Before Tourism – El Salvador, Central America

If I had told people my intentions of going to El Salvador, the first reaction would be “Are you out of your mind? There’s a war going on there.” There isn’t and before the “war of the tourism” spoils this country, now is the time to go.

In front of the Royal Decameron

In front of the Royal Decameron

Someone told me they had read a review of the Royal Decameron Salinitas Resort on a website. Out of six reviews, the one bad comment stated one week was not enough!

After landing and clearing customs, I headed to a table for Toronto passengers to collect an envelope. In it contained tags for luggage(s) with a special number, my room number and a form with my name on (all I needed were passport number and signature). From the bus, luggage was delivered to my room.

A two-hour bus ride later, I fully expected to be herded like cattle to the lobby of the resort, fill out some ridiculous form and try to get my room key. We were greeted with drinks, the staff lined up pointing the way to the Disco where I handed in my form, they gave me an envelope containing my key and information. I then purchased a key ($2.00 a day) for my safe box. All in less that five-minutes! As a seasoned traveller, I’ve never experienced a smoother check-in.

Beach at the Royal Decameron

Beach at the Royal Decameron

My first morning I walked along the volcanic brownish sandy beach. If one is looking for white sand, this isn't the place. The beach was nice and clean, but I had to watch for small rocks. When the tide was out, it was fantastic; I’m not a swimmer, so I’d lie in the water to keep cool and tan at the same time.

The resort has five pools, including a saltwater one. Four a la carte restaurants (Italian, Mediterranean, Steak House, Thai) are offered where reservations are required (two seatings: 6:30 and 8:30). They fill up. The same goes for the fantastic massages, not that expensive (e.g. Swedish 50 minutes for $30.00, 80 minutes for $40.00). Book as soon as you can.

The resort and its grounds are kept clean, so was my room. Staff is always sweeping or raking. A word of warning, though. If you're on the ground floor as I was, always check to make sure your patio door is closed and locked properly.

Using the Internet was never a problem. Price was $3.00 for half an hour, $5.00 for one hour. I suggest purchasing an hour's worth. You don’t have to use the hour all at once. You get a user and password. You can see how many minutes remains each time you log on. Once that is used up, you can pay for another hour and get a different user and password.

I passed on most of the nightly entertainment, the same at every resort and way too loud. I was sorry I missed the colourful costumed dancers. I never had a problem finding a chair whether at the pool or at the beach. The pool by the towers was usually crowded, but even when it got busier, chairs could still be found.

Volcano burping in Antigua

Volcano burping in Antigua

Tours – Guatemala
Our bus left at six in the morning and headed for a four-hour drive to La Antigua. While driving along Guatemala's beautiful greenery, we saw a volcano spewing! Our local tour guide explained what we were observing, and I soaked in the beauty of this cobblestone town, many times destroyed by earthquakes, hence the reason why Guatemala City got the title as the capital.

Our first stop was a Plaza Mayor, locals were getting cool from the fountain. The fountain represents fertility. Also visit the Old City Hall, the Cathedral, San Francisco El Grande Convent, one of the most visited convents today.

Coatepeque Lake

Coatepeque Lake

The volcano and lake tour were not a disappointment. I had a good view of the countryside as the bus rolled on to the San Salvador Volcano. The relative easy climb took about five minutes, still, watch your footing for the view of the crater. After a delicious lunch of fish, we headed to Coatepeque Lake. Formed by the sinking of ashes of two volcanic cones, this clean sparking blue volcanic crater-lake is six kilometers wide and 120 meters deep. I hope this area remains pristine.

On Sunday, the tour took us on the “Route of Flowers” with five village stops. The first was Nahuizalco, known for its night market; people sell in candlelight. The second stop, Salcoatitan; its white colonial church in front is the main attraction. Next stop Juayua, famous for its Black Christ. Apaneca is a beautiful town with cobbled streets, the second largest town in El Salvador. The last, Ataco, has to be my favourite with the most picturesque buildings. Being fairly isolated, it doesn't get a lot of tourists, but even that is beginning to change.

I went on a school bus (reservations needed the day before) to Costa Azul Beach Club. The half hour drive was fun, included a tour of a residential area. The beach is great for a bit of small surfing, not much under toe. We had a delicious barbecue lunch. The bus left at two, just in time to catch the last few hours before the sun set at 5:40.

My Honduras trip was a go the second Friday, a long drive, about four and a half hours to Copan Ruins. We were held up at the El Salvador border for 45 minutes because the border guard wasn’t satisfied with three Columbian passports.

Our guide Marvin, had a good sense of humour. After a tour of what is considered the "Par-ee" of the Mayan World, we saw areas of the Great Plaza such as the steles, ball court and the staircases with the hieroglyphics (stairs are covered with canopy for protection). After a traditional Honduras lunch, we had time to wander the streets of Copan Town. I took pictures of the church, the little park area and I walked along the cobbled streets watching the locals at work and play.

With the long ride back home, at least we breezed through all border crossings. The last two hours were the worst; I couldn’t watch the scenery because of darkness.

I spent the final two days at the resort on the beach, grabbing a cappuccino at Akran bar, listening to Latin music, back to the beach and just chillin’, watching the endless ocean, dreading the thought of getting on that plane back to Toronto, facing another long, cold winter.