25 Fun Things to Do in El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America and is known for its volcanoes and surfer beaches. Despite being small, there’s a huge variety of fun things to do in El Salvador. We had a wonderful time exploring different parts of the country and enjoyed our week trip there.

We already can’t wait to go back again to explore more of this beautiful country! From Mayan ruins to outdoor adventures, El Salvador has something for everyone. Below I’ve divided things to do into four separate sections. Jump to the section or read through everything for all the ideas and inspiration for fun things to do in El Salvador.

Table of Contents

Note: I would recommend hiring a driver for your time here. We used a family friend of my husband, and it cost us about $100 a day split between the four of us. This saved us so much worry, time, and effort on our trip. We were able to do everything we wanted and more, along with discovering places that we didn’t even know about! You can find recommendations for local guides here.

For more tips for visiting El Salvador, check out this post. Get my one week El Salvador packing list when you subscribe to this website!

view of san salvador barcelo hotel

In San Salvador:

  • Barcelo : Located in San Benito (the best neighborhood to stay in), Barceló San Salvador offers an innovative stay in El Salvador, ideally located in the capital of the country, in front of the new shopping center Bambu City Center, Multiplaza, SOHO Las Cascadas, and Gran Vía; and the fabulous Museum of Art of the city. You will find restaurants, shops, and cafes easy to get to from here. It also has a pool perfect for relaxing after the day!
  • Hyatt Centric: Located in Las Cascadas Shopping Center, Hyatt Centric San Salvador is centered in the heart of San Salvador’s commerce and nightlife. The hotel celebrates the Pacific Ocean and Salvadoran culture—drive just 21 miles for a day of surfing or relaxing in El Tunco, then return to your room to enjoy local wave-inspired artwork.

In La Libertad (Beach):

    • Mandala Eco Villas: Located in La Libertad, Mandala Eco Villas is on the beach. Sunzal Beach and La Gran Via Shopping Center are two other places to visit that come recommended and close by. Kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling offer great chances to get out on the surrounding water, or you can seek out an adventure with ecotours nearby. Their infinity pool overlooking the ocean and drinks will keep you happy throughout your stay! We also loved how quiet and serene the individual villas were!
    • Los Farallones: This beachfront property is located on a private beach in La Libertad, Hotel Los Farallones offers tropical gardens, a private infinity pool, and a sun terrace with hammocks and sea views. The popular surfing spot of El Sunzal is just a 5-minute drive from the hotel, and restaurants are just a 15 minute walk away.

Fun Things to do in El Salvador: San Salvador

San Salvador is the capital of El Salvador and the largest city in the country. In recent years, the city has seen a boom in infrastructure and an influx of renovations. It’s a great time to visit and see the latest and greatest of the country!

national palace san salvador

Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador

Explore the Historic Center of San Salvador

The historic center of San Salvador holds traces of the history of an entire nation. Plaza La Libertad and Plaza Gerardo Barrios are where you will find many of the statues and historical buildings of El Salvador. The architecture here is also beautiful!

Plaza La Libertad, in particular, has special historical and archeological value. The center is where the history of the city begins, and some may say the history of the Salvadoran people. Beyond the architectural design and European heritage, the center has it all, offering visitors entertainment, gastronomy, and activities in each of the buildings, as well as live shows in the Plaza.

Plaza Gerardo Barrios with the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral in the historic center of San Salvador. The National Theater is close by, along with the markets happening daily in the streets. Right now, a national library is also being built on this square. You’ll find performances, tours, and lots of lively events happening in this area!

Before visiting, know that even if Google tells you a building is open, it may be wrong. Carry a small amount of cash with you for entrance fees if you’d like to go into any historical buildings.

Want a tour? This half day city tour will take you to some of the top sites with a guide!

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The Art Museum (MARTE)

The El Salvador Art Museum MARTE is a private, non-profit institution inaugurated in May 2003. The El Salvador Art Museum Association is responsible for the museum’s operations.

The MARTE museums contribute to the educational and cultural development of the country through the conservation and dissemination of the country’s artistic heritage. It reinforces historical knowledge, reaffirming the cultural values that form El Salvador’s identity.

This museum is walkable if you stay at the Barcelo.

mural outside National Museum of Anthropology (MUNA) san salvador

inside National Museum of Anthropology (MUNA) san salvador

National Museum of Anthropology (MUNA)

The National Museum of Anthropology MUNA promotes the reflection of Salvadorans of their identity and cultural diversity through permanent, itinerant, and temporary exhibitions. Major renovations are set to change this museum drastically in the near future!

The museum has permanent thematic expositions that include migration and rooting, farming, craft production, religion, and Pre-Hispanic Burials sites. One of the most interesting parts of the museum was looking at the part of the museum that focused on a timeline of the history of El Salvador and the Mayan ruins that were on display.

The National Museum of Anthropology (MUNA) was founded by executive decree in February 1883. The museum began in the facilities of the old National University building in October of the same year.

The MUNA museum was called the National Museum of El Salvador originally. However, in 1945, museum’sum’s name was changed after its founder, David Joaquin Guzman.

This museum is walkable if you stay at the Barcelo.

Go Shopping at Multiplaza

Multiplaza is a large shopping mall that has all types of retailers that you can think of.you’reu’re wanting to do some fun shopping at mid-higher retailers, then you should definitely come here.

brutto rooftop dinner

brutto rooftop drinks san salvador

Rooftop Dinner and Drinks at Brutto

Brutto is a rooftop restaurant located in San Benito, San Salvador. Their cocktails are so good that we ended up going here twice! The rooftop overlooks the skyline of San Salvador, and it has a modern vibe you’d find in Tulum or Los Angeles.

They serve sushi and other modern bites. While we loved the vibe and drinks, we felt the food was something you could get at many restaurants around DC, but was still very tasty!

view from Volcatenango Theme Park El Boqueron San Salvador

Volcatenango Theme Park

Located on San Salvador Volcano (El Boqueron), this theme park is a fun way to spend the afternoon. Attractions are themed for different TV shows and movies, with the most amazing mountain views overlooking the theme park!

You’ll also find luscious gardens, fun cafes, and live performances here. You pay a small fee for entry and then a small fee for each ride that you take. It’s worth a visit on the way to Picnic or Las Brumas for a stroll with great views and beautiful gardens.

rainbow slide picnic steakhouse san salvador

selfie at picnic steakhouse

animatronic elephant at picnic steak house san salvador

Go Down the Rainbow Slide at Picnic Steak House

This restaurant has gone viral more than once for its colorful slide down the side of a mountain! Located on San Salvador Volcano, it’s about 20 minutes from San Benito in San Salvador. In addition to the slide, they also have great food and drinks you can enjoy. It costs $5 to ride down the slide once, and it is a fun experience. I would recommend you combine it with another thing from this list, like Volcatengo Theme Park or drinks at Las Brumas below.

courtyard at las brumas el boqueron

sunset at las brumas san salvador

Enjoy the View with Dinner at Las Brumas

Las Brumas has a beautiful property along the same drive as Picnic Steak House and Volcatenango on San Salvador Volcano. Las Brumas offers traditional Salvadoran food and drinks in an elevated way. We loved the ceviche here and found that the sunset was the perfect way to end our day!

Plaza Boqueron restaurants

Plaza Boqueron

Papusas at Plaza Boqueron

Located in the same region as the places above, Plaza Boqueron offers a variety of different food options that are delicious, but if you’re looking for some unique pupusas, then El Atico is the perfect spot! El Atico has unique styles of pupusas like loroco, bacon, or jalapenos.

Fun things to do in El Salvador: History, Culture, and Views

hummingbird mural ruta de flores

shopping at a market in ataco el salvador

downtown ataco

Ruta de Flores

Ruta de las Flores is one of the most famous and visited destinations in El Salvador. Hidden along the Apaneca hills in the west side of the country, includes a group of picturesque towns where is possible to appreciate the local and peaceful life of Salvadorean people and each one with particularities which make it special and providing different flavors during the visits.

The climate of this region is perfect for growing many different plants, flowers, and foods, making this one of the main reasons that both national and international travelers seek this destination. Local traditions, an important coffee culture, adventure activities, delicious restaurants, and local markets are some of the attractions you can enjoy in the area.

The five towns along the Ruta de Flores are Nahuizalco, Salcoatitán, Juayúa, Apaneca, and Conception de Ataco. Ataco was our favorite town on the Ruta de Flores and is pictured above. It has great shopping and beautiful murals all throughout town. I’d highly recommend spending extra time here.

If you want to truly explore this region, you need more than one day. If you only have time. in your El Salvador itinerary for one day, choose a few towns to focus on or some of the activities below along the route that you want to prioritize!

If you didn’t book a private guide, consider this day trip to explore the area!

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climbing tazumal ruins el salvador

tazumal ruins el salvador

tazumal mayan ruins el salvador

Visit The Mayan Ruins of Tazumal

Tazumal is located in the town of Chalchuapa along the Ruta de Flores. The complex contains a few structures that incorporate pyramids, platforms, temples, and a ball court. The site is part of the larger Chalchuapa Archaeological Zone that includes the nearby sites of Casa Blanca, which is literally blocks away, El Trapiche, and Las Victorias.

Archaeologists estimate that the verdant 10-sq-km Tazumal area – much of which is still under Chalchuapa’s housing – was first settled around 5000 BC. The latest works, inaugurated in December 2006, restored the original stone-and-mortar construction of much of the ruins. There are areas you can walk on the pyramids, but many are roped off. Their close proximity to everyday Salvadoran life connects the site to the present in a powerful way.nnExcavations and restorations took place in the 1940s by Stanley Boggs. Further investigations have consolidated some of the structures, and ongoing excavations have revealed a number of burials and artifacts.

Right next to Tazumal, you’ll find shops, cafes, and great souvenirs at a reasonable price. You can hire a guide who will tell you all about the ruins for just $15 or walk them yourselves. Most guides only speak Spanish so if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s great if you’ve hired a driver who speaks English to have them translate for you as well.

If you didn’t book a private guide, consider this day trip to explore the area!

Santa Teresa Hot Springs El salvador

Santa Teresa Hot Springs

Santa Teresa fumarole, or hot water geyser located along the Ruta de Flores and is the largest in Central America. Trails, swimming pools, and the blue pond make this destination a great attraction for those who want to rest and throw out stress.

There are over 20 different pools at these hot springs, and they offer drinks, food, and special treatments in addition to entrance to the hot springs. Entrance is $5, and we ended up doing the mud bath ($10), which was really fun and relaxing! We sipped wine and relaxed in the different temperature pools throughout the resort. You can also choose to stay here and enjoy a private hot tub with the spring waters.

It reminded me a little bit of Yellowstone with the natural bright blue pools with warning signs everywhere to stay away. They take the water and mud from the springs to process it in order to make it comfortable and safe to swim in! You’ll find pools ranging from medium temperature to very hot here because of that.

This tour will take you to El Carmen and to Hot Springs on a day trip!

steak sandwich at Casa 1800
casa 1800 ataco

Grab Lunch or Dinner at Casa 1800

Casa 1800 has a few different locations throughout El Salvador, including in Suchitoto, Cerro Verde, near Lake Coatepeque, Los Naranjos, and Ataco All of their locations offer a unique and beautiful dining experience with views of the natural beauty they surround that are stunning!

While we were here, we saw hummingbirds on the flowers and enjoyed amazing views of the mountains with an upscale, relaxed vibe. We loved the drinks here and the pupizza (a pupusa pizza). The steak sandwich with fries was one of my top three meals of this year. Sounds crazy, but it was so good.

You can also stay at all of their locations – Suchitoto, Cerro Verde, near Lake Coatepeque, Los Naranjos, and Ataco.

coffee tour in el salvador at El Carmen Estate Coffee Farm
coffee beans at El Carmen Estate Coffee Farm

Visit a Coffee Farm

El Carmen Estate is a coffee farm and boutique hotel located outside of Atco. They offer tours of their farm and facilities to learn all about the coffee making process. This is an active, working coffee farm,you’llou’ll likely see business happening during your tour.

It was really interesting to learn about all the different parts of the coffee-making process and included a coffee tasting at the end of the tour. It was just $6, and we loved spending a few hours learning about the biggest export crop in El Salvador. We ended up buying a lot of coffee from them because it was delicious!

This tour will take you to El Carmen and to Hot Springs on a day trip!

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view of Lake Ilopango from Tres Piedras
Lake Ilopango

Enjoy Brunch at Tres Piedras

Tres Piedras is located on Lake Ilpango, about 45 minutes from San Salvador. Tres Piedras overlooks the lake and offers a great brunch on your way to hiking or exploring Lake Ilpango. We enjoyed a traditional Salvadoran breakfast here with fresh coffee and juice on our way to the lake.

This is another spot that you can stay at, and they just put in the most beautiful Infiniti poyou’re you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing spot to stay, this is a great option!

Explore the Colonial Town of Suchitoto

Suchitoto is a town set in the mountainsSalvador’svador’s Cuscatlán. Many people say it is similar to Antigua, Guatemala, but less touristy and a smaller town feel. It’s one of the most charming towns in all of El Salvador. Surrounded by dense jungle and a massive lake, its tranquil scenery makes it the perfect spot for a day trip.

Its colonial architecture is highlighted by the mid-1800s Santa Lucia Church, with a wooden altar and beams that sits on Parque Central. The town overlooks Lago Suchitlán, a large man-made lake with boats and migratory birds. The Centro Arte para la Paz houses a museum, gallery, and gardens in a former convent.

Fun things to do in El Salvador: Outdoor Adventures

With volcanoes, lakes, mountains, and beaches, there is no shortage of amazing outdoor adventures on this list of fun things to do in El Salvador. One of the things that made me the most excited about visiting was the variety of things to do as well. You really can do some extreme but fun adventuring here!

view from santa ana volcano hike

santa ana volcano crater center

getting ready to hike santa ana volcano el salvador

Hike Santa Ana Volcano

By far, the most popular thing to do in El Salvador is hike the Santa Ana Volcano – Ilamatepec. Located in the department of Santa Ana, this colossus has an altitude of 2,381 meters above sea level, the highest in El Salvador. Its last eruptions occurred in 2005.

The hike takes 2-3 hours, and as you ascend, you’ll experience the beautiful flora and fauna that the area has to offer. You’ll notice that as you hike, you pass through the rainforest, and as the elevation changes, it will get colder so it’s recommended you bring a jacket for the top if you plan to hang out there for long on a cloudy day. Once at the top of this imposing colossus, you will have spectacular views of the Izalco volcano and Lake Coatepeque.

This is a moderately difficult hike, and you should bring water, sunglasses, sunscreen, and good footwear for walking along rocks. I’d recommend starting this hike earlier in the day to avoid crowds and the heat that hits in the middle of the day! There are parts of this hike without any cloud cover.

The entrance fee to the Complex is $3.00 for foreigners, and you may experience waiting in lines as this is a really popular hike.

To get here I’d recommend either booking a private guide or a tour that includes the hike and Lake Coatepeque.

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captain morgan hostel Lake Coatapeque
jet skiing lake coatepeque el salvador

Lake Coatepeque

This volcanic lake is a crater lake that was formed thousands of years ago by the eruption of the nearby ancient volcano, the Coatepeque Caldera. It offers a variety of activities that I’d consider outdoor adventures, but jet skiing was our favorite!

Visitors can observe a great variety of resident and migratory birds or go fishing, diving, riding a kayak, jet skiing, or boat riding. In addition, the surroundings entice you to go hiking or mountain biking, relishing the beautiful panoramic views covered with lush vegetation.

Its waters change from blue to turquoise green. According to authorities of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador, this is a cyclical phenomenon that occurs from time to time. The color change happened in 1998, 2006, 2012, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

For a day trip, I’d recommend getting a $ 5-day pass to Captain Morgan Hostel, where your day pass includes a beer, hanging out on the hostel’s deck, swimming, and relaxing by the pools. They also rent boats and jet skis! Jet skis cost $35 for a half hour, and you can ride all across the lake in this amount of time. The lake is often like glass with few boats or kayaks on it, making it a fun day!

If you want to stay here, consider Los Naranjos, not far away or Cardedeu on the lake.

tamanique waterfall el salvador
tamanique waterfall hike el salvador

Hike, Slide, and Cliff Jump at Taminique Waterfalls

Taminique is located just 10 miles from the beaches in La Libertad. You can also take a day trip from San Salvador to the waterfalls in about 45 minutes. Tamanique Waterfalls are located within the premises of a private property in the municipality of Tamanique.

You start your hike in town and are required to book a guide to visit the waterfalls. You can book ahead with a site like Viator or just hire someone locally for less once you get there. The local guide is required whether you book ahead with a company or not. I would recommend booking a guide in advance if you do not speak Spanish, as English speaking guides are not available in Taminique when you arrive.

Tamanique is home to 3 different areas of waterfalls, but within these areas, there are multiple waterfalls. It’s a difficult hike both ways and gets really hot in the middle of the day. The nice thing is you’ll be hiking to fresh, mountain water where you’ll be able to cool off during the hike! You should plan to bring plenty of water and bug spray for this hike as you are going through rainforest and parts of the hike do not have any tree cover.

Our guide was able to help us know the safe places to jump at each site as well as show us how to safely slide down the natural waterslide! We absolutely loved this hike and had the best time. My husband said it was his favorite day of our trip. This is a full-day excursion, and you’ll want to plan to be dirty and sweaty by the end with a smile on your face.

We also had every one of the waterfalls to ourselves on our hike, which made this even more special! It’s starting to gain popularity, but still off the beaten path for sure. Here is the day trip we booked.

Zipline, Slide, and More at Cafe Albania

Located in Apaneca Town, Cafe Albania is the perfect spot for the adventure traveler! Cafe Albania offers a huge rainbow slide, bike zipline, swings over the mountains, and more. The bike zipline is really unique and offers a chance of you to bike from one side of the mountain to the other over the maze and hilltops.

They also host events and have It’sgrounds. It’s about two hours from San Salvador.

Lake Ilopango

Enjoy Lake Ilopango

Lake Ilopango is a crater lake that fills an 8 by 11 km volcanic caldera in central El Salvador, on the borders of San Salvador, La Paz, and Cuscatlán. It is the largest lake in El Salvador, of volcanic origin, and ideal for diving, paddle surfing, kayaking, jet skiing, swimming, boating, fishing, or just taking a dip. Take the Panoramic Route and stop at Tres Piedras for breakfast or lunch too!

Fun things to do in El Salvador: Beaches

The beaches of El Salvador are what first brought tourism to the country. The surfing in El Salvador draws international competition and attention to El Tunco. This area has plenty to keep you busy on your trip.

The beaches in La Libertad, closest to San Salvador, are not great for swimming. Keep that in mind when deciding which beaches to visit!

Mandala Eco Villas Pool

Get a Day Pass to a Beach Resort

All around the beaches in La Libertad you’ll find beach resorts offering day passes, pool parties, and activities along the beach. These passes tend to be affordable and offer deals that include food and drinks, making them a great way to enjoy or relax without any worries even without booking a luxury stay.

I’d recommend Mandala Eco Villas or Nawi Beach House for your day pass! Mandala Eco Villas has an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean and includes a food and beverage credit. Nawi Beach House also has an infinity pool overlooking the water. They both make great mixed drinks. We chose to stay at Mandala Eco Villas as well and really enjoyed our stay!

Mandala Eco Villas beach

Take a Surf Lesson from Surf Strong El Salvador

If you’re new to surfing or need a board rental, Surf Strong El Salvador is a great spot to do it! They offer lessons and board rentals right in El Tunco.

My husband and his friend took a lesson that included over 80 photos and videos of their experience as well as a one-hour lesson. This is a great way to get used to the waves and try out surfing for the first time. Instructors help you find a section of waves and time of day that fits your skill level. We had been surfing in North Shore Oahu before, and this was a very different experience that he loved equally as much.

sunset park in surf city el salvador

Hang out at Sunset Park in Surf City

Sunset Park is a new amusement park located in Surf City right by the water. You’ll find a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and more here! Each ride is between $2-5, and you can pay for a card that is loaded with money as you go on different rides, so using a card here is easy.

We went in the evening after the heat of the day, which I would highly recommend so that you are not standing in the heat! It was a fun way to end the day. After visiting Sunset Park, we walked to a spot nearby for dinner which makes this even more convenient!

El Tunco El Salvador

Explore El Tunco

This small beachfront town of just a couple of streets is the most popular place for Salvadorians to visit on weekends. It’s got shopping, and restaurants, and is the place people go to party. From Thursday – Sunday, the small, sleepy town becomes a loud, partying beach spot, with most cafes, restaurants, and bars turning the music up to attract guests.

If you want to avoid the partying, go on the weekdays. However, we found the more crowded and lively vibe on the weekend was fun to experience after a quiet week in less touristy area.

El Zapote El Salvador
enjoying coconut el zapote el salvador

El Zapote

If you’re looking for a place to swim and relax, then El Zapote is a good option. This less touristy spot is home to several beach bars and restaurants located on a sand bar only accessible by boat in a bay about an hour and a half from San Salvador. You can hire a boat to pick you up and drop you off, then swim bar hop from spot to spot on the water.

Just make sure you visit here at low tide. Otherwise, everything will be covered in water, and there won’t be much going on! We had a fun time regardless, though, and enjoyed our day swimming in the ocean!

I hope this list of things to do in El Salvador will help inspire you to see some of the best places the country has to offer! We love El Salvador and already are planning our next trip there. This was a really special trip for us, and I hope it will be for you too.

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From Mayan ruins to outdoor adventures, El Salvador has something for everyone. Here are 25 fun things to do in El Salvador.
From Mayan ruins to outdoor adventures, El Salvador has something for everyone. Here are 25 fun things to do in El Salvador.

 

From Mayan ruins to outdoor adventures, El Salvador has something for everyone. Here are 25 fun things to do in El Salvador.
From Mayan ruins to outdoor adventures, El Salvador has something for everyone. Here are 25 fun things to do in El Salvador.
 
Meghan

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