Take a beach vacation in a coffee lovers’ paradise
San Salvador, El Salvador
Jesse Diaz, founder of Dark Matter Coffee
Flight time:5 hours on Avianca
When to go:November to April
Where to stay:Crowne Plaza San Salvador
Comfortable quarters in the heart of the leafy Escalon district. From $88; 89 Avenida Norte y 11 Calle Poniente; ihg.com
Chill beachfront accommodations in Playa El Tunco. From $105; Route 2, Playa El Tunco; tekuanikal.com
One of the coolest things about my job is that I get to travel to San Salvador during the coffee harvest, which is from November to April. There’s a huge, vibrant energy during the harvest: Everyone’s working hard, everyone’s making money, everyone’s in a good mood. When I get off the plane, I head straight to a café called Viva Espresso, which is the best place to get a taste of the most sought-after high-end Salvadoran coffees. Cities in coffee-producing countries don’t always have great cafés like this, but San Salvador is an exception—Viva Espresso is excellent.
One thing you might not expect to get in San Salvador is a good burger, but Rustico Bistro makes big, juicy ones with fresh Nicaraguan beef. Sounds crazy to go to Central America for a hamburger, but it’s one of the best I’ve ever had. My staff and I are pretty big craft beer fanatics, too, and some of the best beers in Central America are made at Cadejo Brewing Company, where you can settle in at the bar for snacks and a selection of half a dozen drafts.
The coast is just 40 minutes south of San Salvador. My favorite spot is Playa El Tunco, which has a black sand beach and legendary surf breaks. I tried to surf there once and got destroyed, so now I just watch the real surfers—this town attracts some of the best in the world. Some American tourists stay away from El Salvador because of news about gang violence in the region—a problem that has little effect on visitors—but tourists from Europe and elsewhere have caused Playa El Tunco to grow fast since I started going there in 2009. It’s got more paved streets and hotels now, but it’s still laid-back. I spend the whole day there, sipping rum, maybe grabbing lunch at Restaurante La Bocana, which serves giant lobsters and piña coladas made from fresh pineapples. For dessert? I always go for the semita de piña, a fruit-filled Salvadoran pastry. It’s unfancy, comforting, and delicious—everything I love about this country.