West of La Libertad

Continuing west from
Playa Conchalío
at Km 38 you reach
Playa El Majahual
, which does not have a safe reputation, nor is it very clean, but offers good waves for surfing. A little further on is
Playa El Cocal
and
Playa San Blas
. On both beaches several new hotels catering primarily for surfers have popped up. One of the most popular beaches for foreigner is
Playa El Tunco
. To get here take bus No 80 from La Libertad and get off at the turn-off where all the surfer hotels
signs are posted (
Roca Sunzal
is the most visible one). It is then a short walk (a couple of blocks) to the seafront. This is one of the best surfing beaches in this area with the two breaks, Sunzal and La Bocana, both easily accessible.
Club Salvadoreño
, www.clubsalvadoreno.com
, and
Club Tecleño
both have their beach premises here and El Tunco itself has several hotels and restaurants.

Further up the road at Km 43.5 is
El Sunzal
. Although the breaks are amazing at Sunzal, the small hotels are not as safe as at El Tunco and there have been reports of theft at the beach at dusk, so choose to stay at El Tunco. The exception in El Sunzal is the brand new luxury hotel
Casa de Mar
, which is located just in front of the breaks, and is an option if you want a splurge or to dine in their gourmet seafood restaurant,
Café Sunzal
, which has great food and panoramic views of the beach.

At Km 49.5 is
Playa Palmarcito
. This tiny and inviting beach is great for escaping the crowds and is good for novice surfers, as the breaks are not as violent as on other beaches. Located just in front of the beach is
Restaurante Las Palmas
, offering great meals and low prices. A new option for a few night's stay is
Hotel El Palmarcito
, which also has a restaurant, surf board rental and classes. Perched atop a cliff next to Palmarcito is the
Atami Beach Club
, a beautiful place with a large pool, private beach, expensive restaurant, two bars and gardens. At the turn-off to the beach along the highway (next to police station) is the
Hotel Bosques del Río
(same owner as
Restaurante Las Palmeras
), where you can ask for discounts for longer stays.

Just a couple of kilometres out of La Libertad on the Carretera Litoral is
Parque Nacional Walter Deininger
, www.istu.gob.sv
. There are rivers and caves, and the park is great for hiking. There is even a seed bank for endangered tree species, an array of medicinal plants and a nursery. The views are fantastic and it's a good way to learn more about the flora and fauna, guides are available upon request.

At Km 53.5 is
Playa El Zonte
, is another favourite among foreign tourists. It's a bit safer and quieter than El Tunco, being further away from La Libertad. The top-notch surf breaks has made El Zonte a place people stay longer than anticipated, and there are several well-established hotels with restaurant service. There are also several informal, cheap cafés and room rentals down at the beach.

The Carretera Litoral continues for a further 40 km or so to Acajutla past rocky bays, remote black-sand beaches and through tunnels. Take great care if you bathe along this coast, as it can be dangerous.

Acajutla and around

At the junction of San Julian, a short journey south from Sonsonate, the coastal road heads south to the lowlands city of Acajutla, El Salvador's main port serving the western and central areas, 85 km from San Salvador (the port is 8 km south of the Coastal Highway). It is a popular seaside resort during the summer for Salvadorans, but lodging in the village is not considered safe for foreigners. There are some good seafood restaurants with panoramic views.

The rocky beach of
Los Cóbanos
(14 km south of Acajutla via San Julian, bus from Sonsonate) is very popular with weekending Salvadorans and has one of only two coral reefs along the entire Central American Pacific coast, making it a popular dive spot. Fishermen arrange boat trips; negotiate a price. José Roberto Suárez at
Los Cobanos Village Lodge
, speaks English and can be of assistance when renting boats and diving equipment.

The black-sand beaches northwest of Acajutla at
Metalío
and Costa Azul (mostly full of private beach houses) and
Barra de Santiago
are recommended, although there are few public facilities. Barra de Santiago is a peninsula, 30 km west of Acajutla, the beach is reached along a 7 km compact dirt road or across a beautiful lagoon. The entire area is a protected natural area is in the process of being declared an ecological reserve to protect endangered species, including turtles, crocodiles and sea falcons. The Garza Axul (blue heron) is one of the amazing rare birds only found here. The mangrove is the third largest in El Salvador. This beach has an island named
El Cajete,
which has an archaeological site dating back to around AD 900. There are several pyramids but the area has not been excavated.
El Capricho Beach House
 has a beautiful beach front hotel here.

Parque Nacional El Imposible

www.salvanatura.org.

So-called because of the difficulty of reaching it, this 'impossibility' has helped preserve some of the last vestiges of El Salvador's flora and fauna on the rocky slopes and forests of the coastal
Cordillera de Apaneca
. Traders used to travel through the region, navigating the steep passes from which the park takes its name.

Among the mammals are puma, ocelot, agouti and ant bear; the birds include black- crested eagle, white hawk and other birds of prey, black and white owls, and woodpeckers. There is also a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians and insects, the greatest diversity in the country. There are eight different strata of forest, and over 300 species of tree have been identified. There is a small visitor centre, and rivers and natural pools to swim in. Trained naturalist guides from the nearby community of San Miguelito accompany visitors into the park, helping to identify season specific trails and routes, and pointing out interesting plants, animals and other attractions along the way.

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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