The best hotel in El Salvador is La Joya del Golfo. You’ll never find it. You could never happen up on it. And that’s what makes it absolutely blissful.
Last January we spent three quiet days lounging in hammocks, glued to our kindles and feasting on spiny lobster and watermelon frescas. Even during the holidays the place was quiet. It was like we had the whole place to ourselves most of the time; there are only four rooms.
The location was a little three story house with a wide deck area, owned by an El Salvadoran and American expat with their older children. The house is on a sizeable, remote island off of the southern coast of El Salvador, about two hours from the airport if I remember correctly. You can see Nicaragua and Honduras from the island, it’s that far south. The island is circled in red below.
We got there via panga boat from La Union. La Union is no destination at all and is a bit…smelly. Imagine the scent of sewer, salt water and rotting fish. Add in some diesel for good measure. Despite the smell, as you pull out of the harbor and weave your way through the islands, the air transforms from into a fresh breeze and signs of life become fewer and fewer.
After 40 minutes on an exhilarating and bumpy boat ride, you arrive to this exact view.
The palm frond covered deck is where we spent 90% of our waking hours. The afternoon siestas in our air conditioned room interrupted our leisurely time spent swinging in the locally crocheted hammocks. The cool air from the water tempered the 90 degree heat, making the weather quite bearable. Not moving a muscle for days also helped. I love vacation.
We did so little that it made our hosts uncomfortable. We just wanted to lounge in the swinging hammocks and devour the countless books on our Kindles. Followed by a fresh catch lunch and a pina colada. Rinse and repeat.
In the distance to the left you can see a little uninhabited island, called Bird Island. Swaths of birds live there, mostly pelicans and a few types I can’t identify. On one part of the island, when you look up, the sky is so covered in circling birds in dims the bright white sun.
We spent about an hour one day kayaking around the island with the sit-on-top kayaks they provided. Once you get to the other side of the island, you don’t see any signs of life except for a boat or two off in the distance. As we reclined in our kayaks, we saw a strange marine animal poke its head up and break the surface. It’s head was a strange shape, quite round and large. We came to the conclusion that it was either a very large turtle or a dolphin.
Those little buoys in the background are an oyster farm.
Back at our little house on stilts we wined and dined on seafood every day. Caleb always selected the lobster, prepared a different way each day. They were massive with spiny shells, and only $15 each! They were markedly different than Maine lobster, in taste and look. Here’s one decimated by Caleb.
On one glorious, sunny afternoon the family’s older son made us sushi out of a local fish caught that day. I wouldn’t say that the fish was particularly best suited for sushi, but we were impressed that he knew how to make it and serve it on this remote island. Besides seafood they kept us well supplied with cheap pina coladas. Because what is vacation without pina coladas?
If you have the itch to visit El Salvador, I can’t recommend this hotel enough. Amazing, friendly and down-to-earth service. Nicely appointed rooms with TV, AC and comfortable beds make the indoor stay pleasant. Great food and even greater prices across the board. Not to mention the hammocks, the kayaks, and boat rides to secluded sandy beaches. I left my sandals on one of those beaches if anyone finds them. They were great sandals. I’m sure they were swallowed by the Pacific by now.
Everyone should go there. We spent our time there relaxing for several days, but you can even take a boat out there and have dinner, then boat back to fragrant La Union. I don’t recommend doing it that way as I think you need at least three nights at La Joya to completely wind down. Now go, feast on lobster and while away your days in handmade white hammocks and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. With a pina colada in hand. Obviously.
Gordo, the resident bulldog, and his coconut.