How to Travel from Copan Ruinas to Santa Ana by Bus

The tourist shuttle from Copan Ruinas to Santa Ana in El Salvador costs around 40 USD per person. That’s maybe a good option if you’re short on time but an awful lot of money otherwise. So we decided to make the trip using local transport. Here’s how to travel the cheap way from Copán Ruinas in Honduras to Santa Ana in El Salvador. And see some interesting, off the beaten track places on the way.

The shortest, and probably fastest, way to get from Copán Ruinas to Santa Ana is to go back to Chiquimula in Guatemala and continue to Santa Ana from there. But we just came from Guatemala and don’t like backtracking the same route.

Which is why we choose to cross the border at El Poy. To breakup the trip we include a side trip to the colonial town of Gracias and a stopover in La Palma, famous for its street art.

Step 1: Copán Ruinas to Santa Rosa de Copán

From Copán Ruinas there are two direct buses to Santa Rosa de Copán. First leaves at 6:45 AM and the other at 8 AM. It’s 100 HNL (5 USD) per person and takes a little less than 3 hours.

If you want to make it to San Salvador or Santa Ana in one day you better take the 6:45 bus.

Stopover: Gracias

Gracias

From Santa Rosa de Copán you can easily continue to the border at El Poy and on to San Salvador. We’re not in a hurry so we decide to visit Gracias, a colonial town in the highlands. From Santa Rosa we take a directo to Gracias (50 HNL, 1 hr).

Founded in 1526, Gracias is apparently one of the oldest settlements in Honduras. For a short period it even was the capital of all Spanish-conquered Central America. Before Antigua took over.

In Gracias we get a lot of stares. Even though the Lonely Planet lists Gracias as one of the highlights of Honduras it obviously doesn’t see many tourists. Most people who do visit come here for hiking the nearby Parque Nacional de Montaña Celaque, supposedly Honduras’ most impressive national park.

While probably worthwhile we skip the hiking and just go for an afternoon stroll around the old center. LP describes Gracias as a “jewel”. That’s maybe a little exaggerated. It has a couple of nice cobblestone streets though. And plenty colorful buildings. Plus there’s a fort, a couple of old churches and a lively plaza.

Gracias

Iglesia San Marcos in Gracias

We stayed in the clean and well run Hotel Guancascos which has a good restaurant and a terrace with wonderful views over town (550 HNL for a double).

Step 2: Santa Rosa de Copán to La Palma

The next day we take the 8 AM directo back to chaotic Santa Rosa where we arrive in time to catch the international bus to San Salvador. Don’t know how often that one goes but ours passed Santa Rosa around 9:40 AM.

Alternatively you can get a bus to Nueva Ocotepeque where you have to change bus for El Poy (the border). From El Poy there’s a direct bus to San Salvador (every half-hour).

The border crossing at El Poy is smooth and easy. Our big backpacks stay on the bus while we go through both immigrations. On the Honduras side we get an exit stamp. Entering El Salvador you don’t get a stamp. No exit or entrance fees.

Welcome to El Salvador

We paid 150 HNL per person to get to La Palma which seems a little steep. I guess they just made up a price. But considering it’s a fast and comfortable air-con coach we’re ok with it. Plus it saves us the hassle of changing buses in Nueva Ocotepeque and El Poy.

Stopover: La Palma in El Salvador

La Palma is a small town just 12 km south of the border. The town is famous for it’s street art which is literally splashed all over town. In the seventies painter Fernando Llort moved here and brought Naive Art, a style that still represents El Salvador around the world.

The murals of La Palma

The town is full of bright, primitive images representing mountain villages, farmers and churches. Llort taught the locals how to create the same images and started a successful cooperative. Nowadays many of La Palma’s inhabitants make a living by mass-producing these motifs.

Naive Art by Fernando Llort

We stayed in the rundown Hotel de Montaña de Pital and paid 25 USD for a double which is definitely not value for money. As a bonus we get a drunken Salvadorian neighbour. Unfortunately the options in La Palma are limited.

Step 3: La Palma to San Salvador

The next morning we hop on the especial to San Salvador which again is a fast and comfortable coach with air-con (3,50 USD, 2 hrs).

Alternatively there are cheaper and slower directos. Which look like this.

Directo to San Salvador

In San Salvador we arrive at Terminal de Oriente. Buses for Santa Ana leave from Terminal de Occidente. You can take bus 7C or 34 to get from one terminal to the other.

Being on a city bus in San Salvador with all our luggage doesn’t seem like a good idea though. So we take a taxi for 5 USD. Nice, safe and easy.

Step 4: San Salvador to Santa Ana

At Terminal de Occidente we take the especial to Santa Ana (1,30 USD, 1 hr).

Make sure you get off at the endpoint in Santa Ana because in our case the bus immediately returned to San Salvador. We found that out when we were already 2 km on the way back. We quickly got off and luckily the driver on an empty chicken bus picked us up and delivered us back at the center. For free. People in El Salvador are nice 🙂

Chicken bus in Santa Ana

Summary

  • Bus Copán Ruinas to Santa Rosa de Copán: 5 USD (3 hrs)
  • Bus Santa Rosa de Copán to La Palma: 7,50 USD (3 hrs including border procedures)
  • Bus La Palma to San Salvador (3,50 USD, 2 hrs)
  • Taxi between terminals in San Salvador (2,50 USD, 20 min)
  • Bus San Salvador to Santa Ana (1,30 USD, 1 hr)

That’s about 20 USD per person. Or 25 USD including the side trip to Gracias. About half the price of the tourist shuttle. And twice the fun.

Happy travels!

 

This entry was posted in El Salvador, Honduras, Trail Reports.

17 Comments

  1. Illy January 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

    If you take the 0645 bus from Copan to Santa Rosa, then to El Poy, then to San Salvador then to Santa Ana do you reckon it can be done in the same day ?

    • Domingo January 28, 2016 at 10:23 pm #

      Yes, that should be possible. There are also direct buses from Santa Rosa to San Salvador.

      • Illy January 29, 2016 at 12:04 am #

        Okay cool. Do you know how much the bus from Santa Rosa to San Salvador was? Hating the $40 shuttle price here in Copan!

        • Domingo January 29, 2016 at 7:52 am #

          See above. I think all prices are mentioned in the post. And otherwise I wouldn’t remember 🙂 Definitely less than the 40 USD. Tourist shuttles are ok in Guatemala but in Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua they are a total rip-off. Use public transport, it’s easy and we never felt unsafe (make sure to travel in daytime though). In San Salvador it’s better to take a taxi to get from one bus terminal to the other.

  2. Ggoat December 13, 2016 at 4:23 am #

    Hi Domingo

    Thanks for this post – I just did this trip in reverse (starting a bit further south in Apaneca), but I went via Guatemala, making two border crossings. I don’t have a lot of time on this trip, so I was hoping to get there in a day, which proved very achievable.

    In short, from Santa Ana to Copan took about 7 and a half hours cost $6.20 (I started a little further south in Apaneca).

    I have details on my blog – http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/ggoat/12/1481378842/tpod.html

    Thanks again,

    Ggoat

    • Domingo December 13, 2016 at 4:27 am #

      You’re welcome. And thanks for the additional information.

  3. Paul December 22, 2016 at 4:18 am #

    Hello n Merry Xmas:Awesome website, to begin with !! Questions:
    a. I have heard that that tourist buses are safer than “chicken buses”. How do I identify an authentic tourist bus ?
    b.Are buses easily available from Copan/Copan Ruinas ( I assume these two places are very close , a couple of kms) to Chiquimula ?
    c. Chiquimula to Santa Ana: Are the buses frequent ?

    Many thanks in advance

    Paul
    Calgary, Canada

    • Domingo December 23, 2016 at 4:11 am #

      Hi Paul,

      Tourist shuttles (these are minivans) are safer indeed as they are normally only populated with tourists and go directly to your destination. They are also more expensive. In Guatemala you will find them at reasonable prices going between all places of interest. Recommended. In Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua they are much more expensive though. So that’s why we took the public buses. We never felt this was dangerous. Either our luggage was in the compartment under the bus (you will have to trust the bus attendant) or, in chicken buses, in our overhead compartment where we could keep an eye on it (important!).

      Chiquimula to the border and on to Copan you shouldn’t have a problem finding transport. As I can recall there are minivans going from Chiquimula to the border (Copan is a poular destination). From the border there will be taxi’s to Copan (it’s not that far).

      We haven’t travelled from Chiquimula to Santa Ana but I think this is a pretty straightforward route so I assume there will be frequent buses. But you will have to do some research yourself.

      Regards, Domingo

      • Ggoat December 23, 2016 at 6:50 am #

        Just to add my 2 cents to this – I hope you don’t mind Domingo…

        Paul – be a bit careful about the distinction between Copan and Copan Ruinas – many people (myself included) use these terms interchangeably – as the ruins so famous (and only about 1km from the town of Copan Ruinas), but Copan is an entire Department of Honduras. Copan Ruinas is at the very west of the Department (and the country). When I was planning to go there I searched for Copan on Google Maps – the result was the centre of the Department, not Copan Ruinas.

        (Local) Minibuses from Copan Ruinas to the border run every 30 minutes during the day.Or any travel agent in Copan Ruinas will be able to arrange a tourist shuttle for you to Chiquimula.

        It looks like you want to go from Copan Ruinas to Santa Ana. I just did this trip in reverse taking a different route to Domingo, but also taking local buses the whole way. It was one of the highlights of this trip for me and very cheap – I blogged about it (link in my previous comment above) I didn’t feel in any danger, but as Domingo says, keep an eye on your luggage.

        Peace

        Ggoat

        • Domingo December 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

          Hi Ggoat,

          Thanks for the addition! And of course I don;t mind. The more up-to-date info the better 🙂

  4. Tine October 15, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! I am definitely considering Copán is it worth a detour? I am thinking about skipping Honduras (except from when I go through between El Salvador and Nicaragua) or would I be missing out?

    • Domingo October 18, 2017 at 8:59 am #

      Hello Tine,

      Thanks for the feedback. If you have the time I would definitely visit Copan. It’s a nice town on itself and the ruins are interesting. Besides that it’s close to the border so easily to fit in when coming from Guatemala. We haven’t travelled much in the rest of Honduras though (just a little side trip to Gracias). The island Roatan is popular for diving and I’m sure there are more interesting things to see. You will be off the beaten track for sure 🙂

    • Tine October 24, 2017 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Domingo. Thanks for answering, it sounds like I’ll have to make it to Honduras then 😉 I know very few people visit the country so I was doubting whether it would be worth it, but it sounds nice! I was thinking about visiting Roatan or Utila, but I guess I’ll just see when I am there 🙂

  5. Ggoat October 18, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    Hi Tine/Domingo

    Just to update my post above – the site where I kept my blog has died, so the link that I gave is now dead too. I have moved my blog to a new (almost fully functional) site – so my info about how to get to Copan from Ruta de Las Flores in Honduras via Guatemala is now here… http://v2.travelark.org/travel-blog-entry/ggoat/12/1481378842

    Hope it helps

    Peace out

    Ggoat

  6. Ciara O'toole October 21, 2017 at 2:51 am #

    Great blog… ive been searching other posts Nd cant figure where does the bus from copan ruinas leave for santa rosa? Thank you. Ciara

    • Domingo October 21, 2017 at 1:42 pm #

      Hello Ciara, if I’m correct the bus to Santa Rosa should leave from the bus station which is located between Av Sessesmil and the river. Just zoom in on Google Maps and you will see it.

  7. Jarrod March 16, 2018 at 8:39 pm #

    Interesting route, but inconvenient to the majority who will not be backtracking and will take the much shorter route.

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