Don't let its reputation fool you. Nicaragua's Caribbean coast is not entirely the whirlpool of turquoise postcard images you may have heard about or seen. Most of this steaming 520km (322 ft.) of Atlantic coast is a dense and inhospitable plain of tropical forest -- impenetrable and very wet. Its spotty weather is one of the reasons La Costa is a world apart from the rest of Nicaragua; the Spanish never actually got around to conquering it and it was a British, Protestant protectorate for many years until it was joined in name only with its Spanish neighbor in 1894. Its rich history of Miskito Indian culture and pirate heritage means its people are more like West Indians than Nicaraguans and they generally speak a lilting form of English creole rather than Spanish.
The Caribbean still remains very much isolated from the rest of Nicaragua, and its main town, Bluefields, is only accessible by sea or air. Little tourist infrastructure, be it visitor centers or shopping spots, exists here. Yet there are signs that the coast is opening up. The Corn Islands, 80km (50 miles) off the coast, are particularly becoming more popular, as they do actually offer a postcard-perfect white-beach paradise.