Nicaragua’s primary port complex is the reason for Corinto’s existence, linking Nicaragua with the shipping lines of the Pacific. Corinto is 20 kilometers southwest of Chinandega  with a couple of halfway decent beaches and a small range of simple hotels and seaside restaurants.
Corinto’s 20,000 inhabitants live on 49 square kilometers of what is actually a barrier island, connected to the rest of Nicaragua by two small bridges.
The Spanish first made use of the harbor in the 1500s, but didn’t completely conquer the region until 1633, when an armada of 26 ships, 500 Spaniards, 227 horses, and 2,000 slaves arrived, swiftly defeating Tezoatega’s troops and taking many of them as additional slaves.
The original port, placed at El Realejo (which still exists as a faint shadow of its former self), was transferred closer to the ocean at Corinto in 1858 after mangroves and sediment had choked the waterways.
In 1875, Corinto’s wooden pier linked to the railroads transporting coffee from El Sauce  to Corinto. At the harbor, ships took it to the United States and elsewhere. A railroad constructed during Zelaya’s presidency further expanded the port and its strategic significance.
In 1912, nearly 3,000 U.S. Marines landed in Corinto in response to Benjamin Zeledón’s revolution, beginning what would be a 20-year occupation of Nicaragua. In October 1983, CIA operatives stole into the harbor under cover of night, where they mined the harbor and blew up several oil tanks on the docks. The economic and psychological damage strained an already suffering Sandinista government, but the “covert” operation, when publicized later, earned the Reagan administration international condemnation and the ire of the American public.
From 2000–2001, the Alemán administration revitalized the port and dredged the harbor with project financing from the World Bank in order to increase export production. Corinto remains a vibrant coastal community with all the headaches and spice of a port town.
Playa Paso Caballo is located on the northern tip of the island, and all buses from Chinandega  pass by here before continuing to the center of town. Be careful, as the rip currents are notoriously strong, and keep a close eye on your possessions on these beaches. Several ranchos on the beach provide shade, food, and alcohol, but a growing number have succumbed to the beach erosion that began when a spooky, wrecked tanker that had been there for years was finally scrapped.
In town, what was once the Old Railroad Terminal and Customs House is now a museum in tribute to the old train, well worth a visit. Two discos, Ali Baba and Centauro, are on the road between town and the northern beaches.
If you are in the neighborhood around the weekend that falls closest to May 3, don’t miss the Féria Gastronómica del Mar (Seafood Festival), where you can try more than 100 different Corinteña recipes with fresh fish, shrimp, and other local delicacies. The festival takes place in the central park, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The family-run Hospedaje Vargas (about a block west of the Texaco station where buses arrive, $6/s shared bath, $8/s private bath) is simple and has fans in all 10 of its rooms. Hospedaje Luvy (1.5 blocks west of the central park, tel. 505/2342-2637, $11 with fan, shared bath) is similar. All 10 rooms in the Hotel Central ($40 with a/c, private bath, cable TV) enjoy a view of Corinto’s dock operations.
As always, your best bargain is the comida corriente in the town market. Otherwise, numerous cafetíns dot the town and a row of restaurants flank the town beach. Restaurante Costa Azul, El Peruano, and Restaurante New Orleans all have typical meat and seafood dishes starting at $5. They are pleasant, breezy, open-air ranchos with views of the harbor and islands; hours are casual and all are easy to find, just head downtown and ask. Also consider New Orleans (one block east of the minisupermarket), run by a returned Nica who spent ages in New Orleans, Louisiana's French Quarter. Free crab soup for serious drinkers.
The best restaurant in town is on the main road to Chinandega , near the bridge (from which you can jump into the water)—it’s called El Español and the owner makes a mean sangria. Corinto Online (half a block north of the park) will connect you to the Internet for $2.50 per hour.
Getting to and from Corinto is a snap from Chinandega’s Mercado Bisne Market, or by hitching from the Rotonda.