While Bluefields is technically the main Caribbean-side port town of Nicaragua, it sits on the western edge of Bluefields Bay, not the Caribbean. You do not want to touch, drink, swim through, or make direct eye contact with Bluefields Bay. However, 33 cords and a bit of patience will get you across the bay and to the bluer Caribbean waters of El Bluff.
Before Hurricane Joan, El Bluff was attached to Bluefields by land. With the sand bar between them washed away, the only efficient way to get there now is by boat. Pangas leave the dock to the right of the waterside market throughout the day, as soon as a dozen people with 33 cords show up. This gets you to the bay side of El Bluff, and a 30-minute walk past the large commercial fishing boats, bright houses, and tiny pulperias gets you to the beach. 47 or so cords would get your lazy ass directly to the beach.
When you actually arrive at the beach (and you will see the initial stretch of sand, empty and desolate, and believe that the sand flies have taken over), which is actually up ahead around a distant curve of sand and cement wavebreakers, you’ll find yourself annoyed that your only contacts with water in Bluefields since you arrived have been rainwater showers.
The amenities of El Bluff are about as intricate as one could expect: one or two shops in thatched huts along the water, selling basic food and cold drinks. The other thatched huts with palm tree roofs, built for the Semana Santa vacation week, are available for general use. The water is temperate, bluish, with large waves and a strong undercurrent. The sand is very soft, infused with patches of light pink and orange shells. There’s usually a constant breeze off the water, minimizing the heat and the sand flies.
If the wind stops (it probably won’t), run.
For your trip, remember plenty of sunscreen, a swimsuit, a soccer ball, something cold, lunch (or a bit of extra cash), a small pouch for shells, and cordobas for the return panga ride. Oranges and other fruit can be found easily at the waterside market in Bluefields (a friend of ours, wisely, had one of the kids we were traveling with run and buy 40 cords of oranges before we headed out; $2 bought about forty oranges). A hammock isn’t a bad idea either, for hanging up in the huts, and it can also provide a place for you to sleep if you don’t make it back to the docks before four.