Tranquilo in Tacuba, El Salvador

Tranquilo in Tacuba, El Salvador

Near the border of Guatemala, the mountain hamlet of Tacuba is the essence of tranquilo, its quiet punctuated by yodeling roosters and street parties celebrating indigenous Pipil traditions. Fringed by coffee plantations, this mellow village sits at the northern boundary of Parque Nacional El Imposible. Here, travelers can hike, bike, and bird-watch in one of the most biodiverse forests in El Salvador.

The organization that manages El Imposible, SalvaNatura, offers guided tours, a visitors center, and five hillside cabanas at the park’s southern entrance, San Benito. Or, from Tacuba’s Parque Central, follow the signs uphill to Hostal de Mamá y Papá to meet up with Manolo González of Imposible Tours, famous for knowing every ocelot track in the forest.

With González in the lead, scout one of the park’s 286 bird species, swing Tarzan-style from a jungle vine, or jump into a waterfall-fed pool. “I show visitors the true El Salvador,” González says with well-earned bravado.

After sweating it out in the mountains, bunk down at the hostel, González’s family home. Here you’ll enjoy home-cooked meals and the best frijoles in town, accompanied by guitar ballads played by González and his father. Guarded by a white goose, the house has a citrus-filled courtyard strung with hammocks.

During your stay, stroll through Tacuba’s cobblestone streets to admire the ruins of the colonial-era church, one of the oldest Spanish cathedrals in Central America. Don’t leave town without sampling pupusas, cornmeal patties stuffed with such ingredients as cheese, pork, or beans. Finding Tacuba’s best pupusería is easy— just look for the crowds of locals waiting on plastic stools outside the Templo Evangélico del Príncipe de Paz, just off Tacuba’s main drag. Mission complete.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Smith/SalvaNatura. This appeared in the July/August 2010 issue.

Mary Winston Nicklin is a writer/editor based in Paris and Virginia.