The Corn Islands are a Caribbean cliché located 70 km off the Nicaraguan coastline, complete with virginal white beaches, trouble free skies and soothing blue waters. Shack up in a beach hut by the sea for under £14 ($20), and enjoy a carefree culture that is more Creole than Español. Whilst Big Corn Island is the first stop for travellers, the smaller and generally more loved of the two islands is Little Corn.
In most places, when you step out of the airport you are greeted by someone holding a sign with your name and a nice clean car. On Little Corn Island, you’ll jump out of a boat and be greeted by someone with a sign holding your name and a fairly heavy-duty wheelbarrow. Little Corn simply isn’t like anywhere else, and the fact that there are no cars on the island is just one of them. Don’t get too excited – that wheelbarrow’s not for you. It’s for your luggage, which will be wheeled along a dirt track to your little hut on the beach.
Things to Do on Little Corn Island
There’s nothing to do on Little Corn Island except bask in the sunshine, but there’s a whole lot to do in the crystal clear waters surrounding the island, including world class diving, snorkeling, kiteboarding and stand up paddleboarding.
- Diving on Little Corn Island
I dived with Dolphin Dives for £24 ($35) per tank, which is an absolute steal! If you’re very fortunate, you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of marauding hammerhead sharks, though the smaller sea life is just as spectacular, comparing very favourably to my experiences of the diving in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Dolphin Dives were a friendly dive shop, and most of the tourists I spoke to said that they are a better option than their direct competitor, Dive Little Corn. Having said that, I don’t think that they are a particularly good choice for less experienced divers. I hadn’t dived for a couple of years and let my divemaster know that while I didn’t need a refresher course, I would appreciate a few pointers. I got perhaps 40 seconds, and a reasonable amount of condescension, before it was off the boat and into the water time, with me hoping that my gear was properly secured. While my dive went well in the end, another diver had to surface and wait on the boat due to problems with his buoyancy – problems that certainly could’ve been avoided with a few friendly words of advice.
- Find a Beach of Your Own…
The Corn Islands are not a well kept secret, and locals that I spoke to told me that December 2014 had seen more tourists than ever before. When I arrived earlier this year, it looked like just one more tourist on the island would cause the place to sink. Yet somehow Little Corn Island hasn’t managed to lose (much) of its desert island charms. Fortunately, the vast majority of the tourists don’t stray too far from their hammocks, so if you are prepared to stretch your legs then securing a beach of your own is certainly possible. The island isn’t very large, and you can walk around the whole thing in just a few hours, which is the best way to soak up the feel good vibes.
Places to Eat on Little Corn Island
Tranquilo Cafe, which is one of the few places on the island with reliable wifi, seems to be the island’s unofficial hub, where you can knock back rum and cokes or simply enjoy the seaview. Cafe Desideri next door has a similar style, and a couple of excellently placed hammocks right on the sand. On the other side of the island, it’s worth checking out the Turned Turtle Restaurant, which offers multiple course meals and friendly service at very reasonable prices. Rosas Restaurant, on the jungle path between both sides of the island, is a good place for breakfast and opens early for those looking for something to do during the daily morning power out. The Shak is a little spot on the beach where you can pick up a quick bite to eat, and Color View is one of the few locally owned places on the island where you can pick up traditional fare at cheaper prices, whilst enjoying the best view of the sunset.
Veggies – fear not, there are plenty of different vegetarian options on Little Corn island, though fewer vegetables that you might hope for.
Places to Stay on Little Corn Island
Due to the number of tourists arriving on the island, and the limited amount of space, this is definitely one of those places that it’s worthwhile to book in advance. If you’ve taken a midday flight to Big Corn, then you can take the afternoon Pranga over to Little Corn island the next day. This means that you should arrive at around 17:00, and if you don’t have a place booked the impending darkness might make the start to your holiday a little less than relaxing! I stayed at the immaculately clean Hotel Buena Vista for $25 a night, then had to move because my room was pre-booked by someone else. I made a trip around the island in search of accommodation, only to find that everywhere was completely booked up!
Fortunately, I did eventually find a room. A local family had put up a sign saying ‘home for rent,’ and when I inquired further it transpired that I could rent just a room for $20, which I snapped up immediately. Those who want to splash out should consider staying at Little Corn Beach and Bungalow, while staying in a beach hut is the best budget option.
How to Get to Little Corn Island
By air: There are two options. Either take a series of chicken buses, or perhaps a shuttle, to Bluefields, then take a ferry. I decided to fly from Managua instead, the return tickets are about $180. Planes leave either early in the morning or at midday. Once you arrive at Big Corn Island, you can take a taxi direct to the port, and from there take a local boat that goes to Little Corn. The prices for both the taxis and the boat are fixed, but you should check that you are paying the right fare before handing over your money. Boats go three times a day in both direction, but the last boat is relatively early. If you do miss a boat, then it might be possible to hitch a lift on a cargo ship, but this is really a last resort!
By pranga: The boat from Big Corn to Little Corn is an adventure all of its own. You can choose: either get wet or get bumped. Those at the front take the brunt of each wave, while those at the back have buckets of water tipped into their laps. There’s never an easy way to get to paradise.
Have you been to the Corn Islands? Have you got any other recommendations?