Enjoy hiking in the El Salvador jungle, through an HD adventure travel video from 2 Backpackers, Jason and Aracely Castellani, while visiting Juayúa, El Salvador. In travel video episode #11, we trek through muddy, wet slopes just outside of Juayúa to enjoy lunch, waterfalls and crazy cliff diving. Enjoy the show!
Travel El Salvador
When we decided to begin our journey in Central America, El Salvador was the country we decided to avoid. The decision was not based on any specific reason, we simply preferred a more direct route south and planned to travel from Guatemala to Honduras to Nicaragua and onwards. However, with Honduras’ political instability, which was causing some border issues, we decided to take a detour through El Salvador instead.
Juayúa, El Salvador
Small towns and villages in El Salvador surprised us with their cleanliness, friendly people and active community events. Juayúa was the highlight with its weekend food festival, colorful street buildings and amazing surrounding landscapes and towns. If you enjoy coffee plantations, Juayúa is a great base to visit nearby towns to tour and taste coffee beans.
Hostels in Juayúa
Our style of travel thus far has been extremely spontaneous; we do the research of where we are going the day before we get there. It has worked out well so far. As usual, we consulted our twitter followers and fellow travelers for their suggestions in El Salvador and they brought us to Hotel Anáhuac in Juayúa (don’t worry I still have some trouble pronouncing that myself). Once again, we’ve found a gem in an unexpected place.
Juayúa is located two and half hours from the west coastal Guatemalan border. It’s a small town in the Routa de las Flores (a compilation of picturesque towns) with much local charm and is most widely known for their weekend food fair. The hotel is perfect: it’s very clean, has a gorgeous open courtyard filled with tropical plants, and the walls of the room display varying local art. Anáhuac also provides walking and adventure tours to neighboring natural attractions, one of them was the 7 Waterfalls, which we eagerly signed up for.
7 Waterfalls Tour
Our guide, Mario, met us at Hotel Anáhuac at eight in the morning. He led us through the empty Spanish streets of town towards its outskirts where we would begin to find our way into the thick forest. Before the hike began we stopped at Mario’s house which was at the foot of our hike. Mario and his family live in a small structure built with metal roofing and wooden logs. His brother and five dogs accompanied us on our trek.
As we made our way up the path to 7 Waterfalls Mario explained the different plants and vegetation. During our hike we encountered large El Salvador coffee plantations where we learned about cultivating coffee and how elevation increases a coffee’s grade. Mario told us that most of El Salvador’s high quality coffee is exported elsewhere in the world. Only the lowest grade of coffee stays in the country.
Previous hikes have had at a minimum wooden steps or rock laid into steps to reduce difficulty and risks. On this hike not one single portion of the trail is built up and it’s not well maintained. There are large branches to climb over, thorn filled trees to duck under, rivers to cross, rocks to hop over, and waterfalls to repel down from. The reward was majestic views of nature in its purest form.
Waterfall Nature Pictures
Once we arrived at the top of the mountain there was yet another large wall of waterfalls that fed a pool of fresh water where we swam. This area was popular for the locals to picnic, however we never passed any along our hike. We assume they take a different trek. Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of trash around the swimming area. Mario explained the cultural challenge of changing this problematic behavior. Of course, since Mario benefits from tourism in El Salvador directly, he is able to see the benefit of a cleaner environment. We all enjoyed fresh sandwiches filled with tomatoes, onions, avocado, eggs and salt and pepper. They were probably some of the most refreshing simple subs we have ever had.
Ultimate Adventure Tour
As we ate, the local families were jumping from rocky cliffs into the water. Jason eyed the possibility of jumping from the waterfall. Mario escorted him up to a rock that stood out slightly from the wall. He jumped and softly hit the sand in the bottom of the pool. It was only about 9-10ft deep and the area that was safe to jump in was considerably small. Next, Mario climbed another 2.5 meters up the wall and dove head first into the shallow pool. As he entered the water he curled his body immediately to avoid being paralyzed. It was very impressive.
Water Channel Tunnels
Along the hike Mario also explained to us that there were tunnels or caves we could explore. Once at the pools we realized they were man made tunnels bored for sending the water to a hydro station. At first I was up for it, but when we got to the opening of the tunnel and I watched Mario go in first, I decided to back out. It was very dark, the water came to his shoulders and there was hardly any head room. I knew Jason wanted to do it; I told him I would wait for them at the opening. After they returned and heard about their adventure, I was jealous.
Just as we began to pack up for our return, clouds rushed into the valley at our elevation and suddenly we were engulfed in clouds full of mist. The scene of the clouds squeezing into the valley seemed very Jurasic Park. It wasn’t a slow process, the clouds came in fast at five miles per hour. I still carry this scene in my mind. We could hear heavy rain hitting the leaves of all the trees in the valley, but we didn’t see or feel any on us. I can only assume it was raining below. We arrived back at Mario’s home where he changed again into jeans and a clean shirt to walk us back through town to our hostel. You won’t find any locals wearing shorts in the streets of El Salvador. The rain did catch up to us during our walk back through town, but it felt simply refreshing.
A Challenging Hike
Although we’ve already been on a few hikes during this trip, the hike to the 7 Waterfalls in Juayua was still unique due to its primitive trails, abundance of rivers and waterfalls and varying terrain. The trek was not difficult from an endurance perspective, but it was a hike that required a lot of focus and caution. It’s muddy, wet, slippery, itchy and wonderfully adventurous. Juayua is a must see in El Salvador, and the 7 Waterfalls hike is their hidden gem.
How Can You Help?
When Mario isn’t conducting tours to the Seven Waterfalls he is looking for work doing odd jobs in construction, harvesting and anything else he can find. We kept him busy over the next few days, since we highly recommended the tour to every traveler that wandered into the hostel. We booked the tour through the hostel, but you can book the 7 waterfalls tour by contacting Mario’s family directly, providing his family greater income. If you plan to book directly, then please send an email well in advance (doesn’t have access to a computer daily) to douglas.martinez1203(at)gmail.com. I set up an email account for them and taught them how to access their mail. Mario and his brothers William and Douglas were the kindest of people and we encourage you to enjoy their tours and friendship. They speak Spanish only, so please email in Spanish as well.