Caribbean Coast Adventures You Are Too Wimpy To Do

Some have likened the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to the wild west, and in a lot of ways, that isn’t far from the truth. This is one of the least-visited locales in Central America and offers an intrepid traveler a plethora of adventures that most people will never even think about, much less do. Put on your fedora and grab you whip because that is the closest you will ever get to real adventures like these.

1. Panga ride from Corn Island to San Andreas, Colombia, and back

This used to be a common route when San Andreas was in a tug of war bid between Colombia and Nicaragua. Colombia won. A few people in Corn Island have family there, but it has become more and more difficult to come and go since the Sandanistas took power and the war on drugs has gotten militarized.

Why you are too wimpy to do it: This 4 – 5 hour route is probably the biggest corridor for cocaine smuggling between Colombia and Nicaragua. Going from Corn Island to San Andrés might be doable, but returning means having to look for a drug boat to hitchhike on. And people who do it run the risk of getting picked up by the American or (much less preferable) the Nicaraguan Navy.

We will get there in no time!

So unless running the risk of getting robbed and thrown overboard by drug smugglers on the high sea, swamping the panga in bad weather or getting arrested by the Navy for smuggling cocaine sounds like your idea of a fun vacation, I suggest you fly.


2. Diving the Man-o-War Cays

There are a plethora of islands that dot the Nicaraguan coast, the most remote being the Man-0-War Cays. When I say remote, I mean to say that most Nicaraguans have never heard of them. From Managua, you would have to take an 8-hour bus ride to El Rama, catch a 2-hour panga ride to Bluefields, find another panga going north to Sandy Bay Sirpe which is the frontier of the RAAS, then head out due east to the horizon across the open ocean for another hour or so. If you don’t blink, you just might find the little cluster of islands poking their pouty white beaches up just high enough to grow palm trees. And underneath the waves, untouched coral formations.

Why you are too wimpy to do it: There is great diving in Nicaragua, mostly centered around the Corn Islands. Let me rephrase that…completely centered around the Corn Islands. The Pearl Cays in front of Pearl Lagoon and Moskito Cays out past Puerto Cabezas have been explored under the water but still remain well-kept secrets. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been diving in the Man-o-War Cays and it remains what could be an undiscovered paradise below the sea. Why? Difficult to reach for one. Secondly, the other “well-kept secrets” are easier to get to. Oh, and one of the islands is said to be the back of a beast that swam down from the northern Miskito Cays searching for the indian princess he fell in love with. He lies in wait for her to return.

 If you have the gear, the money to get out there, the local contacts to make it happen and you don’t mind to risk turning into monster food, by all means go for it. Let me know how you get on. Otherwise, stick to diving Corn Island.


3. Exploring the hidden ruins of Rio Indio

Hundreds of years ago, the ‘old people’ lived among the trees, rivers and rocks. Now all that is left are superstitions of the scattered Rama tribes and a few strange carvings that have been found. And a giant wall buried deep in the jungle.

I have seen only one photo of it. It was a blurry image of a wall built from black rock stacked 30′ high that split the jungle like a knife. They say there is an entrance in the wall that is inaccessible to outsiders. Only Rama can enter. Not far from there is a small waterfall and underneath that is an alter of sorts made from black stone carved to look like sea turtle backs.

Why you are too wimpy to do it: Supposedly only a few elders from the small Rama tribe living in the Rio Indio know how to get there. And it ain’t easy. This is a jungle trek of Indiana Jones proportions. Just getting to the jump-off point of Rama village of Makengue means paddling deep into the Indio-Maiz reserve. Then you have to find a guide to carry you through the suffocating jungle battling mosquitoes, ants, snakes, poison frogs, botflies and of course, jaguars. Plan on spending the night in the jungle because this isn’t a day trip.

Somewhere out there lies a buried city

Bring your machete, hammock and insect repellent. Or better yet, check back to the RightSide Guide in January. I plan on making a trek out there in December. Merry Christmas to me!



3 Responses to “Caribbean Coast Adventures You Are Too Wimpy To Do”

  1. Durward Erminger18 November, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    Too wimpy huh?

    I visited Man-ó-War Cays in September of 2004 with the then síndico Ray Koning (RIP) and his son-in-law of Kuamwatla. Roy had recently developed involuntary muscle shaking indicating the onslaught of Parkinson´s disease. I was already visiting the community when they invited to take me to the cayos.

    We travelled in the son-in-law´s dori with a 5 HP outboard. The boat had been constructed so narrow and with so much freeboard that unloaded it would come to rest laying on one side with the gunnel just barely out of the water. With a low-riding cargo I suppose that it rode stable. In our case, however, the boat would roll violently with even the slightest movement. It also had the alarming characteristic of rolling to the outside in a turn rather than rolling into it!

    We followed the same creek towards Wanclua which Casey mentions in his tale about travelling along the coast. One passes some coconut plantations that only separate the creek from the Caribbean by less than one hundred yards. The breaking waves on the beach are clearly visible between the coconut trunks. The mouth or bar of Wanclua is sandy and quite narrow. By late dry season I´m told it completely closes up.

    We passed through the bar and headed out to sea. The sea on that day was a beautiful deep blue color from the beach and beyond. As soon as we lost sight of the beach, Man-ó-War Cays came into view. When we reached the first cay, I could easily see that the cay was surrounded on the leeward side by a very shallow reef and crystal clear water. I was awed by the beauty of this tiny island on our approach. We eased through a narrow passage in the reef and poled and paddled the rest of the way over broken coral.

    Leaving the dori, I could see that virtually all of the tiny cay was covered by small buildings, huts, humanity, stench, and filth. I was told that the cay serves as a base for buying, packing, and freezing lobsters. Most of the people there are residents of nearby Sharin/Sandy Bay. There were also numerous gasoline powered air compressors which were constantly refilling airtanks for the lobster divers.

    Walking through the center of the cay, we quickly reached the coral rock windward side of the island. I was surprised to find that there was no reef whatsoever on that exposed side. The caribbean crashed mercilessly against the rocks splashing salt spray well inland of the waters edge.

    After we bored of the little cay, we motored on to circle an even smaller cay lying adjacent to it. This cay is composed of huge coral slabs with a small building right on top of the rock. I don´t recall that this cay had any sort of reef about it. This cay is apparently owned by a private company which also buys lobster. I was told that visitors were NOT welcome there!

    The leeward side of Man-ó-War Cays was used many years ago to protect ships from wind and waves as they loaded huge rafts coming from the jungles of Rio Prinzapolka and Rio Grande de Matagalpa with caribbean pine lumber, and giant mahogany and spanish cedar logs headed for ports in the United States and other countries.

    As we pulled away from Man-ó-War Cays I could see a huge and menacing warship off in the distance. I was told that it belonged to the U.S. Navy!

    Upon our return to Wanclua, we took another fork to the south. This stream is called Sanglaya and comes from deep in the jungles to the west that belong to Kuamwatla. There are plans to open a canal from Snook Creek which passes northward from Sharin/Sandy Bay connecting it to Sanglaya. Once that section is completed, an inland water route will connect Bluefields to Puerto Cabezas.

    A short distance up the Sanglaya we entered a small creek then walked to a site in the caribbean pine savannah called Sawbaikan. There, Roy showed me a spot in the crystal clear waters of the creek where a half dozen pine ¨sinker¨ logs had been left on the bottom over thirty years previously. At that time, the community was selling pine to Waddell and Ivy Lumber Company and me (CELNIC S.A.)! When pine logs are left exposed to air they quickly mold, are attacked by bugs, and subsequently rot. These logs had been protected by the clear water and remained in perfect condition!


  2. dgizzle3 December, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    I am interested in going deep into the Indio-Maiz reserve. I am going with another buddy of mine from dec 18th until dec 30th. We are interested in seeing as much wildlife as possible. Do you have any recommendations on where to go in Nicaragua? Specifically Indio-Maiz reserve? With limited time we don’t know if its worth going there since its so remote and difficult to get to.

    Are Itinerary includes hiking San Cristobal and another large volcano up north>beaches north of san juan del sor> Isle de omotepe> and Indio Maiz Resreve (for wildlife. we have a total of 10 full days and would like to hike the biggest and most beautiful volcanoes, chill on the beach for a day and omotepe and see as much wildlife as possible.

    I have been to corcovado national park in costa rica and found it to be the most biologically diverse place that I have ever been too. I saw more natural beauty and wildlife there in 1 day then in the rest of my 5 week stay in costa rica. I am looking for the equivalent jungle and reserve in Nicaragua any advice?

    • Casey5 December, 2011 at 10:15 am #

      I sent you a more detailed email, but in short, the Reserva Indio Maiz is about as biologically diverse of a place you as you can find on land. The only other place in Nicaragua that might be more so would be diving the reefs around Corn Island.

      I hope to post more info about the indio maiz the early part of 2012.

      Good luck!

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