Country #73: El Salvador

On Friday, June 24, we flew into El Salvador International Airport. Santa Ana, one of the larger cities in the country but still a small town by most Americans’ definitions, was our destination. We chose Santa Ana because it’s known as one of the safest locations in El Salvador, which isn’t known for being a particularly safe destination. For this reason, I loved having Dan by my side. I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to do this country solo. 

I wasn’t the only one thrilled. For weeks leading up to my return to full-time travel, nearly all of my family members had mentioned how relieved they were that Dan was traveling with me. It reminded me of an interaction I had with one of my local guides in the Philippines in August 2019. 

She had said, “It’s really an interesting thing that so many Western parents are letting their daughters travel alone.” 

The Philippines was one of my first solo countries in Asia, but I had done quite a few destinations in Europe solo before that. It still made me laugh though. “What on Earth makes you think my parents are ‘letting’ me do this?

If my parents had it their way, I’d still be in Hawaii. Somewhere beautiful, known, and comfortable. But alas, I have my goal to reach 100 countries and here I am. 

So, as the day approached for me to leave for El Salvador, my entire family said things like, “Dan’s going with you there, right? Oh my gosh, that’s great. It’s so nice that he’s traveling with you now, so you’re not alone. We love that,” on the phone. 

You’re right. We do love that. 

Santa Ana Hotel

In Santa Ana, we stayed at The Remfort. This 3-star hotel was only about $65 per night with breakfast included each morning. Our main priority when booking a place to stay in Santa Ana was having stable Wi-Fi. The Remfort came through with an entire meeting room that Dan was able to work in all week. It had the router in the room, which meant the Wi-Fi was stellar. 

Some of the staff spoke English, and some spoke Spanish. We’re still brushing up on our Spanish, so it was nice for them to accommodate our poor language skills. 

Santa Ana Itinerary 

I wouldn’t recommend staying in Santa Ana for a whole week if you’re not working. There isn’t that much to do. However, if you’re game to hike the volcano and want to travel a bit more slowly, then it’s a tremendous 3-day destination. Here’s what our days looked like. 

Friday, 6/24

  • We arrived at the airport after a redeye at 5 AM, and I found it just as confusing as I did in 2019 (shout out to senior spring break!)
  • Our driver Carlos met us outside to take us to Santa Ana, and he stopped along the way to get us pupusas for breakfast. We ate a combination of flavors (plain cheese, chicken and cheese, and shrimp and cheese). 
  • We arrived at The Remfort around 8 AM and waited by the pool until our room was ready around 9:30 AM. This was way earlier than it should have been ready, so it was nice for them to allow us to use it early. 
  • We worked for a little while and then napped to compensate for our poor sleep. 
  • We ate at Simmer Down right in the main square for dinner. We had a low-key evening and went to bed relatively early. 

Saturday, 6/25

  • We woke up around 9 AM and went down to the free breakfast.
  • We then went to Santein Cafe to work for a little while (great wifi!).
  • Dan went to go grab lunch around 12:30, and I went back to the hotel to work for a few hours (had to make up for the time lost in yesterday’s nap!). 
  • We grabbed tacos for dinner at Cafe Tejas, which had good strawberry lemonade (a staple at restaurants in Santa Ana!). 

Sunday, 6/26

  • Sunday was our big day to hike the volcano. We woke up at 6 AM to grab breakfast and head to the bus stop. 
  • We took bus 248 toward El Congo. Our destination was Parque Nacional Cerro Verde.
  • We arrived around 10 AM at the base of the Santa Ana Volcano and meet up with guides immediately. Guides are required for the hike (although not really necessary in terms of difficulty). They now cost $3 per person, and you must pay another $6 per person to enter the park if you’re a foreigner. 
  • The hike took around 3 hours roundtrip with many stops. The guides weren’t the most efficient. We also had about 30 minutes at the top. Our group was anxious to make it back down in time for the 1 PM bus because the only other option was a bus coming at 4-4:30. 
  • We were successful in coming back down right around 12:55 PM, but the bus didn’t make it to us until 1:22 (so don’t fret if it’s late!). 
  • While the bus took 2 hours on the way there, it only took an hour on the way back. I napped on Dan’s lap. 
  • We went to Cocteles Waikiki for dinner immediately after and then hunkered down for the night. 

Monday, 6/27

  • We woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel. Having breakfast provided is such a blessing when you’re working because you don’t have to figure out where to get food before an early delivery or call. 
  • Dan was nervous about calls on this day, but he ended up having great Wi-Fi because of the designated meeting room that The Remfort had. Great spot for any business travel in the city.
  • We ate lunch at the Artisant and dinner at Cafe Tevas. 
  • It seemed to rain every night like clockwork, so we watched the movie Red-Eye once it got dark/rainy. 

Tuesday, 6/28

  • Tuesday was a big workday for me. I woke up early to get orders done for clients before getting breakfast downstairs. Dan also took his calls from the meeting room. It was ideal to have two separate workspaces available. 
  • We ate dinner at Lover’s Steak House this night. We both ordered the filet mignon (fairly affordable in Central America!) and enjoyed the best strawberry lemonade of the trip. 
  • We came back to the room and watched Jack Reacher. During the movie, I finished up work for the evening and booked travel for Panama. 

Wednesday, 6/29

  • I slept in a little bit later than in past days until 8:30. Dan was already up for his calls on the East Coast. 
  • Breakfast at the hotel was always the same – “el tipico” as it was called 
  • After a few hours, we went for a midday coffee break and postcard hunted. We had no luck with the postcard anywhere in El Salvador! I had to head back for work, but Dan brought back a frappe for me after his break ended. 
  • We worked in the afternoon and decided that we’d celebrate Dan’s birthday in the Galapagos. That turned out to be a very expensive decision. We also planned a lot of other miscellaneous travel for the upcoming weeks. Lots of money was spent this day!
  • We ate dinner at The Corner which was too far of a walk (20 minutes) to be worth it.

Thursday, 6/30

  • I enjoyed breakfast in the room this morning because she had a conflicting deadline with a client. 
  • The morning was spent packing and working. We checked out and then stored our bags at the hotel. For the remainder of our time in Santa Ana, we worked at a coffee shop and then grabbed a late lunch/early dinner.
  • At 4 PM, we took a cab to the airport. There was a lot of traffic, and it ended up taking us around 2.5 hours to arrive in San Salvador. 
  • During the drive, I called T-Mobile because my service was super spotty in El Salvador. While there was no resolution, my service did improve significantly in Honduras.
  • We arrived at the airport and were able to hang on in a lounge before boarding. We had to go through double security at this airport. So, don’t buy any drinks before going through security initially…you’ll just have to throw them out!
  • We took off for San Pedro Sula at 21:35 and arrived at 22:25, taking an unconventional cab ride (in a bright red truck with a young guy named Walter) to a bed and breakfast that Dan found.
  • We slept there for only $35 — only to find out that they didn’t serve breakfast. We still had a full day of travel before we would arrive at our final destination of Roatan, but we were finally in Honduras – Country #74! 

El Salvador Highlights

I didn’t have super high expectations for El Salvador. It’s not known as a particularly safe country, so it’s difficult for tourists to travel in. Based on the research we did, we knew that staying in San Salvador was a no-go, but we had to be thoughtful about what else we did with work. Dan had an interest in going to a popular surfing destination called Tunco, but it was difficult to get to and we weren’t sure how reliable the Wi-Fi would be. 

If we had visited between November to February, we would have done the Rute de las Flores. This is an area known for producing great coffee and growing beautiful flowers. Yet, the flowers aren’t in bloom in June, and we essentially had one free, non-working day between first arriving and departing. We decided that Santa Ana was the best safe place for Dan to settle into the new international remote work lifestyle. 

We still had an adventure exploring local transit and hiking the volcano. One tiny detail I’ll always remember from Santa Ana was just how many places had strawberry lemonade. It’s a drink I only have on occasion, but every single restaurant served limonada con fresa, and it was perfectly refreshing in the June heat. 

Final Thoughts

Come back next week as we head to the Bay Islands in Country #74: Honduras