Nicaragua’s low-lying Atlantic coast makes up more than half the country’s total landmass. It’s mostly composed of impenetrable mangrove swamps and jungle, and as such only a few places in the region attract visitors in any number: Bluefields, a raffish port town, the idyllic Pearl Lagoon just to the north, and the Corn Islands, which boast sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and a distinctly Caribbean atmosphere. Outside these areas, the coast remains an untouristed tangle of waterways and rainforests, and should be approached with caution and negotiated only with the aid of experienced locals and good supplies of food, water and insect repellent. Indeed, there is only one actual town in the northern half of the coast – Puerto Cabezas. Few travellers make the trip (flying is the only real transport option), but the impoverished town has a unique feel and is the best access point for the Miskito-speaking wildernesses of the northeast.
The possibilities for ecotourism in this vast, isolated coastal region are obvious, though a scarcity of resources and a lack of cooperation between central and local government have so far stymied all progress, while the long-discussed highway linking Managua and Bluefields has failed to leave the drawing board.