There are so many fun things to do in El Salvador. Knowing which things are the most fun and worthwhile can be difficult if you haven’t visited before. When I talk to other travelers I often get asked about fun things to do. This article discusses the best things to do, most of which can be done in a week or less if you’re feeling ambitious.

How do I know about El Salvador? I live here. I’m a resident of El Salvador and have lived here for more than one year. I know all of the best attractions and places to visit because I absolutely love this beautiful country.

If you’re worried about crime, let me put your mind at ease. Crime rarely affects foreigners and tourists. The beach area is well protected by the police. In fact, in the past three years that I’ve been with my Salvadoran girlfriend, I’ve never heard one instance of violence against a foreigner anywhere in the country. You’ll be fine if you use common sense.

What are the most fun things to do in El Salvador?

Aerial Photo of El Salvador’s beaches in La Libertad

There’s so many fun things to do here. Most outsiders struggle to know what El Salvador is all about because they don’t have a close friend that lives here.

A backpacker may have written a blog article because they visited once or twice. Nobody can claim that they know New York City from visiting for a week, right? The same concept applies to El Salvador.

Well my new friend, let me give you the skinny on this incredible place.

Quick Note: A lot of the organizations and places that I mention don’t have websites, so I put a link to their Facebook page. If no Facebook page exists, I put a link to an article that I wrote about the place.

Second Note: I get paid absolutely nothing from the organizations listed on this page. These are genuine suggestions that I hand-picked to help visitors like you.

#24. Visit The New Beautiful Walking Park: Cuscatlán Park

Ideal For: Everyone

Cost: Free

Location: 6 – 10 Calle Poniente, San Salvador

Link: Cuscatlán Park Article

Cuscatlan Park is a large public park that was recently constructed (2019) and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s free to enter for everyone, including dogs. There’s small shops on-site to buy snacks and light meals such as hotdogs, nachos and drinks. Additionally, there’s a new modern amphitheater which sometimes has live music. It’s the perfect way to spend a relaxing weekend afternoon.

If you visit Cuscatlan Park, know that parking spots are difficult to find. The park doesn’t have a parking lot. We had to park 5 minutes away and walk to the park. It’s best if you go earlier in the day, but after rush-hour traffic. The optimal time to arrive is about 11:00.

#23. Stay At La Zona Hostel

Ideal For: Backpackers & Day Trippers

Cost: $15/Night

Location: San Benito, San Salvador

Link: La Zona’s Facebook Page

There are a lot of hostels near the beach and only a handful of hostels in the city of San Salvador. I’m writing this for those of you that want a hostel in the city. I’ve stayed a few hostels in the city and I found La Zona Hostel to be the best. It offers basically everything: security, food, beer, cool hangout space, in a safe area.

La Zona Hostel is located in a cleaner area of the city, with immediate access to restaurant, shops, bars and a 24hour Dennys. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a Denny’s restaurant in Zona Rosa, San Salvador. And it’s only about a block away from La Zona Hostel.

#22. Eat Pupusas At A Pupuseria

Ideal For: Everyone

Cost: $0.75/Pupusa

Location: Anywhere in El Salvador

Link: What Are Pupusas?

Pupusas are to El Salvador as Tacos are to Mexico. It’s the most popular national food. A Pupuseria is a small local business that makes Pupusas and they can be found everywhere. You will not have a difficult time to find a Pupuseria in El Salvador. There is a Pupuseria on every street corner in El Salvador and they’re the same for the most part.

It’s difficult to recommend a “best” pupuseria, because this national staple is so widely available everywhere in the country. My Salvadoran girlfriends family eats pupusas once or twice a week, and they often buy the pupusas at different places. However, if you want the name of a great restaurant, check out Los Boomwalos in Los Planes. It has great pupusas, it’s perfect for all types of people, and it offers a spectacular view of the city.

#21. Go Horseback Riding at Equestrian Club Finca San Luis

Photo of Horseback Riding in El Salvador
Horseback riding at Club Ecuestre San Luis

Ideal For: Families & Day Trippers

Cost: $20/person

Location: Santa Tecla

Link: Club Ecuestre San Luis

If you’re looking for one of the best experiences in El Salvador, consider going horseback riding at the San Luis Equestrian Club. My girlfriend wanted to go horseback riding last year, so I researched online. After contacting a few places, this was the best option. We had an incredible time.

The farm is located in Santa Tecla. It’s a little bit tricky/difficult to find the farm because it’s at the end of a small dirt road off the main highway. Our GPS couldn’t find it. However, you can see the exact location on Google Maps on their “location” page. We promise you that it’s worth it. This is certainly one of the most fun things to do in El Salvador.

#20. Visit the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Tazumal

Ideal For: Families

Cost: $3/Person

Location: Chalchuapa, El Salvador

Link: Tazumal Ruins Article

The Tazumal Ruins are ancient stone structures that were constructed by the Mayan people in approximately 250 AD. Its purpose was to extend the power and influence of the well known Teotihuacan city in Mexico. The structures acted as a city center and was heavily used by the Mayan people until about 900 AD. By about 1200 AD, Tazumal was mostly abandoned as civilization slowly moved west, especially after the Spanish Conquest. It’s a cool site to visit.

The Tazumal Ruins are located in the small town of Chalchuapa, El Salvador, which is about a one hour drive from the capital city of San Salvador. From the airport it’s about a two hour drive, possibly less if traffic isn’t bad (which it usually is bad). There’s also a small museum on-site and guided tours. Immediately outside of the ruin entrance you’ll find small restaurants, shops and street vendors.

#19. Swim At The Ichanmichen Natural Waterpark

Ideal For: Families

Cost: $5/Person

Location: Calle a Ichamichen, Zacatecoluca

Link: Waterpark Facebook Page

As you’re probably already aware, the temperature in El Salvador get’s hot. If you’re looking for a good alternative to the beach to cool off, you can visit the waterfalls or head over to the Ichanmichen Waterpark. The park’s water supply comes from naturally flowing fresh-water springs, so you won’t find any chemicals at this water park.

Also, there’s many different pools and swimming areas at the park, which makes it great for people of all ages. A lot of locals visit the park, but don’t worry about feeling crowded. It’s a huge park and there’s ample space, so it never feels crowded.

The Ichanmichen Waterpark is located about a 40 minute drive from the National Airport. Also, it’s only 15 minutes south of San Vicente Volcano, so you have the additional option to visit the volcano afterwards (the second tallest volcano in the country). However, you’ll need transportation. Walking from the waterpark to the volcano is too far and there’s no sidewalks on the highways. Plan ahead.

This is one of the most fun things to do in El Salvador, especially for children.

#18. Get Drunk in La Libertad

Ideal For: Backpackers, Tourists & Adults

Cost: $2 Per Beer

Location: Go to the beach, any beach and you will probably be in La Libertad.

Link: There is no link. Just go to the beach.

La Libertad is a municipal area in El Salvador that takes up a significant portion of the country. However, when most people refer to “La Libertad”, they are actually referring to the beach area. La Libertad is home to the most popular beaches in the country, including El Tunco, El Zonte and others. As a result, many locals and tourists alike love to visit the beach.

There are perhaps a hundred or so bars to drink at in La Libertad, and most of them are a good time. It’s especially popular on the weekends, so head out at 9 or 10PM and you’ll find a place. Don’t go out alone, especially if you are going out to get drunk. Be careful and be safe. If you’re with a friend and use a general sense of caution, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

#17. Drink a Pilsener At The Bar Called “La Playa 503” in San Salvador

Ideal For: Backpackers & Upscale Travelers

Cost: $2 Per Beer

Location: Calle La Reforma 225, San Salvador

Link: La Playa 503 Facebook Page

Just to be clear: This bar’s name is “La Playa 503” but it’s not at the beach. This bar is in the city and it’s very popular on weekends. There is indoor and outdoor seating, although the entire place is kinda open to the outside. They have delicious foods. And they have buckets of bottles of beers that you can buy for a group of people. It’s a pretty cool setup.

Pilsener is the beer that El Salvador is known for. There are 4 beers of El Salvador. Actually there are more than 4, but the remainder are micro-breweries, such as Cadejo Beer (very popular). The locals mostly drink Pilsener and they will probably recommend it to you if you ask which beers they have available. Definitely try it. You can find Pilsener at any bar in the country for between $1 and $2.

#16. Visit Los Planes De Renderos

Photo of Planes De Renderos in El Salvador

Ideal For: Families & Day Trippers

Cost: $5 Gas or $10 Uber

Location: Panchimalco, El Salvador

Link: Los Planes Facebook Page

Los Planes De Renderos, or more simply “Los Planes” as the locals call it, is a higher-elevation area south of San Salvador, that overlooks the city of San Salvador. Los Planes offers beautiful views of the city during the day and during the night. Keep in mind, the elevation is high, so it takes a while to drive up the steep roads to get to the beautiful overlook. Additionally, it’s sometimes a little chilly up there, so bring long sleeves and a jacket if you have one.

Los Planes is a common place for locals and visitors. There are restaurants, bars, gift shops and usually plenty of parking. It’s considered to be one of the safer areas of the country and has been developed more than other parts of the country. You’ll find many pupuserias and a handful of elegant restaurants.

#15. Visit the distant beach of El Cuco

Ideal For: Backpackers & Weekend Warriors

Cost: Transit/Busses

Location: Town of El Cuco

Link: El Cuco Facebook Page

Important! There is no ATM in El Cuco. Plan ahead!

El Cuco is a beautiful beach in the eastern part of the country. It’s nowhere near the national airport or San Salvador, so don’t expect it to be a quick trip. In fact, it’s a challenge to get to, requiring a 3 or 4 hour drive from the national airport. However, if you’re traveling from El Salvador to Nicaragua on busses, then definitely stop and spend a day in El Cuco.

For the most part, only locals go to El Cuco because it’s so far from the rest of civilization. It’s a popular destination for fishermen, too. For surfers, El Cuco is located right next to Playa Las Flores, which has 2-3 foot wave (1 meter) and have virtually zero competition for waves, although there might be a couple other surfers at the waves on the weekend. Seriously, go check it out if you have time.

To get there, take a bus from San Salvador (or El Tunco) to San Miguel, then from San Miguel to El Cuco. We drove in our car, but there are inexpensive busses. You can get there for about $15 or less if you use local busses and chicken busses. Warning, it’s a long trip on various busses to get there. Plan it out beforehand.

#14. Visit Salvador Del Mundo

Ideal For: Families & Backpackers

Cost: Free

Location: Plaza El Salvador del Mundo

Link: WikiPedia Page

Salvador Mundo is a national monument with a large open surrounding space. Salvador Mundo is known for having big festivals, especially during holiday celebrations. Additionally, the surrounding area offers a lot of restaurants and it’s only a 15 minute walk to Galerias shopping mall, which is a well known shopping center, complete with a movie theater.

If you visit Salvador Mundo, you’ll also see the statue of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, whom was a Catholic Saint that fought the injustices of the civil war and was assassinated in cold blood in 1980. Oscar Romero is known by everyone in El Salvador and is well-respected for his courage and integrity to stand with the people during the atrocities of the war. His face has been painted in hundreds of places through-out the city to ensure that he is never forgotten.

#13. Visit the Beautiful Cathedral Of San Salvador

Ideal For: Everyone

Cost: Free

Location: Calle Ruben Dario, San Salvador

Link: Cathedral Facebook Page

The Cathedral of San Salvador is also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior. Built in 1842, the Cathedral has been a pillar of hope and support during the challenging history that the people have El Salvador has faced, especially during the Civil War.

Although I can’t say that this is one of the most fun things to do in El Salvador, it’s certainly a beautiful experience and educational. The Cathedral has a lot of history.

The Cathedral is a safe building to visit but the immediate streets and city blocks surrounding the cathedral are not considered to be very safe areas. If you visit the Cathedral, it’s best to visit during the early afternoon and to have another place to go afterwards. This isn’t a good area to explore, but if you do, at least stay on the sidewalks of the main roads. Side-roads and traveling alone are not a good idea.

#12. Visit the National Museum of Anthropology (Dr. David J. Guzmán National Museum)

Ideal For: Everyone

Cost: $3

Location: Avenida De La Revolucion, San Salvador (Near Zona Rosa)

Link: www.cultura.gob.sv/muna/

Note: There’s a few different “National Anthropology Museums” in El Salvador, which can be confusing. The one I’m discussing is the one operated by the government of El Salvador, also called the “MUNA”.

Last I remember, the fee is only $3. I was there 3 years ago, so it might be $5 now. But either way, it’s not much and the money goes to support the museum. You will be required to leave any backpacks and purses in the locker. They will ask to see Identification and will write your name and ID number down as part of tracking the money the organization receives.

#11. Visit Dreamland Arcade

Ideal For: Families & Young Adults

Cost: Free To Visit, About $10 For Games

Location: Bulevar Santa Elena, Antiguo Cuscatlan

Link: Dreamland Facebook Page

Dreamland is a video arcade, complete with bumper cars, laser tag, all forms of arcade games, ice cream, pizza and everything that kids like. It’s a great place for kids and they host birthday parties too.

My girlfriend and I sometimes go to Dreamland and unleash the kid in us for a couple of hours. We love to play air hockey and kill zombies. It’s a good time, especially for families. It’s free to enter and you can expect to spend about $10 per person.

#10. Visit The Biggest Malls In The Country: MultiPlaza, Bambu Mall & La Gran Via Shopping Center

Ideal For: Backpackers & Families

Cost: Free

Location: Carretera Panamericana 503, San Salvador

Link: www.multiplaza.com/san-salvador

MultiPlaza is by far the biggest shopping mall in the country and it’s a fun place to go for lunch or dinner, or to see a movie. There’s ample underground parking and it’s very safe. La Gran Via is a large upscale shopping center, with a lot of European shops, and La Gran Vi is in the same area as MultiPlaza.

Bambu Mall is a new shopping mall, with a very modern architectural design, that opened officially in 2020. It’s in Zona Rosa and is definitely worth a visit if you like window shopping or just seeing cool building designs.

#9. Surf at Playa El Zonte

Ideal For: Surfers & Backpackers

Cost: $10 Surfboard Rentals

Location: Carretera del Litoral, La Libertad

Link: Playa El Zonte Facebook

Playa El Zonte is a beautiful beach. However, El Zonte has too many rocks for families, especially those with young children. El Zonte is most popular to surfers because the beach is excellently aligned with the incoming waves.

El Zonte is located about a 15 minute drive further west of El Tunco. It’s more quiet than El Tunco too, and lacks a town center. There are small restaurants and hostels, but they’re more disbursed in that area because it’s less developed than El Tunco.

#8. Play Paintball at Paintball Navarra

Photo of Playing Paintball in El Salvador

Ideal For: Young Adults

Cost: $15/Person

Location: Autopista Comalapa, San Salvador

Link: Navarra Facebook Page

The first time I ever played paintball was in El Salvador at Navarra. My girlfriend wanted to play paintball in El Salvador, so we spent the afternoon together in this unorthodox romantic way. It was awesome! And honestly, she won and I have the photos to prove it. I definitely recommending paintball for something a little different.

I understand that some people may prefer to visit the volcanoes. After all, people can play paintball anywhere. However, it’s one of the most fun things to do in El Salvador if you want to do something a little different.

One of the cool things is, it’s good for people of all ages, except perhaps very young children. Seriously. You can move fast and play hard, or you can take your time and be a little more strategical and methodical. We moved at a moderate pace and ended up playing a second and third time. I think it was $8 for each additional round ($8 per bag of paintballs).

#7. Visit the Railway Museum (Trains!)

Ideal For: Families

Cost: $1

Location: Av Peralta, San Salvador

Link: Museum Facebook Page

El Salvador has a lot of history with trains and this Museum is a little different than other Museums that you’ve probably visited. At the Railway Museum you’ll find antique train cars that you can walk in and sit down. Plus you’ll see the enormous antique engines that once power the trains.

In truth, this is a place for kids, although adults can enjoy it if they’re interested in engineering and history. There is a small train at the Museum that’s fun for brief tours of the Museum.

#6. Hike El Boqueron, The Volcano of San Salvador

Ideal For: Families, Backpackers, Outdoors People

Cost: $5

Location: El Boqueron National Park (Long Curvy Road)

Link: Facebook Page (Gov’t website page broken)

El Boqueron is awesome. After parking at the parking lot, it’s about a 30 minute to the top “edge” of the mouth of the volcano. The path is clear with easy walkways and hand-railings. It’s a relatively easy hike, even for children and active elderly people.

At the top, you’ll feel a noticeable difference in the atmosphere. The air is cooler, it’s a little more cloudy and protected from the sun. Plus the oxygen is more fresh and relaxing. The hike will bring you on a path that’s surrounded by lush green rainforests with trees that are thousands of years old. At the top, you’ll be able to look down into the volcano, which is grown over with trees. Unfortunately, you won’t see any lava at this Volcano.

Note: The government webpage for El Boqueron is broken. Broken websites happen here because governments here don’t consider websites to be a priority. This is actually fairly common here in El Salvador, which means that it’s difficult to gather information on a lot of things.

#5. Visit Coatepeque Lake & Hike The Santa Ana Volcano (Tallest In The Country)

Ideal For: Backpackers & Weekend Warriors

Cost: Free, $2 per Beer

Location: Santa Ana

Link: Coatepeque Facebook Page

Lago De Coatepeque is one of prized gems of El Salvador. It’s a beautiful crater lake located 10 minutes from the beautiful town of Santa Ana. Technically, the lake is a caldera, which means that it used to be a volcano. In fact, there are still hot springs at the lake. Don’t worry, the last time it erupted was 70,000 years ago.

The lake offers swimming, paddle-boarding, jet-skiing, late night parties, and boat tours. Surrounding the lake are a large number of restaurants, hostels and hotels.

Cell phone service/reception is very bad in the area immediately surrounding the lake, so plan ahead. Additionally, don’t expect to find an Uber or taxi easily. If you go to Lago De Coatepeque, it’s best to rent a car or carefully plan transportation in advance. The dirt roads surrounding the lake are long, hot and not advisable for walking due to the bumpy terrain. Planning ahead is important.

There’s no easy public lake access. Definitely have a plan BEFORE you go. This isn’t a place that you can just show up. The lake is surrounded by private land and hotels, so if you’re going to enjoy the lake, you need to get a hotel or hostel room, or at least buy lunch or beers somewhere.

If you plan to hike the Santa Ana Volcano, it’s the tallest in the country. That means, plan to make a day of it and bring good hiking shoes. This person put together a good guide on how to hike it >

#4. Go Swimming or Scuba Diving At Lago De Ilopango

Boating on Ilopango Lake in El Salvador

Ideal For: Backpackers & Scuba Divers

Cost: $1 Parking

Location: Ilopango, El Slavador

Link: Lago De Ilopango Article

Ilopango Lake is a crater lake, technically a caldera (underwater volcano). It once created one of the largest volcanic eruptions the world has ever seen, which notably caused the extreme weather events of 535–536 AD.

Today, Ilopango lake is primarily a destination for locals. It’s a cool place with restaurants, beaches, swimming, boat tours and scuba diving. It’s a great place to spend the afternoon with friends or with the family.

Just a note, Ilopango lake it’s not as popular as Coatepeque Lake. And that’s for mainly two reason:

  1. Ilopango Lake is part of the town of Ilopango, which is not as safe as other places. Although the lake and beaches are safe, the town areas beyond the front gate of the lake are not considered to be safe areas. If you visit the lake, you’ll have a wonderful time, just don’t go exploring in the town outside of the lakes front entrance.
  2. Coatepeque Lake in Santa Ana has parties on the lake, there are more volcanoes nearby and there’s more going on. It’s a little big more private and people usually spend a weekend at Coatepeque, whereas at Ilopango Lake people just spend the afternoon there.

Both lakes are beautiful places, generally safe and great for an afternoon together. I definitely recommend visiting Ilopango Lake.

#3. Do A Coffee Farm Tour

Ideal For: Everyone

Cost: Less Than $15/Person

Location: Santa Ana

Link: Finca La Esperanza Website

El Salvador excels at producing some of the best coffee in the world, and there are many coffee farms that offer tours, therefore coffee tourism has become a big hit over the years. Visitors to El Salvador love to see where the coffee comes from, how coffee is grown, and how the coffee production process works before it’s exported around the world. Additionally, if you love to drink coffee, this will be a treat.

We chose to mention Finca La Esperanza because it’s located in Santa Ana which is an area known for offering fantastic coffee from El Salvador. Also, this farm offers a lot of information on the tour. It’s a good option to consider.

There are a lot of places that offer coffee tours in El Salvador. Do your homework and ask around. Also, be careful of high prices. There are a lot of websites that charge crazy amounts. The truth is, most of the coffee farms offer tours for a very low cost, usually less than $10. Any website trying to charge more than $20 is essentially robbing you.

#2. Go Bar Crawling at Paseo El Carmen

Ideal For: Backpackers & Weekend Warriors

Cost: $2 Per Beer

Location: Santa Tecla, El Salvador

Link: Article on Paseo El Carmen

There are a lot of bars scattered through-out El Salvador. The problem is, as it gets dark and the night progresses, the streets become less safe to walk from place to place. But there is one exception…

Paseo El Carmen is a strip of bars side by side. And it’s located in Santa Tecla, which is a safer city of El Salvador. Located only a 10 minute drive west of the capital city of San Salvador, Santa Ana is a hot spot for a lot of fun things to do in El Salvador. Paseo El Carmen is the perfect example. Here, you can bar-hop and check out a lot of cool night-clubs. You’ll see a lot of young locals, other travelers and people that are dancing like you’ve never seen before.

I’ve been to Paseo El Carmen twice and it was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of people, so be prepared to spend 15 or 20 minutes to find parking. In fact, using Uber is a better option.

#1. Party at Playa El Tunco

Photo of bar in El Tunco, El Salvador

Ideal For: Backpackers, Surfers & Weekend Warriors

Cost: $2 Per Beer

Location: La Libertad, El Salvador

Link: El Tunco Facebook Page

We had to put Playa El Tunco as number one. Playa El Tunco is by far the most popular place in El Salvador because it features so many things to do, it’s safe and it’s super fun. El Tunco alone contains the most fun things to do in El Salvador. It’s a must-visit place. Most backpackers and visitors to El Salvador head to Playa El Tunco immediately upon arrival. It’s only a 20 minute drive from the El Salvador National Airport. The nightlife in El Tunco is really cool. It’s very social, open and permits public drinking. You’ll find plenty of young foreigners to talk to, from all over the world. It’s a safe area with a police station, too.

At Playa El Tunco there’s surfing, swimming, bars, restaurants, a couple clubs, convenience stores, hostels and hotels. You’ll find basically everything you want. Most of the hotels and hostels have pools too. Don’t worry, there are two ATM’s too for getting cash. It’s not one of the most fun things to do in El Salvador spending time hunting down an ATM, so you won’t have to worry about that in El Tunco.

If you want to go into the city from Playa El Tunco, you can use the public busses. It’s dirt cheap to jump on a bus. However, the busses are sometimes crowded and you’ll need to take more than one bus. Personally, I suggest asking your hostel/hotel if they offer shuttles into the city – they probably do. If they don’t, then you can also use an Uber and spend $10. That’s a good option. I use Uber in El Salvador all the time.

There’s a lot more fun things to do in El Salvador

El Salvador may be a small country. But that’s exactly what makes it a great place to visit. Instead of traveling for 6 hours to another city to find more fun things to do, all of the fun things to do in El Salvador are only within an hour or two drive. That is why so many people love visiting El Salvador.

You can visit ancient ruins, a volcano, the beach and the city all in one day if you’re ambitious. Just be aware of traffic if you head into the city and always use common sense safety protocols. Additionally, I suggest renting a car or using Uber if possible. Busses and taxi’s are often not convenient and can sometimes be unsafe.

If you’re wondering what is life like in El Salvador, check out my recent article. I explain everything in depth. There’s a lot of fun things to do in El Salvador and there’s plenty of interesting things to learn, too. Enjoy your trip!