A few years ago a European NGO decided to build Bluefields a badly-needed road connection to the outside world. But when they called a meeting with the city's elders to discuss the project's implementation, they were surprised at what they heard. The elders informed them that they did not want the road, out of fears that it would dilute their traditional way of life.
As a result, Bluefields has remained largely in isolation. With the town's rich culture, colorful Palo Mayo celebrations, and proximity to spectacular sights like the Corn Islands and Laguna de Perlas, it should be cashing in on Nicaragua's tourism boom. Instead, the town remains as it was twenty years ago. Their traditional way of life has indeed remained intact, along with the poverty that accompanied it.
If you do decide to visit, Viva wholeheartedly recommends that you spring for the plane ticket. Otherwise be prepared for a wet, uncomfortable and difficult ride. Read through the Getting There and Away section very carefully, and make sure your trip is timed appropriately.
Other than the Palo Mayo celebrations and a thumping nightlife, Bluefields itself does not offer a whole lot to visitors. There are some excellent restaurants, and the Garifuna culture is something to explore, but if you're heading to the Corn Islands you'll find both of these in far richer abundance, with gorgeous beaches and excellent hotels to boot. The vast bulk of visitors just use Bluefields as a base for exploring the area. Recently, there's been talk that Bluefields' intended road will instead be built to Laguna de Perlas, connecting that city to Rama and the main road network. There's talk on the islands that once this road is completed ferries should be rerouted to Laguna de Perlas as well. If this happens, expect Bluefields to disappear from travelers' itineraries for good.
Michael Karanicolas is awesome.