Santa Ana is the second-largest city in El Salvador, after the capital city. In all honesty, there is not a ton to do or see in Santa Ana. Because of that, it is often scheduled as more of a day-tour place on El Salvador travel itineraries. I spent two nights in Santa Ana and was content with what I was able to do and see.
→ You’d think that the second biggest city in El Salvador would be saturated with souvenir shops, right? Nope. I couldn’t find a single dang one! Get your El Sal trinkets elsewhere because Santa Ana will not help you in that department.
→ On the plus side, being the second biggest city means there are no shortages of ATMs, grocery stores, and other necessary establishments. Need a doctor? A dentist? A pizza from Pizza Hut? Santa Ana is your place.
→ Watch your step!! There are whole chunks of sidewalk missing. If you’re not watching where you’re going, you better kiss your un-broken ankle goodbye!
→ Santa Ana is the only place in El Salvador where we had an issue with men. Constant kissy noises and “Hello ladieeesss” were directed towards us. Keep that in mind when you’re roaming the streets.
→ The city is pretty easy to navigate. Still, I wouldn’t go out without having an idea of where you’re going. Only about a third of the streets are actually labelled, so it’s easier to use a map if you can.
Where to Stay
Hostel Casa Verde
If anything, I’d go back to Santa Ana just to stay at Hostel Casa Verde again. Seriously this place is the example of a perfect hostel. It was impeccably clean and safe. There were amenities out the wahzoo, with a pool, kitchen, tv room, rooftop terrace, and plenty of hammocks and hang-out space. I have nothing negative to say about Casa Verde. It’s amazing.
What to Eat
Simmer Down is a highly suggested restaurant right in the middle of town. Not only is the menu diversified and delicious, but the atmosphere has an awesome jungley feel. Make sure to try the strawberry limonada and their homemade potato wedges! I hear their pizza is good too.
Lining the city’s Parque Central are various street food vendors. They’ve got all sorts of snacks like hamburgers, hot dogs, and a Central American favorite: elote. I got a bowl of freshly made french fries, topped with a sweet ketchup and a dash of queso fresco. Sounds weird- but actually not too shabby.
Pasteleria Ban Ban
This is the place to go if you need a little sweetness in your life. Pasteleria Ban Ban knows baked goods and does them well. Luckily there are several around the city and you’re bound to stumble across one eventually.
What to Do
Cathedral of Santa Ana
When people visit Santa Ana, this is really what they come to see. Located right next to Parque Central, this cathedral has been around since 1913. It’s beautifully white color and its gothic architecture looms over the town. If you’re lost, just look up and head towards those tall white spires. The Cathedral does requre a fee for entry.
Another classic Santa Ana site, the National Theater is located just to the north of Parque Central. The array of color and attentive architecture make this a great place to visit, even when there’s nothing on stage. You can visit the theater Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-12pm and 1pm-5pm. If you want to see a performance, you check out their performance schedule right at the theater. Shows are constantly coming and going, so you never know what you’ll get!
Take a Walk
Erm. Okay. Santa Ana is a city, so you’re going to find all sorts of interesting stuff when you take a walk. I found a cool pet store with tons of guinea pigs, and a gigantic market selling fruits and small household items. That being said, I highly recommend bringing a map and staying within a 5-10 block radius of the central park.
Read on the Rooftop
If you’re out of things to do and are not feeling up to exploring, you can always head back to Hostel Casa Verde and spend some time on the rooftop terrace. You’ll get an awesome view over the city of Santa Ana, but you’ll be removed from the hubbub of it all. This is a great place to read, or plan the next portion of your travels.
When traveling through El Salvador, you will probably end up in Santa Ana at some point or another. And while there isn’t a ton to do, there are still some key things that are worth seeing and experiencing.