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"How the Caribbean should be," is how one visitor described Nicaragua's unspoiled island treasures. The Corn Islands, consisting of 6-sq.-km (2 1/4-sq.-mile) Big Corn and 1.5-sq.-km (1/2-sq.-mile) Little Corn, are two kernels of Caribbean paradise located 83km (52 miles) east of the Nicaraguan coast and are perhaps my favorite part of Nicaragua. The islands' luminous coastal bays and shores are ideal for diving, snorkeling, fishing, or simply sunning. And how could you not be happy on islands with names like Coconut Point, Sally Peaches, and Jokeman Bank?

Though the islanders, many of whom have surnames like Morgan and Dixon that call to mind the pirates and adventurers who landed here years ago, are traditionally dependent on fishing and coconut growing for a living, tourism is quickly becoming another prominent economic force here. I sincerely hope that this increasing tourism unfolds in a sustainable manner, for these are two true treasure islands, with some of the best beaches I have ever wandered upon. The laid-back vibe also lends itself to some great parties: During Easter, the otherwise deserted beaches get packed with revelers, as they do for the Crab Soup Festival in late August, a traditional festival celebrating slave emancipation.

There is very little happening here in terms of nightlife, however. Unlike nearby Bluefields, the only thing to do here after dark is stroll along the beach or have a drink in your hotel -- so don't come expecting to party.