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The Santa Ana Volcano hike is the main attraction in Santa Ana, El Salvador. In this blog, you will find out all of the information you need in order to do the Santa Ana Volcano Hike for yourself (on a budget.)
After spending a few days stuffing our faces at the food festival in the Ruta de las 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 of days we would be taking on the challenging Acatenango Hike in Guatemala, so the Santa Ana Volcano hike would be perfect practice for us. So with that in mind, we left Juayua and headed to El Salvador’s second-largest city, Santa Ana.
What we discovered upon arriving in Santa Ana, El Salvador is that hiking Santa Ana Volcano with on a tour is very expensive. And while you can do it with public transport, there’s limited information available.
But don’t worry – we’ve written this guide to the Santa Ana Volcano hike for everyone else who wants to do it using public transport.
Here is everything you need to know if you want to do the Santa Ana Volcano hike and how to hike the volcano without a tour.
Santa Ana Volcano FAQs
Yes, Santa Ana Volcano is active. Its last eruption was in 2005. Before that, it erupted in 1904. During the 2005 eruption, it shot out car-sized rocks and lava.
Yes, it is, but it does come with some risks. The first risk to consider is another eruption, however, seismic testing will give a warning to that. The other is robberies on the trail. To reduce this risk, all visitors must join the 11 am “tour” with a guide and police officer.
Although you can get to Santa Ana Volcano without a guided tour, you must do the hike to the crater with a guide and police escort. This only costs $1 and is available once you arrive at the park visitor area.
There is a $3 national park fee as well as a $6 entrance fee to the volcano. The cost of the guide is only $1. All must be paid in cash.
Where is the Santa Ana Volcano Hike?
The Santa Ana Volcano hike starts in Cerro Verde National Park, about a two-hour chicken bus ride from the city of Santa Ana, El Salvador.
The easiest way to access the Santa Ana Volcano 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.
Note: It’s not possible to go from Juayua or any other town in the Ruta de las Flores to Santa Ana Volcano in one day. You must leave for the hike from Santa Ana city first thing in the morning in order to get to the front gates in time for the hike.
Getting to the Santa Ana Volcano Hike with Public Transport
Getting to the entrance gates of Santa Ana is actually quite easy with the steps below.
You first must catch bus 248 from La Vencedora Bus Station on the corner of 11a Calle Poniente and Avendida Fray Felipe Jesus (the location is actually marked on the MAPS. ME app.)
You MUST catch the bus which leaves at 7:30 am in order to do the Santa Ana Volcano 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 National Park. The bus driver will let you know when to get off so don’t stress.
The bus costs $0.90 USD.
If you prefer to hike the Santa Ana volcano on a guided tour you don’t need to stay the night in Santa Ana and can actually go straight from your hotel on a tour from San Salvador or El Tunco.
Arriving at Cerro Verde National Park
Once off of the bus, you must pay the $3.00 USD park entrance fee at the ticket booth. Then you will walk up the paved road a couple of hundred meters to get to a big parking lot with stores and bathrooms. Here, you must wait until 11 am to start the hike. You cannot do the hike unguided, and you wouldn’t want to anyway 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 Santa ana Volcano guide will come and find you around 11 am and ask for $1.00 per person if the weather permits (keep reading for more info 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 Santa Ana Volcano Hike isn’t dangerous per se, but there have been violent robberies on the trail in the past, and by having an armed police officer escort the groups each day prevents these types of people from hanging out on the trail. In my opinion, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
The hike starts off fairly easy with only slight inclines and declines through a forest. Then, you will get a small section of the road followed by another forest section. This is where you pay the $6.00 USD (cash only) 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 at the top of 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 walk back is on the same path as the walk there but doesn’t take as long. The total hike time is 2.5-3 hours.
Weather on the Santa Ana Volcano Hike (and why this is so important)
Santa Ana Volcano is known to be frequently struck by lightning. 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 11 am you will be told that you cannot do the hike. This means waiting until the next bus at 1 pm (which sometimes doesn’t show up) or 4 pm 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’re short on time and traveling during the rainy season (May to October) Santa Ana and the Santa Ana Volcano hike might be a good place to skip.
That being said, if you do get a clear day the views are incredible (photos courtesy of my sister)…
Getting Back to Santa Ana City from the Volcano Hike
To get back to Santa Ana, catch the same bus at 4 pm (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. Workers from the hotel and restaurant will also likely be waiting for the same bus.
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
Related read: If you liked this hike, then you will especially enjoy the Acatenango Hike in Guatemala! It’s actually incredible and definitely something to add to your bucket list!
Where to Stay in Santa Ana for the Volcano Hike?
$ – Hostal Casa Verde (where we stayed)
One of the best things about staying in Santa Ana is a famous hostel called Hostal Casa Verde. This hostel really has thought of everything! 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. They offer dorms as well as private rooms that are as modern and comfortable as a mid-range hotel!
Plus, this hostel is located only a five-minute walk from the bus station where you catch the bus to the start of the Santa Ana Volcano hike.
$$ – Remfort Hotel
If you’re looking for a more private stay then the Remfort Hotel is a great choice. The location is ideal and the hotel has some great luxuries including spacious rooms and a pool.
You can book on Booking.com.
Getting to Santa Ana, El Salvador
Like I said before, you need to catch the 7:30 am bus to get to the start of the hike, this means you need to spend the night before in Santa Ana city. Here is how you can get to Santa Ana city from other nearby places:
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.
Chicken Bus number 216 and 209 leave regularly and take just over 2 hours. The price is $0.70 USD.
Chicken Bus number 238 leaves from 5ta Ave Nte and Calle Merceditas Caceres Poniente (location marked on the MAPS.ME app) at 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, 9 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm. This bus leaves promptly so make sure you are there a couple of minutes early to buy your tickets and store your bags.
It takes about 2 hours and costs $0.90 USD.
In my opinion, 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 City 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 of 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 (except 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 safe.
Before you go…
In all honesty, the Santa Ana Volcano hike 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 to begin the hike, and beers at the end while waiting for the bus to return to Santa Ana.
It’s a full day activity and good value at under $12 per person.
The affordability, ease of access, and the amazing views (if you get good weather) are enough reasons for me to say the Santa Ana Volcano hike is totally worth it! In fact, if I’m ever back in Central America will be doing this hike again just to try and get the best views possible!
If you liked this blog, then be sure to check out all our other Central America blogs including the best places to visit in Central America. We have lots of guides to make traveling the region easier!