Lake Coatepeque – El Salvador

Lake Coatepeque – El Salvador

Lake Coatepeque – El Salvador

Lake Coatepeque – El Salvador

Lago Coatepeque is a gorgeous crater lake located just 16 km / 10 miles south of Santa Ana city in western El Salvador. The lake measures 6 km / 4 miles in circumference and is completely surrounded by densely-forested sloping crater walls topped by a hilly crater rim.

The most arresting feature of the lake is its stunning color, which alternates over the years between a deep vibrant blue and a bright, glowing turquoise. The lake is also in pristine condition and practically silent, except on weekends when Salvadoreans flock to the lake for swimming, picnicking, dining, visiting their weekend homes and boating.

The day I visited Lake Coatepeque in September, 2017, the water was an incredible turquoise color. Locals told me it had just changed color two weeks earlier.

lakeside at Lago CoatepequeMuch to my surprise, the water temperature was mildly cool rather than icy cold. Even I was able to plunge in without cringing and take a long fresh swim.

During the middle of the week a visit to the lake is akin to a nature retreat. When I went on a Wednesday, I was simply surrounded by sky, clouds, forested slopes and the gorgeous lake water.

Birds soared overhead, butterflies flitted about. Only the muffled sounds of the occasional tour boat or jet ski disturbed the otherwise natural bliss.

To reach the shores of the lake, a single road leads down from the northern edge of the crater rim. Near the top, just where the road starts heading downhill, a fantastic viewpoint area, called Mirador in Spanish, has incredible panoramic views over the whole lake.

There’s a collection of ramshackle open-air restaurants where visitors can enjoy a snack, drinks or meal while shaded from the hot sun midday and marveling at the gorgeous lake.

Down at the bottom of the road beside the lake, a poorly paved road runs around most of the lake edge in both directions.

wealthy home & property at Lake Coatepeque

wealthy home & property at Lake Coatepeque

Quite unfortunately, most of the lake shore is now lined by private homes that have tall cement walls around them. As a result you can’t even see the lake from most points along the road. Instead, you must access the lakeside from various open points and public access points.

One of them is a collection of restaurants built out on wooden platforms over the water. A few other access points are near the end of the bus route. Ask at your hostel/hotel in Santa Ana or the lakeside locals where you can reach the water.

The best way to visit the lake is by making a day trip from Santa Ana. There is one hostel at the lake, but it’s located way up on the higher road, even before the crater rim, and situated right beside the road. The hostel is rather run down and doesn’t even have views of the lake.

It could be worth staying overnight in order to see the lake in early morning and late evenings, perhaps to photograph the lake at sunrise and/or sunset. The hostel is just a 5-minute walk uphill from the Mirador, so it’s easy to access stunning lake views and to eat lunch and dinner.

public buses in El Salvador

public buses in El Salvador

From Santa Ana, two buses access the lake – bus 220 and bus 248. They both take the same route all the way down to the lake edge. From there, bus 220 goes to the left / east, about ¼ way around the lake. Bus 248 heads right / west to circle about halfway around the lake on that side.

Both buses take about one hour to reach the Mirador, more than one hour to reach the lake shore and another 30-40 minutes to reach the end of their routes.

Whether you take a day trip or stay overnight, the best things to do at the lake are:

1. Stop at the Mirador, high above the lake, for fantastic panoramic views. Have a drink or meal at one of the open-air restaurants perched on the crater rim.

2. Get to the shore of the lake for a swim, picnic, nap, stroll or to otherwise relax.

3. Take a boat tour of the lake.

4. Eat / drink at one of the restaurants over-hanging the lake or up at the Mirador. 

private boat pier at lake Coatepeque

private boat pier at lake Coatepeque

Visiting Lake Coatepeque from Santa Ana could easily take up a whole day if you spend some time at both the Mirador and the lake itself.

Be careful about the time if you’re returning to Santa Ana! The last buses leave the lake at about 4 pm.

Well, that’s it on Lake Coatepeque. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

You might also find the following articles helpful:

The 7 Waterfalls Tour at Ruta de Flores

Climbing Santa Ana Volcano

Ruta de Flores – El Salvador


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