Santa Ana and Lago Coatepeque

Published: July 8th 2019
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The second cities of most Central American countries are far better to visit than are the vapid, congested, dangerous capitals. While this is somewhat true of Santa Ana, it hardly rivals Xela in Guatemala or Leon in Nicaragua. There are signs throughout advertising their 450th anniversary, so there's quite a lot of history there, but the town center mainly comes off as being dirty and sketchy. Peggy and I stayed at Casa Verde, essentially a model for what every hostel should be.

This turquoise-blue lake, 15k around and cradled in a vast, forested caldera, is reason enough to visit El Salvador. In fact, it's probably the prettiest lake I've been to. After my experience at the filthy Lago de Suchitlan, I wasn't fully convinced when locals told me that Coatepeque is much cleaner, but it's true - there's very little basura in the lake itself, and the water is lovely and clear.

We spent the first night at Captain Morgan, a cramped hostel with a superhuman manager who somehow fulfilled the duties of at least 3 regular workers - cooking meals, answering the phone, checking in guests, getting out the kayak and paddle board, mixing drinks, cleaning rooms, and so on.

The second night we splurged and went for Mikiterios Resort, which has a beautifully-manicured lawn and garden that leads 50 or so meters down to the shore. There isn't much to do there other than relax.

There isn't really a town on the lake shore, but the road around it is packed with posh weekend getaways, resorts, and restaurants. Most of the restaurants are expensive and dirty, and cater to day trippers who gorge themselves on whatever the tour offers. So pupusas, the pervasive Salvadorian dish, are the best option for food, though most pupuserías are little more than roadside shacks.

The hike itself is a forced march in a line with 50 others stepping on top of one another. This is ostensibly to minimize dangers (we had armed escorts) and littering, but it really ruins the hiking experience. The green crater lake is pretty unique, but I wouldn't waste a whole day if I had it to do over again. After the hike we walked on dirt roads through some coffee plantations, which was much more pleasant.

There are more photos below.

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