Central America hotels & fun

This item appears on page 32 of the November 2010 issue.
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From the trip two friends and I took through Central America in January 2010, I particularly recommend the following accommodations.

• Because of the possibility of encountering crime in the central part of San Salvador, EL SALVADOR, I suggest staying a cheap taxi ride away from the city center in either the Zona Rosa or Colonia Escalón neighborhoods.

I stayed in Colonia Escalón at Hotel La Posada del Rey Primero (Pasaje Dordelly, No. 4425, between Calle 85 and 87 Avenida Norte, Colonia Escalón, San Salvador, El Salvador; phone [503] 2264 5245 or 5247).

This light and airy, colonial-style hotel is furnished with hand-carved woodwork. I preferred the second (top) floor rooms with good views across the valley to the volcanoes that rim the city. Single room, $39 plus 18% tax; double room, $49 plus tax, with triples available. Air-conditioning, cable TV, WiFi and Continental breakfast are included.

• In Copán Ruinas, western HONDURAS, La Casa de Café (Barrio El Centro; phone 504 651 4620) had good single, double and triple rooms at $45-$55 per night, including a full breakfast.

• Right across the street, the same couple owns a luxurious house for rent (sleeps two to six), La Casa de Don Santiago, and that’s where we stayed. It had two bedrooms plus a futon in the living room, two and a half baths, two balconies, a small private walled courtyard and a full kitchen with a wine- and champagne-stocked refrigerator. Daily maid service was included. Three of us paid a total of $58 cash per night.

• In León, NICARAGUA, definitely opt for the rooms on the second floor of Hotel Los Balcones (Esquina de los Bancos 1c. al este, León, Nicaragua; phone [505] 311-0250). This Spanish colonial mansion has spacious common areas with good views and WiFi. A triple, including continental breakfast and all taxes, cost $60 per night (singles and doubles available).

• Also in León is Bigfoot Hostel (2a Av NE; phone [505] 8917 8832). We didn’t stay there but saw that they offered dorm, single and double rooms for $4, $7 and $11, respectively.

We did frequent it for meals and hang out; they have a restaurant and bar. The multilingual employees and owners were super-friendly and helpful.

It’s a full-service hostel that includes a tour company offering ecotours, guided boat trips and, something new, volcano surfing.

On an all-day outing, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. ($50 plus $5 park entry), we drove 45 minutes to Cerro Negro National Park for the morning, then to Isla Juan Venado National Park on the Pacific coast for the afternoon.

The 728-meter-tall Cerro Negro erupted for the first time in a quiet cornfield in 1850, and its pitch-black, loose-gravel cinder cone has been growing in spurts ever since. Its slopes have lots of black sand, making “surfing” possible (on the outside; the inside has smoldering lava and smoke).

Two types of companies have permits for the guided trips. On the cheapy trip, you slide down on cardboard or a mattress without any protective gear. We booked with one of the good companies, through Bigfoot, which took a maximum of 23 people and provided (and required the use of) goggles and an orange or blue work suit. Our boards each had footrests, a handle and a board for a “seat.” Closed-toe shoes were required. No one under age 16 could surf.

We were at Cerro Negro for 2½ hours, most of the time hiking up and up the steep and sometimes very rocky trail to the top (fantastic view!). Hauling the surfboard and protective suit made the trek much harder than just hiking it.

The ride down took about 90 seconds! You control your speed with your feet, leaving a big dust cloud in your wake. Volcano surfing was a BLAST! I loved it and wanted to do it again.

CYNTHIA RIGNANESE
Lake Wales, FL

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

From the trip two friends and I took through Central America in January 2010, I particularly recommend the following accommodations.

• Because of the possibility of encountering crime in the central part of San Salvador, EL SALVADOR, I suggest staying a cheap taxi ride away from the city center in either the Zona Rosa or Colonia Escalón neighborhoods.

I stayed in Colonia Escalón at Hotel La Posada del Rey Primero (Pasaje Dordelly, No. 4425, between Calle 85 and 87 Avenida Norte, Colonia Escalón, San Salvador, El Salvador; phone [503] 2264 5245 or 5247).

This light and airy, colonial-style hotel is furnished with hand-carved woodwork. I preferred the second (top) floor rooms with good views across the valley to the volcanoes that rim the city. Single room, $39 plus 18% tax; double room, $49 plus tax, with triples available. Air-conditioning, cable TV, WiFi and Continental breakfast are included.

• In Copán Ruinas, western HONDURAS, La Casa de Café (Barrio El Centro; phone 504 651 4620) had good single, double and triple rooms at $45-$55 per night, including a full breakfast.

• Right across the street, the same couple owns a luxurious house for rent (sleeps two to six), La Casa de Don Santiago, and that’s where we stayed. It had two bedrooms plus a futon in the living room, two and a half baths, two balconies, a small private walled courtyard and a full kitchen with a wine- and champagne-stocked refrigerator. Daily maid service was included. Three of us paid a total of $58 cash per night.

• In León, NICARAGUA, definitely opt for the rooms on the second floor of Hotel Los Balcones (Esquina de los Bancos 1c. al este, León, Nicaragua; phone [505] 311-0250). This Spanish colonial mansion has spacious common areas with good views and WiFi. A triple, including continental breakfast and all taxes, cost $60 per night (singles and doubles available).

• Also in León is Bigfoot Hostel (2a Av NE; phone [505] 8917 8832). We didn’t stay there but saw that they offered dorm, single and double rooms for $4, $7 and $11, respectively.

We did frequent it for meals and hang out; they have a restaurant and bar. The multilingual employees and owners were super-friendly and helpful.

It’s a full-service hostel that includes a tour company offering ecotours, guided boat trips and, something new, volcano surfing.

On an all-day outing, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. ($50 plus $5 park entry), we drove 45 minutes to Cerro Negro National Park for the morning, then to Isla Juan Venado National Park on the Pacific coast for the afternoon.

The 728-meter-tall Cerro Negro erupted for the first time in a quiet cornfield in 1850, and its pitch-black, loose-gravel cinder cone has been growing in spurts ever since. Its slopes have lots of black sand, making “surfing” possible (on the outside; the inside has smoldering lava and smoke).

Two types of companies have permits for the guided trips. On the cheapy trip, you slide down on cardboard or a mattress without any protective gear. We booked with one of the good companies, through Bigfoot, which took a maximum of 23 people and provided (and required the use of) goggles and an orange or blue work suit. Our boards each had footrests, a handle and a board for a “seat.” Closed-toe shoes were required. No one under age 16 could surf.

We were at Cerro Negro for 2½ hours, most of the time hiking up and up the steep and sometimes very rocky trail to the top (fantastic view!). Hauling the surfboard and protective suit made the trek much harder than just hiking it.

The ride down took about 90 seconds! You control your speed with your feet, leaving a big dust cloud in your wake. Volcano surfing was a BLAST! I loved it and wanted to do it again.

CYNTHIA RIGNANESE
Lake Wales, FL