El Salvador

Some of the best surfing in Central America, one of Central America’s most remote and least visited national parks, and some excellent hiking around barren volcanic craters through majestic landscapes – many would never guess this great combination of natural elements could be found in often-overlooked El Salvador. It is Central America’s smallest nation, the only one without a Caribbean coastline and one of the least-visited; however, the very fact that so few tourists take advantage of El Salvador can be a positive aspect for those aching to jump off the tourist path.

El Salvador is still healing from scars from a long Civil War that ended in 1992 and has since had the highest crime rate in Central America. The economy is weak and was hit hard by natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch and two destructive earthquakes in 2001. The currency is the US dollar, and prices tend to be a little inflated compared to neighboring countries as a result.

Some highlights not to miss on your trip to El Salvador:

Playa Costa del Sol: A skinny stretch of Pacific peninsula that is slowly being developed as a tourist resort, the Playa Costa del Sol has long stretches of sandy beaches that can fill up on weekends.

Reserva Nacional Bosque el Imposible: This is one of the most remote and untouched national parks in Central America. Its a great park to spot rare mammals like the puma, ocelot, agouti, wild boar and ant bear and birds like the black-crested eagle, and king hawk, and black and white owl among others.

Cerro Verde: A lush forest filled with flowers, flora, fauna and fantastic views of the two volcanoes within the park, the Izalco Volcano (1,910 m – 6,266 ft) and the Santa Ana Volcano (2,365 m – 7,759 ft) , the highest in the country. There are nature hikes, or for the more energetic, climbs up the volcanoes with spectacular views along the way and at the top.

Suchitoto: Originally a PipĂ­l town, Suchitoto was the nation’s capital for 15 years beginning in 1528. Today it’s a quaint colonial town with several tourist attractions along its cobblestone streets and is rich in cultural and artistic attractions. La Palma: The handicrafts capital of El Salvador, La Palma is tucked into a pine-forest valley at the foot of Miramundo mountain, just 84 km (52 mi) north of San Salvador. Delicate and ornate wooden carvings are La Palma’s specialty along with colorfully hand-embroidered tapestries.

All information for this overview was written and researched by Dawn Wohlfarth.