Tuesday, October 6, 2015

La Libertad is Freedom at the Beach

La Libertad provides the perfect day trip from the El Salvadorian capital, San Salvador.  That being said, an emphasis should be put on "Day".  Before dark the port is safe, friendly and offers the tourist a great deal of sightseeing in a very condensed area.

When the sun goes down the beach city attracts a growing number of the notorious MS-13 gang members to enjoy its’ night life.

La Libertad lies 30 miles southwest from San Salvador, and 15 miles from the Cuscatian International Airport.  It can be accessed by car, taxi or bus within an hour from either point of origin.  Don’t fear renting a vehicle as the roads in El Salvador are kept in wonderful repair.  All highways are marked and driving is easy.  However, unlike the U.S. there is little warning given prior to any given turn. 
Regardless of your means of arrival, the destination target should be the city center or “Centro”.  All roads into La Libertad seem to end at the port.  Parking is available for free along the streets. 
However, guarded lots are available for a couple of American dollars which is reasonable for the peace of mind.  

The waterfront is alive with activity and stretches for about a half a mile.  An open air market exists on the south side of the port.  Vendors hawk their wares, encouraging shoppers to purchase their trinkets over the exact replicas of their competitors across the aisle.  T-shirts, hammock, shells and various types of bracelets and necklaces are available.  In addition to souvenirs, patrons can purchase fruit, vegetables and a wide assortment of candies.  On the edge of the market place lies a restaurant.  Furnished with white plastic chairs and tables it is truly an eating establishment for the people.  Tantalizing cups of ceviche is the house specialty, however an appetizer of fried fish may be the safer choice.  It too is excellent, and most likely slept in the ocean the night before.  Either dish is around $2.00, add a coke or bottle of beer to wash it down with for an extra $1.00.

Next, venture to the concrete pier that stretches out into the ocean.  The first half of the wharf is comprised of a fish market.  Booth after booth of fresh seafood line both sides as you move through and towards the end of the dock.  From Yellow Tail Tuna to Albacore, every fish from the local waters is displayed on a bed of ice and available for immediate purchase.   Women adorned in colorful aprons sit patiently behind their catch waiting to negotiate their best price.

At the end of the pier is a boat lift.  Not content to haul their fish up to the 40 foot high platform, the fisherman’s boats  are attached to a single cable and actually hoisted out of the sea, until fish, fishermen and boat together come to rest amid the crowd that has gathered to watch and bid on the vessels’ contents.   In the U.S., OSHA would have a heart attack, but in El Salvador nothing seems amiss.
Moving further north along the waterfront, you will see the pride of La Libertad shining through in the image of a newer mall.  Small but growing, the eclectic mix of shops provide the buyer everything from ice cream to prescription glasses.  Nicer restaurants punctuate the establishment.

Abutting the mall is a small open amphitheater.  Several rows of concrete bleachers overlook a stage and a cement basketball court.   This newer construction is obvious progress, however one does feel that the soul of the harbor is being compromised.

At the end of the waterfront are a couple restaurants overlooking the world famous Punta Roca surf spot.   The waves break consistently to the right here and is lauded universally by surf periodicals as one of the top ten breaks around the globe.  Consistent swells of 5-7 seven feet move from a half mile out to crash hard onto the short beach and surf wall.   Like a surfer’s Mecca, wave riders from Australian to Brazil make their pilgrimage to this locale.  Watching these extraordinarily talented men and women is the best entertainment in town.  Throw in a dinner of fresh grilled sea bass, and a couple of the local “Pilsener” cervezas, and you have the perfect end of the perfect day trip!

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