The Corn islands are located 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua and consist of two islands, one of which is called 'Little Corn'. Little Corn is tiny, around 1.5 square miles, easily explored in one morning, but it is bursting with character. Surrounded by crystal clear Caribbean waters and adorned with a dense vibrant jungle, white sandy beaches and magical mangroves, you will never want to leave. It is an oasis of tranquility and warmth, so much so, “welcome and relax yourself,” may as well be the islands motto.
Backpacking solo is my not so guilty pleasure. I am a natural born planner and I always do my research before exploring new places. But, during my recent travels, I have embraced a “go with the flow” mentality, which was perfect for my time on Little Corn. When I reached the island, I was happy to discover that many other travelers often overlook this little slice of paradise, as getting there can be a little difficult and often subject to weather conditions. Little Corn is worlds apart from the rest of Nicaragua. Locals speak English, Creole, Spanish and native languages with a beautiful Caribbean accent; so much so that you will think you have arrived somewhere in Jamaica. Little Corn is tiny; there are no cars, no roads; “paths only”. You get around by bike, on foot, by Panga (speed boat) or hitchhike. Most of the small businesses (hostels, bars, fishing, snorkeling companies) are run by locals and have a deep authenticity to them. People are friendly and grateful that you have chosen to visit their little Island. You come to Little Corn to dive, fish, snorkel or seek peace.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Bring some books and a flashlight, as there is no electricity in the from 5am to 2pm.
The fastest way to get to Little Corn Island is to take a flight from Managua to Big Corn Island with Nicaragua's regional airline, La Costena. You can book your tickets via their website, expect to pay around $170 (€144) for a return ticket. Flights leave Managua 2 times a day: 6.30am and 2.30pm.
Where it is usually a good idea to purchase your airfare far in advance, I would recommend against it in this case, 2 days in advance is enough (and the minimum via the website). The reason for this, is that you might end up delaying your departure from Managua to Big Corn and then onwards to Little Corn, due to bad weather conditions or wanting to extend your stay.
Once you arrive in Big Corn, you will then need to jump on the Panga (speed boat) to Little Corn island. You can take a taxi for 20C$ (€0.50 / $0.60) from the Big Corn airport to the dock to catch the Panga or you can walk. Not knowing where it was, I took a taxi. When I arrived at the dock, the passenger sitting next to me on the flight had walked and arrived way before me! The Panga boat runs twice a day (Big Corn to Little Corn: 10am and 4:30pm). The boats usually wait for the flights, as they operate on Caribbean time zones: late!
To get back to Big Corn Island, the Panga leaves Little Corn at 6:30am and 1:30pm and the return flights from Big Corn Island to Managua leave at: 8:10am and 3:45pm, with La Costena.
As I said earlier, walk, bicycle or Panga! There are no cars on the island and it is tiny so easily explored on foot or by bicycle.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tips:
- Make sure you get cash before getting on the plane as there are no ATM machines on the island and most of the businesses are cash only. You also will have to pay a $2 fee for tax purposes at the airports.
- Wear a waterproof jacket, large plastic bag or simply your bathing suit; the boat ride will be wet and bumpy!
- Regardless of your return time to Big Corn, you want to catch the early boat from Little Corn Island (6:30am). Weather conditions change fast and the 1:30pm boat often gets cancelled.
- Be prepared to adapt: the flight from Big Corn to Managua was oversold and I got bumped off it, but 20 minutes later, I was asked to step onto the baggage scale with my bag. Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to fly in a tiny plane (no more than 20 passengers). I sat right behind Lionel the pilot and the view and conversation were fantastic! I don't think I could have asked for a better way to end my visit.
Otto beach is Little Corns most popular beach and with its crystal white sands and tranquil waters, perfect for swimming in, it is not hard to understand why. Otto Beach is just north of the village, taking around 20 minutes to walk. You will need to cross a baseball field and then follow the path through the jungle until you reach a little slice of paradise! Shoes are optional on the island; bring yours to get to the beach as the path is not very steady. Once you have reached the beach, you can snorkel, relax and swim in the tranquil waters.
This is a beautiful walk which takes about 10 minutes from the boat dock or "downtown”. From the top, you have a 360 view over the entire island. It is a stunning way to see in the morning or at any time of the day.
Snorkeling/ Water Skiing/ water tubing/ wakeboarding/ Fishing: I recommend Aqua Boy Water Adventure, located next to the Wharf. We paid $30 €26) for a full day of snorkeling and fishing and it was amazing. Promote your plans to other travelers to get a better price for a large group (6 people is a good number). When we did the trip, we left the island around 11am in the morning and did some fishing in the early afternoon sunshine. You will most likely catch “yellowtail” fish (snapper fish). which makes a delicious lunch staple! For lunch, you will prep and cook your catch of the day along with some vegetables and potatoes and eat it all together right on the beach. Make sure to ask one of the guys to get you some coconuts from the trees: eat them for a delicious dessert or pour some rum in it for a cocktail!
Scuba Diving: Many visitors describe Little Corn as world-class diving and snorkeling spot. The main company is Dolphin Dive. They also do night dives.
Despite its size, Little Corn Island has some great opens for an evening out on the sand. Check out:
- Wednesday live event: You don't want to miss this. Located in front of the Tranquilo bar, a small group of dancers will perform, but be warned, the performers might ask you to participate!
- Tranquilo Cafe: This place have happy hours from 5pm to 7pm and fantastic trivia nights.
- Reggae Bar (especially on Wednesday nights): This is the perfect after party spot post Tranquilo bar, you can't miss it, locals and travelers will move from Tranquilo bar and walk straight to el Reggae bar. My advice - follow them!
Three Brothers hostel. I did not stay here from my time on Little Corn, but this place comes very highly recommended by the locals. As a family run guesthouse, the Three Brothers hostel has single, double and triple rooms on offer ranging from $20-$45 (€17-38) per night with discount for longer stays. It is close to all the bars and restaurants (2 minute walk) with easy access to the busy beach side (10 minutes).
- Empanadas! You will find a few of the locals selling empanadas (chicken, beef or pineapples) they are delicious and freshly made.
- I strongly recommend “El Bosque restaurante”, outside the one and only “main path”. A local family runs the restaurant and the food is delicious, very cheap and the portions are huge. You will need a flashlight as the path to get there has no electricity. I had all my meals here whilst on Little Corn. From breakfast to dinner. 100C$ (€3 / $3.50) for a delicious breakfast (fruits and juice included). Make sure to have some of their coco bread. Dinner is around 150-200C$ (€4-5 / $5-6 ) for the meat options and 400C$ (€11.50 / $13.50) for the seafood options.
- You must try “ el Rondón” which is an Afro-Caribbean soup made up of different types of seafood and a complete sensory experience. You will need to give few hours notice to the owner if you would like to have dinner here, but you can do that when you go in for breakfast!
- The Sunset Shack bar: Great sport for breakfast and to watch the sunset. Their measurement for drinks are “au pif” (as they see fit).
- Tranquilo Cafe (western style cuisine) - good variety of food. They are also one of the rare businesses that will take credit cards.