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440km (273 miles) SE of Managua; 465km (289 miles) SE of Granada

In Bluefields, a gritty but colorful port town of 50,000, the Caribbean collides with Latin America. The end result is a languid and slightly edgy place, which perhaps is in keeping with the fact that the town was named after a pirate (a Dutch marauder named Blewfeldt). It was a thriving 19th-century town, living off timber, bananas, and God (in the form of Moravian missionaries whose neat little churches dot the region). The 20th century saw a decline in the region's fortunes, compounded by a confrontational attitude by the Managua government.

Today, a heady ethnic mix of Miskito Indian, mestizo, Spanish, and West Indian locals call the town home. Bluefields is also an important port with a murky bay and a murkier crime image. This image is somewhat unfounded, though the area is becoming famous for abandoned bales of cocaine rolling up on its coast (known as white lobster) and the social problems such a phenomenon causes. Many people choose to skip the town on their way to the Corn Islands, but if you do decide to linger, you'll find some of the best nightclubs and party spots in Nicaragua, as well as access to incredible coastal wildlife and landscapes such as the Pearl Lagoon and the tropical archipelago known as the Pearl Cays.