Q:

How can we go about visiting Nicaragua this winter?

We are thinking of visiting a friend in Nicaragua this winter. Is Nicaragua a safe travel destination? And can you recommend some good, active side trips from Bluefields? y San Marcos, CA

Feb 3, 2009
Outside
Outside Magazine
Nicaragua

Big Corn Island

A:

Nicaragua is a tucked-away, uncommercialized paradise—in small part due to its volatile relationship with civil war and hurricanes. As a result, budget-minded travelers have found peace and quiet on its tropical sands, a laid-back lifestyle, and plenty to explore at almost every turn. And while the local tourism industry would love to see the country’s tarnished imaged polished up a bit, the common-knowledge misunderstanding about Nicaragua means it’s still a bit off the beaten path.

Safety concerns are no different than any foreign country, and with the lowest crime rate in Central America, Nicaragua is even safer than the United States.

As for Bluefields…we suggest you bypass this town and head out to sea. Bluefields, located on the country’s eastern coastline bordering the Caribbean Sea, is the country’s most vital port town, fueled by the catch of the day (usually lobster) and a whole lotta rum. Land access, however, can prove difficult. Instead, opt for a two-hour flight from Managua—but opt for a layover in Bluefields before heading to the Corn Islands, just 50 miles off the coast. There, you’ll find two islands, a coral reef, plenty of ripe mangoes, and your best staging ground for finding adventure in this tropical paradise.

Settled by the British by way of Jamaica, Big Corn Island spans approximately three and a half square miles. Upon arrival, head to Anastasia’s on the Sea on the eastern shore of the island via scooter, which can be rented at Corn Island Car Rental for $46 per day. From this little resort by the sea, book a five-hour trip to test your hand at catching bonefish, barracuda, and tarpon in some of the best fly-fishing waters in the world. The abundance of fish (and minimal population) makes even the worst fly-fisherman’s day successful one. The coral reef at the north end of the island is a must-see, and snorkeling is the best way to do it. Anastasia’s has created a marine park just 100 feet from their restaurant. Swimmers will find buoys marking all the hot spots, including a sunken steam ship and aquatic species like spotted eagle rays and nurse sharks. And if you’re a little weary of setting out on your own, the resort offers guided tours. Once you’ve been underwater and know what to look for, take an open-sea tour. Kayak rentals are available, and paddling the shore is a perfect way to see the island’s shoreline. Rooms at Anastasia’s start at just $34 per night and include A/C, TV, and private bathroom. Because there are just 17 rooms, be sure to book ahead of time.

During your stay, make sure to catch the panga, an open boat that seats approximately 15 people, for a nine-mile trip to Little Corn Island. Even more underdeveloped than the small island’s big sister, this square-mile island is where you’ll find the country’s best scuba diving and even more peace and quiet. Make your way to Casa Iguana [casaiguana.net] on the southeast end of the island where you’ll find private cabanas and casitas. The resort is also home to the country’s first PADI registered dive resort, Dive Little Corn. With everything from a single dive ($38) to a scuba certification ($195), the resort offers adventure packages such as night dives, rescue dive courses, and pro-level PADI courses. After you’ve mastered scuba, kick back at Casa Iguana for one of the three daily gourmet meals of fish, conch, or lobster, caught and served daily. They also provide a variety of home-grown fruits and vegetables from their eight-acre shoreline property. And don’t forget to pack your headlamps, as most of the island has limited electricity at night. Cabins start at $35 per night and reservations are recommended.
–Amy A. Clark

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