Just 10 kilometers from the city of Santa Tecla, there is a quiet place far from the hustle of the city, the name: Ecoparque El Espino.
Ecoparque El Espino is located in the Villa of the same name in the foothills of San Salvador volcano, near San Salvador. Visitors will enjoy the natural beauty of pine trees, coffee trees, cypresses and flowers of various colors that adorn this 35 hectare park (out of a 387 hectare protected area) that are constantly monitored by rangers of the cooperative that administer the site.
There are many activities to do in Ecoparque El Espino. One of them is mountain biking. You can purchase a membership for US$ 20 a month with unlimited access to the Eco Park and of all its trails.
The park has three hiking trails that you can travel in an average of 45 minutes each. They are planted with noni, big massive 200-year-old tress and lush forest. Among its main attractions there is a hanging 24 meters long bridge.
The eco park is a birdwatchers paradise you can spot many local birds like clarineros, toucans, chachas (wild chickens), tinamous and magpies. There are also wild animals like kinkajous, armadillos (locally known as cuzucos), rabbits, Central American agouti, and many others.
Another attraction is the site called “El Infiernillo” (the little hell) a small area of land where steam is emanating deep from the depths of the earth. The park monitors this volcanic activity with the help of high tech equipment donated by the Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECI) in 2004 for purposes of education and scientific research.
At the end of the 45 minutes walk there is an outlook, whose height is 1, 233 meters above sea level. There you will find a spectacular panoramic view of the capital city in contrasts with the green of the Cordillera del Balsamo.
Worth noting is the effort of the association that takes care of this park. They produce organic coffee and honey and sell them supermarkets in the capital and you can find them in the park as well.
Eco parque El Espino is served by a pleasant cafe with homemade food and traditional dishes at affordable prices.
If you are planning a day trip you can rent bikes for $ 1 an hour and hammocks for the same price (all day).
There is also the option to camp. The cost per person is $ 5 for a 24-hour period.
If you love the mountain environment you can rent a cabin. Small $ 25 or large/family for $ 50 including double bed, a bunk and shower.
The bus routes are: 42 (coaster), R-1LL and 42-C “special” bound for Colonia La Sabana in Merliot or sports center (Polideportivo). Bus fares are $ 0.35.
If traveling by car, find the street leading to the Colonia La Sabana, towards the Sports Centre in Merliot (Polideportivo). At that point, you will find a dirt road on the left adjacent to the point of buses 42-C “special.” Continue and you will find the entrance to Ecoparque El Espino.
After having paid the fee, you climb up the road for 2.5 km until you reach the parking lot. There is no need for four-wheel drive cars.
General admission is $ 1.50 per person and parking is $ 1 a day.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
*If you buy the mountain bike membership, you can enter from 5:00 am onwards and do not pay the entrance fee.
You can arrange a guided tour with the park rangers. The service is free. You can tip them at the end if you feel like doing so.
As mentioned above, the cooperative sells locally grown organic coffee for $ 3.50 (1lb. bag). You will also find honey for $ 4 a bottle, the latter if it is in season (December to January and April to May).
If you want to know how they process the coffee grown in this park, there are tours to the coffee mill located in Zapotitán, department of La Libertad. You can contact the park office.