El Salvador: An Underrated Travel Destination (For Now!)

El Salvador is rapidly becoming a must-visit tourist destination and this 1 week El Salvador itinerary will cover it all! From relaxing beaches to gorgeous volcanoes jungle climates, and cute colonial towns, El Salvador has a very diverse set of great things to do. It has had a bad reputation for crime and violence in the past, but El Salvador is quickly turning things around. El Salvador was the hidden Central American gem we were searching for, and we couldn’t be more excited to share our experiences and travel recommendations in this blog.

In this complete 1 week El Salvador itinerary, we make sure you’ll get a healthy balance of relaxation and adventure. We’ll balance out summiting volcanoes with relaxing in a beach-side hammock. Gift your taste buds the marvelous experience of experiencing an El Salvadoran food festival and learn that El Salvador has some of the best coffee in the world. Take El Salvador as fast or as slow as you want, and use our 1 week itinerary as a template for a guaranteed great time. If you have more time, check out our 10-Day El Salvador Itinerary! Whatever your interests are, we go over everything you need to know when planning your perfect El Salvador itinerary. 

Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase.

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary: Volcano

How to Get Around El Salvador

Traveling around El Salvador is easy and extremely budget-friendly! However, the easiest and most flexible way to get around the country is with a rental car, and this will make this itinerary a little more relaxing. If renting a car isn’t in the budget, there are a few different options. The most popular (and cheapest) option is by chicken bus – old American school buses that have been decorated colorfully by the drivers. If you don’t feel like braving the chicken buses and are looking for something a bit faster and more comfortable, there are shuttles that run between the tourist destinations. Taxis and Ubers are also plentiful, especially in cities, and are good for short trips or if you have luggage.

Getting Around El Salvador by Bus

The Perfect 1 Week El Salvador Itinerary

Day 1: Fly into San Salvador and Drive to Santa Ana + Exploring!

Fly into San Salvador’s international airport (SAL) and make your way to Santa Ana. Climb up in the beautiful Santa Ana Cathedral, explore the abandoned art school, and take a tour or catch a show (primarily only on weekends) at the National Theatre! Once you’re hungry, make sure you try pupusas from La Ceiba!

Read our article on the best things to do in and around Santa Ana for the important logistics behind visiting the tourist attractions!

Santa Ana Cathedral: 1 Week El Salvador Itinerary

How to Get From San Salvador International Airport to Santa Ana

The easiest way to get to Santa Ana is by flying into San Salvador and taking a private shuttle, taxi or bus to Santa Ana. You can also rent a car at the airport, which makes it super easy to get around El Salvador!

To get from the El Salvador International Airport to Santa Ana by bus, take bus #138 from the airport, which will drop you off at this bus terminal. From here, there is the option to walk forty minutes or take a ~$5 Uber or taxi to Terminal Occidente. Then take bus #201 for $0.85 from San Salvador’s Terminal Occidente to Santa Ana. This bus will may be crowded, so it can be difficult to do with larger luggage. The bus terminal in Santa Ana is not the safest, so keep this in mind if you arrive late at night.

Where to Stay in Santa Ana

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Day 2: Santa Ana Volcano Hike and Lake Coatepeque (stay the night at the Lake)

Have you ever hiked up an active volcano? If not, today’s the day! Lace up your hiking boots and bring lots of water, because it’s time to hike the Santa Ana Volcano. Just 18 years ago, it erupted and spit out rocks the size of cars! But don’t worry, you won’t see the violent side of the beautiful Santa Ana Volcano.

Santa Ana Volcano: 1 Week El Salvador Itinerary

Bring your bags and stay for a night at one of El Salvador’s marvelous crater lakes: Lake Coatepeque. We recommend staying at Captain Morgan Hostel–no matter what budget you’re working with. Leave your bags in the guide office at the Santa Ana Volcano trailhead, in your car, or on the tour bus while you do this 4-hour hike. The hike isn’t challenging, but it is exposed to the hot sun most of the time. You’ll desperately want to jump in the Coatepeque Lake afterwards–and you will! On the lake, you can rent jet skis, kayaks, boats, and tiki bar boats if you’d like!

Lake Coatepeque: 1 Week El Salvador Itinerary

How to Get From Santa Ana to the Santa Ana Volcano By Bus

To get from Santa Ana city to the Santa Ana Volcano, catch the 2 hour bus that is scheduled to leave from La Vencedora at 7:30. This bus costs $0.70 and will drop you off right at the trailhead.

How to Get From the Santa Ana Volcano to Lake Coatepeque By Bus

Take the same bus (#248) that goes back to Santa Ana but get off after 45 minutes at the fork in the road in El Congo. From here, you can hitchhike or pay $0.50 to go in the back of a pick up truck to your lakefront destination.

Check out our complete guide to the Santa Ana Volcano Hike!

Day 3: Lake Coatepeque to Ataco

Wake up with the beautiful sunrise over Lake Coatepeque, then head over to Ataco! Ataco is the artsiest town on the Ruta de las Flores, and you’ll quickly see why! Make sure to check out Axul Café and art gallery and admire the cobblestone streets lined with mural-covered houses! Get a delicious and customizable coffee from Geko’s coffee and hike up to Mirador La Cruz for a beautiful view of the city!

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary: Ataco Coffee Tasting

How to Get From Lake Coatepeque to Ataco by bus

Depending on where you’re staying, this may involve a taxi or some hitchhiking. If you are staying on the north side of the lake, you can catch bus #220 to Santa Ana. From the west side of the lake, you can catch the bus coming from Los Planes headed to Santa Ana. If you can hitchhike or taxi to El Congo, you can take bus #59, #220, or #248 to Santa Ana. This is the least risky way as buses pass through El Congo more frequently than they do along the lake. 

From Santa Ana, take the #210 bus leaving from Francisco Lara Pineda to Ahuachapan for $0.90.

From Ahuachapan, take the #249 bus heading to Sonsonate for $0.50, and get off in Ataco.

Tip: You can take bus #249 that connects Ahuachapan and Sonsonate to get to and from each of the towns on the Ruta de las Flores.

Where to Stay in Ataco

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Day 4: Ataco Coffee Tour, Bus to Juayúa, and Explore Apaneca

In the morning, take a coffee making tour with El Carmen Estate in Ataco to learn about the entire coffee process, from seed to cup. You’ll quickly see why El Salvador is one of the best places for coffee tasting!

Coffee Tasting: 1 Week El Salvador Itinerary

After your coffee tour, take a short ride to Juayúa to drop your bags off before heading to Apaneca, another town on La Ruta de las Flores. Apaneca is home to El Salvador’s most popular tourist attraction — the rainbow slide. This is located at Café Albania, which also houses a giant pendulum swing, ziplines, a labyrinth, and more. You can definitely spend a few hours here, but it does get crowded! After you head back to Juayúa, go to Pupusería Esmeralda for the best pupusas in town!

Cafe Albania El Salvador

Tip: If you can, plan to be in Juayúa on the weekend, when the famous food festival happens. Street vendors line the streets armed with grills and tents to provide you delicious meat and seafood plates with MASSIVE portions.

Where to Stay in Juayúa

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Day 5: Juayúa Waterfalls, Salcoatitán, and Nahuizalco

Get ready for a day of adventure and delicious food! Juayúa is home to the amazing 7 Waterfalls Hike and Chorros de la Calera. When you combine the two activities, you end up seeing 10 gorgeous waterfalls in just a 5 hour period. Make sure to bring a dry bag (like this one!) filled with snacks and water!

Juayua 7 waterfalls hike El Salvador

After your admiring the gorgeous waterfalls, head next door to Salcoatitán. (Remember, bus #249 connects the towns on the Ruta de Las Flores.) Salcoatitán has tons of authentic El Salvadorean cuisine like riguas and yuca at the Plaza Turístico. After stuffing yourself with food, check out La Ceiba, which is an absolutely ginormous tree. Grab a drink at La Conga, the double-decker-bus-turned-café that has a good view of La Ceiba. From Salcoatitán, head over to Nahuizalco for the night market, which has tons of delicious food!

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary: Salcoatitán

For more information, read the Complete Guide to La Ruta de las Flores!

Day 6: Juayúa to El Tunco

Start your day off at Buena Vista Gardens with coffee, breakfast, and a beautiful view of coffee country. After you’re energized, head to El Tunco, El Salvador’s most popular beach town. Spend the afternoon in El Tunco at Cadejo Brewing company, enjoying craft beer in their pools overlooking the beautiful ocean. You can grab dinner here while you watch the sunset, or if you prefer, head over to La Libertad for the carnival!

El Tunco: 1 Week El Salvador Itinerary

How to Get From Juayúa to El Tunco by Bus

To get from Juayúa to El Tunco by bus, first take the #249 bus to Sonsonate for $0.60. From there, take the #287 bus heading to La Libertad for $1.50, and get off in El Tunco.

Where to Stay in El Tunco

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Day 7: Chill Out in El Tunco

Get your zen on this morning with a yoga class on the beach (or in a studio if you prefer)! Then grab a quick smoothie and hit the waves! Surfing is a must-do when you’re in El Tunco – it is called Surf City after all! There are loads of options along the coast for surfing, and chances are, your accommodations provide lessons!

Grab some brunch and Point Break Café for some delicious breakfast sandwiches. For the rest of the day relax on the beach, explore the beach caves, and reflect on your amazing El Salvador vacation. Your 1 week El Salvador itinerary would not be complete without some time relaxing on the beach! This is the place to go slow, take in the sun, and enjoy life care-free. If you’re into the party scene, jump into the El Tunco nightlife with dancing, karaoke, and more!

Check out our post on how to spend the perfect day in El Tunco!

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary: El Tunco

Day 8: El Tunco to El Salvador International Airport

Start your day off with one last walk on the beautiful El Salvadoran beaches and head to Dale Dale Café to make your own breakfast sandwich. Then, bid farewell to this beautiful country–chances are you’ve already planned your return to El Salvador!

How to Get From El Tunco to El Salvador International Airport by Bus

First, get the bus from El Tunco to La Libertad by taking a #192 or #192A bus for $0.25.

Then take #187 bus that to Comalapa, but ask the bus driver to get off where the #138 bus stops to the airport, and take this bus. You can also take a taxi for $3-5.

That’s a Wrap! El Salvador 1 Week Itinerary

We hope you’ve enjoyed our El Salvador 1 week Itinerary, which covers the best things to do in this beautiful country. We know this itinerary is jam-packed, but it’s 100% worth the traveling days. You can adjust these days as needed, and we’ve provided some potential changes here:

  • Spend a day or two in Suchitoto — it is a gorgeous town!
  • Rent a car and do La Ruta de las Flores in a day
  • Visit San Salvador and take a walking tour through the historic district

It really all depends on what you’re most looking to get out of the trip, so build it around your preferences!


Best Time to Visit El Salvador

The best time to visit El Salvador depends on what you’re looking for in your trip. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Dry Season & Outdoor Activities (November to April): This is the peak tourist season, offering warm weather with little to no rain. Ideal for outdoor adventures like hiking, exploring Mayan ruins, and relaxing on the beach.
  • Surfing (May to October): The rainy season brings bigger waves, perfect for experienced surfers (if you’re a bigger, stick to the dry season!). However, keep in mind that if you visit during the wet season, some parks and wildlife areas might be inaccessible due to weather conditions.
  • Shoulder Seasons & Fewer Crowds (May & September): If you prefer comfortable temperatures and don’t mind the occasional rain shower, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons. You might also find better deals on flights and accommodation.

Overall, El Salvador is a beautiful country with something to offer year-round. Consider what activities are most important to you and choose the time of year that best suits your interests.

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary: park

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary Packing List

Keep Exploring El Salvador…

Our Favorite Travel Resources

Accommodations: We use Booking.com for hotels and HostelWorld for hostels. We also use VRBO or TrustedHousesitters for longer stays.

Flights: We recommend using Skyscanner to find the cheapest and best flights.

Ground Transport: We use 12Go and Omio for buses and private transfers, and rentalcars.com and Discover Cars for rental cars.

Activities: GetYourGuide and Viator are the best websites for booking organized tours.

International Medical Insurance: We highly recommend SafetyWing for Digital Nomads and HeyMondo for those not traveling full-time, or who frequently engage in higher-risk adventure activities.

eSIM: We recommend Airalo or Holafly for getting data internationally.

Check out our Travel Resources Page for more of our favorite travel-related products and services!

1 Week El Salvador Itinerary FAQs

Where is the Best Place For Learning About the Civil War in El Salvador?

Suchitoto, in northern El Salvador is a great place to learn about the civil war. Check out this tour where you can hike through a guerrilla camp and talk to a former FMLN rebel! In addition to the great but troubling history, Suchitoto is an amazing colonial town and sits on a massive lake. The Alejandro Cotto museum is located in Suchitoto, and has one of the coolest gardens we’ve seen in Central America!

For more things to do in Suchitoto, check out our article!

How Should I Spend 4 Days in El Salvador?

If you have 4 full days to spend in El Salvador, we recommend doing 2 days in one place, and 2 days in another. El Salvador is very small so it’s easy to get around. For beach lovers and party animals, El Tunco is the place to be. For history buffs, head over to Suchitoto. If you’re a coffee or art lover, make sure to do the Ruta de Las Flores. If you’re interested in volcanoes and crater lakes, check out Santa Ana!

Is El Salvador Safe?

El Salvador is very safe in tourist destinations. There used to be terrible crime rates, but the president (controversially) rounded up tons of criminals and put them in jail. However, there were lots of innocent people who are in jail because of this, so I wouldn’t mention any opinions you have to El Salvadoreans. The lack of criminals and emphasis on protecting tourists makes this an extremely safe place to be. The bus stations can be dangerous at night, but that is almost always the case. Watch out for pickpockets on public buses in San Salvador!

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