Where to stay in El Salvador
Luxury 5-star hotels belonging to the major international chains are plentiful in and around the capital – particularly in Zona Rosa and Colonia Escalón - but elsewhere they are not prevalent. Visitors from the US and UK may still feel that standards and facilities in luxury hotels do not match those at home. For more modest accommodation in San Salvador, look to the Boulevard de los Héroes, and avoid the downtown area.
Outside of the capital, standards do vary. In La Libertad, which is popular with surfers, accommodation has tended towards the basic and perilous, but is improving rapidly as investment flows in. You can expect to find clean and comfortable accommodation in popular tourist destinations and resorts such as Sonsonate, Suchitoto, and Costa del Sol, southeast of La Libertad. In the same places, luxury boutique accommodation is becoming more common and larger chains are moving in.
Luxury spa hotels like the mountainous Entrepinos (entrepinosresortandspa.com) in Chalatenango province and the beachside Las Flores (lasfloresresort.com) in San Miguel province are relatively new in El Salvador, but offer a full gamut of tours and facilities, with service to satisfy the most demanding international traveller. Sustainable resort complexes such as La Cocotera (www.lacocoteraresort.com) are thin on the ground though the situation is now improving.
Prices are rising across the tourist hotspots but there are still online bargains to be had in low season. In some cases, it can pay to call direct from home to negotiate the best room rate, through be sure to get email confirmation and bring a printout with you. Whatever the destination, visitors will generally find Salvadorans to be a hospitable, friendly people, with hotel staff eager to please. Try to adjust your expectations to the price bracket and the resources available to your host. Be careful with your belongings wherever you’re staying and don’t flash around expensive accessories or money.
Grading: Hotels in El Salvador can be classified into three groups: deluxe, first-class and budget.
Bed and breakfast
Guest houses and budget backpacker hotels, often with private bathrooms, can be found in the main tourist towns and around Boulevard de los Héroes in the capital. Facilities can be patchy, and petty crime such as theft may be an issue, so ensure you choose carefully, taking advice from other travellers.
Campsites are not common, and camping is advisable only as part of group tours to the countryside with tour guides on hand to take care of safety precautions. In surf destinations, beachside camping is offered but should be avoided as precautions against theft are rarely satisfactory.
CORSATUR (www.corsatur.gob.sv) has online listings of apartments, cabins, villas and ranches to rent. You can also stay on working coffee fincas such as Cafe Casacurry (cafecasacurry.com) and in cabin accommodation in the natural parks. Salva Natura (salvanatura.org) is a highly recommended non-profit organisation that organises eco-responsible tours into the national parks, as well as training and employing locals in sustainable management of the land.