If the people on the east coast of Nicaragua don’t show much in the rest of the country, it’s probably because the country doesn’t show much interest in them. This is an area barely connected to the rest of the country, an area that has never felt very represented by the distant government in Managua. Something approaching English is the lingua franca here, and the culture has more to do with Jamaica and the old English colonies than the Spanish ones. Music is a big deal, seafood is abundant and rain is ubiquitous.
Bluefields is the hub for most of the coast; you can get here by flying in from Managua or by a bus-boat combination. Don’t expect the multi-tiered ferries of Cocibolca though; the waterways here are narrow and sometimes impassable in the wet season. The town is named after a Dutch pirate and retains something of his swagger. It is rough, but not as rough as some say. You won’t find gangs armed with assault weapons at every bar. You will find plenty of people with far better moves than you though.
The Corn Islands can be reached by plane or boat from Bluefields. Again, don’t expect too much of your boat. Little Corn Island is the more idyllic, which is a way of saying that most people you meet here will be on vacation. Still, the island lives up to the crystalline Caribbean cliché. Big Corn Island has a hard reputation but has increased its security presence in recent years. It also has plenty of beach space to sell, as well as more locals, which also means more music and better food.