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The Corn Islands. Nicaragua’s Caribbean Secret

The Corn Islands. Nicaragua’s Caribbean Secret

When people talk about The Corn Islands, their eyes light up.

“Imagine what the Caribbean was like 50 years ago, before the crowds and the resorts?” they say.

Big Corn island - The Corn Islands Nicaragua

If you are happy to hang your hammock and wile away the afternoon with a few quiet rums and wait for the fisherman to bring the daily catch of lobster in. Snorkel from deserted, pristine beaches or even just kick back in a nno-fussbeach front shack and watch the waves roll in, you might just like it here.

Big Corn island Nicaragua

Life is pretty nice on The Corn Islands.

The Corn Islands sit 70 km to the east of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. This is the Caribbean people are just starting to find out about and word is spreading fast!

The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

Nicaragua has such diversity in its regional cultures. From the south on the Rio San Juan to Matagalpa’s hill country, or when people from Granada talk about the folk from nearby Masaya (10kms away) being of fairer skin and shorter stature.

The Corn Islands are no different, here you will find Nicaraguans different to any others you have encountered along the way. Due to a very strong Caribbean influence, not only do these Nicaraguans look that little bit different, they speak differently. Mostly Creole English, as well as Spanish, is spoken on the Corn Islands and they move to a very different beat.

You are in paradise on the Corn Islands, something the locals know all too well.

Corn Islands Nicaragua

Let’s start with Corn Island or “Big Corn” as everyone calls it. Corn Island is not so “Big” at just under 10 Sq km in size but compared to it’s little sister it certainly is the Big Island.

There are flights to Corn Island and also a ferry service (details later). If you fly, when you land on big Corn you may see pedestrians and cars being run off the tarmac before you land. The airstrip is also a main road on the island! The only way to Little Corn though is by boat.The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

You will find plenty of taxis waiting to take you to hotels or to the Little Corn Island boat (there are two a day that connect with the flights). Taxis on Corn will cost you around 20 Cordoba (~ $1USD) pp/trip anywhere on the island. Don’t be surprised if you are sharing with strangers or you have to detour to pick someone up along the way or stop for a chat.

Check Latest Accommodation Rates for The Corn Islands

The Corn Islands are not fancy, if you are looking for a 5 star island experience then the Corns may not be for you. If you are looking for a great island atmosphere and hospitality, where you can chill out and enjoy the spoils of a simpler island life, then this is definitely for you. You could quite easily lose track of time on these islands and perhaps never want to leave.Corn Islands Nicaragua - Big Corn Island

[Tweet “The best kept secret in the Caribbean #thecornislands #nicaragua”]

The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

Big Corn Island

A lot of people skip big Corn and head straight for Little Corn, we think this is a shame. We spent a couple of days at the lovely Sea Star Spa where we were introduced to life on the Corns.

Big Corn Island has stunning beaches, plenty of diving and snorkelling and loads of laid-back bars and restaurants. Just don’t expect anything too fancy. While tourism is on the increase, the primary industry of The Corn Islands is fishing, mainly lobster and shrimp for export which means there is no shortage of great dining.

We dined on excellent fresh seafood for less than $20 USD for the both of us, including drinks, and this was at the fancier establishments.

There is a colourful and friendly culture here like nothing we had seen in Nicaragua and life is definitely a lot simpler.The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Big Corn Island

Little Corn Island

When you have had enough of the not so hustle and bustle of big Corn, jump on a panga for the half hour trip to Little Corn. This can either be a picture postcard cruise across a stretch of sapphire blue water or it can be a hair raising, neck jarring ride leaving you soaked from top to bottom! We got the later and wished we had prepared with some more garbage bags, although when we were prepared on our return ride, it was smooth sailing. Go figure!

Tip: It pays to have some large garbage bags to cover your luggage on the panga transfer. It will be very wet if the sea is a little rough.

When you arrive, you will not find taxis, you will find no cars at all on Little Corn. It is walking or bicycles (if you can get one). But on an island that is only 2.9 sq km who needs wheels. Even on barge day, when all the stores for the island arrive, everything must be man handled and transported by foot to its final destination. Rows of purpose built wooden trolley’s line the docks waiting to off load the goods everyone has been waiting for.

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

It seems everyone comes to the dock on barge day, you never know what will be off loaded.

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

If you are lucky, you may find someone with a wheelbarrow and your name on a piece of paper to walk you to your accommodation, otherwise, just follow the signs and everyone else. It’s not hard to find things on Little Corn and you certainly won’t run into traffic on the main drag.

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

While accommodations vary from very cheap and basic (~$15/night) to somewhat higher end (~$100/night), there is really only one “luxury” establishment on the north end of the island offering individual cabins at ~ $2,000/week.

The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

As we were on Little Corn Island at the end of low season our options were limited to those that were open and $2,000/week is way out of our travel budget. We were very happy with our choice which was fairly indicative of the popular options on Little Corn. Carlitos Place is one of a number of small properties sitting right on the beach, on the eastern side of the island. They offer very basic, colourful beach shacks which have a bed, a basic bathroom, a mosquito net and a view of the Caribbean sea.

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

What more could you want for a Robinson Crusoe getaway? After all, this is the Little Corn experience you came for.

While some of the hotels, of which there are few, will offer cable TV, Wifi etc. your average beach bungalow style accommodation will not have electricity until 2.00 in the afternoon, has no wifi or phone reception. It will have loads of hammocks strung under palm trees, stunning beaches and excellent little restaurants and bars where you can down some very cheap drinks and eat fresh fish and lobster.

The Corn Islands Nicaragua - Little Corn Island

The food on Little Corn is excellent and there are enough choices to keep you in new, albeit casual dining experiences for your stay. A meal of two lobsters with salad and, of course, plantains will cost around $8 USD. A whole fresh fish around the same and beer from a bar will set you back no more than $1.50 at the more casual establishments.

The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

For us, the Corn Islands was a special experience for the very reason peoples eyes light up when you mention them. Even those who have never been, but know of them, seem to drift off to another place of lost island paradises yet to be discovered. A place where you can truly switch off, relax and forget about the real world.

Unfortunately, the Corn Islands, especially Little Corn will not remain the same forever but while it does, to us it will be the most idyllic island in the entire Caribbean.

Getting to The Corn Islands

Fly

La Costeña have 3 flights daily leaving from Managua- Big Corn ~$164 USD return / ~$106 One way.

Flights can stop via Bluefields ~ $60 USD for either leg – Managua-Bluefields or Bluefields – Big Corn.

There are two scheduled panga’s a day, leaving Little Corn Island at 06.30 and 13.30 to coincide with flights with talk of an additional panga to be scheduled to meet the 3rd flight starting 2015. There is also the option of catching the cargo boats when they are running. The panga will cost ~ $6 USD each way.

Ferry
Scheduled ferries depart Bluefields from the river port of Rama to Big Corn every Wednesday morning around 9.00AM and return to Bluefields Thursday morning. The trip will take around 6 hours and cost ~ $12 USD one way. There may be additional trips scheduled at varying times of the year so it is best to check.

Express buses depart Managua for Rama at 9.00 in the evening and arrive at around 3.00 in the morning. A one way fare will cost ~$8 USD

There are supply ships leaving Rama on Thursdays which take passengers if room allows, but will take longer as they can stop for hours in Bluefields. This is the less reliable option but certainly one to consider if you miss the scheduled ferry.

*Note- flight & ferry schedules will vary dependant on time of year and can change frequently. Always check locally before setting dates.

Things To Consider

There is little in the way of shopping on either island so do not rely on being able to readily get even certain basic items. You will find mostly small general stores and on Big Corn a larger market type store.

There is no ATM on Little Corn so make sure you have plenty of cash to tide you over.

For up to date information on Little Corn Island accommodation & transport schedules check out this great reference – Little Corn Island.net The Corn Islands-Nicaragua

25 comments

  • The images are SO colorful guys! Really loved the story and I’m seeing the Corn Islands popping up frequently in my travel blogger feed. Maybe the Universe is singing to me? Either way the spot vibes so much with me as I just love Blogging from Paradise. It reminds me a little bit of Koh Lanta in Thailand. Same pristine spot and since you can only arrive by car ferry or boat tourist numbers are really low. Which means you can spot 6 foot long monitor lizards, cobras and all type of beauty due to few people habitating the island. Thanks guys for the post!

    Ryan

    Reply
  • Oh my goodness, this place looks gorgeous! It’ll be years before I can get to the Caribbean but this post is making me want to go there right now! I’m torn; I really don’t want to ruin these islands with my presence (as you said, they won’t stay idyllic forever) but at the same time I want to be there right now! lol

    Beautiful photos too, by the way !

    Reply
  • It sounds like such a wonderful place to relax and unwind. I just love the color of that water! Everything also looks so bright and cheery. I’d love to visit. Thanks for linking up with #WeekendWanderlust! 🙂

    Reply
  • Stunning place! I really have to get there at some stage, it looks like a lovely relaxing little beach getaway. And who needs a tv in your bungalow when you have view like that from your door!

    Reply
  • Great information! I can feel the relaxation seeping in through the screen. I’ll have to check out the islands next time I’m in the area. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  • Looks beautiful! Nicaragua is on our list of places to get to. We know some people in Granada but visiting the Corn Islands sure looks worth it!

    Reply
  • What an incredibly beautiful cluster of islands. Absolutely looks like paradise. I love seeing local kids, too – they grow up so differently from kids raised in cities, with a richer sense of nature and calm. Thanks for the write-up!

    Reply
  • Such a nice place. Been there a few times when I was a kid and is just lovely, matter of fact I will be there next week for the crab soup. I’m from bluefields but desendant from corn island. Highly recommend this place! You wouldn’t regret it. #Nicaragua #cornisland

    Reply
  • Check Ensueños at the north side of Little Corn Island. It is the most natural front in the island with the nicest beaches. Lodging is rustic and beautiful.

    Reply
  • hi you two globetrotter…
    My girlfriend and I are seriously thinking of going here for about 10 days next February, mainly for snorkeling. It says it is a snorkeling destination, but I have heard that many times – and then…not, like in Sri Lanka, which we loved, but we were only able to snorkel in one place we went to. Did you snorkel while there? I have asked a couple of places that we would consider staying in if there is snorkeling right off the beach, and it seems that there is little – and they charge a stupid amount $25 pp to take you out to the reef!
    so, if you have any more pointers, please let me know.
    I am currently kicking back in Italy, soon to head to Leros.
    xxooChristy

    Reply
    • Hi Christy,

      Ahhh, the Corns. Excellent choice. As far as snorkelling goes, we only went once from Big Corn and that was straight off the beach. A bit of a swim out but still off the beach. We didn’t go from Little Corn because we had such horrendous weather for the first two days we were there, the visibility would have been terrible for the remainder of our time. As far as $25pp to take you out to the reef, that sounds a little expensive. There were lots of little operations, especially on Little Corn running people out for dives etc. You may find it is much cheaper when you arrive. We did an afternoon tour around Big Corn with one of the staff from the Sea Star Spa where we stayed and a driver for $20 for both of us. This included an hour or so snorkelling from the beach.
      I know some other travellers who were in Nicaragua around the same time as us so have sent them a message to see if they had any experience with snorkelling so will let you know.

      If the main objective of your holiday is snorkelling have you considered Roatan off Honduras? Here’s a little bit of chat on thorn tree that might help.https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/americas-central-america/topics/best-for-snorkeling-corn-islands-or-bay-islands?page=1#post_20790688
      We will get back to you on any further information we might have.

      Reply
  • hi, thank you! Yes, I have been looking at Roatan, and it might be just a bit easier to get to from the states (would fly from there after our annual visit) and it seems that “snorkeling” does come up more often when looking at information on Roatan, but I just wondered if that was because it has been more developed and there is simply more information. I would love to go to Corn Island, might save it for when we have more time to stay, it does seem more like my kind of place – not developed! I will take a look at that link, thank you, and also for any other information that comes back to you.
    xxoochristy

    Reply
    • Will get back to you with any more information. I think the Corns would definitely be your speed. We flew directly from Managua so it’s not as difficult to get to as some people say. You just might have to spend a night in Managua. There is a good, reasonably priced hotel directly across from the airport should you choose that option.

      Reply
  • Sounds good. I would like to have time to at least see the city, if it is worth it…as I am not a city person, but having gone that far…
    May be that this trip will end up being to Roatan, and the next Nicaragua. I would like to spend 3 weeks there, this year I don’t have that much time, maybe 10 days.
    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Hi Christy. If you were going to spend any time in a city, Granada won’t disappoint. If you do decide to head to Leon, a short bus ride out of town is the lovely beach village of Las Peñitas. A nice reprieve from the city.
      More on the Corns – I have been speaking with Andrew and Emily from Along Dusty Roads
      This was their advice on the snorkelling –
      “We can highly recommend snorkelling on Little Corn, although if they’re avid snorkelers, we’d definitely advise taking a tour, as you get to see an awful lot more. We had pretty crap weather when we went too, although we still saw rays and even a shark (immediately upon jumping out of the boat – scared the living crap out of us! :)).
      Hope this helps”
      Emily and Andrew

      See more from them about Little Corn in the link.

      Reply
      • So great to have all of this information, I don’t like to wast my time being where I am not interested in being when I want to go somewhere different (than my yearly treks!) , so I like to do my research, all that you have sent will help me use my time wisely, thanks so much.
        Looking at the other site now.

        ~Christy

        Reply
        • Hi Christy,
          Some more information for you on Little Corn.
          Jules and Christine from Don’t Forget to Move also spent some time there. Here is their take on your question-

          “Hey Kate thanks for stopping by 🙂 Man, take us back to Little Corn Island hey! Been way too long! To be honest we don’t have a lot of info about the snorkeling on Little Corn. We rented snorkel gear and took ourselves out for the day, but it was super choppy and Christine ended up getting sea sick haha. We personally didn’t go out for day trips off the island to snorkel, only for fishing. We mostly just hung out on the beach, fished and lived the life.
          Little Corn isn’t really the place for a snorkeler, more of just a relaxing beach goer. Hope that helps 🙂”

          I have linked to one of their articles on Little Corn for your reference. They have a load of stuff on Nicaragua as well.

          Hope all this helps with you planning.

          Happy sailing
          Kate & Mark

          Reply
  • thanks you two for all of the answers and leads, good to know really, how it is there!
    I think this time we may go to Roatan, and leave exploring in Nicaragua to later. I swear, people talk about snorkeling in all these places, but one of the best snorkeling days that I have had was at the bottom of the Florida Keys, but not sure exactly where, I was on a course and it was the last day – one of the first that I took…after…crossing the Atlantic! Also had some great snorkeling in Bermuda years ago.
    Off to Leros today, transitiing Rome, on a not so great day to be here, but, all is calm.
    xxooChristy

    Reply

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