Dirty, chaotic yet curiously inviting, Bluefields, the most important of Nicaragua's three Caribbean ports, gets its name from the Dutch pirate Abraham Blaauwveld. It stands on a lagoon behind the bluff at the mouth of the Bluefields River (Río Escondido), which is navigable as far as Rama (96 km). In May there is a week-long local festival,
with elements of the British maypole tradition, local music, poetry and dancing. The local
Fiesta de San Jerónimo
is on 30 September. Tourist information is available from
. There are bars, a couple of reggae clubs,
, restaurants and an
Almacén Internacional
. Prices are about the same as in Managua. Be prepared for frequent power and water cuts.

Laguna de Perlas

The lagoon itself is some 50 km long with mostly Creole villages round its shores, such as Pearl Lagoon, Haulover, Brown Bank, Marshall Point and San Vicente.
La Fe
are Garífuna (of African descent) villages, while
are indigenous villages. In Raitipura there is a Danish housing project, run by Mogens Vibe who takes on volunteers for a minimum of one week (recommended). Within walking distance is the swimming beach of
(basic accommodation). Larger vessels may be available for transport to Puerto Cabezas, but there is no transport south of Bluefields.

Outlying areas of the Región Autonomista Atlántico Sur

Río Kurinwás
area north of Bluefields is a fascinating, largely uninhabited jungle area, where it is possible to see monkeys. It might occasionally be possible to get a boat to
(also called Nuevo Amanecer) a
town that will really give you a taste of the frontier. Tortuguero is about a six-hour speedboat ride from Bluefields up the Kurinwás River; several days by regular boat. The
Río Grande
is the next river north of the Kurinwás, connected to the Pearl Lagoon by the Top-Lock Canal. At its mouth are five interesting villages: the four Miskito communities of
Sandy Bay Sirpi
, and the Creole village of
La Barra
. Sandy Bay Sirpi is situated on both the river and the Caribbean and has a pleasant beach.

Travelling upriver, the Río Grande is noticeably more settled than the Río Kurinwás. After some distance (about a six-hour speedboat ride from Bluefields, several days by regular boat), you reach the
town of
La Cruz de Río Grande
. It was founded in about 1922 by Chinese traders to serve workers from a banana plantation (now disused) further upriver. La Cruz has a very pretty church. The adventurous can walk between La Cruz and Tortuguero; it takes about 10 hours each way in the dry season, 12 hours in the rainy season.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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