Fails in El Salvador

Sometimes traveling doesn’t go as plan. Pretty much all of my plans in Juayua, Concepción de Ataco, and Los Cobanos fell through. Here’s how everything went wrong for me in El Salvador and what I did instead.

Interior of the Iglesia del Cristo Negro in Juayua


My journey to Juayua was lengthy. I had wrapped up a four day scuba certification on Utila, Honduras on Friday and tried to make it to Juayua Sunday in time for their well-known food festival. If you read my story on the bus system then you know it takes forever to get anywhere. I knew one day would not get me there so I spent one night in Copan and left around 9 am the next morning. There was no direct route to Juayua, meaning I have to take a bus from Copan to Chiquimula to Metapan to Santa Ana before finally arriving at Juayua. Despite having to cross two borders, I was making good time. There was still daylight when I hopped on to the final bus at Santa Ana, sadly that bus was completely empty and took over an hour to filled up. I got to a wet rainy Juayua around 7 pm, still good time for dinner I thought. Sadly, I was wrong, the festival ends around 5pm. I checked into the Hotel Anáhuac, a boutiquey hotel and coffee producer. The innkeeper was as resourceful as he was hospitable. They sell local coffees and offer coffee tours, as well as other tours too but only if there are enough guests.

I went to Pupuseria Sugey upon the recommendations on the innkeeper. I ordered some Pupusas and chicken sandwich, by the way, they leave the bone in unless you asked otherwise. With my limited Spanish, I could not understand how much the meal cost so I kept whipping out bills. I was used to spending hundreds of Lempiras or Quatzales in Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, so it came as a shock that my meal in El Salvador, which uses US currency, only cost pocket change. Fortunately, the people at Sugey were honest and did not overcharge me, at least I don’t think.

he garden and my room at Hotel Anáhuac. Each room has a mural by a local artist.

The next evening I attempted to go to Restaurante R&R, one of the few highly rated and recommended restaurants. Sadly they were closed on Mondays as were most restaurants I found on Yelp. And I was scheduled to leave early Tuesday. Failed again. Note to self: do not come to Juayua on Sunday evenings. I ended up going to another Pupuseria, not sure what the name was or if it was a restaurant. I peeked inside and the lady invited me in to what looked like a home with many tables and chairs. She gave me a shit ton of food and a liquado, which is served in a plastic bag here.

iquado in a bag and a huge pupusa plate.

Concepción de Ataco

Having failed at Juayua, I took the advise of the Innkeep and went on a day trip up La Ruta de Floras (The Flower Route) to the town of Concepción de Ataco. I was recommended the restaurant Tayua but as my luck would have it, that would be closed as well. Screw recommendations, travel guides, and internet blogs at this point. I just went perusing at random. I stopped in at Xochikalko, a small unassuming restaurant from the outside, but with a delightful garden in the inside. Service was attentive, perhaps because there were no other guests when I was there on a Monday afternoon. They were patient with me despite the language barrier. I had the sopa de gallina after they gave me odd look for asking for sopa de gallo, as if I am too foreign for a dish like that. The soup was served with warm tortillas and hot sauce.

Sopa de Gallina at Xochikalko and El Calvario in the distance.

I spent the remainder of the day wandering the artsy town. They are famed for their arts and crafts. I picked up some local textile as gifts and admired the murals that adorn the buildings. One particular mural depict the town with the landmark El Calvario. It too was closed like many other attractions I visited but the Santuario Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria adjacent to the Parque Fray Rafael Fernandez remained open.

Mural of the whole town with its iconic El Calvario and Cielito Lindo Cross.

Playground where children played soccer. 

 local arts and crafts shop wth cats on the wall.

The gazebo at Parque Fray Rafael Fernandez.

Los Cobanos

Before departing El Salvador, I made one last stop along the Pacific coast. There is the small fishing villages of Los Cobanos. I read there is a turtle sanctuary that helps nesting sea turtles. In the right season, they accept volunteers to help release sea turtles. Sadly, I was not there at the right time. Sea turtle nurseries were set up along the beach but it was not the right time to release them. So I just kicked back at the hammock at Casa Garrobo. The place is nothing to write home about. The facilities were run down, wi-fi was unreliable, and the pool clearly had not been cleaned in ages. There is a choice between the private rooms or dormitories. I asked how many were in the dorms and the answer was none so I picked that.

For those on a bigger budget, there is the Los Cobanos Village Lodge run by an ex-pat gringo. The rooms are more modern and there is a restaurant on site. They served a hearty coconut-based seafood stew with a whole fish on the bottom similar to the Tapado in Livingston, Guatemala, albeit with less seafood.

eafood stew with shrimp on the rim and a whole fish on the bottom.

Fishing Boats along Los Cobanos at dusk.

Although my trips to El Salvador was filled with disappointments, it was not a total fail. There were a few interesting experiences and a few lessons learned. Not sure what those lessons were, but someday I will probably look back and think of one. Perhaps next time somethings is not going as plan, I will be able to say it was not as bad as this.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *