3-Day Travel Guide to El Salvador

For my 32nd birthday, I decided to plan a solo trip somewhere with a quick flight, that was warm, affordable, safe for solo female travelers, and a place I’ve never been. After some research, El Salvador checked all of those boxes. It’s only a 3.5-hour direct flight from ATL, temperatures are steadily 80 degrees Fahrenheit in October, it’s one of the most affordable places to travel in Central America, and I came across articles written by solo female travelers who felt safe there. I spent an extended weekend in El Salvador and fulfilled all of my desires of having an adventurous birthday.

Here’s Your 3-Day Travel Guide to El Salvador:

Travel Requirements

Entry into El Salvador

El Salvador International Airport is located in San Salvador and is the only international airport in the country. A tourist card is also needed for entry into the country. It can be purchased on arrival for $12 and is valid for 90 days.

Where to stay in El Salvador

Stay in San Salvador if you want an urban city living feel. With a population of 550,000 San Salvador is the largest city in El Salvador and the nation’s capital. Stay in La Libertad for beach town vibes. I wanted to wake up to beautiful coastal views every day so I chose to stay in La Libertad.

I booked a private room at the Lagarza Hostel and it which was the best decision. The property is gorgeous and is located right on the beach. The staff was helpful and accommodating. All of my excursions and the majority of my taxis were arranged through Lagarza which made my trip planning seamless.

Chilling Pool-side at Lagarza Hostel

How to get around El Salvador

I used taxis during my entire stay. As always, negotiate your price before getting in the taxi. Buses are another popular way of getting around El Salvador. El Salvador’s brightly decorated school buses can get you virtually anywhere in the country. You can get between towns like San Salvador and La Libertad for $2.

Safety in El Salvador

I felt completely safe in El Salvador traveling solo. I was met with a warm embrace by everyone I came across. However, El Salvador does have a known gang violence issue (particularly in San Salvador), but it is usually not targeted towards foreigners. Touristy areas are heavily patrolled by police.

I only went out at night because one of my tour guides graciously offered to take me out for my birthday. It’s generally inadvisable to go out alone after dark.

Although, Lagarza Hostel only has one key copy per room, I still used a portable door lock at my accommodation for extra protection.

Currency in El Salvador

The U.S. Dollar is the main currency in El Salvador. Bitcoin recently became legal tender in El Salvador, which is historical because it is the first country to do so.

El Salvador Budget Breakdown

  • Non-Stop Flight from Atlanta: $324

  • Accommodation: $397

  • Activities: $ 175

  • Taxis: $155

  • Food & Drinks: $75 ( My breakfast was included with my accommodation and my most expensive meal was $25 at the Nawi beach house. Most meals average around $5-8)

  • COVID-19 Testing: $50

Total Cost: $1,176

Things to Do

Day 1: Rainbow slide at Picnic Steak House

The IG famous Rainbow Slide is about 1 hour away from La Libertad at a restaurant called Picnic Steak House. The admission cost is $5. Since I arrived in San Salvador early afternoon, I decided to make a pit stop there before heading to Lagarza. One of the best parts of the venue is the whimsical trail filled with mystical creatures, animals, and greenery leading up to the slide.

I didn’t eat there because I wanted to make it to my Lagarza before sunset, and based on Trip Advisor reviews most people visit for the views and ambiance because the food is pricey yet mediocre.

Day 2: Volcano Hike at Santa Ana

Santa Ana is the highest of the 23 volcanoes in El Salvador. It is about a 2 hour drive from La Libertad and a 1.5 hour drive from San Salvador. I went on a guided tour with El Zonte School for $70. The hike starts off easy, but gets more difficult once you reach the volcano part. I highly recommend buying a stick for 50 cents before you begin. It was my saving grace. It took us 2 hours to reach the top, but our guide said it takes him 45 minutes when he’s alone. Once you reach the top you will be enamored. by the beautiful view of the turquoise crater! There’s also a man who sells homemade icees and an assortment of icecream. I got the Tamarindo flavor and it was delicious.

Pro tip: Check the weather conditions before you book your tour. You aren’t allowed to hike Santa Ana in the rain because it’s prone to be struck by lightning and heavy rain creates rock slides there.

Day 3:

Surf Lesson

I could not go to the Surf City and not surf! On my birthday, I wanted to try something new so I kicked off my day with a 7 am private surfing lesson with Mario Guillen at el Zonte Beach. An hour lesson was $35. We started on the sand to practice the basic moves and then we hit the water. A few years ago, I was petrified of open water, so spending one hour literally facing massive waves was a huge milestone for me.

Pro tip: I highly recommend you bring a one-piece bathing suit or board shorts rather than a 2-piece bathing suit because you don’t want to be exposed when you crash under an unexpected wave.

Massage

After my surf lesson, I got a massage, which was arranged by Lagarza. I chose to have my 60 min massage in a shaded area in Shelpa Beach.

Nawi Beach Club

In true Jewels fashion, I couldn’t let my birthday pass without getting dressed up and going somewhere with a nice ambiance. I spent the afternoon at Nawi Beach Club and had the best time. For $20 day pass, I got a welcome drink, horseback ride, and access to their infinity pool. The staff was nice and surprised me with a birthday cake and sang to me.

Party in El Tunco

At night, I got a taste of El Salvador’s nightlife in El Tunco. El Tunco is a casual surf town (leave your heels at home). We went to La Bonita and Kakos. Both were outdoor spacious spots with great music! I loved how chill it was and how a lot of people were dancing and having a good time.

I will definitely visit El Salvador again sooner than later because it’s so close to ATL, super affordable, and 3 days is not enough! I’m so grateful to have entered my 32nd year in such a beautiful place.

Watch my El Salvador Vlog below:

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Jewels Rhode

Frequent Flyer. Chief Enjoyment Officer. Helping you make your travel dreams a reality!