When you first arrive, go ahead and find a place to stay and dump your bags off there. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for directions; the chamberos (porters) are used to giving travelers a helping hand. If they walk you somewhere or carry bags for you, tip them 10 or 20 cords. With a day or two to kill in town, take a walk to the tiny Miskito village of Awas. There you can have lunch and go for a swim. If you are get a chance, don’t leave without catching a baseball game in the stadium. The main draw to Pearl Lagoon is as a jumping off place to get to the Pearl Cays. It can be pricey, but well worth the trip. If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, you can visit the communities kayaking around the lagoon.
Pearl Cays are a group of picturesque Caribbean islands just off the coast. Think of it as the tropical beach postcard scene you always wanted to take a real photo of. You won’t see anybody else except for an occasional local fisherman. While some of the keys have houses on them, many are completely uninhabited and you will have an island to yourself. There are several outfitters who can take you there. Getting to Awas is easy, just be prepared to walk! Follow the road past the FADCANIC school and out of town several kilometers until you get to the first little town of Raikipura. Hang a left and follow that dirt road to Awas. There you will find a shallow beach good for swimming and a charming little village with welcoming inhabitants. On the right as you enter the village is a hut built over the water. There you can get a drink and relax before exploring the village. If at any point you aren’t sure how to get where you are going, just say the word “Awas?” to a passing local and they will point you in the right direction. OR, just grab a mototaxi for C$10/person. Cheap!
To the keys and communities
There are several operators that can get you out and about in the water. When planning to get to the keys, keep in mind that the trip may seem more expensive than you might have been expecting, but the main reason for that is the cost of gasoline in Pearl Lagoon. And takes a lot of fuel to get out there and back. The cheapest option is usually to ask around if you see other travelers to see if they want to join your group (or you join theirs). If the keys are not an option because of your budget, you can get to some of the communities in the area for far less money than the keys.
A trip just as (if not more) amazing is to see some of the local villages in the area. Kahkabila is a miskito/creole village close to Pearl Lagoon (though still accessible only by panga) where you can jump in on an afternoon football game, swim out in the lagoon, hike the trails in the reserve behind the community or listen to fascinating stories from the older locals. Orinoco is the main village for the Garifuna people in Nicaragua, a tiny ethnic group descended from a escaped captives of a slave ship that wrecked on a Caribbean island north of Honduras in the 17oos. Karawala is one of the few places where people still speak Ulwa, an indigenous language with roots to the Sumo culture from the north of the country. There are a handful of other communities, each just as fascinating as the one before it. Kayak Nicaragua offers trips around several of the villages and jungle creeks surrounding them.
You can find tour operators just by asking around at the wharf, though you can’t be sure of their reliability/reputation. Casa Blanca works with a dependable operator and can set up trips to anywhere in the lagoon or keys for a fair price. Casa Ulrich also. Queen Lobster operates their own panga out to the keys and offers overnight camping. They also offer a Pearl Keys to Corn Island deal where you can visit the keys and continue on to Little Corn Island directly for about $400 – $500. With a small group, that may be the best deal in town. They also offer sailing lessons in the traditional dugout canoes and paddling trips up Tuba Creek and other jungle creeks. Trips to communities and the Pearl Keys can also be set up in Bluefields or online through Atlantic Tour.
There isn’t much of a bar scene in Pearl Lagoon, though there are a few. Parties don’t rock on until daylight like in Bluefields and quite often peter out between midnight and 1am. That being said, there are definitely some cool places to check out if you have a few nights to spend in the town.
Bar Relax (beer C$20) is a watering hole where you will find the music reggae, beer cold and the locals friendly. Grab a beer then grab a seat, or hang out outside with the locals and watch the clientele come and go.
A favorite among many of the travelers is Queen Lobster which has a nice bar right over the water. Offers a great view, nice breeze and good music…defintely the place to be to watch the sun go down.
Right next door is Erica’s Bar. It is basically a house converted into a bar/dance hall where the music is loud but they play a good mix of local favorites.
If you really want to get local, start early at the Miskito bar First Stop on the water just a few meters right of the municipal wharf. They start serving when the owners show up, usually about 9am.