In spending two or three days in El Salvador, I would highly recommend going to Lake Coatepeque for a day and night. For those Trinis who love a “River Lime” … then if you’re ever in El Salvador – this would be the perfect compromise. There are lake houses you can rent cheaply and bring your own stove and food. You can stay in one of the budget hotels here and go swimming in the lake and then then get completely wasted on El Salvadorean beer – it is generally pretty cheap …
They have four beers to choose from on your “lake lime”:
1. Pilsener: This is considered to be El Salvador’s national beer because it’s cheap and you can find it everywhere. Every country has it’s own beer … just like Carib is Trinidad’s beer or Red Stripe is Jamaican beer … you get the idea – Pilsener is the business in El Salvador. Pilsener typically costs $1 in stores and $1.50-$2.50 in restaurants.
2. Suprema: This is the fancy beer. It costs more (25 – 30 % more), it doesn’t taste any different and El Salvadoreans look at you differently when you drink it … well so they say – it’s like drinking Johnny Walker Gold and Coconut Water in Trinidad. I’ve also heard that girls dig guys who drink Suprema – welcome to the gold digger lifestyle 😀
3. Golden Light: Basically a Miller Light – but definitely a chick beer. I actually tried this in Honduras many years ago and I thought the beer was a pack of shit … not that I am a beer aficionado but the manliest El Salvadorean man wouldn’t dare to order a Golden Light in a public place – so why would I?
4. Regia: I personally have not tried this beer before, but I’ve read that it is marketed towards those less fortunate in El Salvador. When you think about that … it tells you something. However, the beer reviews have been surprisingly positive. It is quite difficult to find in restaurants, so don’t be surprised when you ask for it, the waiter gives you a look and then goes to another restaurant to get you a bottle.
As for the lake itself, here are a couple of facts about Lake Coatepeque
– The Lago de Coatepeque is a nearly circular lake formed in the crater of a volcano.
– As a volcanic crater lake, it is at an elevation of 749 meters, and is surrounded by the rim of the volcano
– Mountainsides in this region are covered by coffee, corn, or lush dense natural forest.
– Along the ridge coming down toward the lake there are small restaurants and bars.
It is along those ridges that you’re going to have your lunch and dinner if you so choose. Most of the bars also have a little shallow pool area in the planks, where you can take a “dip” if you so choose. We found the food to be quite good and the beer was cheap. Hence a lunch for three people (D*, myself and our guide Roberto) came up to about 21$ with service charge included and 6 beers! It’s tough to beat that price!
Once you’re done with lunch, then it’s time to go boating on the lake. Public access is very limited, since you’ll only find very expensive private homes that both ring the lake and then are on the little island in the lake. Yes, seriously … there are very expensive houses on the little island in the lake. It’s is pretty much the domain of the Ex-Presidents and the wealthiest business men in El Salvador. Although one does not need to own a home there – it is very accessible overall, especially since the houses are taken care of by the long term caretakers and their families. I assume that the owners probably come to their volcano lake houses via helicopter for a couple days a year.
You can also swim in the “hot” springs in the lake … I wouldn’t really waste my time on this one. There are a couple areas that are warm in the lake, but as you can tell by my picture in the water … it’s unimpressive.
If you’re looking for a couple videos … feel free to hit up my youtube channel – here is a sample video from our boat on the lake.