Santa Ana (El Salvador)
Santa Ana is the second largest city of El Salvador and a very important one in terms of agriculture, coffee production and more. Santa Ana has a mall, restaurants, good paved roads and nice people you can talk to. It also has some of the best architecture in El Salvador, including the Cathedral of Santa Ana, a marvel of neo-gothic architecture, the Teatro de Santa Ana, beautifully decorated theatre of the early 1900's; and the Palacio Municipal, or in Spanish, the Municipal Palace, in front of the main plaza with giant palm trees shooting out from its courtyards.
You can enter the city through the Pan-American Highway, which also has an exit leading towards the mall and the city center. Many buses have stops in Santa Ana, and there is a large bus terminal in the city. Also, taxis can take you there from San Salvador or the Airport.
Most buses headed towards San Salvador from Guatemala City stop along 25 Calle Poniente in Santa Ana. Be sure to let the conductor know you want to stop in Santa Ana. Entering from Guatemala may be to your advantage, because tourists from the United States rarely pay the $10 for a tourist card. Four bus lines headed from Guatemala stop through Santa Ana on their way to San Salvador: Tica, Galgos, Melva, and Pezzarossi.
Santa Ana has a relatively efficient bus system. Major destinations are painted on the windshield and most patrons/bus drivers will point you in the right direction if you ask. Expect to pay $.25 per ride (as of July 2006), but the price is expected to increase. The driver will hand you a ticket that demonstrates you have payed; be sure to keep this because occasionally bus officials will check for them. Minibus service is an alternative to busses, but works in the same way, and costs around $.05 more. Taxis are also abundant, especially around Metrocentro and the downtown area. It is common practice to decide on a price of the trip before getting in, so be prepared to haggle (unfortunately, you may be charged extra if you look like a tourist).
A Metrocentro Mall is located in Santa Ana. The mall here has department stores such as Siman. Also there are many shops and a cinema in the two floors that are in the mall.
You can also buy things in the city center such as handcrafted goods, electronics, furniture, and many more items found in stores across the city. There are also car dealerships here, but tourists don't really come to Santa Ana to buy cars.
Santa Ana has many places to eat. Many of the chain restaurants such as Pollo Campero, Nash, Biggest, Burger King, McDonald's, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Mr. Donut have locations in the city and in Metrocentro. Of course, there are more typical foods such as pupusas and tacos in which you can buy in establishments in the downtown area.
A recommended restaurant right next to the cathedral on the main square is "Los Horcones" - a fascinating structure with charming decorations and a first floor with tables looking onto the square below. Good prices and reasonable food.
One of the nicest restaurants you can visit in Santa Ana is "Alantigua", which is located across from Telecom, three blocks east from the Central Park. Visiting "Alantigua" is like time-travelling to the late 1800s, the restaurant is located in a restored house dating back to the late 1800s. Many of the original items of the house are still preserved.
For the sweet tooth, don't miss Pasteleria Ban-Ban. Serves up probably the best desserts in all of El Salvador. Locations in the downtown area and Metrocentro.
Santa Ana is also famous for its famous sherberts. Sin Rival is considered the best brand, with several stores scattered throughout the city.
The Hotel Sahara recently was built here, the rooms are good and comfortable and cheap, it's not a run down or bad hotel at all, but probably the only one in this category thats in the region (not counting San Salvador or the beaches).
Casa Frolaz - the ideal place for backpackers, for a cheap bed in a dorm room ($7) and a great place to meet other travellers. The house is gorgeous and has a communal kitchen and garden.
Read the Get in section above