Santa Ana (El Salvador)

Santa Ana is the second largest city of El Salvador and a very important one in terms of agriculture and coffee production (coffee plantations - called fincas - cover much of the land outside town and up the hills). Its historic center offers some of the best preserved architecture in El Salvador, including the Cathedral of Santa Ana, a marvel of neo-gothic architecture, the Teatro de Santa Ana, a beautifully decorated theatre of the early 1900's; and the Palacio Municipal in front of the main plaza with giant palm trees shooting out from its courtyard.

Get in

Santa Ana lies 64km northwest of the capital San Salvador, just off the Panamerica (Highway 1), from where several exits lead into town. Being close to the border, it's also a convinient stop if coming from Guatemala.

By bus

Pullmantur, 1a Avenida 13-22 Zona 10 (Hotel Holiday Inn),  (+502) 2495-7000. departs 6.15am (except Sun), 7.00am, 1.15pm (Sun only), 2.00pm, 3.00pm. $35 (tourist class), $39 (executive class), $51 (first class).
Galgos, 7a Avenida 19-44 Zona 1,  (+503) 2232-3661 / 2220-6018 / 2230-5058. departs 1pm. $17.
Platinum Centroamerica (King Quality), 4 Ave 13-60 Zona 10,  (+502) 2501-1000. departs 6.30am and 2.45pm. $35 (one-way).
Comfort Lines, 4 Ave 13-60 Zona 10,  (+502) 2501-1000. departs 6.00am and 1.30pm. $23 (one-way)
Ticabus (Transportes Internationales Centromaericanos), Calzada Aguilar Batres, 22-55 Zona 12,  (+502) 2473-3737. departs 6.00am and 2.00pm. $22.40 (one-way).
Transportes del Sol (Hotel Crowne Plaza),  (+502) 2422 5000 / 4147 3104. departs 3.00am and 4.00pm. $28 (one-way).
TUDO (Transportes Unidos de Occidente). Bus 201 uses the Panamericana Highway and doesn't stop along the road except in Santa Tecla. Arrival stops are at Metrocento, 31a Calle Poniente y Santa Ana California (INSA), 31a Calle Poniente y Ave Fray Felipe Moraga, roundabout Ave Fray Felipe Moraga y 15a Calle Poniente (Terminal), and finally at the bus depot at Antigua Carretera Panamericana 4km southwest of town. Regular $0.85, special service $1.35, 1h.
SEISABUS. Bus 201 goes via the old road (via Santa Tecla, Santa Lucia, Ciudad Arce, and Coatepeque) with frequent stops, and arrives at east side of town at roundabout next to Universidad Catolica (UNICAES), also several stops along 9a Calle towards Parque Colon. Regular $1, special service $1.50, 2h.

By plane

Transportation to / from international airport at Comalapa IATA: SAL costs at least $65 for a minibus (no matter how many persons), 2h, organize the day before your flight (ask at your hotel).

The small airstrip know as Pista Singuil about 18km northwest of town (right off Panamericana Highway 1) is closed and now used for car racing.

By train

All train services were suspended in 1990, but parts of the station (a wooden shack) still exists 17a Ave Sur at the end of 7a Calle Oriente. Be careful here as locals consider this part of town as unsafe. Railway enthusiasts might check the web sites and

Get around

Most places within the historic center can be reached within a few minutes walk, there's no need to take a taxi or board local buses. The Tourist Office outside the Palacio Municipal (just across from the Theater) has city maps and other information.


Most touristic sights are located at the center of town around the Parque Libertad. 4 blocks west of it is Parque Menendez, and again roughly 6 blocks further south Parque Colon.

From central Parque Libertad Avenida Independencia runs north-south, while Calle Libertad runs east-west. Calles (streets) north of Libertad have even numbers (2-4-6), while Calles south of Libertad have odd numbers (1-3-5). So don't be confused! Avenidas west of Independencia have even numbers (2-4-6), the ones east of Independencia have odd numbers (1-3-5).

What's in an address?

25a Calle Poniente Entre 10a y 12a Ave Sur #6 translates into 25th Street West (of Ave Independencia) between 10th and 12th Avenue South (of Libertad Avenue) House Number 6. (Short version 25C Pte Ere 10 y 12Av Sur #6)

When asking for directions remember that house numbers are often out of sequence and might repeat in other blocks. Similar, street numbers are not well established (although well signed), and locals - including taxi and bus driver - usually navigate by these landmarks:

Parque (Central Park). Parque Libertad.

Centro (Downtown area). Buses are not allowed to pass Parque Libertad and usually drop passengers 1 or 2 blocks from the Parque.

Metrocentro. Shopping Mall (roundabout) at south entrance of town. Often shorten to Metro to avoid confusion with Centro (Downtown).

Terminal. Bus station south of Mercado Colon. Local buses stop at the roundabout at Ave Fray Felipe Moraga y 15a Calle Poniente.

Pollo Campero. Fast food restaurant at Ave Independencia y 5a Calle, 3 blocks south of Parque Libertad.

Hospital (Public hospital). Calle Libertad Oriente y 17a Ave Sur.

ISSS (Regional hospital). Ave Santa Ana California Sur, next to the stadium.

INSA (Instituto National de Santa Ana / High School). Ave Santa Ana California y 31a Calle.

DUI (Center issuing the Documento Único de Identidad). 25a Calle Poniente Entre 18a Ave Sur y Calle Internacional.


Local buses (called Urbanos) serve almost every part of Santa Ana and its colonias and operate roughly between 5am and 9pm. They can be very crowded especially during rush hour. Routes are complicated, difficulte to follow, and no route map is published. Flat fare is $0.20 for the bigger buses and $0.25 for micro buses; board in front and pay the driver. Some useful lines are...


Unmetered yellow taxis charge $3 for short distances, but $4 (bargain hard) should bring you pretty much everywere in town. Most drivers have difficultes to find specific streets, better use hotel names, landmarks (see above), or the name of the Colonia (town district) of your destination.


Most visitors of course come to see the Cathedral and the Theatre, but Santa Ana has more to offer. According to La Secretaria de Cultura, its historic center (roughly within the limits of 4a Calle, 7a Ave, 9a Calle, Ave Jose Matias Delgado) counts 210 buildings in neoclassical style, 5 gotic, 64 neocolonial and 102 in traditional style. The most intact ensemble of colonial houses can be found east of Parque Libertad, although most houses are privately owned and therefore inaccessible. For a self guided tour follow Calle Libertad eastbound and discover the north & south leading Avenidas (1a, 3a, 5a, 7a, 9a).

Santa Ana has a classical colonial town layout with 4 churches forming the cristian cross:

A fairly new addition is...


Santa Ana makes a excellent base for discovering western El Salvador's archaeological and natural spots. FUNDAR (Fundación Nacional de Arqueología de El Salvador) maintains the excellent and highly recommended website with tons of information, although its participation ended in 2009.

Tazumal Maya pyramid in the town of Chalchuapa
Coatepeque Lake


Every year in July the 2 week Fiestas Julias (July festival) is celebrated. It's one of the biggest in El Salvador in honor of Señora Santa Ana, the city's patron. Activities end on the 26th with a large procession. Don't miss the amusement park at the antiguo campo de aviación (just south of the stadion)!

At the end of the year, Christmas (Dec 24) and New Year's Eve (Dec 31) are celebreted with tons of firework and firecrackers, and Parque Colon turns into to a big firework selling spot. Be very careful as firecrackers are powerful and accidents happen frequently.



Smaller shops are usually closed between 12pm and 2pm (for lunch break) and after 6pm, and most shops are closed on Sundays (except Supermarkets and Metrocentro).

Commercial areas

Metrocentro Mall in Santa Ana

Santa Ana has 3 main commercial areas:



Centro (downtown), 2a Calle Poniente y 2a Ave Norte (behind the Palacio Municipal).
Colon, Ave Felipe Fray Moraga Sur Entre 11a Calle y Calle J M Mendez (2 blocks west of Parque Colon).
Metrocentro, groundfloor.




Virtually hundreds of comedores (cantins) offer salvadorian standard meals (comida tipica) for as little as $2. Mostly self service (comida a la vista). Usually open for lunch between 11am and 2pm (for dinner head out to pupuserias). Be early as food is often prepared in advance and may not stay fresh in the tropical heat. Also places sometimes run out of food after 1pm. Beware that virtually all comedores are closed Sundays.




Calle Libertad y Ave Independencia (just of Parque Libertad). 8am-6.30pm. Convenient downtown location.
Ave Independencia Sur Entre 11a Ave y Ave Jose Mendez (6½ blocks south of Parque Libertad). Main location with the largest choice.
Ave Jose Delgado Sur y 1a Calle Poniente (at Plaza Prisma; 1 block southwest of Parque Menendez or 1 block north of Hotel Sahara). Closed Sundays.
Metrocentro Shopping Mall (2nd floor). Nice terasse, very crowded around 4pm.
25a Calle Poniente Entre 6a y 8a Ave Sur. No WiFi here.
Calle Libertad Entre 1a y 3a Ave (½ block west of Parque Libertad).
Calle Independencia Sur Entre 9a y 11a Ave (5 blocks south of Parque Libertad).


Warning: Under no circumstances visit the drinking holes along 11a Calle Poniente Entre 8a Ave Sur y Ave Fray Felipe Moraga Sur (Parque Colon area)!





Internet cafes a fairly common and charge roughly $0.50 per hour. If you have your own equipment, visiting one of the many cafes and restaurants offering free and unlimited WiFi might be the better option. The public WiFi network Alcaldia Municipal de Santa Ana is available around the town hall but usually overloaded, while the mesh network indiNET (password: stardust) is more reliable and found at many locations in town.

Stay safe

Most parts of the city are completely deserted after 7pm. The Metrocentro area, the Parque Libertad, and the pedestrian street Villa Morena (2a Calle Poniente) are considered safe at night as police and security guards are present. Avoid Parque Colon and surroundings after dark, as many homeless and drunken individuals hang around the area.

Be very careful when walking on sidewalks because many manhole covers are missing (stolen for there value as scrap metal) and openings can be several feet deep. Especially after dark it's recommended to walk on the street (if traffic permits).

Do not climb the hills surrounding the city without local security advice and/or police escort, as robberies have occured.



Most banks have several branches in town, and ATM's are fairly common. Expect your bags checked by security staff when entering the bank. Try to avoid payment days (around 15th and 30th of each month) as long queues occur; the only ATM not affected by this phenomena is at Banco G&T Continental (opposite Citibank) which accepts Visa and Master/Maestro cards.

If you just arrived from Guatemala and want to get rid of your quetzales, ask around street vendors at 1a Calle Poniente y Ave Independenica Sur (1 block south from Parque Libertad). Current rate (Nov 2014) is $12 for 100 quetzales.


Entry level digital cameras and memory cards are sold in many shops, but for professional cameras check the following places. Prices for cameras are up to 50% higher than in the US and Europe. Both places also sell and develop photographic films.


Notebooks and tablets are sold in many electro domestic shops throughout town. For more specific needs check these shops.

Cell Phones

Pushy street vendors at the intersection of Ave Independencia Sur y 1a Calle Poniente and along Ave. Jose Matias Delgado offer SIM cards for $3 including free talk time (sometimes as low as $1), and cell phones. If you don't trust them, better visit one of the many shops, or the carrier's customer center (bring identification document). All carriers have offices in Metrocentro, and at the following downtown locations:

If you buy a 2nd hand cell phone, ask for unlocked (liberado), and the battery's endurance. Replacement parts (keyboards, batteries, memory cards, etc) for cell phones are sold by numerous shops.




Go next

TUDO. Bus 201 travels via the Panamericana. Regular service $0.85, frequent stops. The more comfortable special service (mostly aircon) does not stop along the highway (first stop is in Santa Tecla) $1.35. Departs every 15min (first at 4:15am) from bus depot on Antigua Carretera Panamericana (4km southwest of downtown), at least 1h depending on the traffic situation. Take a taxi or local bus marked Paraiso (9, 15, R-3SA, R-4SA, R55-B, or regional bus 210, 218, 236) to get to the bus depot. More convenient boarding points are 31a Calle Poniente y Ave Fray Felipe Moraga Sur, INSA at 31a Calle Poniente y Ave Santa Ana California, or Metrocentro.
SEISABUS. Bus 201 follows the old Carretera via Coatepeque and Ciudad Arce, frequent stops, up to 2h, regular service $1, special service $1.50. Boarding points along 25a Calle and also at Universidad Catolica (UNICAES).
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