Little Corn Island – My Slice of Paradise
When I was doing the only planning for my 2 weeks in Nicaragua by reading through some of my favorite travel blogs, I knew Little Corn Island was a must-visit place. From reading Adventurous Kate’s post about Little Corn- “Rocking Out on Little Corn Island“, it sounded like it fit my criteria for island life-good diving, great weather, some nice beaches, sparse tourism infrastructure, and a unique island vibe and culture associated with it..
Since I only had 2 weeks to enjoy in this fabulous country, the only feasible way for me to get there would be by flight. There are 3 flights a day from Managua to Big Corn Island, and prices are very consistent at about $160 USD for a return flight. Luckily, I was able to find a flight that left a couple hours after I would land in Managua from the U.S., so I decided to make that my first stop on the trip.
The domestic “terminal” in Managua is a stark contrast to the international one. Since Nicaragua is such a small country, there aren’t many domestic legs available Security consisted of putting my bag through the standard x-ray machine, and there was a small waiting room to hang out in before the flight. Instead of a standard boarding pass, I was instead handed a large laminated card!
If you are on a longer-term trip and value your money more than your time, I suggest considering travelling overland to the Corn Islands. It does involve a couple buses and boats and is a several day journey, but sometimes the journey is part of the fun. (The key word here is “sometimes” haha). Along Dusty Roads has a very informative post on the various legs from Managua to Little Corn Island here.
When the plane finally arrived, everybody headed outside to board. It held about 40 seats, so it was not the smallest plane I’ve ever been on. As there were no assigned seats, I grabbed a window one. I was joined shortly thereafter by a Dutch girl named Debbie. During the 45 minute long flight (all that’s needed to completely traverse the entire country), we chatted about where she had been in Nicaragua and how her experiences had been thus far. As we both had not pre-booked accommodation on Little Corn, we agreed to look for a place together.
Upon landing on Big Corn Island, we hopped in a taxi to the pier to catch a small boat called a “panga”. A panga is basically a large canoe able to hold about 20 people with a motor attached to it. The panga trips between Little and Big Corn Island take about a half hour and the timings correspond with the arriving and departing flights. It was a very bumpy ride, and I’d be a bit nervous to be out on the water during a windy day or storm.
Big Corn Island is the larger (duh) and much more developed of the two islands. Motor vehicles can be found here, and are necessary as it is much larger than Little Corn. There are also several resorts here and a majority of residents reside here versus on Little Corn. Now you may read some guidebooks and encounter people whom tell you to spend a couple nights here, but due to my limited time, I headed straight for Little Corn.
For anybody that has been to Thailand, specifically the small island of Koh Phi Phi, Little Corn Island is the exact opposite. Instead of crowds, bars, and trash, Little Corn is a tranquil and peaceful place to enjoy the natural beauty of the island.
Our panga arrived to Little Corn just as the sun was beginning to set, providing an awesome backdrop. A small group of people waited at the pier, hoping to entice travelers to their various accommodations. Here I encountered a divemaster from Dolphin Dive, and I agreed to dive with them in the morning. Debbie and I decided to head to the East side of the island, which was a bit more rustic and offered several accommodation option right on the beach. We decided on Grace’s Place, which offered private, but simple rooms with a fan for only $10. Word to the wise-power is shut off on the entire island from 6am-1pm to conserve energy (with the exception of generators at the local restaurants. Don’t expect to sleep in unless you relocate to a beach with some palm tree shade!
The hostel scene has yet to arrive on Little Corn. Instead, there are plenty of small guesthouses with varying degrees of luxury. Unless you are going during peak season (December-March), I suggest not booking in advance, as you have room to bargain, as there are plenty of options. I suggest walking over to the east side of the island (only about a 10-15 minute walk from the pier), here the options are more secluded and rustic, and also cheaper! Be sure to have a working flashlight (torch) if you stay on this side of the island, as the path is not lit.
Eat all the seafood. Seriously. It is so good (and cheap!) I had lobster twice in my four days on the island, and it was delicious, and only costing $8 USD! Some restaurants to try while there include: Los Bosques and Elsa’s, both serving fresh seafood at affordable prices, Tranquilo, the popular bar/hangout spot in the evenings, and Havana Libre for Cuban food.
In the evenings, most people end up at Tranquilo, one of the couple “bars” of the island. Here, one can enjoy a few Tonas or Victorias, and play a board game or strike up a conversation with one of the fellow patrons. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, there is a music/culture show that is a must-see.
My favorite beaches were on the East and North sides of the island. Both of them were nearly deserted-my type of beach! I’ve always preferred the quieter beaches over the beaches where tourists are lined up rows deep like sardines, like you’ll find at Miami Beach or Copacabana in Rio. Not for me, ugh.
The beach on the North side is a bit difficult to get to, but is well worth the trek. There are also a few hammocks strung along a few of the palm trees, perfect for reading a good book. Make sure you bring a torch for the walk back, as the area gets very dark once the sun sets.
Little Corn Island is known to have the best diving in Nicaragua. There are a plethora of dive sites located just minutes away from shore. The best dive site, Blowing Rock, is about a 45 minute boat ride away, but there is a plethora of sea life. During my two dives there, I saw a nurse shark, barracuda, puffer fish, lobster, a moray eel, southern sting ray, and an eagle spotted ray! I ended up doing a total of 5 dives while on Little Corn. One of the dive sites, Tarpon Channel, is known for hammerhead sharks to visit the area from time to time. We went here on my fifth dive solely to try to see these elusive creatures, but sadly we did not have any luck.
One thing I especially loved about Dolphin Dive was how they liberally they would fill the tanks. On some of my previous dives in other locations, the tanks would be only at about 150 bar. Dolphin Dive filled them up to 220 bar, allowing for nearly an hour underwater for each dive! I definitely recommend diving with them if you find yourself on Corn Island.
There is something special about Little Corn Island that I can’t place my finger on. Maybe it’s the brightly decorated houses, adding splashes of color everywhere. Maybe it’s the lack of motor vehicles and the noise and air pollution that come along. Maybe it’s the small local population and tourists, meaning that one constantly sees familiar faces. Or maybe it’s the natural beauty of the island. All I know is that it is a wonderful place that I definitely see myself returning to someday
I also loved the plethora of friendly “wild dogs”. These dogs are perfectly tame, but simply don’t have an official master. Instead they wander up to the various restaurants and other shops that know them for food and water.
So, what are you waiting for? Head to Little Corn to see for yourself the beauty of this small island!