64km (40 miles) W of San Salvador
Though El Salvador's charms aren't normally found in its crowded, hectic cities, Santa Ana's unique Gothic cathedral, ornate theater, and easy access to the country's most significant Maya ruin make it a place worth visiting.
Santa Ana, an easy, 40-minute drive west of San Salvador, is the country's second-largest city, with approximately 275,000 residents. Yet Santa Ana avoids the sprawling nature of San Salvador because most of its attractions are centered around the city's leafy main square, known as Parque Libertad. The city's main in-town attractions are its large, neo-Gothic cathedral and ornate and brightly painted theater. Both are among the county's more architecturally interesting landmarks. The plaza itself also offers a glimpse into old and new El Salvador with young, mohawk-sporting skate punks in stylish clothes mingling with older women in traditional dress.
Perhaps the best reason to visit Santa Anta is that El Salvador's most important Maya ruin, Tazumal, is only a 13km (8-mile) bus ride away. Santa Ana also offers the modern conveniences of bank machines, Internet outlets, and a super grocery store. Though it was once the county's most prosperous town, it now has some unsafe neighborhoods. The tourist-filled main plaza and its immediate surroundings are safe and well patrolled, however.