San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Family Hotel Puts Friendly Face on San Salvador

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR – There are certain childhood thrills that some people never outgrow.

For me, embarrassingly enough, opening the door to a hotel room for the first time is one of those thrills. I basically know what to expect on the other side of the door – a predictable arrangement of bed, desk, TV, night table and bathroom – but it’s still fun to open the door and see it for the first time; a simple pleasure that goes back to early childhood memories of family vacations.

After the initial thrill of walking into a new hotel room, the rest of my stay – especially if it’s for work – is usually nondescript.

A month afterwards, I probably couldn’t tell you what my room looked like, what I ate in the hotel restaurant or give you any other meaningful impression of my stay. If the Internet service was spotty, I’ll remember that, but not much else.

But once in a while one stays in a place that seems set apart from the herd; a comfortable and friendly place that fits right, doesn’t overreach and doesn’t seem too institutional. In the capital of El Salvador, Hotel Terraza is one of those friendly hotels where it’s fun to be a guest.

Owned and run by Sylvia Castañeda and her father, Carlos, Hotel Terraza is one of the city’s oldest and most reputable hotels – an 80-room establishment that’s managed with the familiar coziness of a bed and breakfast.

The cheerful staff, many of whom have been with the hotel for years, greet guests by name and the Castañedas make a point of getting to know the people who choose to stay with them.

That personal touch has translated into a customer loyalty that helps Hotel Terraza compete with the bigger hotel chains that have since moved into San Salvador.

“Once clients know us, they stay with us again – they feel like we become their home away from home,” Sylvia Castañeda said.

One of their regular guests, she added with a laugh, has come to feel so comfortable at the hotel over the years that he comes down to the restaurant in his slippers.

“We love to see the clients enjoying the hotel,” she said.

The hotel has an old-fashioned feel and décor to it – like one that was decorated in the 1970s and boldly resisted the comings and goings of subsequent decorative trends. But in other regards, Hotel Terraza is on the cutting edge of social and environmental practices, as well as technology.

Sylvia Castañeda said the hotel installed solar panels for its water heating more than 10 years ago, “before it was trendy.” It has also set up progressive social programs that provide scholarships to more than 90 highschool students.

The hotel also has a fully functioning business center complete with scanners, docking stations, web cams and all the bells and whistles guests may need during their stay. And unlike most older retrofitted hotels, the wireless Internet in the rooms works perfectly.

Hotel Terraza is also appointed with a conference room, exercise room and bar. But perhaps the main attraction of the hotel is its gourmet restaurant, which has won numerous gastronomy awards over the years. At night, the cozy Orquideas Restaurant serves up gourmet cuisine, specializing in steaks and seafood.

And in the morning, the friendly Veranda Restaurant overlooking the pool has a wonderful buffet breakfast, included in the price, that will assure guests get up early and head downstairs to get the day started. Just remember to put on your slippers on first.

For more info and to find out about the special promotion in August, visit


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