The Ultimate El Salvador Bucket List

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El Salvador is a much less known destination so it’s the perfect time to visit before it becomes popular! This is the Ultimate El Salvador Bucket List for your next visit.

el salvador bucket list

El Salvador is a small country nestled in Central America. It’s not on many people’s radar, but it is a stunningly beautiful country with tons to offer. Its natural beauty steals the show and offers some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen. We spent a week in El Salvador along the coast and already are itching to go back to explore even more!

We’ll cover the ultimate El Salvador bucket list, things to do in El Salvador, one day in San Salvador, El Salvador Beaches, El Salvador scenery, and more!

This post is all about the ultimate El Salvador Bucket List!

El Salvador Bucket List:

Surf in the Pacific Ocean

hidden gems in el salvador exotic places in el salvador

Surfing in El Salvador is one of the main reasons to visit El Salvador. It’s a small country but has over 190 miles (300+ km) of coastline and dozens of impressive beaches for surfing. And the waves are insane. The Winter season is May – October and the waves during this season are huge. It’s great for seasoned surfers to enjoy the endless 8’+ (2.5 m) waves. They are more beginner-sized during the Summer season in November – April. Also, the water is extremely warm; it was so surprising, especially for the Pacific Ocean. The best beaches for surfing in El Salvador:

  • El Zonte
  • Punta Roca, La Libertad
  • El Tunco
  • El Sunzal
  • La Bocana

Play on the Black Sand Beaches

el salvador beaches black sand beaches in el salvador

You’ll find mostly black sand beaches in El Salvador due to the volcanic activity in the area. And most beaches aren’t the best for lounging on as they are short and pretty rocky. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play on them! With tons of rocks for climbing and with a huge difference in tides it can be fun to explore the black sand beaches of El Salvador. You’ll find tons of wildlife among the rocks too! We personally loved El Zonte. There were some clearer areas of sugary black sand at low tide that were perfect. You can also check out Playa Las Flores near El Cuco and El Sunzal beaches.

> Check out our favorite black sand beaches in El Salvador!

Eat Pupusas

recreational activities in el salvador

Pupusas are the main staple of El Salvadorian food. They are similar to stuffed tortillas and usually filled with meat, beans, or cheese. You’ll find them at just about every local restaurant you go to and at plenty of street food vendors for around $1 for 2 or 3.

Hike Santa Ana Volcano

is El Salvador safe

This active volcano has a great hike and offers a stunning turquoise crater lake at the top. You can book guided tours to hike the volcano or DIY it, although you do need a guide as you ascend the mountain ($1). The hike takes about an hour and a half or two hours and can be pretty incremental with the rain. If you do make it up, the views are stunning!

While in Santa Ana, be sure to explore the town and admire the gorgeous Santa Ana cathedral!

Explore San Salvador

one day in San Salvador

San Salvador is the capital city of El Salvador and you’ll likely fly into SAN or take a bus from a neighboring country. Many people skip over San Salvador because it is a small colonial town that many other Central American cities surpass in beauty (like Antigua Guatemala or Casco Viejo, Panama) and there is so much more to do in El Salvador. However, if you do decide to visit San Salvador, there are a few things to make sure you don’t miss. San Salvador is home to one of the largest shopping malls in all of Central America, MetroCentro, so this is a great place to do some shopping. Also look for a coffee plantation tour and of course, the main plaza!

Chase Waterfalls

El Salvador scenery

El Salvador is covered with untouched jungles and you can find some gorgeous natural waterfalls throughout. You can take a tour from the beach area near El Tunco or El Zonte for a day trip to visit Tamanique Waterfalls. If you want to explore even more, check out Cascada El Escuco, Chorros de La Calera, and Turicentro Salto El Perol! Always be sure to leave the trail and waterfall better than you left it and pack out everything you packed in, even banana peels!

Drive Ruta de Flores

This “Route of Flowers” is a popular path in El Salvador that is known for not only being a stunning drive but having so much to do. On the weekends there are food markets and festivals. You will find waterfalls, murals, and of course flowers. The best time to visit is when the flowers are in full bloom between November and February but it is still worth visiting outside that window. You can rent a car and drive this yourself or you can take a series of Chicken buses with locals and stay in the small towns along the way.

Relax in the Santa Theresa Hot Springs

things to do in el salvador
Source: Santa Theresa Hot Springs

This is much more off the beaten path than many of the other activities, but worth a visit. The Santa Theresa Hot Springs are located near the Guatemala border and offer a luxury resort with stunning tiered hot springs. We have visited quite a few hot springs in Latin America and these are by far the most aesthetically pleasing. Usually, you will find a public pool-like setting but these are much more natural-looking. This is relatively close to the Ruta de Flores so it makes a great stop on either end!

Explore the National Parks

entertainment in El Salvador

There is tons of natural beauty in El Salvador from the beaches to waterfalls and of course National Parks. Some of the most popular are the Impossible National Park and the Cerro Verde National Park. Impossible National Park is a gorgeous forested park with tons of hiking trails and viewpoints. At Cerro Verde National Park you will be hiking and exploring the trail of volcanoes. You can also explore El Boquerón National Park just outside of San Salvador.

Lounge at Lake Ilopango

unique things to do in colombia
Source: Lake Ilopango

This massive crater lake acts more like a beach than a lake. And even though there are plenty of beautiful beaches to visit in El Salvador, this Lake is worth a visit as well. There are sandy beaches and the water is warm and perfect for swimming or any host of water sports. It’s located just outside San Salvador (23 km or 14 miles) and makes a great day trip! There are boat tours, scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, fishing, and windsurfing all available so you can have a day full of activities.

El Salvador Accommodations: 

Budget | Cinco Hotel B&B – This bed and breakfast is located in San Salvador and offers complimentary breakfast, a pretty garden, and private rooms with attached bathrooms.

Mid-Range | Hotel Michanti – This fun property has an outdoor pool, hammocks, rooftop bar, and is only a short walk to the ocean in El Zonte. It’s a great spot for surfing or just exploring the area! The food here is fantastic, too!

Luxury | Puro Surf Hotel – This gorgeous property has an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, a lap pool, and an on-site bar. The rooms are airy and large, perfect for a beach vacation!

> Find your perfect El Salvador accommodation on!

This post was all about the ultimate El Salvador Bucket List! Comment what you can’t wait to do in El Salvador!

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We’re Alicia & Nate! We sold everything & quit our jobs to travel full time. On the road since 2020, we are traveling the world one bucket list item at a time. Join us on our epic journey!

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