5-Day El Salvador Itinerary: Top tips and destinations

El Salvador is a country that is small in size but diverse in the landscapes and experiences you can enjoy. Until just a few years ago, the thought of planning a trip to El Salvador was a distant dream for most, due to the high violent crime rates and limited tourist facilites.

Today, thanks to endless effort on the part of the national government, its citizens, the military and the police, El Salvador has become a safe country to visit. It went from being the most insecure country to one of the safest in Latin America, and is definitely worth being on your bucket list.

💰 Fun fact: the official currency of El Salvador is the American dollar (USD). El Salvador is also famous for the adoption of Bitcoin, although in our experience and speaking with locals, the adoption rate is limited across the country.

Ultimate El Salvador 5 Day Itinerary

As a small country you can easily see the best things to do in El Salvador in just five days. It is highly recommended to rent a car during your visit to El Salvador for a road trip to ensure you can take full advantage of each day, and not lose time waiting on a bus or set tour departures.

The best part is you can even make it a long weekend getaway to Central America. We were already in Guatemala, so added several additional days to our trip to include El Salvador. Since we drove across the land border from Guatemala to El Salvador, it did influence our route starting and ending in the westernmost side of the country.

Day 1 in El Salvador

We started off first thing in the morning going to the Santa Ana volcano. We recommend arriving when the park opens at 7AM, especially on the weekends, so you can enjoy the crater lagoon with a lower chance of clouds and significantly fewer visitors.

To hike up the volcano it is required that you go with a guide, which you can hire right there in the parking lot when you arrive.

A shared tour guide costs $3 USD per person, but you need to wait for the tour to fill with 15 to 30 people, depending on how busy the park is. If it is a week day it can be a 20-30 minute wait. It is better to hire a private guide which costs $35 USD and allows up to 10 people in the group. We simply arrived at the same time as another group and with 8 of us in total, it was only another $1.38 per person and did not have to wait, totally worth it for us.

Besides hiring a guide parking costs $3 USD and the entrance ticket to Los Volcanes Park costs $6 USD for foreigners, while nationals pay $3 USD.

The walk took us 1 hour and a half up and an hour down. At the top they give you 30 minutes to take photos and appreciate the landscape. At the top there is also a guy selling ice cream for only $2 USD, which is delicious and a nice treat in the warm sun.

While the park opens at 7AM you can enter earlier by hiring a private guide in advance and paying an additional security fee. You can reach out to our guide, Marwin, directly via WhatsApp: +503 7506 6674 for more information. He provided us all information about the natural beauties within park as well as his own perspectives on the changes that that El Salvador has gone through recently.

After a morning of adventure we decided to go down to Lake Coatepeque. We stopped for lunch at Restaurante Los Leones, with waterside tables on the private dock. After lunch rented a jet ski from the restaurant for only $1 USD per minute and toured part of the lake on our own. We had an absolute blast, and it is a great place to try jet skiing for the first time, as you don’t need to worry about waves, like in the ocean.

After lunch we drove 2 hours south to El Tunco Beach, stopping for a quick dinner of pupusas from La Cocina de Sivar before heading down to the beach to watch the sunset.

We stayed the first night at Kali Guest house, which is a 10 minute walk to El Tunco Beach, and is a simple hotel with basic bedrooms built in stacked shipping containers, with a shared bathroom for several rooms. There is a nice size pool, but we opted for the beach instead. Since we booked the same day, it was one of the only hotels with availability in town, but would probably not stay there again.

Day 2 in El Salvador: El Tunco Beach

We decided to enjoy the day at the sea at El Tunco Beach and eat as many pupusas as we could. I would dare to say that pupusas are the most typical and delicious dish in El Salvador. Pupusas are a grilled cornmeal flatbread, most frequently stuffed with cheese and refried beans. We loved just relaxing at the beach as well as the atmosphere and the little shops in the town. We decided to stay the full day and just relax.

The best part of the day is watching the sunset over the iconic rock formation on beach, which is quite spectacular.

For the second night in El Tunco Beach, we stayed at The Cabins, a more luxurious tiny home in a shipping container experience. They do have a pool, but it is relatively small for the number of guests. We would definitely stay here again and even move in if we ever moved to El Salvador.

Day 3 in El Salvador: San Salvador

We woke up the next morning and drove an hour north to finally visit San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

I was dying to talk to locals on the street and ask them if they have seen a big difference in life recently, especially around the drop in crime. Out of the 15 to 20 people I talked to, there was not a single one who said life had not improved. Everyone is happy to no longer have to worry about criminals on every corner or dealing with extortion.

One woman even described how several years ago she witnessed a violent robbery on the bus right in front of her, but no longer worries if her family while come home each night. On the social front, inflation has been pushing up the cost of living for locals while salaries remain very low. At least for the time being locals expressed they are happy they can now live in peace, but are hoping for financial improvement in the near future.

Today it is very normal to go sightseeing in the historic center of San Salvador, which was not possible for many years. Do not be surprised if you see an abundance of soldiers and police officers patrolling the squares and on motorcycles.

Our day in San Salvador focused around the two main squares in the historic city center, Civic Square and just one block over, Liberty Plaza. We parked the car at a nearby garage and explored on foot.

Starting off at Liberty Plaza in the center is a beautiful Monument to the Heroes with an angel of freedom on top. On one side of the square is El Rosario Church with its unique curved roof covered in colorful stained glass. The entrance fee is $2 per person, and is closed to visitor while they are holding mass.

Just one block to the east is the Civic Plaza, which its full name is Civic Square Captain General Gerardo Barrios. Here you will find some of the most iconic buildings in the country flanking the square.

The first is the National Palace of El Salvador. Built between 1905 and 1911, it served as the headquarters for the Legislative Assembly and Supreme Court of Justice until 1974. The Palacio Nacional is open for guided tours Tuesday to Thursday from 11AM to 5PM, Friday and Saturday from 11AM to 10PM, and Sunday from 10AM to 6PM. Entrance tickets for foreigners are $5 per person.

Right next door is the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral of San Salvador. It is a great place to stop, step out of the sun and check out the impressive architecture and details.

Across the plaza is the very modern designed National Library of El Salvador, which recently opened in 2023. The building is open an astonishing 24/7 with a diverse range of cultural attractions, including an art gallery. From its exterior facade to the intricately designed interior, the National Library is definitely worth just wandering through.

A half block off from the plaza is the National Theater of San Salvador. While the French Renaissance style is beautiful to look at, make sure to check out the event calendar to see if you can attend a performance and witness the spectacular interior as well.

On the way back to the car we stopped at a random Megapaca type, used clothing, store where we found a few high quality clothing items for super cheap prices. There was a wide range in the quality of the used clothing, which comes from the United States. We found shirts with burn holes in them, ripped jackets, but also amazing finds like a brand new silk shirt for $2.

In our exploring we found that larger Megapaca chain stores had consistently good quality items at a higher price. However the smaller local shops had a combination of the worst and best quality items at a lower price, and half the fun is finding the diamond in the ruff.

Day 4: Ruta de Las Flores El Salvador (part 1)

The famous Ruta de las Flores passes through several small towns located on the Apaneca-Ilamatepeq mountain range between the departments of Ahuachapán and Sonsonate in western El Salvador. It is known for the endless coffee fields, countless waterfalls and quaint villages with flower filled main squares, murals, and markets.

The six towns that make up the Flower Route in El Salvador are:





Conception of Ataco


Starting of in Nahuizalco, here is a good place to buy crafts and traditional items with a ton of craft shops. There is also a large traditional food market here if you are looking to try something fresh and delicious.

Right at the entrance to Salcoatitán is the Parque La Ceiba, which is just a small park with a massive Ceiba tree that is over 350 years old. Driving into town visit the colonial Antigua Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel, which located in front of the picturesque central park, and enjoy the gastronomic festival that takes place on Sundays, where you can taste a variety of typical dishes. There is also a small trolly that takes you around the park, the church and its main streets.

Then it was onto Juayúa, where on weekends you can enjoy its gastronomic fair that takes place in front of the Iglesia Santa Lucia, where interestingly they worship a Black Christ. Two of the greatest natural attractions nearby are the Los Chorros de La Calera waterfall and the Las Ranas lagoon.

We spent the night here at a rustic style AirBnb adjacent to the Restaurante R&R, which have the same owners. We also ate dinner at this restaurant as the food was well presented, but unfortunately average in quality and taste.

Day 5: Ruta de Las Flores El Salvador (part 2)

Our last day touring this wonderful country, we continued on to the second half of the Ruta De Las Flores to further enjoy these relaxed towns and make our drive back to Guatemala.

Start off the morning in Apaneca spending the morning at Cafe Albania made famous by its colorful rainbow slides. There are many other activities to enjoy including a labyrinth, zip line, bike zip line, a free drop pendulum, and of course a cafe restaurant.

Entrance to the attraction area costs $5 per person, but can be used when purchasing any of the attraction tickets, so make sure to mention it at the booth as we saw many visitors not say anything and basically give away $5 each. You can also get a bracelet that covers entrance to each attraction once for $40, saving you $14 when buying separately.

Then make your way into downtown Apaneca to walk through its cobblestone streets and see the colorful adobe houses. You can also visit the nearby Laguna de Ninfa and Laguna Verde.

Our favorite place on la Ruta de Las Flores is Concepción de Ataco where we could not stop taking photos at every step. The city is famous for its relaxed atmosphere and colorful murals. Locals make colorful fabrics on traditional pedal weaving machines and musical instruments. It is just such a beautiful place to experience.

Our last stop of the day was Ahuachapán, which to be honest we just passed through the city center driving slowly without stopping. After two days of exploring so many picturesque towns we simply didn’t see anything that caught our attention, and we still had a 2 hours drive ahead of us back to Guatemala City.

In just 5 days in El Salvador it is possible to see the highlights of the country and get a good taste of what the country has to offer. But, leaving the country, we still had a lot to discover and can’t wait to return to El Salvador soon.