La Libertad

Just before Santa Tecla, a branch road turns south for 24 km to the small fishing port of La Libertad, 34 km from San Salvador and just 25 minutes from the Comalapa International Airport. This is a popular, laid-back seaside resort in the dry season but is not very clean. However, the whole area has been recently remodelled and now boasts an amphitheatre, soccer and basketball courts and a brand new
Complejo Turistíco
where the old naval building once stood, with a
malecon
and several restaurants. The pier is worth seeing for the fish market awnings and, when the fleet is in, for the boats hauled up out of the water along its length. The cemetery by the beach has tombstones painted in the national colours, blue and white. On the seafront are several hotels and restaurants. At a small plaza, by the
Punta Roca
restaurant, the road curves left to the point, offering fine views of La Libertad bay and along the coast. The market street is two blocks inland across from the central church. The coast to the east and west has good fishing, surfing and bathing. The beaches are black volcanic sand (which can get very hot).

La Libertad gets very crowded at weekends and holidays and for overnight stays the beaches to the west of La Libertad are better. Service can be off-hand. Dedicated surfers may wish to stay for a while, as the breaks at Punta Roca in Puerto La Libertad are rated among the best 10 in the world. The season runs from November to April and the surf is excellent. Watch your belongings on the beach and don't stay out alone late at night.

The town holds an annual
Gastronomic Festival
in early December and has resurrected the tradition of
lunadas
- full-moon parties in the dry season. Bonfires are lit on the beach, restaurants stay open late offering
comida típica
, and some places provide live music and themed nights. Find local information in Spanish at www.puertolalibertad.com.

Around La Libertad

The
Costa del Bálsamo
(Balsam coast), running west from La Libertad and Acajutla, gives its name to the pain-relieving balsam, once a major export of the region. On the steep slopes of the departments of Sonsonate and La Libertad, scattered balsam trees are still tapped for their aromatic juices. Buses travel along the coast to Sonsonate (at 0600 and 1300) and the journey offers stunning views of the rugged volcanic coast. The municipalities of San Julián, Cuisnahuat, Ixhuatan, Tepecoyo, Talnique, Jayaque, Chiltuipan, Comasagua and Teotepeque are all situated along the balsam coast. On the road from San Salvador to La Libertad is
Plaza Turística Zaragoza
, where you will find handicrafts, restaurants and amenities for children.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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