18km (11 miles) S of Santa Ana; 56km (35 miles) W of San Salvador
Lago de Coatepeque, an almost perfectly round crater-lake that is 740m (2,428 ft.) above sea level, makes for one of El Salvador's most beautiful and enjoyable getaways. The lake is a short drive from Santa Ana, which means it's an easy day trip from that town -- but it's really worth staying a couple of days here to enjoy all its attractions; the 23-sq.-km (9-sq.-mile) pristine lake is ideal for swimming, fishing, riding watercraft, and simply soaking in beautiful views.
Lago Coatepeque was formed thousands of years ago by the eruption of the nearby ancient volcano, the Coatepeque Caldera. Today, the lake's rich blue waters and lush, tree-filled crater walls serve as a weekend getaway for El Salvador's rich and famous, whose mansions line the shore. Luckily, those rich and famous folks left a roughly 500m (1,640-ft.) section open to the public, which is now filled with restaurants and hotels offering tours, watercraft rentals, and fishing piers. There's little lake access other than through these hotels or restaurants, but most allow single-day use of their piers for a small fee. Perhaps the highlight of any visit here, though, is the sunsets: Each evening, visitors line the hotel piers with cameras ready to capture classic and captivating photos of the sun dipping below the crater walls.