|Featured Destination: Nicaragua's Caribbean Coast &
When adventurous travelers consider a visit to Nicaragua, they picture themselves surfing pristine Pacific coast beaches, ash-boarding down the black-sand slopes of Cerro Negro Volcano and strolling past the colorful Spanish Colonial buildings in Granada. But those attractions are all in western Nicaragua. For true adventure, they might consider hopping a flight from the capital city of Managua to Nicaragua’s eastern coast, which has all the natural beauty, food and music of a Caribbean island. That is, of a Caribbean island 50 years ago, before high-rise hotels and cruise ships brought in hordes of tourists.
Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast is wild, untouched and pulsing to a reggae beat. Tourists may find themselves stumbling into colorful parades in the town of Bluefields, joining reggae and calypso jam sessions in remote villages or diving for their lobster dinner in the clear blue water off of the Corn Islands.
While Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua, on the Caribbean coast and in the Corn Islands, many people speak English, a remnant from when the British had outposts here. Costeño food is different from the corn-tortilla-based food on Nicaragua’s west coast. One of the area’s most popular dishes is rondon, a savory coconut-based soup that can feature beef, pork, or chicken, alongside a variety of starchy foods such as cassava and green plantains. When they serve rondon with seafood, they call the dish “Drop Drawers.” Coconut bread is used for everything, from morning toast to hamburger buns, and street vendors hawk the delicious likes of pati (a spicy beef pastie), and cinnamon and pineapple rolls.
For a budget-friendly, laid-back beach holiday, the Corn Islands are hard to beat. Fifty miles northeast of Bluefields, the two Corn Islands – Big Corn and Little Corn – boast exotic fruit and palm trees, white-sugar sand beaches and rustic-to-three-star lodgings right on the beach. Since the Corn Islands were a haven for pirates and buccaneers in the 17th century, divers and snorkelers can explore shipwrecks that lay scattered along the offshore reefs. Even further off the beaten track for the adventurous are the Pearl Keys, a chain of largely uninhabited islands just off the coast, whose waters are terrific for fishing. To sample the sounds of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, try Googling Bluefields’ “maypole music,” a tropical calypso groove with spicy lyrics and dance moves.