San Salvador, El Salvador

This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Ringed by hills and volcanoes, San Salvador makes an ideal home base for business and leisure travelers. Right in the capital there is lots to see. By day, you’ll find the most important buildings grouped around the Plaza Barios, including the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral, while east of the plaza is the beautifully restored National Theater. And above all, the capital’s museum scene is rich with the David J. Guzman National Anthropology Museum displaying a grand treasury of Mayan artifacts; the Museum of Modern Art highlighting Latin American artists; and the Museum of Popular Art, showcasing a fine collection of folk art. By night, tourist-friendly Zona Rosa is the neighborhood to be in. It’s lively and full of good restaurants—Alo Nuestro, for example, with outdoor deck dining and tasty dishes—and good hotels, such as the Hilton Princess and Suites Las Palmas.

Positioned right in the center of this smallest country in Central America, San Salvador is a great jumping-off point for touring travelers. Just 30 minutes south along Costa del Sol, you’ll find a stretch of Pacific beach to call your own and world-class surfing waves to share. You can also go 30 miles north to Sochitoto—everyone’s favorite getaway—and see the country’s best-preserved colonial town, a cultural hub of art, food and local traditions, with arts and foods festivals in full swing on weekends. The country’s Route of the Artisans runs to the folk art villages of Ilobasco (clay miniatures), San Sebastian (weavings), and La Palma (crafts inspired by the famous artist, Fernando Llort), while the scenic Route of the Flowers threads through the mountainous coffee-producing area to charming villages such as Apaneca and Ataco. Also a day trip away, you can climb the Izalco Volcano when visiting Cerro Verde National Park and tour the Mayan archaeological sites at Tazumal and fascinating Joya de Ceren, a UNESCO World Heritage site.


  • Best time to go:
    November to April; December, the coldest month, is best of all
  • Fun fact:
    World-class Punta Roca—perfectly shaped, long, fast and strong—is the best surf wave in Central America
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta to San Salvador
  • Entry documents:
    Valid passport
  • Currency:
    U.S. dollar
  • Must-try local food:
    Pupusas (tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, pork rinds and other fillings; served with hot sauce and curtido, a slightly spicy coleslaw)
  • Best buys:
    paintings, ceramics, hammocks, terrycloth towels and bathrobes
  • Information please:
    Ministry of Tourism of El Salvador—