El Salvador’s Most Mouth-Watering Culinary Experiences

You sit in the outdoor dining room of a centuries-old Spanish Colonial adobe, sipping a cup of rich coffee grown right here on the estate. Around you, orchids and bromeliads luxuriate in the misty altitude, framing a pastoral view of rivers and volcanoes.

Then it arrives—that most traditionally Salvadoran of breakfasts, plátanos con crema y frijoles. The thickly sliced, pan-fried plantains have a delicate, caramelized crunch and soft, sweet interior; the cream and refried beans cut the sweetness perfectly.

El Salvador’s Most Mouth-Watering Culinary Experiences

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You sit in the outdoor dining room of a centuries-old Spanish Colonial adobe, sipping a cup of rich coffee grown right here on the estate. Around you, orchids and bromeliads luxuriate in the misty altitude, framing a pastoral view of rivers and volcanoes.

Then it arrives—that most traditionally Salvadoran of breakfasts, plátanos con crema y frijoles. The thickly sliced, pan-fried plantains have a delicate, caramelized crunch and soft, sweet interior; the cream and refried beans cut the sweetness perfectly.

El Salvador serves up some of the best food in Central America, but it’s about more than just the flavors. Even in the most modest mercados, you’ll also find serious attention to detail. The focus is on fresh ingredients and complex recipes handed down through generations. Even better, you’ll often enjoy your meals in beautiful surroundings, with good music, lavish gardens, and other aesthetic extras.

But begin your culinary exploration with the simple yet delicious national dish: pupusas. These thick corn tortillas come stuffed with different fillings—usually beans, cheese, and/or pork–though you’ll also find shrimp, mushroom, loroco (a tasty flower), squash, chicken, and many other options, all of which you should try. This stack of deliciousness comes served with tomato sauce and curtido, a sort of spicy, pickled slaw. Eat with your hands.

Stands set up in alleys, beneath beach boardwalks, and almost anywhere that people gather, begin serving pupusas around 4pm. It’s been an El Salvador tradition for centuries.

Once you’ve indulged in this, the ultimate Salvadoran dining experience, it’s time to go further.

Mercado Municipal de Antiguo Cuscatlán

San Salvador is surprisingly sophisticated, and if you want to splurge on classic fine dining, you’ll find excellent, upscale restaurants serving almost any international cuisine. To truly experience San Salvador, however, head into its ancient heart (now housed in a fine modern building), Mercado Cuscatlán.

This sprawling market has almost everything imaginable on offer, from bawdy souvenirs to bouquets of fresh flowers. But you’re here for the food. Dozens of stands compete for your business with traditional Salvadoran cuisine and, at lunchtime, a side of live music. Indulge.

Fine Food With a View Atop San Salvador Volcano

El Salvador is in love with al fresco dining in the countryside, and the capital is no exception. On weekends, the classic getaway is a drive up Volcán San Salvador into the cool, clean, coffee-growing altitudes. The road to the top is lined with wonderful restaurants boasting spectacular gardens, small playgrounds for the kids, incredible views over San Salvador, and of course, amazing food—most of it traditionally Salvadoran.

You’ll also find charming outdoor restaurants along almost any scenic route, from the Ruta las Flores in the western highlands to Morazán Department in the east. These spots are designed to satisfy the soul as well as the appetite.

Rice Pupusas at Olocuitla

Most pupusas are made with corn. But the town of Olocuitla, conveniently located halfway between San Salvador and Costa del Sol, is famous for its delicate, rice-flour versions of the country’s favorite dish. Simply pull off the highway and you’ll immediately find dozens of pupuserías churning out hot stacks of tasty goodness. Most will take your order and bring the amazing snack right to your car.

Ceviche at La Libertad

You’ll find the freshest fish in El Salvador at the market on iconic La Libertad Pier. While you can buy the just-caught whole fish, an easier way to indulge your seafood desires is with colorful ceviche.

Simple stands lining La Libertad’s boardwalk serve delicious ceviche—made by marinating raw fish in lemon juice, onion, and spices—in a kaleidoscope of varieties, such as spicy, sour, shrimp, fish, and more. Some spots also cook up other seafood dishes (try the sopa de siete mares, a delicate seafood stew), and all of them serve cold beer.

Fería Gastronómica in Juayúa

The most classic gastronomic experience in El Salvador is the Juayúa Food Festival, held every weekend in this beautiful village along the Ruta las Flores. The central square is shut down to all traffic except for horseback rides and a tourist train, and scores of stands sell the finest in Salvadoran and international cuisine.

Don’t worry about your Spanish skills; savvy chefs cater to international tourists by displaying sample platters of their finest cuisine. You just need to point, pay, and eat—probably several times over the course of the weekend. Live music and other entertainment is all part of the fun.

El Salvador’s 5 Most Instagram-Worthy Beaches

Arguably El Salvador’s most popular attraction, the stunning Pacific coastline wends its way for some 300 kilometers (186 miles) past isolated crescent coves, broad tourist beaches, dramatic cliffs, and some of the world’s best surf breaks. The sand shimmers a deep volcanic gray, the legendary waves crest and crash, and the Western-facing shoreline sets the stage for mesmerizing sunsets.

The hard work comes in choosing between all of the magnificent stretches of sand. Is your goal relaxing? Surfing? Exploring a surf town? Whichever beach—or beaches—you choose, you can’t go wrong…and your Instagram fans will undoubtedly approve.

El Salvador’s 5 Most Instagram-Worthy Beaches

 

EL SALVADOR’S 5 MOST INSTAGRAM-WORTHY BEACHES

EL SALVADOR’S 5 MOST INSTAGRAM-WORTHY BEACHES

Arguably El Salvador’s most popular attraction, the stunning Pacific coastline wends its way for some 300 kilometers (186 miles) past isolated crescent coves, broad tourist beaches, dramatic cliffs, and some of the world’s best surf breaks. The sand shimmers a deep volcanic gray, the legendary waves crest and crash, and the Western-facing shoreline sets the stage for mesmerizing sunsets. The hard work comes in choosing between all of the magnificent stretches of sand. Is your goal relaxing? Surfing? Exploring a surf town? Whichever beach—or beaches—you choose, you can’t go wrong…and your Instagram fans will undoubtedly approve.

El Tunco

El Tunco

Party people looking for the best little surf town in El Salvador can begin here. Surfers and backpackers come to hang loose on this beach of dark-gray sand and smooth pebbles; you’ll make friends as waves crash around the iconic rock formation just offshore. But it’s not all serenity—you’re also here for the nightlife and festive atmosphere. Accommodations for every budget are plentiful, tour outfits and restaurants cater to foreign tourists, and English is widely spoken, making El Tunco the perfect playa to begin your exploration of the Salvadoran coastline.

Costa del Sol

Costa del Sol

San Salvadorans escape the city heat and noise at this long, broad, pearl-gray beach that’s perfect for swimming, walking, or playing a little volleyball. The relaxed shore is lined with fabulous vacation homes and hotels for every budget, along with excellent seafood restaurants. Once you’ve filled your camera roll with beach photos, pop over to check out the bay and take a tour of the mangrove forests that fringe Estero de Jaltepeque (Jaltepeque Estuary).

Los Cóbanos

Los Cóbanos

The soft, golden sands of Los Cóbanos—with its palm-shaded coves and colorful local fishing boats bobbing in the turquoise water—make up what is arguably the country’s most beautiful beach. But don’t limit yourself to the land. A protected coral reef lies just offshore, playing host to vibrant sea life and setting the scene for the best snorkeling, diving, and deep-sea fishing in El Salvador. Arrange tours through any area hotel (many of which are truly excellent).

El Cuco

El Cuco

The other nominee for El Salvador’s most beautiful beach is in the wild east, which means it’s less accessible and therefore less crowded. Dark sands and brightly painted fishing boats make El Cuco—really a collection of three beaches—incredibly photogenic. The break at one of them, Las Flores, brings in serious surfers and features some of the country’s finest resorts. But there are calmer stretches of glittering ocean where you can swim, paddleboard, hire boats for mangrove tours, or simply soak it in from rustic beachfront restaurants serving cold beer and fresh seafood.

Peninsula San Juan del Gozo & Corral de Mulas

Peninsula San Juan del Gozo & Corral de Mulas

When you really want to get away from it all, hire a boat across the Bahía Jiquilisco, a mangrove-fringed UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for its incredible birding and sea turtle nesting sites. The barrier that protects this rich coastal estuary from the open sea is called Peninsula San Juan del Gozo, and it’s where you’ll find a broad, sandy, almost empty beach where you can walk for miles.

The Most Breathtakingly Beautiful Places in El Salvador

That such a small country could play host to so much beauty may seem surreal. But Instagrammable moments, which happen around almost every turn, offer assurance that the beauty is very real.

The moment when you fully appreciate the expanse of beauty may come while looking out across the whitewashed city of Juayúa, with the massive triple cones of Los Volcanes National Park rising behind it. Or it may occur among El Salvador’s sparkling lakes, stunning beaches, Spanish Colonial towns, and cool mountains marbled with waterfalls and hot springs. But no matter when that moment happens during your journey, it will happen. Have your camera ready.

The Most Breathtakingly Beautiful Places in El Salvador

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That such a small country could play host to so much beauty may seem surreal. But Instagrammable moments, which happen around almost every turn, offer assurance that the beauty is very real.

The moment when you fully appreciate the expanse of beauty may come while looking out across the whitewashed city of Juayúa, with the massive triple cones of Los Volcanes National Park rising behind it. Or it may occur among El Salvador’s sparkling lakes, stunning beaches, Spanish Colonial towns, and cool mountains marbled with waterfalls and hot springs. But no matter when that moment happens during your journey, it will happen. Have your camera ready.

Here are some of El Salvador’s exceptionally gorgeous spots.

Coatepeque Crater Lake

From the rim of this massive volcanic crater, which plunges to a sparkling, 10-square-mile (26-sq-km) lake, you’ll appreciate why the Mayans made the island of Teopán a sacred site. (And yes, you can stay there, at several opulent Airbnbs.)

Descend into the caldera to find an inviting waterfront lined with hotels and restaurants serving up great food and live music. Then take a dip in the glass-like water, with the steep and verdant crater walls reflecting off its ripples.

Suchitoto

This gracefully preserved Spanish Colonial town, with its cobblestone streets and lovely little church, would be one of the country’s top destinations even if it weren’t perched above the shimmering, island-dappled expanse of Lake Suchitlán.

Founded in 1528 as El Salvador’s original capital, Suchitoto is a city of courtyard gardens hidden behind ancient adobe walls and red-tiled rooftops, with fine hotels, shops, and restaurants tucked inside. Venture beyond for more beauty: Take a short hike to Los Tercios Waterfall, which pours over 100-foot (30-meter) columns of basalt; or ride a boat out to uninhabited lake islands, where huge flocks of birds fill the trees.

El Rosario Church

Rainbows stream through the transformative interior of what some call the most beautiful church in El Salvador. Iglesia El Rosario, in San Salvador, is no Spanish Colonial structure.

Completed in 1971, it’s entirely modern, arching above the city center like an unusually graceful airplane hanger. Inside, it’s a place of sublime beauty, with a cascade of stained glass windows that paint the striking Stages of the Cross with colored light. Visit on a sunny afternoon.

Many of the capital’s more traditionally beautiful architectural gems, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and National Theater, are within a few blocks of El Rosario.

Playa Las Flores

Choosing the most beautiful beach in El Salvador is an impossible task; each offers its own reward. You can experience the mangroves and sea turtles of Corral de Mullas, the surf town of El Tunco, and the undersea scenery of Los Cobanos.

But Playa las Flores, adjacent to almost-as-attractive Playa El Cuco, is as close to beachfront perfection as you’ll find anywhere in the country. This crescent of dark, volcanic sand—framed in glistening cliffs and swaying palms—is best known for its epic surf break. But it’s also an excellent swimming beach, with enough hiking and accommodations to keep all kinds of travelers happy.

Miramundo

The Sierra Madre Mountains rise suddenly from the sweltering lowlands to cool pine-forested heights, and on a clear day you can catch a sweeping view of this shift—and see all the way to the Pacific Ocean—from Miramundo (loosely translated as “View the World”).

The high point here is Cerro El Pital (8,957 feet; 2,730 meters), where the rustling forest and misty climate creates a relaxing environment. Wonderful restaurants and accommodations encourage lingering. And even if it’s too cloudy to see the sea, you can’t miss the rolling farmlands, hung with orchids and epiphytes.