Do you ever tire of the city? Even small cities can become overbearing and San Salvador isn’t a small city, at least in Central American terms.
San Salvador is the capital of El Salvador, Central America’s most densely populated country.
It’s easy to tire of San Salvador when your routine demands you be there for work, life, and meetings. You live your life and make plans for when you have time to visit other parts of the country.
Except it doesn’t have to be so open-ended and time-dependent, not in tiny El Salvador. Here, a change of scenery is very accessible and you can leave the city, recharge your batteries, and be back refreshed the same day.
So here are three of my favorite day hikes for getting out of San Salvador, just for a little while. Three favorite day hikes that are essential for keeping touch with nature and staying sane in a chaotic world.
Hiking in El Salvador: The Santa Ana Volcano
The Ilamatepec Volcano, also known as the Santa Ana Volcano, is the highest volcano in El Salvador, and perhaps the easiest to climb.
While other hikes need a night of prepping snacks and either going to bed early or getting up at the crack of dawn, with the Santa Ana Volcano you can sleep in until 9:00 AM and still make the 11:00 AM tour to the crater.
The hike from Casa Cristal takes about four hours and starts with steady, shaded paths through the forest, and then, as you ascend, you’ll be walking on rocky, volcanic soil.
That smell? That’s the sulfur from the active volcano beneath your feet.
Once you reach the top, the views will take your breath away. The stretch of blue in the back is the Pacific Ocean. It’s far away but just as visible as the Izalco Volcano and the Coatepeque caldera lake in front.
Take your time up there and appreciate the turquoise green crater and the details of cracks and fissures of a majestic volcano. You’ll be back down by 3:00 PM and have the rest of the day left to let it sink in.
Hiking in El Salvador: The Tamanique Waterfalls
A hike to the Tamanique Waterfalls is so easy you don’t have to plan that far ahead.
You could be out somewhere, say at a party, on a Saturday night when people ask “what are you doing tomorrow?”
“Let’s go to Tamanique.” Okay, sure.
Don’t worry about anything except bringing proper shoes, a change of clothes and a bathing suit.
The Tamanique Waterfalls are also close to the surfing beaches of El Tunco, so if you’re hanging out there, they make a great trip if it’s flat or you feel like exploring further.
What you’ll see here is a tropical forest, fields and big trees, before you reach the first waterfall. Viewing it from the top is spectacular and already refreshing, but the hike continues down.
There are spots where you can swim and shower under the cold waterfall. The water pressure is revitalizing, and the cold is perfect to counterbalance the heat.
And if it’s been raining, you’re likely to have muddy shoes to clean.
Hiking in El Salvador: El Boqueron Park
El Boqueron Natural Park is a crater inside the San Salvador Volcano and the hike up to it is perfect for amateurs. Low-key and high-impact, it’s a good dose of outdoors when you’re in San Salvador and craving a quick change of air.
Also called Quetzaltepec, the San Salvador volcano dominates the skyline of the city, visible from most parts of town.
The hike from the natural park area – with amazing views of San Salvador – is doable if you can spare a chunk of your morning or afternoon. Apart from the city views also look out for glimpses of Lake Ilopango beneath the San Vicente volcano ahead…
— El Salvador Travel (@esimpressive) January 12, 2018
The paths inside take you to three different viewpoints, all in a pleasant forest.
Up here you can see the Boquerón crater for yourself – a crater within a crater formed after the last eruption in 1917. The cinder cone mini-crater is smaller than it seems but still impressive.
For each of these fast escapes, there’s always a good meal nearby.
Climb down the Santa Ana volcano and head to Lago Coatepeque. Once here you can’t go back to San Salvador without visiting La Pampa Coatepeque, a great place for food with lakeside views.
Change out of your wet swimsuit after a waterfall adventure in Tamanique, and hit the beach for fresh seafood. There are tons of places. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something off the grid, check out Chepe Aleta in El Palmarcito. Popular and vibrant, you’ll eat fresh fish on a deck over the Rio El Palmar, while maintaining a sense of privacy and coziness.
And after hiking to El Boqueron, don’t leave just yet. Watch out for fresh berries sold on the road, and check out the greenhouses, too.
Stop at Café del Volcan for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snacks. The menu is traditional Salvadorean food but also expands to more international options.
I’ll take coffee with any of these outdoor excursions and pull my phone out every other minute to capture the views.
I’m always eager to get into the car for a day trip outside San Salvador.
Patricia Trigueros is a free spirit, writer, and translator from El Salvador. She has the habit of drinking too much coffee and writing in English, French, and Spanish. Check out her blog, Paty Stuff, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.