When planning on travelling to Central America, be sure to add El Salvador and Costa Rica to your list.
As you make your way through the San Salvador airport, the excitement really begins. When you’re driving through the city you just can’t wait to get to a nice hostel and put down your heavy backpack. You start thinking about all the amazing sights, tastes and people you will come across.
First recommendation? A great hostel called El Roble (The Oak) in Playa (Beach) San Diego, El Salvador. They provide excellent meals, a short walk to the awesome beach, which by the way has an amazing sunset every night, and very nice service. In fact, your first day, they give you a complimentary drink, which you can sip on in one of the many hammocks around the garden and multiple swimming pools.
Then after a lovely stay, you can go on your way to the nice little town called Salcoatitan, just North of Sonsonate, El Salvador, were you can stay at Carlos Cienfuegos’s soon-to-be hostel. He is a very nice man, and a great tour guide. If you need a translator, I‘m sure his very polite son, Luis, will be happy to help you. And if you’re lucky, they may even take you hiking to Laguna Verde (The Green Lagoon), which happens to be in the middle of a dormant volcano, or have you take a ride to their bakery, which has homemade quesadilla. You may be thinking: What is a Mexican quesadilla doing in a bakery? But a Salvadorian quesadilla is actually sweet bread eaten at any time of the day. Very good. But the fun doesn’t stop there! Next you can see the amazing waterfalls that are called Los Chorros De La Calera that have crystal-clear water.
But every country has to have an end, so you make your way back to the airport and find yourself in the wonderful country of Costa Rica. Expensive and hot. Those are a couple of words you can use to describe Costa Rica. Of course it is an amazing country, with awesome views, big waves and interesting wild life. If you like surf towns where all day they say “pura vida” (life is good), then Playa Santa Teresa is the town for you.
A word of advice, buy all your food at the grocery store. It is much cheaper. Never buy drinks at a restaurant. An example would be pop at the grocery store is 400 colones (see conversion chart at bottom) and a pop at a restaurant it is 4,000 colones!
The dirt road covers the town in dust, so be sure to bring some kind of face protection. The waves and beaches are gorgeous and as in El Salvador, there is a beautiful sunset every night. Be sure to rent a surfboard and hit some of the massive waves, or go hang out with the locals on the soccer field.
Certainly when you’re in the jungle, there is lots of wild life: everything from those teeny tiny ants, to those very loud howler monkeys, this place has it all. The insects are very annoying and make sure not to leave any food lying around the house, or else you will be living with every ant in the world! There are scorpions, tarantulas, and lots and lots of geckos, iguanas, and parrots.
Depending on how long you are planning on staying, it is a good idea to have some kind of transportation, such as a quad or bicycle. Then there is the option of taking a long bus ride to Montezuma, where you can see the breath-taking waterfalls. It is a river that leads into the ocean, and along the way has small water flows. But at the end of the river, you find a 50-foot waterfall that makes you look way up high. And get this, locals’ cliff-jump from the top! Of course there are other lower areas where you can jump into the nice warm water, but be aware, some unlucky people have lost their lives from slipping off the top and landing on some of the rocks below. You can even go under the falls, and then gracefully dive into the water.
When you get too hot, you go swim in the ocean. But you have to watch out for the Red Tide. It makes the sea look muddy and you can smell it from the road, so what is it? Believe it or not, it’s the billions and billions of plankton. They give off a sort of algae that takes all the oxygen out of the water, killing a lot of fish, eels and clams. Don’t go surfing when there is Red Tide!
Making a trip up to Gumbo Limbo is a good idea, if you want to see what the ocean looks like from high up. After watching a surf competition or two, you can rent a car and head inland to La Fortuna and see the Arenal Volcano and Lake, which last erupted 10 years ago. You can also check in to The Eco Lodge, where you can have an amazing home made meal, or take a guided tour with Ulises Alarez around the very interesting rain forest where you can learn about plants, trees and mammals. After you’ve made friends with all the animals, including the horses that you can also take a tour on, it may be time to go down the mountain to Areanal Hostel Resort were they provide a pool, rooms, bathroom and kitchen.
Make sure you go to the amazing hot spring called Los Laurales, which is $10 per person, but it is better than the hot springs across the street where they are $30 per person. They are called Baldi and they are very touristy and commercialized. They do offer cannoning and slides, but the cost is way too high. If you really want to go cannoning, you can go down the road to Eco Glide where they provide an awesome ride down through the rain forest, with the ultimate view of all of La Fortuna. And halfway through your hour-long tour, you come to The Tarzan Swing. It may not sound too scary, until you get there. It’s a 50-foot drop that you have to jump off while being harnessed to a rope. If you’re like me, you may even scream “Pura vida!”
Central America is a wonderful part of the world, and I would definitely recommend it. El Salvador is an excellent country, but I have heard that Nicaragua and Belize are nice as well. So start saving your money and make your way down to the great countries of Central America. Pura vida!
Colones To American Dollars
Colones = ¢
$1 = ¢500
$2 = ¢1,000
$5 = ¢10,000
$10 = ¢20,000
$100 = ¢500,000
$200 000 = ¢1,000,000
When converting from $ to ¢, you multipy the amount of dollars by five. When converting from ¢ to $, you divide the amount of colones by five.
¢1000 ÷ 5 = $2.
Now try to see how much money I spent at the grocery store in Playa Santa Teresa instead of the restaurant.
Landon Colvin is a student at Beairsto school in Vernon, B.C. He wrote this piece after he was asked by his English teacher Mme. Coogan-Penner to write a travel column for the class newspaper.