El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America, primarily attracts tourists who are interested in its black-sand beaches and surfing, and its vibrant nightlife. In recent years, the El Salvador government has placed more of an emphasis on tourism, and is enjoying a dramatic increase in visitors and tourist revenue.
El Salvador’s tourism landscape differs from its Central American neighbors. Because of its geographical size and urbanization, there aren’t many nature-themed tourist destinations such as eco-tours or archaeological monuments. Surfing, however, is a popular tourist attraction that gaining global interest in recent years as more surfers visit the many beaches on the coast of La Libertad and the east side of the country, finding surfing spots that are not yet overcrowded. One of the major tourism assets of the country, the Pacific coast is only 30 minutes from the capital of San Salvador. The 188-mile black sand coastline begins with Garita Palmera near the Guatemalan border and continues south with the major hotel and golf developments of La Costa del Sol, to the beautiful beaches of El Espino and El Cuco and the popular surfing beach of El Zunzal.
El Salvador is also making the most of its turbulent history. Some of the latest tourist attractions in the former war-torn El Salvador feature gun fragments, pictures, combat plans and mountain hideouts. The mountain town of Perquin, once considered the “guerrilla capital,” is now home to the Museum of the Revolution, featuring cannons, uniforms, pieces of Soviet weaponry, and other weapons of war once used by the FMLN’s (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) headquarters.
For explorers, El Salvador offers a fascinating collection of sites, including Tazumal, a group of flat-topped stepped pyramids that is still being studied by historians, located on the outskirts of the city of Chalchuapa; Guija, near the Guatemala border on the Guija Lake, where many archaeological treasures can still be found, untouched, on the lakeshore; San Andres, another group of stepped pyramids positioned between two rivers in the Zapotitan Valley; Cihuatan, which features ruins of cities over an area of four square kilometers; Joya de Ceren, a settlement that was buried under five meters of ash from the eruption of Laguna Caldera Volcano in 600 AD, and was discovered in 1978; and Corinto, which consists of two caves situated on a broad plain north of the village of Corinto that contain prehistoric drawings about 10,000 years old.
In the northern highlands, the Montecristo Cloud Forest, known as El Trifinio, marks the point where the borders of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala meet, and is one of Central America’s largest and most magnificent cloud forests. Cooperatively protected by the three countries, the forest contains a variety of micro-climates and possibly the greatest diversity of wildlife in Central America.
With direct flights from the U.S. taking only four to six hours, this destination is gaining in popularity, this one small country that can deliver large when it comes to enjoying a wonderful trip.