By Guest Blogger, Whitney Gould, the Finding Corte Magore project
Traveling along the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua is like shopping in a thrift shop – the gems are there, but you have to search for them. And when I say gems, I mean the most gleaming gems of all. From its jungle river rides to its coconut-infused cuisine, the often overlooked Caribbean Coast is full of discoveries, activities, and cuisine that left the three of us – my mother and founder of Finding Corte Magore, and Eric Anderson, FCM’s Communications Director and me – feeling as if we’d found a new wonder of the world in Bluefields, Nicaragua.
Bluefields was named after the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt who hid in the bay’s waters in the early 17th century. It has a population of 87,000 (2005) and its inhabitants are mostly Mestizo, Afro-descendant Creoles, and indigenous Miskitu, along with smaller communities of Garifuna, whites, Chinese, Mayangnas, Ulwas, and Ramas. Bluefields is Nicaragua’s chief Caribbean port, from which hardwood, seafood, shrimpand lobster are exported. Bluefields was a rendezvous for English and Dutch buccaneers in the 16th and 17th century and became capital of the English protectorate over the Mosquito Coast in 1678. During United States interventions (1912–15, 1926–33) in Nicaragua, American Marines were stationed there. In 1984, the United States mined the harbor (along with those of Corinto and Puerto Sandino). Bluefields was destroyed by Hurricane Joan in 1988 but was rebuilt. (Source: Wikipedia)
When traveling to this coastal region in Latin America, you’ll want some handy tips on the food and fun. Here’s where to start:
Food – When it comes to food, try everything with the Nicaraguans’ trademark coconut flare. Coconut accents enhance the flavors of rice, shrimp, and bread in ways you’ve never tasted. Hunt down a bakery selling signature pan de coco (coconut bread) – a dish with subtle but delectable hints of coconut that grow on you as you eat it. It’s nearly impossible to save any for later. If I’ve tempted your taste buds and no immediate trip to Nicaragua is in your future, trying making your own pan de coco bread at home with this recipe.
For seafood, try Pelican Bay (or as the local taxi drivers call it, “El Pelicano”) – not necessarily for the cuisine (although it’s good), but for the view. Take a look at the dishes cooked with coconut – I recommend the shrimp and rice. It was so good I ordered it two days in a row. Be sure to find a seat outside. Seated over Bluefields Bay, the balcony offers amazing views of the water and nearby islands. It’s a great place to take pictures of the passing pangas, well-presented dishes, or better yet, both:
Fun – A foolproof way to have fun in Nicaragua is to spend time in the water. Take a panga through the bay and the connecting rivers. This is the easiest (and sometimes only) way to travel from place to place. Pearl Lagoon*, home of Fred Ulrich’s restaurant, Casa Ulrich, is known for vibrant locals, a beach-like atmosphere, and big screen TVs for sports fanatics. Order the seafood platter, have a beer, play a game of beach soccer, and you’re sure to have a fun-filled day.
If you’re up for the day trip, take some time to go to Pearl Lagoon by boat. Fred Ulrich, Swiss trained chef and Nicaragua local, owns this top-notch seafood restaurant right off the dock. Since you’ll be staying for dinner as well as lunch, be sure to try the seafood pasta in both the red and white sauces. Don’t forget to wash your food down with a Toña Cerveza – the most popular beer in Nicaragua (and we see why)! Watch the video below as Eric gives his critique of this Nicaraguan beer.
If you have time for another day trip, schedule a tour at CEDEHCA’s own farm, HugKey**. HugKey is a sanctuary unlike any other for ducks, pigs, turkeys, and chickens. Set on a lush, sprawling, open field, the island is also covered with gardens, fruit trees, and vegetable patches. Plus, your visit contributes to a great cause. CEDEHCA is using the farm to teach young people how to raise farm animals -like hogs, chickens and turkeys, grow fruits and vegetables, and sell to local businesses. If you’re interested in visiting the farm, contact Earl Gregory Taylor, CEDEHCA’s Operations Coordinator, at (505) 8430 0884 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Munch on some sugar cane while you’re there!
*Be sure to wear pants to protect from local mosquitos! – Yes, I learned the hard way. By the time, I left Pearl Lagoon, I had over 50 mosquito bites on my legs. Mom and Eric both paid heed to local advice to wear bug spray, but I thought I was impervious to what I thought I was only local lore. By the way, my mom was using her own lavender, orange and euculyptus natural oil concoction and she escaped the whole trip without a single bite.
I hope you fall in love with the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua like I did. Open yourself up to experience the flavors, personality, and beauty of the coast and its people, and I promise that you, too, will enjoy not only these gems, but will find some of your own!
Some day soon, we hope to see you visit us on Corte Magore at Hog Cay, Nicaragua!