My main impression from the first 12 hours in El Salvador:
I do not understand why this country isn't overrun with tourists.
Seriously, picture this:
* Majestic cliffs abutting the ocean.
* Lush, tropical green foliage.
* Black sand beaches, great surf.
* Hot weather but without the overwhelming humidity of the Gulf of Mexico.
* Friendly, smiling population.
* Perfectly-manicured roads.
* The national currency is the US dollar.
* Prices on par with Guatemala (ie, dirt cheap).
* The people actually *like* norteamericanos (!)
Nevermind, stop picturing it and look at pictures instead!
Look closer at the quality of the road surface. El Salvador is a sportbike paradise
I stayed on a tiny beach called Playa La Perla, at the only operating guesthouse and restaurant. They had one room (total) for $10. La Perla is west of La Libertad, just beyond the farthest beach mentioned in the Lonely Planet. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Looking down the beach one direction:
The other direction:
Down the beach and looking back upriver towards the road:
The short road down to the hotel was actually somewhat exciting:
The wife of the couple that owned the place made amazing seafood, all of which was caught there in the cove. Jumbo shrimp al ajo:
Oysters on the half-shell:
Four beers from El Salvador, arranged left-to-right in order of my preference:
Cóctel de concha (breakfast!):
I'm not saying that Mexico and Guatemala aren't beautiful countries. They are, and everyone knows it. Why haven't I heard of anyone going to El Salvador for a vacation? It seems the perfect getaway. Even the border crossing was easy.
On a serious note: Unlike in Guatemala, you would never know from visiting that El Salvador is recovering from a bloody civil war that ended just a decade ago. The giveaway is (apparently) what you don't see: nearly all salvadoreños are mestizo. According to Lonely Planet, most of the indigenous population was killed off in the war. Ghastly.
After three days in El Salvador (including an inadvertent ride through the center of San Salvador due to a bridge outage on the coast), my enthusiasm for the country is slightly tempered but still high. The beaches on the northern coast are more attractive and less populated than the beaches on the southern coast. El Salvador lacks a cute urban beach town or even a significant port. But still it seems like an amazing place to just get away and hang out someplace pretty.
La Perla is a particular gem and I was lucky to stop there. Most of the beaches with surf camps look like this:
Here are a few pictures from La Union, which is a grungy port town:
Want a banana?