Why Travel to El Salvador? (with Kids)

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Why travel to El Salvador?  Nobody goes to El Salvador. That’s what a family member said when she found out we were planning to visit El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. It’s not your usual tourist destination, certainly not with kids, but we felt it was well worth a look. So where to go, what to see, where to stay, what to eat and more in our El Salvador travel blog section.

El Salvador cathedral of lights and coloured glass san salvador
This church in San Salvador, an incredible space filled with light and colour, is reason enough to travel. Iglesia el Rosario is one of the most acclaimed modern churches in the world. San Salvador’s old cathedral is pictured below, beautiful in a different way.

This post and our visit, came about several years ago now. Please check current situations and safety warning for El Salvador yourself.

Why Did We Visit El Salvador?

Our trip to El Salvador came by chance, we just needed a cheap, easy flight out of Florida at the end of a long USA trip. Our visa was out and we needed to leave,

Reasons to Visit El Salvador. San Salvadore Museum
Salvadorean history at San Salvador’s Museum National, this place is well worth a visit.

The flights out of Florida at the end of our USA road trip were the cheapest we could find as we searched for bargains and inspiration on Skyscanner. It was listed as $62 each on Spirit Airlines.

Taxes and baggage fees bumped it up to $100 each, but still, it’s a good deal. It got us into Central America, an area which we’ve never had the chance to travel or explore.

A new country is always a good idea particularly one that pushes your boundaries a little.

Where is El Salvador?

El Salvador is in Central America. Central America is in the continent of North America and is its southernmost part. El Salvador is the smallest of the 7 Central American countries and lies on the west coast of this region, facing the Pacific Ocean.

El Salvador has land borders with Guatemala to the north, and Honduras to the east. Nicaragua is directly south of El Salvador, on the other side of the Gulf of Fonseca.

Guatemala’s location is in the northern hemisphere, lying approximately 14 degrees north of the equator. This means El Salvador has a tropical climate with wet and dry seasons. It is in the western hemisphere and does not have any coastline with The Caribbean Sea. It is the only country in Central America without a Caribbean coastline. El Salvador’s beaches are on its Pacific coast.

Is El Salvador Safe to Visit?

Guns in San Salvador, is it safe?
A sign outside a restaurant in San Salvador. Leave your guns at home please boys.

The USA has a travel warning in place for El Salvador, they tell people not to visit.

Once I started Googling travel safety, I discovered that the crime rate in El Salvador is lower than that in several US cities and that crime is mostly limited to gang members and drug production. The civil war ended over 20 years ago and El Salvador is trying to turn things around and develop a tourist industry. I even read an article from The Guardian recommending El Salvador as a good place to visit, so it must be OK.

Is El Salvadore a god place to visit? Church in San Salvador
The old Cathedral, Central San Salvador, the Historic District. We felt safe on the streets and in our accommodation, but you will see a lot of guns and razor wire.

I found a few travel blogs from intrepid travellers who have absolutely loved El Salvador, several of them family travellers like us.  There are a lot of surfers who come here, too, this coast was featured in the movie Big Wednesday.

In San Salvador, I felt totally safe in our accommodation. Guards with guns were everywhere in the city and there are a lot of high walls and razor wire, but our warm family guest house was a pleasure to be in. Salvadorean families live here, so why can’t we?

Don’t forget your guide book!  You may need help with Spanish, so the Lonely Planet’s language section will be your best friend. Few countries have language barriers these days, Central America is an exception. At the time of publication of this blog post there was no stand-alone Lonely Planet El Slvador that we could find, we had to get a Central America edition.

Why Visit El Salvador?

Resons to Visit El Salvador. Museum San Salvador
Salvadorean History from pre Spanish times to the present day at the Museum National in San Salvador

A few fun facts about El Salvador, we wanted to visit El Salvador to see and experience what this little country has to offer in terms of natural beauty, history, and culture. And of course we wanted to try the food!

  • El Salvador has its own Mayan pyramid at Tazumal with a tiny admission fee compared to the big draws in Guatemala
  • It has volcanoes and crater lakes, treks and wildlife encounters.
  • It has Central America’s answer to Pompei. Ceren, a town buried in volcanic ash for 1400 years.
  • Surfing is big news and the beaches are beautiful. El Salvador has great breaks.
  • There are some beautiful buildings and churches.
  • El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, it’s about the same size as Wales and smaller than Massachusetts at 21,000 sq Km. Wales is my home country.
  • Spanish is the official language of El Salvador.
  • El Salvador is famous for cofee, earthquakes and volcanoes. It is sometimes called the land of volcanoes. It is famously a very small country and the only country in Central America to not have a Carribean coast. It is also the most densely populated country in the region. El Salvador is known for its Aztec descended people, the Pipil, and it’s modern diverse population, many descended from European arrivals as far back in history as 1524.
  • It is the smallest, and the most densely populated country of the 7 in Central America. El Salvador’s population is approximately 6.764,000 according to Britannica, link above.
  • El Salvador has interesting food, culture and people. Coffee is a major export.
  • Civil War in El Salvador, from 1970 to 1970, along with international conflics, put El Salvador in the pblic eye. The democratisation of El Salvador, with UN mediated peace accords, brought about greater stability.
  • A hurricane (Hurricane Mitch 1998) and earthquake in 2001 set the country back again.
  • The Museum National  of anthropology in San Salvador has some spectacular Mayan displays.
  • El Salvador is not stuffed full of tourists. There are no tourist traps or ( in our experience) people waiting to rip you off. We have met some wonderful warm and happy people as we try to bumble our way around in our non-existent Spanish. Even the taxi drivers have done their best to help us out.

Costs of Travelling in El Salvador

Why Visit El Salvador street food
Great, cheap street food in El Salvador and hotels were fairly affordable too. It’s not Asia cheap, but it’s OK.

Prices are pretty good. A family room with breakfast cost us under $50 in San Salvador. As with all of Central and South America, it’s not cheap, if you want cheap go to Asia and Eastern Europe, but El Salvador is nowhere near as expensive as some South American countries.

Street food costs almost nothing, a dollar a head maybe and the supermarkets are cheap and extremely good. To be honest they are some of the best supermarkets I’ve ever seen in terms of variety, price and quality of produce.

A beer will cost you around $1.50.

Buses are cheap, 25c a trip around San Salvador. Taxis are reasonable, $30 from airport to San Salvador or to the coast, $4-5 around town

Admission prices seem fixed at $3. A great deal for Central America.

Family travel El Salvador. Street food Pupusas. San Salvador
Street food in down-town San Salvador. Don’t miss the pupusas con queso, a family favourite, yes, we travelled to El Salvador with kids.

We liked El Salvador a lot. It’s not the easiest place to travel and we were ultra careful when we’re out exploring. English isn’t widely spoken so you will most certainly need to buy a phrase book if , like us, you are totally inept at Spanish.

A good guide-book ( see above) will help you out too, we didn’t have one and it’s taken us days of online research to work out where we need to go and what to see, there is little tourist support available on the ground here or online.

Food and Street Food in El Salvador

food in El Salvador pupusas con queso
Pupusas, the most ubiquitous Salvadorean street food, can be vegetarian with cheese or beans or filled with pork. Great for hungry kids.

The food we enjoyed in El Salvador was very similar to that in Guatemala and other parts of Central America, pupusas, tamale, beans, fried bananas and more. Pupusas are probably the most uniquitous street food and they are ultra child friendly. These little pockets of hot bubbling cheese ( or they can contain meat or beans) fed us well.

Hostel in San Salvador

Family hotel San Salvadore. Hostel Dona Marta
We enjoyed amazing home cooked Salvadoran breakfasts at Hostel Dona Marta in San Salvador, we were staying with a kind doctor and his family and felt perfectly safe and secure.

We stayed at Hostal Donna Marta and would recommend it to other travellers.  We enjoyed a large family room with 4 beds in a quiet residential area. Our bathroom was shared but right outside our door and nobody else seemed to use it. Breakfasts were delicious, local and home cooked and our host and his family couldn’t have been any nicer or more helpful. The owner is a doctor, he even helped us out with buying medications for a child with a sore throat.

An en suite room was also available.

We took a taxi from the airport to Hostal Dona Marta, arranged by the owner, everything went smoothly and we had a great stay.

The main road and bus routes are a short walk from the hotel or taxis are great value.

You can check out other hotel options in San Salvador here, Agoda brings you latest discounts with the added benefit of reward points.

You can read more about how we got in and out of El Salvador to Guatemala and Florida in this post. The buses to Guatemala city were the best I’ve ever travelled in and that’s no exaggeration.  We only stayed in El Salvador for a week but it was great to have seen something of this little country. El Salvador certainly took me out of my comfort zone for the first time since we left Port Douglas. Travel around Asia, where everyone speaks English and whole countries appear set up with tourists in mind is a totally different experience. The best answer I can think of to that question, “Why travel to El Salvador?” is the simplest one. Visit to learn about it. That is enough.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

32 thoughts on “Why Travel to El Salvador? (with Kids)”

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I came across your page because I am researching things to do with my family for vacation there. I have never been there. We are from USA. I am excited to see a volcano the first time and learn the culture there. I was concerned about safety there as well but I have lived near high crime cities many years such as Miami, NYC, Cleveland, Detroit. My friend will be coming with my family and she mentioned to me about the safety there. I told her we have high crime areas all over our country so I think we will be fine. Of course not knowing the country does make one feel a tad uneasy naturally. I can’t to see and explore this country! Thanks again for the info you shared!

  2. Hi. I’m also Salvadoran. My parents, sister and I have been going back since 2009 every 2 yrs. We have never had a bad experience, never encountered anything dangerous. We’re set to go again in December of this year (2021). We’ve explored most of the west side of the country and hope to go east this year. We are even more excited about going back this year with all new changes and upgrades that the president has made. I would recommend this little country to anyone. It is a great experience.

  3. Great article! I took my kids (2 and 5 roughly then) back in 2018 and stayed in La Libertad which is surf city. Had a wonderful time. We choose this as a vacation site since my family is Salvadoran and my mother had wanted us to go visit her home country for so long. Had an amazing time and explored so much. Can’t wait to go back 🙂

  4. Hi there. I am Salvadoran and I am proud and happy to see you report. Unbelievably, up to a year ago I have known some of the places you mention because I was afraid to go because of the situation of violence that existed; But now it does give me more security to travel and I want to continue getting to know my country. Thanks. Blessings

  5. Glad you took a chance to visit .
    It’s my home country and is trying to change for the best it may have it’s issues but every country in the world does too. Would be nice if you could visit again with more time to visit more of the beautiful beaches towns , lakes , rivers archeological sites and more.

  6. El Salvador is as you have explained it, only wish you had a more time to explore it’s hidden treasures but over all glad that your family and yourself have enjoyed your stay.

  7. I am glad you enjoyed El Salvador, taking my children there this June. Thanks for the article. Enjoy it!

  8. Thanks for visiting my country and thanks again for beautiful things you said of El Salvador.God bless you travel beautiful family.?

  9. As a Salvadorean myself, it makes me feel proud to see that there’s still good people willing to venture on a nice and pleasant quest to my lovely and friendly country. And for those that are planning to visit, don’t miss the waterfalls in the city of Juayua..

  10. El Salvador was a country that i was sceptical about for months. We tracked there in Jan 18 with our 2 children 3 an 5 years. We do speak Spanish and I have been to other Latin American countries we really loved El Salvador the popusas were incredible! We went to all the sites you mantioned it was awesome prices and everywhere is easy to get to. We stayed in Cuco Beach- at Condado Cuculandia thr host name is Gustavo he is amazing- he can speak English too! Beautiful experience we recommended visiting Cuco – relaxing and the beach is lovely and waem. If you like horse riding they have gear activities there too! Check it out!!

  11. Thanks for sharing. I’m going to El Salvador next month for a short program of volunteer.and these info will be useful for me!

  12. Lovely to see that so many are enjoying El Salvador, just like we are doing. So many things to see and do. El Salvador deserves a better reputation then it’s getting in the newspaper. After living here for 4 months, I can honestly say that every day is better than the last. Food is great, people are friendly, the weather is stable and awesome. Even though the country have some social problems, there are many reasons to visit El Salvador.

    Here are 10 other things to do in El Salvador and why you should travel to El Salvador.

  13. Hi! Well I’m salvadorean. If you want to come to El Salvador, you are welcome :). If you need help or a guide don’t doubt in contact me! It will be a pleasure.

    • We’ve been and left already Rafael, we’re in Guatemala now. El Salvadore was a wonderful experience, we’d love to come back and see more one day but we’re on a tight schedule at the moment.

  14. Hi Alyson!
    sounds wonderful. Do you plan to go to Belize? It’s on our wishing list for some reason I don’t remember – maybe because they speak english overthere?
    I have a stupid question : when you quote dollars, are you talking US-dollars?!
    Take care!

    • US or AU, it hardly makes a difference, they’re not far off 1:1. I don’t know, I switch between the two. No, we wont make Belize, although years ago we were going to dive the Blue Hole, but then I got pregnant so we cancelled. We’re back in Florida for the cruise in April, so I don’t even think we’ll make Mexico now. Looking forward to getting back to Asia, this side of the world has been fun, but it’s Asia that really floats our collective boat.

  15. Looks pretty interesting Alyson. South America hasn’t really been on my radar and there’s no particular reason why? However, whenever, we change direction, we’ll certainly look into it! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Great to see and taste food that we normally don’t have exposure to in Asia. The food markets are another source of enjoyment and inspiration, especially now we have a kitchen.

  17. I wish I had made a visit while I was here in Mexico, but unfortunately it was really expensive to travel from the area I was in. I am interested to see what you will think of Guatemala!

  18. Accommodation is slightly less than in the US, but really US hotels were a bargain, $40 to $50. There seemed to be an under supply of Accom in El Salvador generally, that’s one of the reasons we’re now in Guatemala. Street food was cheap, yes, and very yummy.. I have a feeling those admission prices will go up once they get some tourists flowing through!

  19. Sounds like a good place to visit; pretty cheap too in comparison to the prices you’ve been used to in the US and UK over the previous months I suppose? Attractions sound like really good value too.

  20. Oh I want to go there! I have been to Belieze, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama, but missed that little country as well as Honduras. I will just need to make it there one day. I am so glad you wrote about this.

  21. I have visited! We loved it, but we only made it to Santa Ana. The less I know about a place, the more intrigued I am to go there. I have little interest in Central American capitals though, they do scare me a bit.

    I hope you are going to be seeing more of Central America!! Guatemala and Nicaragua are great, although Guatemala grated on my nerves a bit the last time. It has changed a lot since I first went there ten years ago which I blame on growing tourist numbers.

    • Yes we are, we have almost 2 months in Central America. Another good thing about visiting the way we have is overall we’ve payed less than the flights into Guatemala would have been.


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