El Salvador, the smallest and most densely populated Central American country, is in the midst of a whirlwind of change. Rapidly industrializing and finally falling onto the tourism radar — the US State Department eased restrictions in 2019 — El Salvador won’t always be a quiet, budget-friendly getaway filled with pupusas and incredible Mayan ruins. But it is, for now.

The tiny country is becoming known for its world-class surfing beaches, more often empty than buzzing with boards. La Ruta de las Flores, or the Route of the Flowers, can take you all the way to the mountains — or to volcanoes (there are over 20 of them!). El Tunco, El Sunzal, and El Zonte are beach towns hanging onto their chill. Considering its size, El Salvador has a surprising amount of room for adventure and possibility.