When booking your next vacay, I highly doubt this country is on your radar – but I’m breaking down the three reasons this country should be top of your list. Can you guess which country it is? If you know me well you probably have a pretty good feeling, but if not let me let you in on a little secret about one of my favorite countries to visit: El Salvador.
I know, you’re probably thinking I’m slightly crazy. If you have ever seen the news or quickly google searched El Salvador facts, you probably got a quick snapshot of the negatives. Gangs, violence, drugs etc. Unfortunately, many times the media hypes up the not so great things and leaves out all of the incredible things this country has to offer. I can vouch that the good outweighs the bad, and anyone else who has visited can promise the same.
Let’s get into it. I’m getting chills now just writing about it – this country is something I believe everyone should experience. I hope this can encourage you to visit a part of the world that deserves more hype than it gets, and if your mom freaks out thinking you’re going to visit a violence ridden country and get nabbed off the sidewalk, send her this blog to read! Trust me, my mom felt the same way back in 2013 when I booked my first trip, but I kept going back. I was hooked, and you will be too.
The people of El Salvador are some of the most resilient and friendly people I have ever met. In my 5 trips to the country, I have made some lifelong friends. There are people I met on my first trip at age 17 that I still talk to today. Wherever you go, they will welcome you with open arms, offer a delicious meal and always have something to talk about. Especially the kids! If you have some soccer skills, you will be sure to win over and Salvadorans heart in no time.
Did you know El Salvador is one of the top places to surf in the world? The gorgeous black sand beaches of Playa El Tunco draw surfers from all over the world. Not to mention, the beaches have some incredible restaurants, Airbnb beach houses (practically mansions that will leave you in tears at how beautiful they are), and hotels as well. Another great advantage? Staying in a luxury hotel or beach house won’t break the bank! Traveling around El Salvador is extremely affordable.
If you’re more of a hiker rather than a beach bum, El Salvador has something for you. You will find a host of climbable volcanoes all over the country. I personally have climbed Volcan de Izalco once and the Santa Ana volcano twice. Hiking a volcano and reaching the top is unlike any experience! There are fresh fruit stands on the way up so you wont go hungry and the views during the climb are truly breathtaking! The sheer beauty of the country is truly mind blowing. There are so many diverse sights within this little country, you will never be bored!!
It’s no secret that checking out the food scene in any destination is one of the most important things on my travel agenda. El Salvador does not skimp when it comes to flavor and tasty bites. Starting with the national dish, the pupusa. If you love piping hot melty cheese smushed between a fresh off the grill homemade tortilla, you will D I E for some pupusas. The best i can compare it to would be a quesadilla on steroids, you know what I mean? You can find pupusas on literally every street corner to fancy fine dining restaurants. You haven’t lived until you’ve purchased a $.30 pupusa and burned the skin off the roof of your mouth because you couldn’t wait for it to cool. Just trust me.
El Salvador also has TONS of fresh fruit and veggie stands every where you look. Whether you’re walking into the mall or about to hike a volcano, you can find $.25 bags of the best pineapple and mango on this planet. Nothing beats a refreshing mango with chili and lime under the Salvadorian sun.
I can literally go on ALL day about the food, but I do have another thing to mention. FROZENS. I just need a moment of silence for these bad boys. Every single restaurant you go to has a wide variety (seriously, like 13 flavors) of fruity and delicious frozen drinks. All they are is fresh fruit blended with ice but I’m telling you, when you take that first sip, IT HITS DIFFERENT. Honestly just thinking about Salvadoran food has me almost in tears and searching google flights for the soonest one way flight.
Now it’s time for the honorable mentions. These are the quirky things about El Salvador that I have never seen anywhere else and truly just add to the experience of visiting this country. These are the random things that make me laugh out loud when reminiscing with friends and make El Salvador so unique. You really can’t explain them – you just have to experience it to get it, know you?
First, riding in the back of a pick up truck with 7 of your closest friends is the norm. Even when there are torrential downpours while you’re driving on the highway at 60 mph, totes normal!!
Next, the traffic. There are basically no traffic laws in El Salvador and it’s not uncommon to see 4 or 5 cars all smushed next to each other on something that really should be a two lane road. This makes for extra fun times when you’re in the back of the pickup truck that I previously mentioned. Regardless of the traffic regulations or lack thereof, I have never really seen many auto accidents. It’s kind of like this understood thing that all Salvadorans know how to handle the roads.
Third, the toilet situation. An absolute major thing to know about El Salvador is you can not under any circumstance, flush your toilet paper. I can’t even tell you how many times I forgot about this on my first trip and had to embarrassingly ask for the plunger. You get used it after a few days, but trust me, it’s not something you want to forget. There are just a lot of unique nuances that you will just have to experience for yourself, trust me.
Finally, Pollo Campero. You might be thinking, Anna, what’s so great about the Central American version of KFC. Let me just say that even comparing this lifechanging chicken to KFC is a sin. Pollo Campero is taken extremely seriously in El Salvador. So much so that whenever I get on the plane to come home, I see MULTIPLE families getting on the plane with their sack of chicken. No joke. When Pollo Campero reposted one of my instagram stories, I did shed a few tears and brag to my friends on the trip. It was a big moment for me.
If you are traveling to El Salvador for the first time, I would highly recommend going with a group or travel agency that has experience traveling there. Like any foreign country, it is always safer to travel in numbers. All but one of my trips have been with Into the Nations, a non-profit local to my hometown run by two of the MOST amazing humans. You can read more about our day to day trip itineraries here.
Get involved with local economy and local non-profit groups. There are countless to choose from, but my all time favorite is Mission to El Salvador. This couple is changing thousands of lives every year and making an enormous impact on San Salvador. To learn more about their mission, check out their Facebook page here. They also have a bakery where they make and sell the most delicious massive donuts I’ve ever had.
I could seriously talk about this for days on end, but I hope this can enlighten you a little bit about one of my favorite places, El Salvador. I can hype it up alllllll day long, but you should really just check it out for yourself. If you’re traveled to El Salvador already, I’d love to hear some of your stories! If you haven’t been yet, please share some of your other favorite countries you’ve seen – I’m always trying to grow my travel bucket list. Adios, for now, amigos.
If domestic travel is more your thing, check out my guide to the Adirondacks! It’s just what you need to plan an outdoorsy adventure right here in the states.
Hi there, I'm Anna
Brunette Collective is a lifestyle blog focused on creating happiness through an intentional life, founded by Anna Fenstermacher.