Reggae, Country and Rondon
Most who make the trip to Bluefields do so to experience the unique Caribbean culture and reggae music.
But cowboys can also get their fix of oldtime country music. Virtually every bar you go to splits its music selection between reggae and traditional country western, the result of historic trading routes that brought up Bob Marley from the south and Hank Williams from the north.
Among the best places to mull over this odd mixture is La La’s, a waterside bar just a short walking distance from the main entry point into town (walk a block up from the municipal dock, turn right). At night, you can practice your “hug up,” a sensual dance where couples slowly grind down to the floor.
A number of good dance bars are in the center of town, including Bacchus and Venus. But the best place is the darkly lit Four Brothers (six blocks north from the central park). As one local puts it, “If you haven’t been to Four Brothers, you haven’t been to Bluefields.”
Sundays, tourists can catch a live reggae show while gambling at the Hotel Oasis and Casino.
Alexander Scott, one of the founders of the Bluefields Sound System (see separate story), offers a walking tour of the all the reggae and cultural hot spots, followed by a home-cooked meal. Day trips are planned for Pearl Lagoon as well, where you can rent horses to ride along the scenic coast. Email: [email protected], for more info. To get to Pearl Lagoon, head to the municipal dock for a two-hour boat ride.
Where to Eat
There is no shortage of small restaurants that serve up hearty Caribbean cooking.
Many of these are centered along the main street down from Central Park. Don’t forget to try the rondon, the rich tasting seafood stew that is a local specialty. Among the fanciest restaurant in town is Chez Marcel (572-2347), where an excellent lobster dinner
can run about $10.
On a hill top overlooking the city you can find top-notch Nicaraguan fare at La Loma (572-2275), across from the BluefieldsIndianCaribbeanUniversity. Manglares Restaurant, right below the Bay View Bed & Breakfast, has similar offerings with a beautiful waterside view.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Oasis (572-2812), at less than $80 a night and with all the first-class comforts, is hands down the best option in Bluefields. Another nice option is the Bay View Bed & Breakfast (882-1157), not far from La La’s overlooking the water. Double rooms go for close to $60. South Atlantic II (572-2265) is also recommended.
Quality drops precariously once you look for cheaper options.
How to get There
A five-hour bus ride from Managua takes you to El Rama and drops you off in the dark at 2 a.m. on the dock to wait for the 5 a.m. boat to Bluefields. The trip, in a word, is horrible.
You’d be smart to spare yourself the headache and take a flight. The easiest and more expensive option is to jump on one of two airlines, Atlantic (222-5787) or La Costeña (263-1228), which can fly you from the Managua international airport to Bluefields in 45 minutes. Those with frayed nerves from the bus trip out can return one-way for $80, the best money you’ll probably ever spend.
Adventure and Comfort
Enjoy the stunning beaches or scuba dive in some of the best coral reefs in Central America.
Nautilus (575-5077), a few kilometers north of the main dock, offers an affordable range of snorkeling and diving trips. You can
spend a calm couple of hours just offshore or try more advanced waters near Blowing Rock. Fishing trips with a local guide can also be arranged through your hotel.
There is plenty of white sand to kick up your heels on, but the nicest spot is Picnic Beach, overlooking Southwest Bay. The part of the island known as the South End offers more secluded beaches with warm turquoise water. Taxis are 15 córdobas (less than a $1) wherever you go here.
You can also rent a golf cart at Arena’s Beach (575-5223) or at South End Sunrise Hotel (820-2819).
For nightlife, don’t miss Nico’s on the southern side of the island. The restaurant next door to Nautilus also has live music on weekends.
Where to Eat
For the best view, try Anastasia’s on the Sea (575-5001) by the Bayside Hotel on the northern end of the island. It sits on stilts overlooking the ocean and serves whatever they pretty much just caught off the front porch. Heading southeast from Anastasia’s on the same road is the island’s longtime reigning favorite, Dos Millas (575-5058), which specializes in fresh seafood. But the open-air restaurant at Casa Canada (644-0925) is gaining fast, offering six different lobster dishes.
Where to Stay
The best option is Casa Canada (644- 0925), which is the only hotel here that has a pool. The 20 cabanas, overlooking the South End, are well worth the $75 a night.
There are a number of charming, beachfront places that range from reasonably priced to exceptionally cheap. Among the longest running of the mid-range options is the Picnic Center Hotel and Restaurant (575-5204), which has a great beachside bar.
Near BrigsBay is another mainstay, the Paraiso Club (575-511), which overlooks several shipwrecks. Circling the ocean-side road takes you to several other alternatives, with the nicest and least expensive being Hotel Best View (575-5082). For $10 a night, you can’t beat the location.
What the Caribbean Was Like
ust seven square miles and with no roads, Little Corn is the more adventurous of the two islands, which is part of its charm. The only way to get here is by taking a bumpy 40-minute panga ride from Big Corn.
Heading south from the dock, you will pass a few buildings before you wander into a Gilligan-type dirt path that takes you to the other side of the island. A 10-minute walk will put you on a stunning stretch of white sand, probably with no one else in sight. Dive Little Corn ([email protected] com), in the center of town, offers professional scuba and ith the same stunning marine life as Big Corn. The one plus is an underwater cave.
You can hire a boat from Casa Iguana to take you out fishing. Nightlife is a little more sanguine here, especially if you are staying further out on the island. There are no lighted pathways once you leave town, although circling the beach under a full moon is a pleasant way to return home. Habana Libre and Happy Hut, both on PelicanBeach, are your best bet for staying out late.
Where to Eat
Habana Libre (848-5412) serves impressive Cuban dishes, such as pulled pork, while the nearby Lobster Inn (847-1763) serves excellent seafood. On the south side are a few pleasantly run beachfront restaurants, such as Carlito’s, which serves sandwiches.
Where to Stay
The highest-end option, meaning air conditioning and a concrete floor, is the pleasantly appointed Los Delfines (892-0816). Just down the sidewalk from the main dock, you have the extra luxury of being able to wheel your luggage to the hotel. Casa Iguana, on the south side where phone service is spotty, is the most recommended, thanks to its stunning hillside view overlooking the calm blue waters ([email protected] com). The pink-colored wood cabins are modest, but there’s Internet service, massage therapy on the beach, and a rather impressive set of current U.S. magazines.
A 20-minute walk up are the modest Derek’s Place ([email protected]) and Farm Peace and Love ([email protected] hotmail.com). These are pretty much your own communes, with 1960s-influenced huts and living. Both serve all meals.
Getting to the Islands
Domestic airlines Atlantic (222-5787) and La Costena (263-1228) offer direct flights ($170) to BigCornIsland from Managua. You can also catch a short flight from Bluefields. Boats leaving from the main dock in Bluefields take about five hours or longer to reach Big Corn. From Big Corn, it’s a choppy 40-minute boat ride to Little Corn.
The boat leaves from BrigsBay at 10 a.m. and returns at 2:30 p.m. If you stay the night in Little Corn, you can catch a 7 a.m. boat to meet your morning flight home.