El Salvador may be Central America’s smallest country, but it is filled with lots of things to see and do. From the capital, San Salvador, travelers drive just 30 minutes south toCosta del Sol, where they’ll find a stretch of beach to call their own, and world-class surfing waves to share—ISA World Masters Surfing Championships put the spotlight on Punta Roca. Or go north from the capital to the colonial town of Sochitoto with its cobblestone streets and thriving arts scene, then follow the Route of the Flowers that winds through the mountain coffee-producing area to charming villages such as Apaneca and Ataco. The Route of the Artisans weaves along the folk art villages of Ilobasco (clay miniatures), San Sebastian (weavings), and La Palma (crafts inspired by the famous artist, Fernando Llort). In a country with 25 volcanoes, there is some unforgettable scenery, as hikers discover within the tropical forests of El Imposible National Park, and antiquity aficionados will thrill when visiting the pre-Columbian site of Joya de Ceren along La Ruta Maya. (elsalvador.travel)
What’s New in El Salvador
✘ Already well known for its excellent tourist “routes” promotion, El Salvador’s newest is La Ruta del Cafe, combining the country’s coffee culture and extreme adventures. One stop is Portezuilo Park, a 600-acre coffee farm offering horseback riding, mountain biking, high ropes circuit, rappelling, paragliding and hang gliding, as well as guesthouse accommodations at La Escondida Lodge and a restaurant (akwaterra.com). Another place of interest along the route is Finca Nuevos Horizontes, located at the Complex of the Volcanoes near Izalco. The farm has a 12-year history of birdwatching and research, and offers cloud forest hiking, a hostel and cafeteria with panoramic volcano and ocean views. Near the town of El Congo, Cooperative Los Pinos offers walks to and rides on Lake Coatepeque and gourmet coffee tastings. (elsalvador.travel)
✘ Surfers come from all over the world to ride the waves—the biggest March, April, October—along El Salvador’s western Pacific coast, one hour from San Salvador. The big draw is Punta Roca. A new focus on surfing the western coast highlights best new hotel bets: Roca Sunzal Surf Resort (rocasunzal.com), Tekuani Kal (tekuanikal.com), and Tortuga Surf Club (elsalvadorsurfer.com).