Located in the northwest of El Salvador, Santa Ana is the second largest city in this tiny country. It’s a city rich in history and culture and has a lot to offer travelers. Whether you’re interested in exploring it’s natural beauty or it’s history, there are numerous attractions that make a visit there a must. Read our list of 19 amazing things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador.
About El Salvador
El Salvador is located in Central America and is the smallest country in that region. It is bordered by Honduras to the Northeast and Guatemala to the Northwest. The Pacific Ocean sits to the west and south and it’s capital and largest city is San Salvador.
El Salvador’s Climate
El Salvador has a tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity throughout the year. Temperatures range between 77°F and 86°F (25°C – 30°C) although it will be slightly cooler at higher elevations. El Salvador has a rainy season which typically lasts from May to October with August and September being the wettest months. From November to April, El Salvador has it’s dry season. During this time the humidity will be lower but the temperatures will be hot.
Geography of El Salvador
El Salvador’s location puts it right along the Ring of Fire and it’s nickname is “Land of Volcanoes”. There are 23 volcanoes in El Salvador but only 2 of them are considered active. These volcanoes have contributed to a fertile land that has helped its agriculture. El Salvador also has rivers, lakes, hot springs, forests, and a coastal region with beautiful beaches.
Safety in El Salvador
El Salvador has had the unfortunate title of “murder capital of the world” in the past. In 2022 a new president was elected and things started to turn around. Today, El Salvador is considered safe and is one of the safer countries in Central America.
You can read all about Safety in El Salvador if you have any concerns.
El Salvador Info
|AIRPORT||Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport (SAL)|
|PASSPORT & VISA REQUIREMENTS||Passport valid for 6 months & tourist card obtained on arrival ($12)|
|CURRENCY||U.S. Dollar & Bitcoin|
|VOLTAGE||115 V – U.S. items will work fine|
About Santa Ana El Salvador
Santa Ana is the second largest city in El Salvador and is located about an hour from its capital, San Salvador. It’s location is the perfect home base for exploring the history, culture, and outdoor experiences that Santa Ana and the surrounding area has to offer. Let’s start exploring what this town has to offer.
19 Amazing Things To Do In Santa Ana El Salvador
1. Visit the Santa Ana Cathedral
Located in the city center, the Santa Ana Cathedral is stunning. Construction of the cathedral began in 1906 but it was not fully completed until the 1950’s due to financial issues and earthquakes. The cathedral’s architecture is a blend of Neoclassical and Gothic styles with impressive intricate details of carvings and decorative elements. With stained glass windows and beautiful religious artwork, the Santa Ana Cathedral should not be missed.
2. National Theater of Santa Ana
If you appreciate the arts, make sure to stop by the National Theater. It’s right next to the cathedral. Built in the early 1900’s, this theater blends architectural styles of neoclassical and Art Nouveau. You can enjoy a multitude of theater performances, dance, and music. For just $1.50 it’s definitely worth a visit.
3. Explore the City Center
Around the main square where the Santa Ana Cathedral is, immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the Santa Ana Street Market. There’s a variety of crafts and food and is the perfect place to interact with the locals, try traditional Salvadoran foods, and pick up some unique souvenirs.
4. Try a Pupusa
You can’t come to El Salvador without trying a pupusa. A pupusa is a traditional Salvadoran dish of a thick handmade corn tortilla stuffed with various fillings and then grilled until it’s golden crispy. The most popular filling is a combination of cheese, refried beans, and seasoned pork. At less than $1, you have to try it!
5. Hike the Santa Ana Volcano
One of the best things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador is to hike a volcano. Located in the Cerro Verde National Park the Santa Ana Volcano (also called Ilamatepec) this active volcano hike is one of the best things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador. Don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted since 2005 and it’s activity is monitored closely. The stunning views of the surrounding landscape and a turquoise crater lake make the Santa Ana Volcano Hike totally worth it!
6. Joya de Cerén Archaeological Park
About 45 minutes from Santa Ana you’ll find the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in El Salvador. Known as the “Pompeii of the Americas” the site is a preserved ancient village of the Maya people from 600 AD. Covering 6 acres, the site consists of buildings, religious structures, tools, and other items. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm and costs $10 for non-residents.
7. Tazumal Mayan Ruins
The Tazumal Mayan Ruins are located just 14 kilometers from Santa Ana in the opposite direction of the other two sites. It is one of the largest and most well-preserved Mayan ruins in El Salvador. The Mayan ruins date back to 1000 BC and it has an impressive pyramid that is 75 feet high. The site is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm and costs just $5.
8. San Andres Archaeological Park
If you haven’t had enough of ancient ruins, the San Andres Archaeological Park is just 5 kilometers from Joya de Cerén or 38 minutes from Santa Ana. The pre-Columbian site dates back to 900 BC and was later the capital of a Mayan society. There has been over 60 mounds, or pyramids, discovered at the site. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 4pm and costs just $3 to enter.
9. Ruta de las Flores
One of the best things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador is to take a scenic drive through the Ruta de las Flores, or Flower Route. This 22 mile picturesque route will take you through charming towns with vibrant flowers. Enjoy the landscape and visit local artisans as you pass through charming towns, each with its own unique character. The towns along the Ruta de las Flores are full of colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and handicraft markets.
10. Los Chorros de la Calera
Along the Ruta de las Flores is a popular waterfall that is worth a visit. Located in Juayua, this 6.3 kilometer roundtrip hike consists of rocks, dirt and mud will take you through 7 waterfalls. You can just hike the 2 kilometers to the main waterfall where you can swim in crystal clear water to cool off. Open daily (except Wednesdays) from 7am to 5pm.
11. Juayua Food Festival
If you are visiting on a weekend you’ll find the Juayua Food Festival that happens every single weekend. You can taste a variety of local dishes. Canopies line the streets where people have traditional Salvadorian foods available. The town of Juayua is on the Ruta de las Flores so if you’re doing that, stop and have something to eat.
If you’re not sure if El Salvador is somewhere you want to go, read my article Is El Salvador a good place for Travelers?
12. Coffee Plantation Tour
El Salvador is renowned for its coffee production. You’ll find numerous coffee plantations along the Ruta de las Flores. Some offer tours where you can learn about the coffee-making process, from cultivation to roasting, and even enjoy a fresh cup of locally grown coffee. If you’re a coffee lover then visiting a coffee plantation is one of the best things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador.
13. Salto de Malacatiupan
Salto de Malacatiupán is a thermal hotspring waterfalls nestled in a lush natural setting. While it looks like a great place to cool off, these waters are actually very warm. The waterfalls cascade down a rocky cliff, surrounded by dense vegetation and scenic landscapes. The thermal waters are heated by volcanic activity. The rocks are wet and slippery so be careful.
14. Santa Teresa Hot Springs
The Santa Teresa Hot Springs is a resort and spa with thermal pools where you can relax in the pools, sit in a sauna, or get a massage. There is a restaurant on site and the even have a hotel if you decide you want to stay.
15. Coatepeque Lake
Head to the nearby Coatepeque Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in El Salvador. This volcanic crater lake is surrounded by scenic landscapes. Enjoy swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, sunbathing, or simply admire the serene surroundings. There are also water sports and boat rentals available. There are bars and restaurants on the lake as well.
16. Cerro Verde National Park
Located near Santa Ana, Cerro Verde National Park offers beautiful hiking trails and stunning views of three volcanoes: Santa Ana, Izalco, and Cerro Verde. Explore the lush forests, encounter diverse wildlife, and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
17. Parque Libertad
Visit the main central park of Santa Ana and relax on one of the many benches and people-watch. In the evening the park is full of families chatting while kids play.
18. El Imposible National Park
For nature enthusiasts, El Imposible National Park is a great choice. This protected area offers lush tropical forests, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. You can hike through the park, spot rare bird species, and experience the beauty of Salvadoran biodiversity.
Head east to the charming colonial town of Suchitoto, known for its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and artistic heritage. Visit art galleries, explore the town’s cultural sites, take a boat ride on Lake Suchitlán, and savor traditional Salvadoran cuisine.
Where To Stay in Santa Ana
You’ll want to find a location near the town center. It’s where the cathedral is and a lot of restaurants. It’s the most livliest area and where you’re likely to head to in the evening.
We stayed at the Hostal Las Purertas and the rooms were a nice size and we had our own private bathroom and air conditioning which is a must. It’s also just a short walk from the main square. It didn’t have a pool but we visited the Salto de Malacatiupan so we were okay with not having a pool.
Hostal Brunette is right next to the cathedral and the town center where all the restaurants are. If you want a place with a pool, one of the only ones in town with a pool is Hostal Casa Verde. It’s a little further from the town center but still within walking distance.
Getting Around Santa Ana
If you arrived by air at the San Salvador International Airport then you can rent a car from there to get around the country. The main roads in El Salvador are really good and well maintained. When you get out to some of the hot springs or hiking areas, the roads are less maintained and many are dirt roads with a lot of potholes so take that into consideration.
Uber does exist in El Salvador and this is what we used the entire time we were there. If you choose to use Uber you will likely find that the driver will want to make arrangements with you to take you to other places that you want to go off the Uber clock. Meaning, you’ll just pay the driver directly and not through Uber. El Salvador is a poor country and this puts more money in the driver’s pocket. We did this a few times and our driver waited for us and we paid at the end. Just agree on a set price before you leave.
El Salvador has a public bus system and if you’re super adventurous and want to save a LOT of money then maybe you’ll try it out. We rode the bus one time from Santa Ana to the Santa Ana Volcano for our hike. It does take longer to get places because there will be a lot of stops.
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador
El Salvador may be the smallest country in Central America but it is packed with stunning natural landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. The Salvadorans are friendly, the hospitality is very welcoming, and Santa Ana has a wide range of activities that are easy to access. There are so many things to do in Santa Ana El Salvador making it the perfect place to spend a few days and explore the area.