After spending a few days stuffing our faces at the food festival in the Ruta de la Flores we decided it was time to get some exercise and the Santa Ana Volcano hike seemed like the perfect option. We knew that in a couple days we would be taking on the challenging Acatenango Hike in Guatemala, so the Santa Ana Volcano hike could be perfect practice for us. So with that in mind, we left Juayua and headed to El Salavor’s second largest city, Santa Ana. Here is everything you need to know if you want to do the Santa Ana Volcano Hike.
Where is the Santa Ana Volcano Hike
The Santa Ana Volcano hike starts in the Cerro Verde National Park, about a two hour chicken bus ride from the city of Santa Ana. The easiest way to access the hike is from Santa Ana city, so you will need to spend at least one night there in order to complete this full-day activity.
The City of Santa Ana
Santa Ana is quite a large city. There isn’t too much to do there and the city itself is somewhat rundown appearing and feels dangerous at times. I wouldn’t walk around by myself, but with Daniel it was fine. We also didn’t do any wandering about at night.
The best part of Santa Ana is the famous hostel, Hostal Casa Verde. This hostel really has thought of everything and makes staying in Santa Ana totally worth it. There is a pool, laundry area, spacious and comfortable rooms, as well as the most beautiful kitchen you will ever see in a hostel complete with a spice rack and non-stick pots and pans. The staff and owner, Carlos, will make you feel right at home. We booked two nights here just to allow us enough time to do the Santa Ana Volcano hike, but we were sad to leave as we could’ve spent another couple days just watching Netflix with homemade meals.
Getting to Santa Ana
From San Salvador – Chicken buses leave from the Terminal de Occidente every 15 minutes or so. They take about 1 hour and prices vary but should only cost $1-2 USD.
From Sonsonate – Chicken Bus number 216 and 209 leave regularly and take just over 2 hours. The price is $0.70 USD.
From Juayua – Chicken Bus number 238 leaves from 5ta Ave Nte and Calle Merceditas Caceres Poniente (location marked on MAPS.ME app) at 5am, 6am, 7am, 9am, 12 noon, 2pm, ad 4pm. This bus leaves promptly so make sure you are there a couple minutes early to buy your tickets and store your bags. It takes about 2 hours and costs $0.90 USD.
From Guatemala – The best option would be by Tica bus which leaves from both Antigua and Guatemala City. It is a bit more expensive at $20 from Guatemala Ctiy and $32 from Antigua but it is a comfortable “Greyhound-style” bus where you don’t even need to get off of the bus at the border. Tickets can be bought on their website here.
I have heard horror stories about making this route by chicken bus as it takes at least 10 hours and is known to be a dangerous route – so we would recommend the Tica bus. The Tica bus station in Santa Ana is a couple kilometers from Hostal Casa Verde so just contact the hostel in advance and let them know you are arriving by Tica bus. The hostel will arrange a safe and reliable taxi to be waiting for you when you arrive.
*Note: All buses (expect for the Tica bus from Guatemala) will arrive at Terminal de Buses de Occidente in Santa Ana. This terminal is only a couple blocks from Hostal Casa Verde and is fine to walk. I would recommend trying to arrive before dark though just to be safest.
Getting to the Santa Ana Volcano Hike
Catch bus 248 on the corner of 11a Calle Poniente and Avendida Fray Felipe Jesus (location is on MAPS. ME app as well as on a map available at Hostal Casa Verde.) You MUST catch the bus which leaves at 7:30am in order to do the hike, so arrive ten minutes early to buy your ticket. The bus station is an actual building with a ticket booth.
The bus will take about 2 hours and offers some stunning views. You get off at the last stop which is the park entrance to Cerro Verde.
The bus costs $0.90 USD.
Arriving at the Cerro Verde National Park
Once off of the bus you must pay the $3.00 park entrance fee at the ticket booth. Then you will walk up the paved road a couple hundred meters to get to a big parking lot with stores and bathrooms. Here you must wait until 11am to start the hike. You cannot do the hike unguided, and you wouldn’t want to anyways as it is unsafe due to robberies.
While waiting, there is a small local restaurant serving Pupusas (a pancake-like pastry stuffed normally with beans and cheese) for $0.50 USD and coffee for $0.35 USD. Bring some cash as the food was really good and nothing is better than eating while waiting.
This is also the only location along the hike with bathrooms. They cost $0.15 USD to use.
The Santa Ana Volcano Hike
The guide will come and find you around 11am and ask for $1.00 per person if the weather permits (keep reading for more on this.) The guide will lead the way and an armed police officer will stay at the back. This is your protection for the hike.
The hike starts off fairly easy with only slight inclines ad declines through a forest. Then, you will get to a small section of road followed by another forest section. This is where you pay the $6.00 USD to enter the volcano part of the hike. This is also where it starts to get more difficult. It is about 3km of walking uphill and, in some parts, over rocks.
After about 1.5-2 hours you will arrive to the top of the Santa Ana Volcano. Here is where you should see the turquoise lake in the crater – the weather can greatly affect what you can see during this hike.
The total hike time is 2.5-3 hours.
Weather on the Santa Ana Volcano Hike
The Santa Ana Volcano is known to be frequently struck by lightening. For this reason, as well as heavy rains creating rock slides, you will not be allowed to hike in the rain. It was misting and lightly raining when we were there and the guide still took us up, but he did warn us that as soon as it really starts to rain we would have to turn around and would not be given any refund.
If it is raining at 11am you will be told that you cannot do the hike. This means waiting until the next bus at 1pm (which sometimes doesn’t show up) or 4pm to return to Santa Ana. You must wait in the parking lot until then.
We were lucky enough to be able to do the hike and actually complete it without being turned back early. However, we could barely see anything due to the foggy conditions. The picture below is the best view of the lake we could get and we had no views of the landscape.
During the rainy season it is normal not to see very much or not be able to do the hike at all. If you are short on time and traveling during the rainy season (September to April) Santa Ana and the Santa Ana Volcano hike might be a good place to skip.
Getting Back to Santa Ana
Catch the same bus at 4pm (be ready at 3:30 in case it is early.) You can catch it on the road part of the hike instead of walking all the way back to the national park. There is a hotel and restaurant which sells cold beers, coffee and snacks while you wait. You will see the bus drive by and that is your cue to go to the road as it is driving to the National Park entrance where it turns around and comes back the same way.
In Santa Ana the bus ends at the same station it started only a couple of blocks from Hostal Casa Verde.
Santa Ana Volcano Hike Cost Summary
Bus from Santa Ana to Cerro Verde – $0.90 USD
Entrance to Cerro Verde National Park – $3.00 USD
Cost of Guide – $1.00 USD
Hike Entry Fee – $6.00 USD
Bus from Cerro Verde back to Santa Ana – $0.90 USD
Total Cost per person – $11.80 USD
Overview of the Santa Ana Volcano Hike
It was pretty average for us due to the bad weather, although, I have seen pictures of the volcano from the dry season and it looks stunning! The hike was not too hard and made for a fun day overall. A good group of people from our hostel all went together and we had coffees in the morning while waiting and beers at the end. It is a full day activity and good value at under $12 per person. That all being said, the highlight of my stay in Santa Ana would be the hostel, Casa Verde was amazing. We had some beers and good times with the people in the hostel as well as some much needed rest in the comfortable beds. Santa Ana wouldn’t be our favorite place in El Salvador but we still enjoyed our time there.