Hiking up El Salvador’s highest volcano is one of the best- but also most popular- activities to do in El Salvador. Lazy pandas (like me) will rejoice because Santa Ana Volcano is not taxing; it’s a leisurely way to spend a morning in El Salvador. This volcano is also known as Ilamatepec Volcano, Volcan de Santa Ana or Volcan Santa Ana, and this hike is located in the scenic Cerro Verde National Park. This guide explains my recommendations and advice for hiking Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador.
How do I get to Santa Ana Volcano?
First of all, do not do what Expat Dragon & I did, which was to stay all the way out in Juayjua. If you know you’re going to be hiking Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador, plan to spend a night in Santa Ana. Santa Ana is the second biggest city in El Salvador and it will be infinitely easier to organize transport to the volcano than from a small town.
My recommendation is to stay in Santa ana, enjoy a lovely hotel breakfast and then head to Cerro Verde National Park via a taxi. It’s also important to organize your transportation back from the volcano as no Uber or taxi is waiting at the park. Taking the chicken bus is the cheapest option but will take you 2 hours from Santa Ana and the timings are not fixed.
How much does it cost to visit Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador?
It costs 6USD per person to enter the park and 3USD per person to join a guided tour. However you will need to wait until there is a large enough group to set off. So you could be waiting for a while.
We paid an additional 25USD (split between 2 people) to take a private guide and rent hiking sticks.
In total, we paid 37USD for both of us to do this hike. Of course if you’re on a budget, you can definitely do a group hike to save yourself some money.
Note that even if you book a tour to Santa Ana Volcano, the cost will only cover private transportation . There are national park staff, who work as local hiking guides and they are the only ones who can lead you on the trail.
Using a guide is compulsory for hiking Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador. Do not believe earlier blog posts saying it’s optional or that you can only start the hike at 10am or 11am. You can start at any time; the park opens at 8am.
What can I expect at Santa Ana Volcano?
You begin the hike at the national park office, where there are toilets and a small shop ( selling water and snacks). This is your last opportunity to use the restroom so choose wisely!
This is a relaxing hike as the incline is extremely gradual. Even though the terrain is sometimes uneven and rocky, it’s still easy for the average person. As it winds, it moves from shaded forest to wide open views of Izalco volcano.
Towards the end of the hike, you will meander along bumpy volcanic rock. This is probably the steepest part of the hike but it’s fine because at this point you can see the top (you’re 7 minutes away!)
If you’re extremely fit and fast, you could probably ascend in around 1 hour 20 minutes. Most people take between 1 hour 40 minutes and 2 hours.
There are various lookout points around the way so if you go with a private guide, you can rest and take photos at your own pace.
Tha trail is quite narrow in parts so if you go as a large group, you will need to go in a single file. Even though we had a private guide, we had to step aside sometimes to let people pass or overtake others in front of us.
At the top you can buy an ice cream (so bring small change) and enjoy it as you gaze upon the brilliantly blue crater lake. People are allowed to spend up to 30 minutes on the top. If you have young kids, I advise watching them closely as there are no railing and the rocks can be slippery at the top.
What to wear when hiking Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador?
While the hike might be easy, I suggest proper closed shoes as it can be rocky in parts. Sun protection is key (sunscreen, cap and sunglasses) and pack a think jacket as it can get windy at the top.
WHAT ARE THE RATINGS ON PANDA’S RATING SCALE?
Santa Ana Volcano is an active volcano even though you cannot see lava inside the crater. However the sulphuric lake in the crater (heated by magma) is such a unique sight that you will be thrilled you completed this hike. One thing I can assure you about El Slavador is that people are extremely helpful. So if you aren’t sure or need more information while you’re there, do not hesitate to ask locals for their help. Even if that means using Google Translate (which proved invaluable for me!). Don’t miss the opportunity to spend an amazing morning hiking Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador.
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Have you visited El Salvador before? Or have I inspired you to hike Santa Ana Volcano? Let me know in the comments below!