Little Corn Island, Nicaragua: The Ultimate Backpackers Guide!
That all changed when we met Mariam in Managua, a diver who had moved to Little Corn Island from Canada. She was absolutely crazy (we discovered her arguing with her boyfriend on loud speaker, pacing up and down the hostel) but aren’t all the best people? Mariam described to us an absolute paradise with no roads, no hustle and bustle, untouched beaches and the clearest water we’d ever see. We then heard this story from various other travellers around Granada and on Ometepe. It sounded like the kind of place that I had to visit now because the island isn’t going to keep its secretive vibe for much longer. So (reluctantly – I am from Yorkshire so a tight arse by nature) I swallowed my pride and paid the $160 to La Costeña airlines.
Boy, I’m glad I did.
Getting to The Corn Islands
Before I launch into how wonderful The Corn Islands are, may I take a moment to vent about La Costeña airlines?
OH MY G-O-D.
HOW AM I STILL ALIVE???
1 – no safety demonstration. Not that I take any notice of these anyway because lets be honest, if the airplane burst into flames or crashed into the side of a mountain I’d be far too busy panicking to read the plastic leaflet in my front pocket. However, although I’m usually rolling my eyes and fiddling with my iPad whilst the airhostesses are pointing out the emergency exit, the lack of demonstration made La Costeña seem rather untrustworthy.
2 – the airplane was a 20-man plane held up by propellers
3 – the captain stated, “we may or may not stop in Bluefields, we will decide when we are up in the air” … u ok hun?
4 – its nice that the security team checked my bag before getting on the plane. Oh wait, no, they didn’t. I got through in my hand luggage a 2L bottle of water and some scissors. I imagine La Costeña isn’t the most susceptible to a terrorist attack but surely all airlines should be vigilant in these times?
5 – I paid $160 for the pleasure of the above
Was it worth the money and the fear? Absolutely. The only other option is a 5-hour bus to Bluefields followed by a 6-hour schlep via fishing boat to Big Corn. No thank you.
Venturing to Little Corn Island
Upon landing my amigo and I decided to head straight to Little Corn Island as the weather was nice (at time of decision making); the twice daily panga boat to Little Corn will only leave if the sea isn’t too choppy. We actually managed to catch a cargo ship taking supplies to Little Corn, so my amigo and I shared the boat with a pile of plantain, 10 crates of Fanta and a group of chickens. I’m not great with flapping birds and under normal circumstances I’d be running around screaming. Sadly the weather went rather off once the boat left the port – I was too busy heaving into the beautiful clear waters whilst the boat swayed in the rain to even notice the chickens. The journey costs only 25 Cordoba.
TIP: there is no ATM on Little Corn Island and most places do not accept cards for payment. Make sure you have enough cash (which we didn’t) or you will have to make a long trip back to Big Corn to withdraw money (an unnecessary schlep).
Accommodation on Little Corn Island
We stayed at The Green House hostel. It’s centrally located, $14 a night for a bed and has a kitchen – one of the few decent kitchens you’ll find in budget accommodation on Little Corn. You might need to walk an extra 10mins to get to the nicer beaches, but you’ll appreciate them more when you plan to make a proper day of it. And seriously, what else are you going to do with your day? There is no electricity until 2pm – utilize those legs!
There is also The Three Brothers hostel where you can get a private double room for $20 a night, however I wasn’t too keen as it felt a bit like staying in someone’s spare room. The Lighthouse Hostel is super cute (and owned by an even CUTER pair of French twins 😍) but a bit far away in my opinion. It has a great bar and the best views on Little Corn Island BUT if you’re a scaredy-cat like me OR you’re a lazy bugger (also like me), you won’t like the uphill walk on a badly lit path. I got many a drunken bruise on the way down. There is also no kitchen at The Lighthouse.
If you have cash to splash Yemaya on Otto Beach is the islands only luxury accommodation. My amigo and I ventured over to Yemaya to admire the best beach on Little Corn and were consequently told to p*ss off when we sat on a hammock; they could probably tell we were peasants by our dishevelled clothes.
Food on Little Corn Island
If you’re expecting fine cuisine, may I remind you again that this is Nicaragua and not the French Riviera. The food is pretty basic as the island is limited to whatever they can bring over from mainland Nicaragua (via Big Corn Island). But what you will get is plenty of island grown produce and some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever seen (unfortunately only seen – I’m vegetarian #savetheanimals ✌).
TIP: Bulk up on staple items before you head to the island, like rice, beans, pasta, tomato paste, oats, powdered milk, onion, garlic, spices and any luxury items like chocolate or rum. You can buy this stuff on the island from the assorted shops, but do your research. To get the best bargains you’ll need to jump around to different shops. Some sell oats cheaper, others onions, others potatoes, etc. Heading to a supermarket before you take a bus and boat to the Corn Islands is recommended.
Of course we didn’t do this, had no food and spent a ton of money. When we eventually ran out we overpaid at the local shop that only sold about 4 tins of dusty tomatoes and pasta. 1 tin of tomatoes was $1!
Esters freshly baked coconut bread is a well-known secret on the island. Get up early every morning and walk towards the Lighthouse to get the bread whilst it is fresh for breakfast. She also sells banana bread and other cakes.
TIP: you can fill your water bottle for free at Tranquilo, even if you’re not staying there. With all that schlepping in the heat you’ll drink plenty!
I’ve written a more detailed ‘where to eat’ guide here.
Nightlife on Little Corn Island
Tranquilo is definitely the local watering hole; I had a few drinks at Tranquilo but my favourite night was the weekly games night… mainly because WE WON. Woohoo! The last time I won anything was during my GCSE’s (Excellence prize for Business Studies if you’re wondering (smug face).
Beach Bar is a simple little spot on the beach with a decent cocktail menu ($4 each at time of writing) and a 2 for 1 Happy Hour on every evening. The basil rum was delicious (and a decent amount of rum in too). Beach Bar also holds DJ nights on the weekend, but don’t expect Loco Dice or Adam Beyer to be making an appearance.
If you like board games and rum cocktails, you’ll like The Lighthouse. I tried to get a free drink by flirting with one of the barmen (aforementioned sexy French guy). It worked but only because he felt sorry for me or wanted me to go away. “IF I FLIRT WITH YOU WILL I GET A FREE DRINK?” I shouted whilst drunk and sweaty. I continued with, “you know you nice arms, I have arms too,” and finished with “my mum tells me I have great sea legs, would you like to see them?”
I thanked him by calling him Jean-Phillipe which turned out not to be his name. You can blame my slightly discriminatory amigo for that one, who told me they were called Jean-Phillipe and Pierre (stereotypical French names)!
Terrible music but the island dogs came and joined us on the dance floor, which was THE BEST experience EVER. Make sure you neck a few (alcoholic) drinks down before you go – you’ll need ’em.
Aguila’s (Reggae Bar)
More widely known as ‘the reggae bar’, Aguila’s is a pool hall/disco that plays a good selection of reggae. Unleash your inner dancehall queen or practice your pool skills. It reminded me of a dingy social club from back in the UK. Aguila’s was fun nonetheless because the island locals threw an after party there (and I love reggae) – but I wouldn’t recommend it for a first date.
Diving or Snorkelling on Little Corn Island
You won’t have to go far to find a shack that offers snorkelling or diving: just about every other tienda was a diving school! My amigo and I went with Mariam at Dive Little Corn – a shack right by the panga port. I couldn’t recommend Dive Little Corn enough – they take health and safety very seriously (rare in Nicaragua) and do their best to inspire confidence in new or nervous divers. As it had been a while since my amigo and I put on a wetsuit we sat a refresher course before going underwater. This is a requirement for all unqualified divers and PADI licensed divers who haven’t dived in over a year.
TIP: don’t get high before you go diving. I did. HUGE MISTAKE.
1 – I slowed the group down significantly by bobbling around at my own, stoned pace in a blur and
2 – when a fellow diver accidentally kicked my mouthpiece out, I had a panic attack and shot back up to shore. This is dangerous as it can burst your eardrums Had I not have been high I’d have just put my mouthpiece back in, expelled the water out by pushing the button and gone on my merry way. Instead paranoia set in and I convinced myself that I was drowning and that I’d die. When I got to the top of the water Mariam followed me up and quite rightly shouted at me. After discovering that I’d had a blunt she sent me on a panga boat to the shore.
It was all a bit embarrassing so don’t get high before you go diving!
You can also snorkel if you don’t have your PADI license. You get to see the same stuff – nurse sharks, reef sharks etc
Relaxation on Little Corn Island
Yoga is not unique to Little Corn Island (just about every beach resort offers it) however what with electricity being unavailable on the Island until 3pm, the USP of Little Corn Island is that you have no choice but to switch off. In London you’d pay £30 for an hour of Bikram, so why not practice your downward dog where it is naturally schvitzing with no air con?
Head to Funk Yoga (next to Tranquilo’s) or The Karma Shack (behind Carlita’s place) for yoga by the beach! Funk Yoga has a variety of flow style yoga whereas The Karma Shack specializes in Hatha yoga. Funk Yoga’s sunset Vinyasa flow class is an absolute dream and Jacq is a great teacher.
The Karma Shack also offers an array of massages if you don’t want to pay the prices at Yemaya. That being said the massages still aren’t cheap (a full body Swedish Deep Tissue massage is $60) – in my opinion if you’re going to indulge yourself in a massage you may as well just say f*ck it and pay for absolute luxury. I couldn’t afford to unfortunately – I chose a massage over food in Granada and lived to regret it.
Getting around Little Corn Island
Little Corn Island is tiny, only around 15sq Km in size! There are no roads on Little Corn Island so be prepared to walk or cycle everywhere. That being said it only takes 1h to walk around the whole island.
Something you should definitely do is climb to the top of The Lighthouse.
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