Monday, July 5, 2010

The Ultimate Guide to Puerto Cabezas

I imagine that some of my readers are currently saying "What gives? You haven't posted in two weeks!" I also imagine that the strength of this sentiment is directly proportional to the number of gene variations my reader and I have in common. In any case, I'll have you know that I have been most industrious these past few days, churning out the ULTIMATE (or at least above average) guide to Puerto Cabezas for those who will be coming here in the future. All the while being pitying the poor souls for not being able to arrive in Puerto with no idea whatsoever of what it was like, where they would be living, or what they would be doing.

Here are some excerpts that I hope the reader will find propitiatory:

First of all, you may be wondering, “What is this Bilwi/Puerto Cabezas business? Which is it? Am I going to Bilwi or Puerto Cabezas?” The correct answer is: it is both. You will be going to both places at once. “How very postmodern,” you reply. “How is this possible?” Bilwi is the name of the city, and Puerto Cabezas is the municipality. “But a municipality traditionally encloses no other governed districts. How can a city be located within a municipality?” You silly Anglophone! The city of Bilwi and several surrounding communities comprise one governmental district which several geographically distinguished regions. Bilwi is the urban(ish) center of Puerto Cabezas. The entire region is communally owned by various indigenous groups. I'm not sure what this means politically, but our friend Blanca says it's why the tourism industry will never take hold in Puerto. Apparently capitalists dislike communally owned territory.

As your levels of ennui begin to increase, I come to the more important question: “What am I going to do there? Where will I go?”


Puerto Cabezas features a plethora of restaurants and little cafes called comedores. Here are the ones I know best:

Kabu Payaska- One of the best restaurants in Puerto, Kabu Payaska is the classiest restaurant with plastic chairs you'll ever find. Located overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea, you will discover it truly lives up to its name, which is Miskito for “Sea Breeze.” As befitting such a location, it is especially known for its seafood dishes. An excellent choice for entertaining visiting family and friends.

Oasis- Located in the Loma Verde neighborhood on the far south side, Oasis enjoys the rather dubious distinction of “Best Pizza in Puerto Cabezas.” It really is quite tasty pizza. It also offers a wide array of brightly colored fruit juice options. The slow preparation time will allow you to enjoy a luxurious social hour with your friends, all while ensuring that health code is properly followed in the kitchen, which is separated from the dining area by a glass window. A delectable and, by US standards, economical choice for large groups of people.

Comedor Aquí Me Quedo- This adorable little restaurant is located next to the central park. It features typical Nica food- gallo pinto (beans and rice), fried chicken or other meats, tajadas (fried plaintain strips), fresh fruit juice. I can get a drink and food to last me for two meals, all for the reasonable price of 70 córdobas (about $3.50).

Mini-Market- A convenient 5-minute walk from our house, this mini-supermarket features a small cafe that sells tasty burgers and mediocre pizza that is quite possibly the second-best in Puerto Cabezas.

Other Food Places

“Familia Meza Chow”- This yummy-foods shop is located near the two schools, and is a popular hangout for students after as well as during class hours. It sells cakes, cookies, sweet breads, and homemade soft-serve ice cream.

Panaderia two houses down from “Baby's House”- This secret little gem is not marked by any sign, and until last week simply worked out of a house. It was known of only by word of mouth, like a hot Prohibition-era speakeasy. They now have a little wooden store-like structure that makes them easier to spot. This nameless bakery sells all sorts of sweet bread deliciousness.

Susana's house- Susana is the sister of Selmira, the directora of Maureen Courtney. We have a standing invitation to come to her house for lunch on Sundays. It is scrumptious and the company is most pleasant.

Mercado Central- One of the two open-air markets in Puerto, the Central is known as the Miskito market because most of the people who sell there are Miskito. You can buy produce, meat, clothing, basically anything that's available in Puerto is found here. Admittedly, that's not saying much.

Mercado San Geronimo- the Mestizo market, because most of the people who sell there are Mestizo. Smaller than the Central, it's also prohibitively far away from our house.

Supermercado Monter- A shining monument to the economic stimulus that comes from one of Puerto Cabezas' primary sources of income, drug trafficking. It's the only place in the city where you can buy liquid milk.


Casa Museo- Located right across the street from our house, Casa Museo features the colorful and whimsical artwork of Creole artist and Puerto native Judith Kain, as well as a variety of other costeño cultural pieces. Also a hotel, it´s a convenient place to store visiting family and friends.

Comisión Anti-drogas- This Austrian-funded non-profit features the premiere school of costeño dancing in the RAAN, out of which the nationally touring dance group sensation Sweting draws its membership. The dance teacher also offers aerobics classes in the evenings for 100 córdoba per week. Along with dance, the Comisión offers free classes in painting and guitar for young people.


Malecón- a discotech and restaurant. The floor is kind of small and the music is hit or miss, but it's a nice little place with good food and air conditioning. It's owned by the mayor of Puerto Cabezas, who endears himself to his constituents by not charging cover. Perhaps for this reason, it is the pre-party spot for most people going out on a Saturday night. It's busy until around midnight, and then everyone clears out and goes to Rincón. It also has a staircase that takes you down to the beach.

Rincón- the most popular discotech in Puerto Cabezas. It plays good music, but it's a little small to handle its reputation. It gets pretty crowded.

Miramar- The discotech with the largest dance floor. It attracts a younger crowd, and if you go you will likely see some of your students.

Polideportivo- An indoor basketball court that's also a venue for dance shows and any other large event.
It's across the street from a concrete soccer court. I say court, because field just wouldn't be accurate.

La Policia- A big huge field- really a field- by the police office where people play soccer. I guess they do that so the police can keep an eye on the vagrant youth.

Estadio Ernesto Hooker- baseball stadium where the local team plays.

La Bocana- A strip of beach where one of the rivers empties into the ocean. La Bocana is a good place to go swimming. During Semana Santa, it's transformed into a hot social area with swimming, restaurants, bars, dancing, live shows, and boxing.

Tuapi- A community near Bilwi, about 15 minutes away by car. Tuapi is known for its beautiful rivers, where people go bathing and picnicking. Just make sure the local brujos don't slap their mojo on you.

FAQ's For Pacific-side Nicaraguan:

Question: Do they even speak Spanish there?

Answer: 55% of the population of Bilwi speaks Miskito, and there is a Creole English-speaking community, as well. However, nearly everyone also speaks Spanish, which is the lengua franca of the area.

Question: So there are a lot of black people, huh?

Answer: The Coast has a strong African heritage that comes from slaves brought over by Europeans, so there are many people who are darker skinned that what is average in the Pacific. However, there is also a lot of Dutch and English as well as Spanish ancestry, so there are some people who are as white as any European. Throw in a mix of Miskito, Rama, Mayangna, and Chinese heritage, and you end up with pretty much every variation of skin color under the sun in this one little city.

In conclusion, most Pacific side Nicaraguans don't really know anything about the Atlantic Coast.

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