hopes up, there are no mangoes in sight—it was named this because of the nearby beach called Playa Mango. This powerful right point break is best left to the experts, even when it’s small, due to strong currents and shallow inside rocks.
If you are still learning, there are plenty of other waves to keep you busy:
✵ La Bocana in El Tunco is a local favorite for its left break created out of a wide river mouth.
✵ Playa El Sunzal is known for its consistency and quality, and is probably the best place to learn how to surf, but also has a fast right beach break that experienced surfers love. Easy access means it can get crowded.
✵ Playa El Zonte is the best place to learn how to stand up on a surfboard, because of its abundance of white water, but intermediate and experienced surfers will also enjoy Zonte’s short but fun right-hander, set in a cute little cove with gorgeous views.
Whatever wave you find yourself riding, the surf’s always up in El Salvador.
✵ Parque Nacional Los Volcanes is centrally located with three prominent volcanoes, two of which you can hike.
✵ Lago Coatepeque offers water sports, diving, and hiking.
The Pacific Coast
El Salvador’s coastline offers world-class surf. Not into surfing? There are plenty of other activities to keep you busy.
✵ The surfing along El Salvador’s coast draws thousands every year, and they are never disappointed with the warm water and right points. The beaches of La Libertad are the most popular, as well as Playa Las Flores and Punta Mango in the east.
✵ Hike through the forests of Parque Nacional Walter Thilo Deininger. Its two main nature trails both end at a spectacular mirador.
✵ Go fishing around El Sunzal. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at surf fishing.
✵ Hike to the stunning Tamanique Waterfalls, where you can jump into the pools below to cool off.
✵ Take a bird-watching boat tour through the otherworldly mangroves in Barra de Santiago.
Northern and Eastern El Salvador
The remote northern and eastern parts of the country offer a bevy of untrodden natural treasures to intrepid travelers.
✵ The Río Palancapa waterfall trek in Suchitoto will not disappoint adventurers who aren’t afraid of getting wet.
✵ Far north, the hike through the cool cloud forest to the highest point in the country, Cerro El Pital, is a must if you crave peaceful surroundings and clean air.
✵ In the rugged east, ex-guerrillas can guide you from Perquín to the Río Sapo, where you can camp by the river and return the next day.
✵ For hard-core hikers, the granddaddy of El Salvador’s volcanoes is Volcán Chaparrastique in San Miguel.