9+ Unusual Things to Do in El Salvador

Embark on a sweet journey at Ilobasco's artisan markets—where traditional crafts and luscious treats await. But there's a twist...
Date Published
March 8, 2024

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Ever pictured yourself devouring the world's most delicious pupusa, or catching an epic wave at a beach that whispers 'paradise'? Let's cut to the chase: El Salvador is your next adventure, whether you're a hashtag foodie, a surf bro, or a nature lover. This gem in Central America might be pint-sized but, oh boy, does it pack a myriad of unique experiences in its buzzworthy destination roster!

Imagine strolling through Ilobasco's artisan markets, where the air smells like sweet craftsman's clay and vibrant textiles beckon. Or perhaps, feeling the cobblestone stories under your feet as you wander Ruta de las Flores' authentic villages. It's time to sit tight because you're about to dive headfirst (maybe literally!) into the land of hidden waves, unspoiled cloud forests, and oh, the culinary hugs of local pupusas. Let's unravel the things that make El Salvador a buzzing, vibrant vortex of culture, nature, and downright unique adventures. Welcome, amigo, to the escapade of your dreams — your guide to the top-notch activities in El Salvador awaits!

Savor the Sweets at Ilobasco's Artisan Markets

Artisanal wonders and sugary delights, oh my! Ilobasco is a little hidden gem where the local artisan markets bustle with life. This is no regular marketplace; Ilobasco is famed for its intricate ceramics and, you guessed it, mouth-watering sweets.

Imagine walking down a cobblestone street, color and creativity blooming at every corner. You can feel the hum of energy as locals chatter, their hands expertly molding clay into beautiful pottery. But let's focus on what you're really here for - the sweets. Trust me; your taste buds will thank you as you bite into traditional Salvadoran candies, each one a blend of sugary goodness that tells a story of traditions passed down through generations.

Whether you're a solo adventurer on the hunt for the perfect souvenir or a family looking for an interactive experience, Ilobasco's markets cater to everyone. Spend an afternoon here and prepare to be whisked away by the vibrant culture. With so much to see, from the handcrafted goods to the rows of sweet treats, a couple of hours will fly by without you even noticing.

Nearby, you'll find local cafes where you can grab a coffee and just soak in the ambiance. The markets are ideal for those looking to dive deep into El Salvador's culture without the rush of the tourist traps. Be sure to check out the artesanías – these handcrafted pieces are perfect mementos of your sweet adventure in Ilobasco.

Wrap your day up with a bag full of artisanal goods, maybe some hand-painted ceramics, and a pocket full of candy to keep you smiling all the way back to your next El Salvador escapade. After all, who can resist the charm of a town that offers an authentic slice of local life, drenched in syrupy sweetness? Not you, I bet!

Dive into Ruta de las Flores' Authentic Villages

Let's skip the fluff and get straight to the heart of El Salvador—you're going to love the Ruta de las Flores! This winding route connects several quaint villages renowned for their rich culture, delicious food, and breathtaking natural beauty. But what really sets them apart is their authenticity; these aren't your cookie-cutter tourist traps.

Ruta de las Flores is a journey—quite literally a 'Route of Flowers'—that'll take you through towns like Juayúa, Apaneca, and Ataco. Follow your nose and the colorful murals coating the walls, leading you to vibrant weekend food festivals where your taste buds will think they've hit the jackpot, particularly in Juayúa. Oh, and bring your wallet because the artisan crafts are irresistible, and your friends back home will never forgive you if you come back empty-handed.

  • Discover the incredible local eats like yuca fries and quesadilla (which is not the Mexican kind, but a sweet, rich, cheesy bread).
  • Tap your toes to the rhythms of live marimba music that fills the air.
  • If your adventure tank's still full, chase the adrenaline with a zipline ride through the coffee-covered slopes of Apaneca.

You won't need more than a day in each village, but trust me, no two days will be the same. A day trip here is perfect for solo explorers, couples, and families alike—and if you adore colorful, Instagram-worthy towns that boast a sense of community and culture, consider this your heaven on earth.

And before the sun kisses the horizon, make your way to the Mirador de la Cruz in Ataco. Trust this 'guide', the sunset views here? Unforgettable. As the sky paints itself with hues of purple and orange, you'll understand why this spot has a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors.

Are you itching to explore these charming villages? Start planning your trip to Ruta de las Flores and dive right into the adventure that awaits!

Surf the Hidden Waves at El Sunzal Beach

Picture yourself riding the crest of a perfect wave, the warm sun beaming down on you, and the thrill of the ocean's power beneath your board. That's El Sunzal Beach for you, tucked away in the cozy nook of El Salvador's coastline. El Sunzal offers some rad El Tunco surf spots that cater to all levels, from the newbie feelin' a bit wobbly to the seasoned pro huntin' for the next big ride.

Now, if you're not much of a surfer but still dig the beach vibes, El Sunzal's got you covered with some high-energy beach volleyball. That's right! Plant your feet in the sand and show off your skills, or just cheer on the local talent as they spike and dive with playful competitiveness. The vibe here is friendly and inclusive, making it top-notch for families, singles, and beach enthusiasts eager to soak up that spirited El Salvadoran atmosphere.

After a day in the waves or holding court at beach volleyball, you can stretch out on the golden sand and just be. Feel the sea breeze, listen to the rhythmic waves, and maybe score yourself some fresh coconut water from a nearby vendor. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just love the casual chill of the beach life, plan to spend at least a half-day here—it's good for the soul.

And let's talk about what's nearby—charming spots to grab a bite or sip some local brews are just a stone’s throw away. El Sunzal perfectly captures that blend of laidback leisure and heart-pounding excitement.

Remember, thrill-seeker or peace-chaser, El Sunzal Beach has a magical knack for making everyone feel right at where they belong. Catch you on the next wave! 🌊

Trek to Unspoiled Views in Montecristo Cloud Forest

Put your hiking boots on and get ready to breathe in the freshest air because Montecristo Cloud Forest is an untouched slice of paradise. With each step under the forest canopy, you're not just walking—you're embarking on a quest for some of the most dazzling views you can lay your eyes on.

This hidden gem is not called a cloud forest for nothing! You'll be high enough to whisper secrets to the clouds, and if you're lucky, maybe they'll whisper back with a hint of mist. Here's where your inner adventurer meets exotic flora and fauna that call these highland heavens home.

Are you wondering what wildlife might photobomb your journey? Hope you're fond of colorful feathery friends because Montecristo is a sanctuary for rare birds that streak across the sky like living rainbows. And let's not forget about the mystical orchids. They're not just flowers; they're nature's own intricate artwork, and they're aplenty here.

Depending on your pace and how many times you stop to gawk at the sheer beauty, give yourself a good half-day to weave through the trails. It's a hit for nature enthusiasts, solo wanderers searching for silence, and families ready to give their kids a real-world fairytale experience. And adrenaline-seekers, you've not been forgotten—there are inclines here to make your heart race.

Close to the trifecta border with Guatemala and Honduras, Montecristo Cloud Forest is for those who crave the road less traveled. It's perfect for reconnecting with nature, for solitude, for stillness that's alive. It's where the air is seasoned with adventure, and every glance is a picturesque memory. Pack a raincoat, some snacks, and your sense of wonder, and get ready for an unforgettable trek that speaks directly to your soul. After all, views like these don’t just happen—they’re earned one step at a time.

Delight in Pupusas at a Local Family's Home

Picture this: you're sitting in a cozy, little house, surrounded by the warm smiles of a Salvadoran family. They're about to introduce you to a national treasure—pupusas. Yes, these thick corn tortillas stuffed with your choice of ingredients are the Salvadoran cuisine delight that every traveler must try.

But guess what makes it even more special? Learning to make them alongside locals, in their own home. Imagine the corn dough, soft and pliable under your hands, as you press it flat and spoon generous fillings like cheese, beans, or even zucchini flowers inside. Then, you cook it on a hot griddle, the smells mingling together, creating an aroma so inviting, your stomach growls in anticipation.

These delicious morsels aren't just about the taste—they're about the experience. You, laughing and chatting with friendly locals, gripping a cool beverage, and basking in the authentic ambiance of a Salvadoran kitchen. It's the kind of intimate culinary journey that you might remember for years to come.

What's more, the variety of pupusas is mind-boggling. From the traditional quesillo (cheese) and frijoles (beans) to the adventurous loroco (flower bud), there's a flavor for every palate. Spend an hour or two savoring each unique taste, and you'll leave with a full belly and a heart just as content.

So, whether you're a solo traveler or with your squad, craving a dose of culture or just plain hungry, pupusa tasting in a local family's home is a must-do. It's hands-down the coziest, most flavorful way to connect with the soul of El Salvador. And just in case you're now dreaming of these mouthwatering pockets of joy, here's a nudge to take the next step and book your pupusa adventure. 🌮👩‍🍳

And hey, while you're enjoying those scrumptious bites, don't forget to say "Provecho!" – that's "Bon appétit" in El Salvador style!

Kayak on the Serene Waters of Coatepeque Lake

Imagine effortlessly gliding over a glassy expanse of water, with volcanic peaks whispering tales of eons past. That's not just a dream, it's what you'll experience when you kayak on Coatepeque Lake. It's not just any old lake, it's a volcanic crater filled with water so clear and calm, you won't believe your eyes. Coatepeque Lake activities, especially kayaking, are a must-do when you're in El Salvador.

What makes kayaking in El Salvador, especially at Coatepeque Lake, so special? It offers one of the most peaceful and scenic environments you'll ever paddle in. You'll find yourself surrounded by lush hills and the tranquil, azure waters. This isn't just another spot to kayak; it's a slice of paradise where you can relax, recharge, and take in the beauty of the natural world.

Got a couple of hours? Great, that's just enough time to soak it all in. Whether you're about to post the most Instagrammable shot of you in a kayak or just want to unplug from the world, Coatepeque Lake is the place. Good for families? Absolutely. A romantic paddle for two? Indeed. Adrenaline junkie? You have to try paddling here at sunrise or sunset – it’s simply out of this world.

Nearby, you'll find cozy lakeside restaurants where you can savor the local cuisine after a good paddle. Want to kick it up a notch? Engage with local guides who offer kayaking tours to share insights about the lake’s history and ecology, making your time on the water both enlightening and entertaining.

As you dip your paddle into the cool, calm waters of Coatepeque Lake, you'll feel a connection with the natural beauty of El Salvador. This isn't just kayaking; it’s an invitation to witness Mother Nature’s artistry up close. So come on, what are you waiting for? Paddle out and let the serenity of Coatepeque Lake move you.

Discover the Hidden Tazumal Ruins

Ready to dive into history like Indiana Jones? Picture this: you're in the heart of El Salvador, treading through a less beaten path that leads to the ancient Tazumal Ruins. You won't find crowds here, just whispers of Mayan secrets as old as time itself.

Tucked in the small town of Chalchuapa, these ruins are a history buff's paradise and a secret among locals. Want to know the best thing about Tazumal? It's that authentic peek into El Salvador's Mayan heritage without elbowing through tour groups. Yup, unlike those famous ruins that shall not be named here, Tazumal lets you really connect with the past.

Bring your camera and your best adventure hat—here's what's in store:

  • Walk among ancient structures where the Mayan civilization once thrived.
  • Marvel at the intricate carvings and imagine the bustling city that stood here a millennium ago.
  • On the right day, you might bump into local archaeologists and learn a thing or two—they're like walking encyclopedias of Mayan history!

For the die-hard ruin fans, a Tazumal tour can dive even deeper into the significance of each stone and the legends that color them.

And hey, after immersing yourself in El Salvador's Mayan ruins, why not explore the nearby eateries? They've got pupusas that'll give grandma's cooking a run for its money.

What's the crowd like? It's a mix of curious explorers, local families, and the occasional history scholar getting their geek on.

So, are you ready to discover the mysteries hidden within Tazumal's ancient walls? Go ahead, traveler, step back in time and let the stone gods guide you through one unforgettable adventure.

Enjoy an Eco-Tour at Barra de Santiago

Imagine stepping off the beaten path and into a world where mangrove forests whisper secrets of the earth, and the chorus of native birds fills the air. Barra de Santiago natural reserve is not just a spot on the map; it's where you can touch the very heartbeat of El Salvador's astonishing natural beauty. Eco-tours here aren't just tours; they're a gateway to an untouched paradise.

Your senses come alive as you navigate through this labyrinth of biodiversity. The rustle of the leaves, the distant call of the exotic birds, and the subtle splash of water against your kayak - it's pure, it's serene, it's utterly refreshing. This is where travelers seeking tranquility and nature lovers with a penchant for adventure intersect.

So why should you, as a savvy explorer, choose an eco-tour in Barra de Santiago? Well, sit tight, because here's the scoop:

  • Authentic Wildlife: While on your eco-tour, expect to play peek-a-boo with the local wildlife. From energetic monkeys swinging through the trees to the slow-paced iguanas sunbathing on the banks, this place has it all.
  • Conservation at Its Best: The Barra de Santiago natural reserve is a testament to El Salvador's commitment to preservation. By participating, you support the local efforts to maintain this vital ecosystem.
  • Customized Adventures: Whether you're solo or with a squad, these tours can be tailored to fit. Want a peaceful paddle at dawn? You got it. Hoping for a bit of birdwatching? Look no further.

Let's not forget, these eco-tours are also a fantastic way to mingle with other nature enthusiasts. It's great for families, soul-searchers, and even the adrenaline junkies who might want a break from their usual high-octane thrills.

And how long should you plan to spend here? If time is no object, lose yourself for a day or two, but even a few hours will leave a lasting impression. Nearby, you'll find that the local vibe is as warm and inviting as the golden sands, perfect for when you're ready to step back into civilization.

So, take a breather from your jam-packed itinerary and immerse yourself in one of the most vibrant ecosystems El Salvador has to offer. Trust me, your Instagram and your spirit will thank you for these unmatched verdant views and soul-soothing experiences.

Experience Chalatenango's Pristine Nature Escapes

Picture yourself surrounded by lush greenery, where the air is fresher and the sounds of nature are the only playlist you need. Yep, that's Chalatenango for you, the ultimate spot for nature escapes that will woo every fiber of your adventure-loving soul.

Chalatenango is like the secret garden of El Salvador—untouched, pure, and sure to redefine your definition of beautiful. This gem is known for its cool highland climate and jaw-dropping landscapes that keep locals and tourists alike coming back for more. And get this—it's not just another pretty face in the crowd of nature spots; Chalatenango's thick forests and lofty mountains offer a natural playground for hiking, camping, and even bird watching. You didn't pack those binoculars for nothing!

You, yes you, are just a heartbeat away from experiencing nature like never before. Here's the scoop on why this slice of paradise is perfect:

  • It's a natural detox! Let's face it, we could all use a breather from screen time. Chalatenango's nature escapes give you that much-needed digital detox where the only 'gramming you'll do is with memories in your heart.
  • It caters to all levels of nature enthusiasts; whether you're looking to conquer peaks or just soak in tranquility, there's a spot with your name written all over it.
  • Fancy a picnic? Find a spot under the canopy of age-old trees, spread your blanket, and enjoy a snack amidst the symphony of chirping birds and rustling leaves.

If you're traveling solo, with your special someone or your rowdy band of kiddos, Chalatenango's got something for everyone. And here's a pro tip: give yourself a full day at least, because time flies when you're having pure, unadulterated fun in nature.

What are you waiting for? Slide on those comfy sneakers, grab a camera, and let Chalatenango's pristine nature escapes welcome you into its open, leafy arms. You'll leave feeling rejuvenated; that's a nature's promise.

Wander Through Nahuizalco's Night Market

Got an itch for some after-dark shopping? You won't want to miss out on the Nahuizalco night market. Imagine the sun has just dipped below the horizon, and the scent of sizzling street food fills the air. This is no ordinary shopping trip; it's a multi-sensory adventure.

Nestled in the heart of the Ruta de las Flores, this night market is legendary for its beaming lanterns and bustling energy. Dive into an ocean of locally crafted goods from vibrant textiles to intricately carved woodwork—treasures you can't find just anywhere.

Here's what's cool: when the moon's up, the market really comes alive. Vendors set up shop, illuminated by the warm glow of lights, showing off their masterpieces. Whether you're a hardcore haggler or a serene browser, there are heaps of unique pieces just waiting for you to claim them.

Load up on handcrafted souvenirs, dig into some delicious street grub like pupusas (you've got to try these), and feel the rhythm of Nahuizalco's nocturnal heart. And hey, why only follow your nose when you can also follow the beat? There's often live music floating through the air, perfect to get your feet tapping.

Groups, solo explorers, even date night prowlers - Nahuizalco has a little something for every kind of night owl. Get lost exploring the alleys for an hour or two. The vibe? So Welcoming. The market is a favorite among both locals and tourists, so join the crowd and become part of the Nahuizalco night scene.

Do not just take my word for it; click through to see why the Nahuizalco night market should be a non-negotiable on your El Salvador itinerary. It's about time you start planning that night to remember!

Join El Salvador's Indigenous Communities for a Cultural Immersion

You're not just visiting new places, you're diving headfirst into vibrant cultures, and El Salvador's indigenous communities are a rainbow of tradition waiting to embrace you. Imagine yourself living alongside locals, where every smile tells a story older than the towns themselves.

When you're there, breathing in the air heavy with age-old customs, you'll understand why this isn't just a stopover—it's a heartfelt journey into the soul of the country. With the communities open to visitors, you can truly become part of El Salvador's living history. It's a unique opportunity to step away from the buzzing tourist spots and indulge in a real, raw cultural exchange.

You'll learn directly from the indigenous people; their crafts, their heritage, their way of life. Artisan skills are not just observed but can be experienced hands-on. You're molding pottery with knowledge passed down through generations, and let's be honest—there's something incredibly cool about that!

Dedicate at least a day to absorb everything, maybe even stay overnight if you have the chance. Suitable for anyone seeking genuine cultural experiences, this is ideal for solo explorers and families alike who crave more than just 'sight-seeing.' It's perfect for the culturally curious, those who itch to know the intricate weave of history and heritage.

Nearby you’ll find markets dotted with the handiwork of these talented communities - colorful textiles, carved masks, perhaps even a pottery piece you saw being born. And as the sun dips lower in the sky, you’re not just walking away with souvenirs; you’re carrying stories, memories, and a bit of the soul that makes El Salvador vibrantly alive.

So, if you're all about making your travels count for incredible stories and one-of-a-kind experiences, joining El Salvador's Indigenous Communities is an unforgettable chapter waiting to be written in your adventure book!

Capture the Sunset at El Salvador's Secret Views

Let's be real—you haven't truly experienced El Salvador until you've watched the sun dip below the horizon, painting the sky with shades of orange and pink. And boy, do I know just the secret spots to make your Instagram followers green with envy.

Imagine standing on a secluded cliff, the ocean breeze lightly brushing your face as you witness the day's grand finale; the colors are so vivid it's like Mother Nature's showing off her palette just for you. These secret views are nature's own VIP lounges, perfect for that golden hour magic. Whether you're a hopeless romantic or a fervent photographer, these spots will give you gold—sun-kissed selfies, anyone?

Now, you're asking where to find these elusive sunset spots? Follow the locals! They've got the inside scoop and are usually more than happy to share. Venture off the beaten path to places like El Zonte, where the cliffs offer an unobstructed view of the horizon. Spend a few hours—stick around after the clapping for the sunset dies down; that's when the real show begins as the stars take the stage.

This isn't just about the view; it's a whole vibe. It's the cool crowd, the peace-lovers, the daydreamers all gathering to bid the day goodbye. And if you think this is a couples-only affair, think again. Although it screams romance, it's just as magical for the solo adventurer seeking a moment of zen or a group of friends making memories.

Just don't keep this all to yourself; these secret sunset spots are meant to be shared. Bring your best pals, make some new ones, or revel in the solitude—whatever floats your boat. El Salvador's fiery skies are calling your name, and trust me, you want to answer that call.

And while I can't spill all the beans here (gotta keep some secrets, right?), I can nudge you to look towards spots like Tamanique's cliffs near El Tunco. Just a hint—get there early, claim your spot, and let nature do the rest. Prepare to be wowed!

Remember, these moments are the ones you'll tell stories about for years to come. So, go ahead, chase that sunset, and capture a slice of El Salvador's beauty that many will never know. Now, get your cameras ready, because this is going to be epic!


What are some things to do in El Salvador at night?

You'll find buzzing nightlife, with clubs and bars in San Salvador. Don't miss the Paseo El Carmen for cool vibes.

What are some unique things to do in El Salvador?

Explore the Santa Ana Volcano, visit the Joya de Cerén archaeological site, or surf at El Tunco Beach.

What are fun things to do in El Salvador with kids?

Take them to the Walter Thilo Deininger National Park or the Tin Marin Children's Museum for a mix of nature and learning.

Are there any hidden gems in El Salvador?

Absolutely. Discover the beauty of El Imposible National Park or the colonial charms of Suchitoto.

What are some free things to do in San Salvador?

Enjoy the city's plazas, markets, and the iconic National Palace without spending a cent.

What are some cheap things to do in El Salvador?

Relax on Las Flores Beach, hike to waterfalls, or savour pupusas for a taste of El Salvador on a budget.

What is El Salvador best known for?

It's renowned for stunning Pacific beaches, surfing hotspots, coffee plantations, and vibrant culture.

Why is El Salvador worth visiting?

You'll get to enjoy diverse landscapes, rich history, and warm local hospitality, all in one tiny package!

What do El Salvadorians do for fun?

They love beach time, football matches, festivals, and, of course, dancing to cumbia music.

Is El Salvador cheap for tourists?

In comparison to many destinations, yes, it is quite budget-friendly for tourists, offering good value for money.

Final Words

Phew, what a journey we've had, diving into the vibrant, off-the-beaten-path life of El Salvador! You've seen it all, from the handcrafted treasures at Ilobasco's artisan markets to the unspoiled views of Montecristo Cloud Forest, and let's not forget those tasty pupusas made right in someone's own kitchen. We've kayaked on Coatepeque Lake, explored ancient ruins at Tazumal, and got our eco-groove on at Barra de Santiago.

It's clear, El Salvador is bursting with experiences that'll make your heart race a bit faster. Every visit, every adventure, it's about more than just ticking boxes off some list; it's about making memories that stick like your favorite beach sand.

So here you are, brimming with inspiration and itching to live these stories firsthand. Remember, these aren't just things to do in El Salvador; they're gateways to the pulse of a nation, waiting for you to jump in. So go ahead, the adventure's calling!

Meet the Author
Isabella Kai
Isabella Kai, the Instagram wordsmith, crafts tales that captivate hearts worldwide. A dedicated foodie, she whips up culinary delights and pairs them with stories that make your taste buds dance. Beyond the screen, she's on a mission to visit every artisan bakery in town.
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