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The Best Budget Hotels in Central America

Finding great budget hotels is like winning the travel lottery because they allow you to make your travel budget go even further. Over the years we’ve become expert at choosing the best budget hotels and for the first time we’re sharing what we think are the best budget hotels in Central America, gleaned from more than three years of travel through Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. We’ve personally vetted all of these budget hotel options so you don’t have to. Consider them Trans-Americas Journey approved.

Best budget hotels in Central America

San Jose, Costa Rica: Hotel Aranjuez offers a range of spotlessly clean rooms in three adjoining houses in a safe, quiet neighborhood of Costa Rica’s capital convenient to most attractions at extremely reasonable rates which include the best hotel breakfast buffet we’ve ever had in any price point. We stayed here repeatedly and they even have (limited) parking.

Hotel Aranjez - San Jose, Costa Rica

El Tunco Beach, El Salvador: There are two places called Papaya Guesthouse in this beach hangout. You want the one directly across the street from a hotel called La Guitara. Look for the enormous wooden gate. This place is spotless, has a nice little pool and sitting areas with hammocks and offers rooms with A/C and large, stylish rooms with fans and private baths for US$25 plus perfectly acceptable smaller rooms at smaller price points (US$14) with shared bathrooms (that’s what we went for). Toss in WiFi, parking, a great staff and a decent shared kitchen and you can’t beat it.

Panama City, Panama: Hostal Amador Familiar (dorm beds from US$15 per night and private rooms with a fan from $30 for two people) is beyond spotlessly clean thanks to the tireless efforts of the best hotel housekeeper we’ve ever seen at any hotel in any price point.There’s a large, shared, semi-outdoor kitchen which stocks paper towels and  tin foil for guest use in addition to the usual supplies. Breakfast is included.There’s a large and secure parking lot. It’s located in a quite neighborhood from which you can easily access Casco Viejo, the Amador Causeway, downtown Panama City and other areas.

Hostal Amador Familiar - Panama City

Cahuita, Costa Rica: At Cabinas Palmer US$20 got us a clean private double with bathroom, fan, TV, a furnished porch with a hammock, free coffee and bananas all day, use of a shared kitchen, parking and WiFi. It’s right in the center of town, just ask for it when you arrive.

Gracias de Dios, Honduras: We called Hotel & Restaurant Guancascos home while we were in Gracias and you should too. Located just below the Castillo San Cristobal fort, the 17 rooms (US$10 dorm and rooms from US$26) are spotless and well-appointed, the staff is charming, free Wi-Fi works in the common area and in the three rooms under the restaurant, which is excellent. Owner Fronicas “Frony” Miedema, a Dutch woman who’s lived in Honduras for more than 20 years, will be happy to give you information about the area and arrange tours and transportation. When we were there the hotel was also in the final stages of gaining green certification, making it one of only a few eco-certified hotels in Honduras.

Guancasos hotel - Gracias del Dios, Honduras

San Ignacio, Belize: Nefry’s Retreat has four peaceful, clean rooms with WiFi and A/C for around US$20 located about a five minute walk from the bustle of the town’s main drag. We really liked the homey feel. It’s not a rock bottom price, but it’s value for money especially in Belize.

Bocas del Toro, Panama: Hostal Hansi, located just off Main Street in the town of Bocas, has a wide range of different room types from singles with shared bath (from US$11) to private doubles (from US$25). WiFi and use of a spotless kitchen is included. It’s quiet and clean (there is a resident cat) and it’s extremely popular. Hansi does not take reservations so get there as early as you can to see about available rooms.

Hostal Hansi - Bocas del Toro, Panama

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: Hotel Contemporeneo down by the lakeshore, delivers clean, quiet rooms with a bathroom, a TV, secure parking and a good WiFi signal for 120Q (about US$15). We even scored a lake view (ask for room 4 or 5).

León, NicaraguaHarvest House was created by Jason Greene, a smart, surprisingly young man from North Carolina, and it’s spotlessly clean, brightly painted, comfortably furnished and has a huge shared kitchen. Rooms, which range from singles with shared bath to small private apartments, were irresistible (from US$15 per night or from US$150 per month). We booked a double room with shared bath for a month, spending less and getting more than we would have in any hostal.

Harvest House, Leon Nicaragua

 

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Wild Animal Encounters

Spotting critters is a big goal and a definite highlight of our Trans-Americas Journey and we’ve had some amazing wild animal encounters as we’ve traveled through The Americas. Back in 2010 we put together a list of our top wild animal encounters to that point which included grizzlies in Alaska, scarlet macaws in Mexico and (almost wild) jaguars in Belize. On the eve of Earth Day we thought it was high time we updated that list to include the whale sharks, resplendent quetzal birds, hammerheads, turtles and so much more that we’ve seen since.

Red eyed Tree frog Costa Rica

One of many red-eyed tree frogs that stared us down in Costa Rica.

See more of this adorable little guy and his other rainforest friends in our post from Rainforest Adventures in Costa Rica.

School of Hammerhead sharks

We were surrounded by hammerheads (and loved it) while scuba diving around Cocos Island in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of the Undersea Hunter Group.

Hammerheads were just the beginning of our underwater wild animal encounters. Get the full sharky story in our Cocos Island post.

Quetzal at Chelemha Cloud Forest Lodge

This male quetzal emerged from its nest inside a hollow tree trunk and posed for us on a nearby branch in the Chelemhá Cloud Forest Reserve in Guatemala.

Learn how you can visit this wonderful protected forest and lodge and bag your own quetzal sighting in our post from Chelemhá Cloud Forest Reserve in Guatemala.

Gentoo Penguins Port Lockroy Antarcica

Gentoo penguins proved they are even more adorable in person when we visited Antarctica.

We also sighted killer whales, chin strap penguins and crabeater seals in Antarctica. See them all in our photo-filled posts from Antarctica.

Swimming with Whale Sharks Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Small snorkeler with massive whale shark in the waters between Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox off Cancun in Mexico where we also got in the water with these giants. Photo courtesy of Solo Buceo.

More whale shark details, including how to make sure sea sickness doesn’t ruin your encounter, are in our post about snorkeling with whale sharks near Cancun.

A herd of buffalo literally roamed through our campground in Badlands National Park.

Find out which campground and more in our Badlands National Park post.

Baby sea turtles El Salvador

We held life in the palms of our hands when we helped release baby olive ridley turtles near Barra de Santiago in El Salvador.

Watch these hatchlings scramble to the sea in our post from Barra de Santiago, El Slavador.

Black bear and cub Yellowstone National Park

A black bear and her cub explored downed trees in Yellowstone National Park.

See more bears and learn about the park’s wolf population too in our Yellowstone National Park post.

Hummingbirds - Giatemala

Hungry hummingbirds barely noticed we were there on a porch in Guatemala.

More amazing shots of these tiny stunners are in our photo essay of hummingbirds from Guatemala.

This young wolf seemed as curious about us as we were about it when our paths crossed on the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota.

See more in our Minnesota North Shore photo gallery. Read more in our Minnesota North Shore travel journals part 1 and part 2.

Harris Hawk Chucky - El Salvador Falconry

We had a wild animal encounter of a totally different kind when guide Roy Beers of Cadejo Adventures took us falconing with his Harris hawk, Chucky, in El Salvador.

Find out why hiking with a bird of prey is way cooler than normal hiking in our post about falconing in El Salvador.

A moose and her calf appeared around a bend during a hike in Grand Teton National Park.

See more in our Grand Teton National Park photo gallery.

We spent nearly an hour watching this female grizzly and her cub feast on blueberries in Denali National Park.

See more in our Denali National Park photo galleries – part 1, part 2, and part 3. Read more in our Denali National Park travel journals part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Muskox roamed the tundra on the North Slope in Alaska where we spotted them from a helicopter.

See more in our Deadhorse, Alaska photo gallery. Read more in our Deadhorse, Alaska travel journal.

This arctic fox already had its winter white coat on so it was easy to spot in the tundra of Alaska’s North Slope.

See more in our Dalton Highway photo gallery. Read more in our Dalton Highway travel journals part 1 and part 2.

Gray whales put on an impressive show for us in Baja.

We wandered among millions of migrating monarch butterflies near Valle de Bravo in Mexico.

See more from this epic annual migration in our monarch butterfly migration post.

Crocodiles of all sizes lazed near our boat as we traveled to La Tovara Springs in San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico.

See more in our San Blas, Mexico post.

Thousands of flamingos went about their strange pink business as we floated through the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve in Mexico’s Yucatan State.

There are plenty more flamingo antics in our Rio Lagartos post.

We failed to find the whale sharks we were looking for during some scuba diving trips in Belize but a pod of bottlenose dolphins found us.

Learn more about our search for whale sharks in our post from Hopkins, Belize.

This spider monkey was just hanging out near Chan Chich Lodge in Gallon Jug, Belize.

See more in our post from Northern Belize.

A keel-billed toucan stayed put long enough for us to capture its impossibly long beak at La Milpa Field Station in Belize.

More toucans (and pygmy owls and laughing falcons and many other species) can be seen in our post about the birds of Belize.

Jaguar belize

Full disclosure: Tikatoo is not a wild jaguar but she is the closest we’ve come so far to seeing this elusive big cat in the jungle.

For more beauty shots of Tikatoo at her rescue home at Banana Bank Lodge check out our post from Belmopan, Belize.

A clan of howler monkeys befriended us while we camped at Las Guacamayas in Chiapas, Mexico.

Learn how you can have your own howler encounter in our full Las Guacamayas post.

Wild scarlet macaws gorged themselves in a tree above our tent at Las Guacamayas in Chiapas.

Want your own face time with macaws? Check out our full Las Guacamayas post.

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Rear View Mirror: El Salvador Travel Tips & Observations After 66 Days in the Country

El Salvador definitely gets the award for Biggest Pleasant Surprise of any country we’ve traveled through so far on our Trans-Americas Journey, delivering great food, the warmest people since Mexico and one of the best boutique hotel finds in the region. Here are some El Salvador travel tips, facts and tid-bits which we picked up during our travels throughout El Salvador including volcanoes, beaches (for surfing or not), coffee plantations, hot springs, and more. Did we mention that El Salvador has a national park named El Imposible? Oh, and a growing craft beer scene (thanks Brew Revolution)?

This should keep you entertained while you pack. Seriously. You should go.

Cows on the beach El Salvador

 

Unlike every other country we’ve visited (so far) on our Trans-Americas Journey, there are no entry fees, not even any vehicle importation fees, when entering El Salvador. Yep, totally free.

You do have to be careful about the tricky CA-4 visa regulations to which El Salvador adheres. We got tripped up by the rules and were denied entry into El Salvador the first time we tried to cross the border.

A division of the Salvadoran police force, creepily called Politur (short for Policia de Turismo), provides free escort services to tourists. It reminds us of the ProAtur (formerly Asistur) program that the tourism department of Guatemala offers. After being warned more than once not to visit the Los Tercios waterfall near Suchitoto on our own, we got a lift with the local officers. One of them hiked down to the falls with us and then they drove us back to town. For free. With smiles on their faces. Yes, it would be better to be able to ensure that all locations are completely free of thieves, but if you know you can’t accomplish that this is a great way to keep destinations open to tourists. A free Politur escort is also mandatory when you hike up the Santa Ana Volcano.

Police escort hike Santa Ana Volcano Itzalco, El Salvador

Karen enjoying her free Politur police escort up to the top of Santa Ana Volcano.

 

Christy Turlington is part Salvadoran. Yes, that Christy Turlington…

We were very surprised by the number of really good hotels in El Salvador, lead by Casa ILB in San Salvador.

Since 2001 the official currency of El Salvador is the US dollar. It is slightly weird making purchases in Spanish but paying in US money. The Salvadoran colón is allegedly still in circulation but we never saw it.

El Salvador is the only country we know of in which the people eat their national flower, the izote which blooms out of a yucca plant.

Motmot national bird of El SalvadorThe national bird of El Salvador is the long-tailed mot mot also called a torogoz. They don’t eat it.

Wi Fi is spotty in most of the country. Sigh.

The 2011 winner of the World Barista Championship, Alejandro Mendez, is from El Salvador. Last we heard he was plying his craft at Viva Espresso in San Salvador.

El Salvador is the first place we ate loroco, a flower that’s harvested before it blooms. The green buds taste like asparagus and are delicious along with fresh cheese in pupusas, the scrumptious national dish of El Salvador.

In El Salvador a quesadilla is a dense white cake with grated dry cheese mixed into the batter (delicious)—NOT tortillas folded over with melted cheese inside.

October is usually the coolest month with the clearest skies thanks to the something everyone calls “October winds.” Though October brought Tropical Storm 12E when we were in El Salvador, dumping up to five feet (1,500mm) of rain over nine days, just one foot (300mm) shy of the country’s average annual rainfall. The President of El Salvador called it the worst storm in the country’s history (even worse than Hurricane Mitch) but you’ve probably never heard of it. Because the storm was never classified as a hurricane it never made it on international TV or on aid organization radar.

Salvadorans really, really like Worcheshire sauce which is called Salsa Inglesa and is found on nearly every table.

Salvadorans also love cream soda. Who knew they still made that stuff?

Most ATMs don’t charge a withdrawal fee and they dispense reasonably sized bills ($10s and $20s mostly).

El Salvador is, generally speaking, about 30% more expensive than Guatemala but far cheaper than Costa Rica.

El Salvador volcanoes lakes and boats

 

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, roughly the size of Massachusetts. This, coupled with the fact that it has one of the best road networks in the region, makes it very easy to explore the whole place.

Lonely Planet no longer publishes a guide book for El Salvador. El Sal info is now just crammed into their Central America on a Shoestring guide. Pity.

Eating at beloved regional chicken chain Pollo Campero in El Salvador is about 50% more expensive than it is in Guatemala and they do NOT refill your soda. You have been warned.

For a cheap thrill, take the bus in San Salvador. The drivers are insane and the fare is only $0.25.

El Salvador is home to the only falconer licensed to take tourists along on his hikes with hunting birds of prey. His name is Roy Beers and he runs Cadejo Adventures. Eric’s stop-action photos of us enjoying an afternoon of falconry with Roy and his harris hawk are really cool.

El Salvador beach sunset

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Our Latest Work: Diving with Sharks around Cocos Island & (more) Amazing Central American Hotels

We first heard about Cocos Island, a verdant dot in the ocean 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, more than a decade ago. Between the pirate treasure still buried on the island to the shark-rich waters around it we’ve been dreaming of the place ever since. It was worth the wait, as we explain in our feature about new marine protections and the thrill of diving with hammerheads off Cocos Island for the Minneapolis Star Tribune travel section.

Cocos Island

 

We made different kinds of dreams come true during stays at some of Central America’s best boutique hotels including Jicaro Island Ecolodge and Los Patios in Nicaragua, Las Flores Resort & Surf Club in El Salvador and Dantica Cloud Forest Lodge & Gallery and El Silencio Lodge & Spa in Costa Rica.

We even ventured back to the United States just to check out the newly opened Eilan Hotel Resort & Spa which made us love San Antonio even more.

Visit the Published Work page of our website any time to see all of our freelance work in one place.

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On the Road to Peace – Perquin & El Mozote, Ruta de la Paz, El Salvador

Perquin and El Mozote lie at the heart of El Salvador’s Ruta de la Paz (Peace Route). This is where some of the worst atrocities and massacres of the 12 year Salvadoran Civil War happened and that’s saying something. These are haunted places, hard to visit, hard to forget.

Inside the Holy Spirit Grotto

As a prelude to our time along the Ruta de la Paz we visited the ancient pictograph-filled Holy Spirit Grotto (La Gruta del Espíritu Santo in Spanish). Be warned: the road that cuts off from the Pan American Highway and heads up to the town of Corinto is a festival of pot holes over pavement that was clearly laid by blind ferrets then attacked by dinosaurs wielding jack hammers and bad attitudes. Luckily, the grotto was worth it.

A two minute stroll took us to an enormous rock overhang which is covered in pre-historic paintings.

petroglyphs Espiritu Santo grotto - Corinto, El Salvador

It was worth braving an evil road to get to the Holy Spirit Grotto (La Gruta del Espíritu Santo in Spanish), a huge rock overhang covered in ancient pictographs in El Salvador.

 

Though some of the pictographs are said to be more than 10,000 years old, many still clearly depict hawks and humans. An on-site guide accompanied us and pointed his machete at dozens of images we might have missed otherwise.

rock paintings Espiritu Santo cave - Corinto, El Salvador

This hand is just one of the hundreds of ancient pictographs you can still see at the Holy Spirit Grotto (La Gruta del Espíritu Santo in Spanish) in El Salvador.

Even better than ancient rock art? Brand new paving on the road from Cortino to Perquin.

 

Preserving the painful past in Perquin

The Salvadoran civil war was fought between various guerrilla factions cobbled together into a movement called the FMLN vs. the Salvadoran government’s US-backed military. It was the second longest civil war in Central American history and it didn’t end until 1992. Some of the earliest fighting happened in Suchitoto. Horrible things happened in Suchitoto and around El Slavador, but some of the most notorious atrocities happened along what is now called the Ruta de la Paz.

FMLN Che Guevera El Salvador

Che Guevera, FMLN hero, immortalized in a town along the Ruta de la Paz in El Salvador.

During the war guerrilla fighters emerged from all over the country to rise up against the army but Perquin emerged as the spot where FMLN headquarters were set up, in part because of its guerrillas and in part because of its forested, mountain terrain–perfect cover for a guerrilla war.

The region is still staunchly FMLN (which became a political party and is currently in power in El Salvador) and many of the people you’ll meet were guerrillas, including the staff of the excellent Museum of the Revolution (US$1.25 per person).

Museum of the Revolution - Perquin, El Salvador

Deadly weapons in front of a backdrop of art depicting local children’s dreams of peace at the Museum of the Revolution in Perquin, El Salvador.

When we arrived at the humble, low-slung museum we met Carlos who told us he was a guerrilla fighter and now works at the museum. After giving us a thorough history of the war (we were really proud of ourselves for following it in Spanish) Carlos shadowed us as we slowly toured the simple but moving exhibits, pointing out anything important that he felt we might have missed. And there was a lot of important stuff.

A series of adjoining rooms, each with a theme, housed everything from weapons to pictures of FMLN leaders killed during fighting and a few who survived attack and torture. A handful are still alive today. One room displayed equipment used to transmit crucial messages on the FMLN’s ingenious radio network, called Radio Venceremos. 

Radio Venceremos.FMLN - Perquin, El Salvador

Some of the rudimentary studio equipment used by the FMLN to broadcast crucial messages on Radio Venceremos during El Salvador’s civil war.

Under a roof out back we saw the remains of the helicopter used in one of the most daring and famous FMLN assassinations of the war. To get at government military leader Lt. Colonel Domingo Monterrosa Barrios the guerrillas allowed Monterrosa to find a FMLN transmitter which he confiscated, believing it to be a crucial FMLN tool. It was. The FMLN had booby-trapped the transmitter and guerrillas exploded it remotely once the helicopter–and Monterrosa–were airborne. All aboard were killed in what Carlos described as “tacticos del caballo a trojan.”

Helicopter ruins, Museum of the Revolution - Perquin, El Salvador

What remains of the helicopter which the FMLN shot down using a booby-trapped radio transmitter in order to assassinate Lt. Colonel Domingo Monterrosa Barrios during El Salvador’s civil war.

Guerrilla life, sort of

One of the strengths of a guerrilla army is its ability to hide in and move around rugged terrain. FMLN fighters lived and battled in deep jungle for years and we got a somewhat wacky sense of what FMLN guerrilla camp life might have been like.

A former guerrilla camp is located just down the road from the museum. It’s now on property occupied by a family and they’ve re-created some rudimentary structures, put more bombs and bullets on display (who knew spent bullet casings could be strung together into a pretty cool curtain?) and uncovered a network of tunnels which guerrillas used to move around undetected. You can walk through them if you like (US$1 per person).

El Salvador Revolution war tunnels  - Perquin, El Salvador

Tunnels, like this one, allowed guerrilla fighters to elude army forces during El Salvador’s civil war.

Unprepared for the massacre at El Mozote

The museum and the abandoned camp gave us a sense of what the war was like for guerrilla fighters but it wasn’t until we visited the nearby town of El Mozote that we started to understand the realities for their families, everyday farmers and villagers and anyone else not firmly in lock-step with the Salvadoran government. Frankly, we were unprepared.

On December 11, 1981 Salvadoran army troops, now widely believed to have been trained and armed by the US, arrived in El Mozote, which is still just a dusty collection of simple homes. Rumors of an impending attack had inspired villagers from around the area to converge in El Mozote which they believed would be spared because of its religious and political ties. They were wrong.

Over the next two days soldiers interrogated and killed every grown man they could find. Then they began raping and torturing the women and stabbing and clubbing the children. Those who’d gone into the church to hide were locked in and machine-gunned through the windows before the church was burned.

Reflection Garden of the Innocents, El Mozote, El Salvador.

A memorial garden has been created beside the church in El Mozote where women and children were gunned down by US-backed military forces during one of the most shocking massacres of El Salvador’s civil war.

 

An estimated 700-1,200 villagers were killed, half of them children. Despite scientific surveys an exact number of victims has never been calculated. Too many bodies were too mutilated during what became known as the El Mozote massacre.

El Mozote massacre memorial - El Salvador

This wall lists the names of the hundreds of known victims of the El Mozote massacre.

Saved by her disability

The church has been rebuilt and is still the center of El Mozote. A memorial wall commemorating the attack has been built out front and after contemplating it we headed for the church. At a small table out front we were assigned a guide and she proceeded to calmly and coolly recount the events of those two terrible days.

El Mozote massacre church - El Salvador

Murals and color lend the beginning of hope and peace in the memorial garden to women and children killed in this church during the El Mozote massacre.

 

The church was locked when we were there and we were secretly grateful. Who knows what ghosts might lurk inside. However, a garden has been planted on the side of the church and an entire wall now bears the names and ages of the people who were killed inside the church. Most were women and children. One victim was only three days old.

names El Mozote massacre church wall  - El Salvador

The names and ages of victims killed inside this church the El Mozote massacre are now listed on a memorial wall. One victim was only three days old.

Our guide tells us that she was alive in the area during the attack. How did she survive? Because a congenital leg deformity prevented her from walking from her village to El Mozote with the others.

The memorials in El Mozote left us even more heavy-hearted than the Monument to Memory and Truth (Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad in Spanish) in Cuscatlán Park  in San Salvador. That moving memorial contains the names of tens of thousands of victims along with a shockingly long list of towns where other massacres occurred. It is powerful because of its almost incomprehensible scale. In comparison, the El Mozote memorials are chillingly intimate.

names El Mozote massacre memorial wall - El Salvador

Names of known victims of the El Mozote massacre are listed on this memorial wall in front of the town church. We will never know the names of all of the victims since many bodies were too mutilated to ever identify or count.

 

We’re not so naive as to think that war is a black and white affair involving All Right vs. All Wrong. Both sides in the Salvadoran civil war were guilty of kidnapping and murder and worse. The difference is that one side had a super power secretly advising, funding and supplying it fueled by President Ronald Reagan’s cold-war-era fears that El Salvador would go commie, as Nicaragua had recently done, if he didn’t prop up the Salvadoran government. That’s a pretty big difference.

In December of 2011, 30 years after the slaughter, El Salvador’s government officially apologized for its role in the massacre at El Mozote. The US government has still said nothing. A number of foreign journalists covered the massacre including Mark Danner whose book and New Yorker magazine expose paint a more complete picture than we can here.

A host with history

We stayed at the Perkin Lenca Hotel in Perquin where owner Ron Brenneman kindly hosted us in one of his hillside split log cabins. Yes, Ron’s hotel is a super-clean, fully-appointed bargain with rooms starting at US$20 including a great breakfast featuring homemade bread and bottomless coffee. But another great reason to stay here is Ron himself.

Born in the US, Ron first came to El Salvador in 1986 to help rebuild infrastructure after that year’s earthquake. The civil war was very much still on and Ron remembers that the Perquin area was essentially uninhabited as residents fled the war or dug into the jungle to fight it. When the aid group Ron was working with pulled out of the region Ron stayed, determined to help rebuild.

He started a construction company with ex-fighters as employees and began putting up buildings all over El Salvador. When the owner of a project in Perquin couldn’t afford to buy the whole parcel of land he wanted, Ron agreed to buy the steepest section. When the worst of the area’s construction needs were addressed, Ron decided to build a hotel on his land. He wanted to stay in El Salvador and running a hotel seemed like as good a way to do it as any.

This is the condensed version of Ron’s story–for the full, amazing saga check out his book, Perquin Musings, which is full of his extraordinary experiences in El Salvador.

Going forward

Our first stop in El Salvador was Suchitoto where the seeds of the civil war were planted early and sprouted high. Our last stop in El Salvador was Perquin and El Mozote where reminders of why war is hell (but we can never seem to remember that fact when it counts) were all around us. We have loved all of our stops in El Salvador and all the Salvadorans we’ve met along the way and we hope they (and everyone else) keep their feet firmly planted on the Ruta de la Paz.

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Beach Bummin’ – Las Flores and Maculis Beaches, El Salvador

The thing about Las Flores Resort on Las Flores Beach near El Cuco, El Salvador is that it manages to satisfy surfers and non-surfers with a perfect learner’s break, nearby point breaks, a gorgeous, bluff-top, open air spa and laid back style.

Las Flores Surf beach El Salvador

Blissful Las Flores Beach in El Salvador.

 

Las Flores Surf Resort - El Salvador

The lounge in the bluff top, open air spa at Las Flores Resort in El Salvador.

 

Las Flores, El Salvador

Las Flores Beach, El Salvador.

It’s a toss up, but we think non-surfers get the better end of the deal at Las Flores, which hosted us for a few days of beach bummin’ so we could write this full review of the resort. Why? Because us non-surfers get to watch the show going on in the sea from the comfort of our private patio, the pool deck or the breezy bar.

Surfing, Las Flores Surf Resort - El Salvador

Taking advantage of the reliable waves at Las Flores Beach, El Salvador.

 

Beach house bliss

Less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) along the coast east of El Cuco is a beach so off-the-radar that it’s not on most maps of El Salvador. This is Maculis Beach, home of Los Caracoles beach house.

Las Caracoles - El Salvador

Shaded hammocks with a view are all yours at Los Caracoles beach house on Maculis Beach in El Salvador.

Created and owned by Pascal Libaily and Joaquín Rodezno, the same duo behind Los Almendros Hotel in Suchitoto, Los Caracoles is utterly charming with a fully-equipped, open-air kitchen (bring groceries with you) and living room with a concrete floor inlaid with shells. A round, blue-tiled plunge pool is set into a wooden deck just off the living room. A thatch roof shades a bank of inviting hammocks, gorgeous wood loungers and an outdoor dining table.

Caracoles beach house - Playa Maculis, EL Salvador

The plunge pool at Los Caracoles beach house on Maculis Beach, El Salvador.

 

Caracoles beach house - Playa Maculis, EL Salvador

The open air living room and kitchen at Los Caracoles beach house on Maculis Beach in El Salvador.

There are two bedrooms with a shared bathroom off the living room and a separate master bedroom, with a palm tree growing in its private bathroom, in “The Annex” a few steps away. Guests are left to fight over who gets to use the outdoor shower with a conch shell for a shower head.

Caracoles Beach House -  Playa Maculis Beach, EL Salvador

Beach house bliss.

Maculis, the beach maps forgot

All of this just a few steps from a wide, flat, clean beach you will pretty much have to yourself since, as we already mentioned, Maculis isn’t on anyone’s radar. Another plus? You get to see sunrise and sunset over Maculis beach.

Sunset  Playa Maculis Beach, EL Salvador

Sunset over Maculis Beach in El Salvador. The beach is positioned in such a way that it gets sunrise too.

We walked the beach for hours every morning and encountered no one before returning to our hideaway to cook or read (no WiFi!) or cool off in the pool.

We lived in our swimsuits and did precious little for three of the most relaxing days of the entire Trans-Americas Journey, content to be entertained by watching swooping pelicans (instead of surfers) and relaxed by the spa-like effect of the stylish, simple ease of Los Caracoles.

Playa Maculis Beach, EL Salvador

Enjoying the last of the light on Maculis Beach, El Salvador.

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