We were so captivated by the town of Metapán, El Salvador that we decided to stay longer which gave us time to get into some day trip adventures including searching for dinosaur bones, eating cow udder, and failing to get into a national park.

Montecristo-El Trifinio National Park Limo Valley - Metapan, El Salvador

Looking up at the El Limo waterfall and the bird-filled Montecristo National Park high above Metapán in El Salvador.

Montecristo National Park, encompassing mountaintop terrain above Metapán, is famous for the array of birds which live in the park or migrate through including the resplendent quetzal. It’s also one of those cool border-straddling parks and has its feet planted in El Salvador, Guatemala (where it’s called the Trifinio Biosphere Reserve), and Honduras (where it’s called Montecristo Trifinio National Park).

Sadly, the road into the park was closed for repairs when we were there. But we weren’t about to let a little thing like a park closure stop us from exploring the hills above Metapán.

El Limo - Metapan, El Salvador

A playful sign marking the trail to the El Limo waterfall near the Montecristo National Park.

The road out of Metapán quickly deteriorated into a rutted, rocky dirt track and we were very glad we’d accepted a ride from Oscar Cabrera Mira, whose family owns nearly 500 acres (more than 200 hectares) of private reserve called Parque Geoturístico El Limo just outside the national park. Our truck would have had trouble negotiating around some of the tight corners. Also, driving up the road with Oscar gave him the chance to pull over and show us something we never, ever could have predicted.

Dinosaur teeth fossil - El Limo - Metapan, El Salvador

Are these dinosaur teeth buried in the hills above Metapán? One man sure thinks so…

Meet Mr. Dinosaur

About midway up the mountain Oscar stopped the truck, opened a rickety gate, and stood staring expectantly at a high mud bank. We stared with him. Then he started pointing out shapes and damn if they didn’t look just like massive dinosaur bones–vertebrae, jaw bones, and more suddenly popped out at us. We watch the Discovery Channel. We’ve seen footage of digs. We were impressed.

Oscar Cabrera Mira El Limo fossil museum - Metapan, El Salvador

Oscar, aka Mr. Dinosaur, outside the rustic museum which houses his fossilized finds from the hills above Metapán, El Salvador.

We were even more impressed when we reached Oscar’s family’s mountain house where he took us out back to see his museum. Turns out, the bones in the mud bank are just the tip of the ice age iceberg. Here in a small shed Oscar, a trained engineer who has taught himself about dinosaurs and fossils in general, has amassed ammonites, fossilized leaves, and big pieces of compressed earth full of what looked like more bones and teeth.

If you’re a student or professor of paleontology please send a scholarly delegation up the hill so Oscar can finally get some expert opinions about his finds. You can reach Oscar at oscarmira2 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Trust us when we tell you that he’d be delighted to hear from you and ecstatic to show you what he’s dug up.

Oscar was also anxious to show us some of the area’s more expected attractions, including the spectacular El Limo waterfall which we reached via a steep, windy trail that followed a deep gorge in the hills. The multi-tiered waterfall was very dramatic but Oscar still spent most of the walk looking at the ground for more treasures to put in his museum.

El Limo waterfall - Metapan, El Salvador

El Limo waterfall above Metapán, El Salvador.

El Limo waterfall - Metapan, El Salvador

On the trail to El Limo waterfall above Metapán, El Salvador.

Clear wing butterfly El Salvador

The jungle near El Limo waterfall was full of these nearly entirely see-through butterflies.

Just eat it

About 15 minutes back down the road toward Metapán lies Hostal Villa Limon. One evening we stopped by to tour their four wood, brick, and stone cabanas with multiple bedrooms, fireplaces, full kitchens, and patios and decks with awesome views (US$40 to US$55). There’s also a pool on site and a zip line course (US$15 pp) with eight different lines traversing the steep hillsides and gorges in the area. One of the lines is a quarter of a mile (430 meters) long and rises to more than 300 feet (90 meters) above the ground.

By the time we were introduced to Sigfredo Salazar Torres, the fabulously-named general manager of Hostal Villa Limon, it was too dark to try the zip line. Besides, Sigfredo and some friends and family were having a BBQ party and he graciously invited us to stay. Even though it was getting dark and we had to drive back up that dreadful road in order to return to our room at Oscar’s house we would have been fools to say no.

 Hostal Villa Limon tortillas hecho a mano

Tortilla being made by hand for a party and feast we somehow got ourselves invited to.

And so we found ourselves with glasses of whiskey and plates of perfectly grilled meat. The conversation got going (in English and in Spanish) and then a very special plate came out. It took a few explanations before we understood (we think) that we were being offered grilled cow udder. By the eager looks on everyone else’s faces we understood that this was a delicacy and quickly put a small piece on our plates. The rest was devoured almost immediately.

BBQ Hostal Villa Limon Metapan, El Salvador

It’s not a party without grilled meat, and a bit of mystery meat we ate for the very first time.

It actually wasn’t bad. It looked, felt, and tasted like funky foie gras. And now we have a pretty good answer to give when someone wants to know what the strangest thing we’ve ever eaten is.

Sunset from Hostal Villa Limon Metapan, El Salvador

Sunset from Hostal Villa Limon with the volcanoes of Guatemala in the distance.

Here’s more about travel in El Salvador


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