Top things to do in San Salvador

The capital of El Salvador has somewhat a bad reputation over the past couple of decades. Despite Central America being very much on the backpacker trail, often El Salvador is often skipped and those that do visit the country regularly go straight to the surf spots and miss the capital completely.
For the adventurous traveller who wants something a little different then San Salvador can be a lively and fun place to visit. Here are 10 suggestions as to what to do in San Salvador.

1. Try the beers at the La Cadejo microbrewery.
In upmarket Zona Rosa this bar/restaurant and brewery makes it’s own beers (with 51 varieties) and also supplies nationwide.
It’s possible to have a tour of the brewery, and the location is a popular spot on an evening to watch sports and eat decent pizzas and a range of other filling dishes.

The real draw here however is the great selection of unusual brews. There’s a pumpkin spice, a strong ginger ale at over 5% and a strawberry, as well as IPA, APA and a few stouts.

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2. Devour the local speciality, the pupusa.
These corn dough patties are served hot and often cheese filled and are cheap and filling way to eat. Many meals come automatically with these on the side but they also serve as a fantastic snack at any time of day and feel like a treat.

3. Rock out at Republik Bar.
San Salvador’s top rock venue and Irish bar Republik draws a cool fun loving crowd and after 9pm is full on most evenings, particularly a weekend. It’s an atmospheric place with a stage for the bands and a VIP area/whiskey bar upstairs with great views over the crowd and band.
They do a good range of food as well as good value cocktails. Check on their social media to see what’s on and for the top notch cover bands.
3. Visit the Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Savior is the main Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador and dominates the skyline of the city. It’s an important place for the people of San Salvador as it was visited twice by 

Pope John Paul II, and because it is also the resting place of Archbishop Óscar Romero who was assassinated in 1980.

 

4. Take a walk around Mercado Central
Mercado Central stretches a number of streets and is a fun way to get to know the city. Walk through the busy streets with vendors shouting out prices and offers for all things imaginable. Navigate the tight streets between stalls and chat with the smiling locals whilst dodging the fruit carts.
5. Grab a bite to eat at the food area of Mercado Excuartel
A fairly difficult to navigate market with seemingly endless stalls selling On the lower level of the market are around 20 mini restaurants, almost all run by women offering home cooking style food cooked up fresh and piping hot for under 2/3 dollars. On top of the usual pupusas expect spicy chicken and chicken soups as well as empanadas with rice & salad options. 1a Calle Oriente, San Salvador, El Salvador.
6. Buy some fresh fruit from the street vendors. There are fruit sellers everywhere and for under a dollar you can quench your thirst with a fresh coconut juice plus all the flesh or a stack of sweet pineapple.
7. Check out the architecture at Teatro Nacionale. Opened in 1903, it’s  the oldest theater in Central America. It’s free to enter but with fairly varied entry times. It has a great French classical style and is worth a wander round, even to see the facade of the building if you’re short on time. If you have a little longer and fancy something different then catch a show in the evening.
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8. Check out the pinatas on Calle San Antonio Abad
Somewhere between scary and fun this colourful street has endless pināta stalls on both sides with all shapes and sizes on offer. Expect unicorns, cars, emojis and giant beer bottles that you’ll have to duck and dive to get around.

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9. Try to navigate the city on local buses. Head to trendy Zona Rosa on the old American school buses in a variety of colours. Stand on the side of the road and listen for the bus callers shouting the destinations before you hop on and speed through the city.

For more ideas as to where to visit and how to plan a trip to San Salvador watch my full guide to San Salvador on YouTube.

Top places to eat & drink | Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

Santa Rosa de Copan is great for foodies. It has a huge choice of cuisines from street food options right up to romantic steak houses and restaurants with food so good that orders come in from all over Honduras.

It also has a lively nightlife with a number of cocktail bars and clubs to choose from.

Below are some top choices in SRC as to where to eat, drink, party, drink coffee and chill in Santa Rosa de Copan,

Calitos Grill
In a courtyard decorated with great street art Calitos Grill is owned by two brothers; both passionate about food but also with a vision to create an atmospheric place to spend an evening.

The menu here is fairly simple, but with everything done incredibly well. Top notch burgers including fillings such as pineapple and a range of meats, loaded fries, and ribs with yuca fries are all designed to have you licking your fingers clean.

It’s a great place to come with friends, and the street food style big tables make for friendly dining.

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Los Brasas
Los Brasas is one of the top restaurants in the city. Large potions, quality ingredients and a strong house sangria worth sharing between friends.

Primarily a steakhouse, it serves a range of steak options including a fantastic surf & turf.  It finds a good balance between being a romantic restaurant for a date, but also a good option for family friendly choice; especially if you’re hungry! Top tip; try the seafood soup for a starter.
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Mass Bar & Restaurant
A sleek bar and restaurant run by some friendly and lively owners. There’s a lovely outside area and the well stocked bar serves up imaginative cocktails. Come earlier for a bite to eat and a couple of drinks, or after 9 for a lively atmosphere late into the night.20190125_18372720190125_190143

Lenca Maya
A favourite on Trip Advisor, Lenca Maya is a good option for anyone wishing to have a crash course in Honduran food. A big menu with many traditional offerings, you’re even able to try your hand at making tortillas here, before tasting your creations alongside a whole host of dishes in a colourful environment.

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Teos
A trendy brunch bar that turns into a lively wine bar by nightfall, Teos has a spacious terrace looking out onto the street below. It’s a great place for a big breakfast with good wifi and a stylish layout.
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Timoshenko
Locally famous Timoshenko is a Honduran liquor that’s so popular some restaurants have even included it in some of their sauces.

The two flavours are coffee and fruit, with the former being served with milk and a cream topping giving a tiramisu flavour overall. Come and look round the bar area to see the bottles on sale and the antique decorations.
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Kaldis Koffee
Listed as one of three Honduran Coffee shops in the Phaidon’s book on where to drink coffee, Kaldis’ is a small coffee shop with a range of preparations for your coffee including some very traditional methods. It also has some of the best cakes and desserts in the city, including a lovely tiramisu, and a instagram worthy

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Cafe de las Velas
It’s a small but characterful cafe with a craft shop inside. Here the handicrafts are made by local underprivileged women; they have a great range of candles and soaps. The cafe also creates jobs for the local people including some homeless individuals.

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Estucafe
A tiny with a lot of character, Estucafe has 17 different offerings to prepare your coffee; from the ones you’ll recognise like a percolator, to contraptions that look like something from a science lab.

You’ll then be offered dozens of options of the coffee itself. Cups are heated to specific temperatures while the coffee is weighed and water levels measured. It’s a long process but the sheer effort of accuracy and effort that goes into each coffee makes for great viewing and even greater coffee.

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Le Casa Doña Olimpia
Doña Olimpia is a Santa Rosan institution. It’s famous roast pork is so in demand that they have orders coming in from all over the country, especially at Christmas when the lines are ringing off the hook.

Strictly for meat eaters only, the house special is roast pork, marinated for 12 and then roast in the kilns for 8 hours. It comes out salty, crispy and rich, and is then served alongside a thick gravy and slices of mandarin.  Wash down with a Copan Dry.
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Zotz
Zotz ticks a lot of boxes; great choice for a sports bar, cool roof terrace to sip on the giant cocktails, and with a long menu.

It has a family friendly atmosphere inside with kids toys and large TVs, but also does a great range of beers and cocktails.

A great addition to their menu is some fantastic hand made pasta which will definitely line your stomach well before a night of drinking and dancing.

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New York Discoteque
This small nightclub doesn’t really get busy until 10pm, when the town’s fashionable crowd come to dance and party into the early morning.

Loud music, well priced drinks, you know the score.

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For more information please contact Choose Honduras

10 reasons to visit Santa Rosa de Copan | Honduras

 

 

1. It’s a great introduction to Honduras
It’s often overlooked by tourists rushing to Copan Ruinas meaning that it’s less touristy and feels like a very authentic Honduran experience.

Only a couple of hours from the Salvadorean border and well located on the way to both San Pedro Sula and other major destinations, it’s an ideal stop for a few days of taking in the sights.
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2. It’s known as the capital of coffee in Honduras
SRC has over 40 coffee shops each with their own personal style and unique selling point. Not only is the local coffee fantastic due to the ideal altitude for cultivation, but the nearby tours where you can learn about the process make the final product even more enjoyable. Top recommendations are Estucafe with it’s 17 different methods for making coffee, and Kaldis coffee offering some of the top cakes in town to compliment your drinks.
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3. It’s got an active nightlife.
There are plenty of bars and dance spots in the city, and on a weekend the streets are alive with young people bar hopping, drinking cocktails in trendy bars such as Wazzz or enjoying the beers at Calitos Grill. On top of this there are regular events and festivals adding to the local atmosphere including projections of films onto the central cathedral.
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4. The streets are very pretty
A big effort has been made to preserve the original look of the centre and the cobbled streets alongside the colonial style coloured buildings make for pretty viewing. The cathedral with it’s central dome is lovely to visit and many of the buildings nearby are great to look at with their big balconies and white & red colourings.
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5. It has food options that have people travelling in from all over Honduras.
Doña Olimpia has been making top end roast pig for over 70 years. During busy periods the kilns are constantly on roasting the 12 hour marinated meat and orders come in from all over the country. It’s a family business and they’ve perfected the crispy pork that has people coming back for the rich and salty dish.
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6. It has a number of businesses trying to lead the way in sustainable tourism.
Yate Aqua Park runs adventure trips around the area including tubing, rock climbing and abseiling. With each tour the participants are expected to clean up a bag of rubbish from the roadside at the end of the day.
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Cafe de las Velas sells crafts made by underprivileged women and creates jobs for them in the Café.
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Seis Valles cafe and coffee producer is finding new technologies in coffee production that cuts down their carbon footprint as well as aiming to recycle as much as possible during the process.
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7. There is beautiful countryside so close to the city.
Just outside the city it’s possible to go on some great hikes, the Hummingbird lookout is less than an hour walk to a great lookout point and only a 35 min drive away is Hacienda Montecristo offering horse riding and other farm activities such as calf feeding and trying your hand at milking a cow.
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8. Markets, arts & crafts
For those of you who love arts & crafts there are a whole host of options. Lenca Mayan Placita is a lovely location with colourful umbrellas lining the ceiling and brightly coloured murals on the walls. As well as the small cafe there are a number of artisan shops selling delightful craft items, soaps from natural products, traditional clothing and local foods.
The central markets are also great to walk around; not usually visited by tourists it’s great to see the locals in cowboy hats eating their meals, unusual vegetables and herbs lining the narrow walkways, and vendors selling all sorts of dishes including when I visited…a bull testicle cerviche!
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9. Cigar production
A lot of people hear ‘cigar’ and think of Cuba, but actually Honduras is one of the top producers of cigars in the whole world. Much of the tobacco here is actually repackaged in Cuba and sold as Cuban cigars on the international market.
There’s an interesting cigar museum and shop, with information about the history of tobacco in Honduras and Santa Rosa de Copan, as well as rare cigars on display, with the option to purchase local and international cigars in the shop.
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10. There are even speciality local liquors
On one of the prettiest streets there’s a tiny shop and cafe selling Timoshenko, a locally famous liquor.
Coming in two flavours, one coffee and the other fruit, this moreish drink is not only served on it’s own or in the case of the coffee one; with milk, but is so popular that many restaurants incorporate it into sauces and dishes.
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For further information please contact;

Top things to do in Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

 

The Ruta de las Flores is a picturesque area in El Salvador, popular for spending a few days exploring the small towns and villages that make up the route, hiking, visiting markets and generally having a nice laid back time. Below you’ll find some top suggestions for what to do in the area.

My suggestion for a company that offers tours in El Salvador that are well priced fun hitting up all the main spots is Tunco Life.
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  1. Learn about the local artists and weavers in Ataco
    Ataco is full of great craft shops selling locally made items. You can see some of the traditional looms used to make the brightly coloured cloths you’ll see around, as well as shops selling ceramic designs by/inspired by Fernando Llort the famous artist from El Salvador.
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  2. Get lost in the Albania el Laberinto
    The maze is a fun activity for all ages. Surprisingly difficult for a small maze it completely defeated me. I’d like to think that with a bit more time I would have found the middle but I did escape to the pleasant cafe on site serving up tasty cakes.20190114_125512
  3. Take a tour of the El Carmen estate  on an Ataco coffee tour
    El Salvador has fantastic coffee and the El Carmen Estate is a great place to learn about the process as well as try some of their quality gourmet coffees.
  4. Visit the Thermal pools of Santa Teresa 
    There are a number thermal pools to try out, of varying temperatures. It’s a pleasant place with pan pipe music replicating Western hits whilst you swim around. There’s a bar/restaurant on site and at weekends it gets very busy so best to visit on a weekday if you want the place pretty much to yourself.810_3792
  5. Eat at the Food market in Juayua
    Every weekend Juayua comes alive with it’s famous food festival. A great number of stalls pop up all over the town especially near the main square and church. If you’re a foodie and want to try local specialities then this is the place, with vendors selling cheap and freshly prepared food right into the night.
  6. Check out the vegetable markets in Nahuizalco
    Nahuizalco is fairly low key but has some great vegetable markets with colourfully dressed market traders and a whole range of local fruits and vegetables as well as other snacks and treats.
  7. Admire the murals in Ataco
    Ataco is one of the prettiest towns in the area and it’s ever so colourful. It’s covered in beautiful wall art and murals all over town. As well as some of the major pieces of work there are also smaller pieces to be found on the sides of cafes and shops, so it’s worth having a good wander round to find your favourites.
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  8. Take in the views of Santa Ana Volcano
    Santa Ana volcano can be seen from miles around and on the Ruta de las Flores is one of the top places to view it from afar. On a clear day you’re able to see the coffee plantations running up the side of the hills and the rolling clouds make for wonderful time lapses for those interested.
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http://www.tuncolife.com (not sponsored)

 

 

 

 

How to get from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

How to get from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Option A) Take a transfer – The more expensive option but easier for more nervous travellers or those not on a budget. Most of the shops in Bocas Town offer tranfers to Sixaola for around $25 per person. This doesn’t include any exit taxes for those needing to pay, but does take some of the hassle out of negotiating prices with separate drivers on the route.
Option B) Do it Yourself – The cheaper version and really not that difficult.
1. First take the water taxi to Almirante from Bocas Town. Taxi 25 is a reputable company and runs shuttles back to the mainland every half hour for $6.
2. Next you have two options, either walk the 5 minutes to the bus station and get two buses..first to Chianigola and then a second to Sixaola. Total cost – $6
or Get in one of the white minibuses from outside the water taxi station – $10 – These will take you directly to the border
3. Collect your exit stamp from the Panama side at the kiosk to the right of where the minibuses drop you off.
4. Walk across the large metal bridge onto the Costa Rican side. It’s advisable to get here as early as possible as the queues here can get pretty long. If you have an umbrella it’s quite handy for the scorching sun, often followed by heavy rain while you’re waiting in the queue.
5. Get your entry stamp to into Costa Rica.
6. When you’ve crossed through you can once again pay a further 10 dollars to get to Puerto Viejo in a minibus, or if you want to save some more money it’s only $3.50 from the bus station which is about 100m away. Walk immediately right after crossing the border and follow the road down and round the corner to the where the large white buses will be waiting. The last bus leaves the station at 1930.

Visiting Cahuita National Park | Costa Rica

Cahuita National Park next to the beach town of Cahuita is a popular park with some great hiking trails and a lovely curve of beach usually great for swimming.

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Cost – Free
It’s one of the only national parks in the country that is free to enter, but donations are encouraged. Most people seemed to give about $5. If you enter from the main entrance near Cahuita town you have to sign in to enter but don’t require ID.

Opening Times – 8am – 4pm

What to bring – 
– Towel or something to lie on – There are no deckchairs although there are a few benches on the main route, so if you’re planning on having some beach time then you’ll need something to lie on.
– Mosquito repellent – Unfortunately even during the day it’s quite mosquito heavy
– Sun cream – An obvious one but a must. There is plenty of shade on the main paths but as soon as you venture onto the sand you’ll be in direct sun.
– Drinks and food – There are no shops or food vendors in the park so be sure to bring plenty of water and a picnic if you’re staying for long. Make  sure to take your rubbish with you when you leave.
– Camera – There is so much to see and you’ll be disappointed if you aren’t able to take some photos.

What might you see?

 

javier-mazzeo-428910-unsplash.jpgSloths – It was fairly easy to see a number of sloths during my visit, including one that had got a little lost and was solemnly making his way out of the park clinging onto the electricity pylon.

Monkeys- The monkeys in the park were cheeky and unafraid, stealing snacks from tourists and swinging from tree to tree.

Raccoons – Although considered a pest by some, the creatures with their robber mask like faces were inquisitive and friendly. It’s not allowed to feed the animals but unfortunately many people do and the raccoons have learnt this; often approaching tourists to try and get some food.

Do you need a guide?
It’s not necessary to take a guide for most people. The main trails are fairly well signposted and as long as you leave plenty of time you’ll have no problems. The animals in general aren’t that shy and will be quite easily spotted. However if you’re a very keen nature lover and really want to spot everything you can hire a guide from the park entrance. Price negotiable.

 

24 hours in Panama City

If you’re starting a trip in Panama then it’s likely you’ll be flying into Panama City, or if you’re travelling overland then once again it’s inevitable that at some point you’ll be spending at least a day or so in the city before getting another bus.

It’s a vibrant city, with a colourful old town popular with tourists as well as an impressive skyline across the water.


Where to stay
Most tourists opt to stay in Casco Viejo, and a top choice is the Magnolia Inn, a hotel/boutique hostel with an excellent location in the middle of the action, but located on a peaceful street so you’re not woken up by parties at nearby bars. The building itself is a purple colonial style building with an impressive facade including pretty balconies looking out onto the street below.

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It has a number of private rooms with air con and flat screen TVs, as well as some luxury dorms, a kitchen and communal areas. The private rooms come with all the mod cons of a boutique hotel but with a much better price tag than many of the competitors in the area. There are well equipped bathrooms, as well as a daily housekeeping service and comfortable mattresses.

The staff are helpful and friendly, offering advice on buses, where to visit and good places in the area to eat.

https://www.magnoliapanama.com/


Where to eat & drink

Salvaje rooftop bar
Sundowner drinks are a popular pastime in the old town, and for good reason. There are rooftop bars aplenty, most with great views over the water and the modern side of Panama City. If you head down towards Cinta Costera however, just before you reach it, there are a number of bars where you can actually get a great view of both the skyscraper skyline as well as Casco Viejo. Drinks offers vary daily, but it’s worth asking about them as prices can be fairly steep on the rooftops.

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Tantalo
The popular corner restaurant and bar is often from morning until the last revellers leave at night. Breakfast options are varied and tasty. ranging from specialities like the Panamanian steak and eggs to yoghurt with homemade granola.

Evening times then the bar comes alive, with a popular happy hour on the roof terrace. The dinner menu is tasty but not cheap, although Panama City in general is usually beyond a backpacker budget. 810_2479

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Tacos La Neta
For your Mexican fix head to Tacos La Neta. A highly rated cafe/restaurant with a simple menu done properly. They have special offers including on drinks making it a more affordable offering in a fairly expensive city by Central American standards.

A favourite is the fried fish taco, and every table has a range of in house salsas and spicy relishes for those that want more of a kick.

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What to do

Explore Casco Viejo – Panama City’s historic district is popular with tourists for good reason. It’s a beautiful, colourful area with colonial architecture and pretty multicoloured buildings and romantic balconies.

The streets are dotted with white churches, grand hotels and cute boutiques, while dilapidated buildings maintain an almost Cuban charm despite being so run down.

It’s a fairly expensive area, but there’s a lot of fun to be had, and if you’re on a budget, even a simple walk around the area with a camera will be enjoyable.

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Head to Mercado de Mariscos – The daily fish market, opening early morning until 5pm is a fun and lively experience for locals and tourists alike. It’s loud and busy, with tens of stalls selling every kind of fish and seafood.

The vendors shout out all around you and the floor is wet and slippy, but it’s a great glimpse into the daily life here. Many of the vendors will be happy to tell you what they are selling and if you head to the outdoor food area next door you’ll be able to try fresh cerviche at reasonable prices.20181229_113516

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Visit the Panama Canal – No visit to Panama City would be complete without visiting the Panama Canal. Ships tend to head through around 9-10am and then again at 3pm so try to arrange your visits for these times.

The easiest way to reach Miraflores locks and it’s visitor centre is via uber. (Around $5 from Casco Viejo.)

It costs $20 to get inside the visitor centre which includes a film and a lot of history about the canal. If you’re not so keen on the history side then it’s possible to get a ticket from the left of the ticket kiosk for the restaurant only and get in for free to the viewing deck. You’ll have to buy a beer but for less than $5 it makes it much more affordable for those on a budget.

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