Bluefields, Nicaragua, is a rough-and-tumble port town on the Atlantic coast, 175 mi/280 km east of Managua. It is very much removed from the rest of the country, both physically—it's on the sparsely populated Caribbean coast—and culturally. Most travelers skip Bluefields unless they're catching a boat to the Corn or Pearl islands. However, because of the rough sea conditions most months of the year, and long land-and-sea travel times, it's better to fly to those destinations.

Bluefields was dominated by the British from the 1500s until the mid-1800s. Later, Jamaican laborers settled, and most people there speak English. Bluefields—the name derives from that of a Dutch pirate, Capt. Blewfeldt—and the surrounding region retain a strong Caribbean atmosphere (there are some good reggae clubs).

Bluefields suffered almost complete destruction by Hurricane Joan in 1988, and, unfortunately, much of what made the area unique—colonial architecture and houses built on stilts—no longer stands. The beautiful hilly, tropical setting and distinctive culture remain, however. They make the area a worthwhile destination, but it's off the main travel path. Accommodations are rudimentary and drug-trafficking (and associated violence) is a major concern.

Boat trips can be made to nearby Pearl Lagoon, El Rama town and Rama Cay. If you plan on visiting Bluefields and the Caribbean coastal destinations, consider taking one of several daily flights between Managua and Bluefields. Going the same distance overland is time-consuming and extremely uncomfortable.

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