If you pass through Nicaragua, one sure place you will hear travellers speak highly of is The Corn Islands. And now, we rejoice and join those people in ‘bigging up’ these tiny islands. It has been on our bucket list to visit a Caribbean island, so when we heard of two small paradise islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, we instantly signed up.
Although Big Corn is a beautiful island in itself, your goal is to get to Little Corn. White marshmallow beaches, illuminated blue waters, drooping palm trees lavished with coconuts, hammocks; hammocks everywhere, and a vibe that will make even the sloth seem too uptight. The major bonus is that it’s small enough to walk the entire island in as little as 2 hours and you will not find a single motorised vehicle. Not even a motorbike. Trust us on this one and don’t go all the way to Nicaragua without getting lost and feeling isolated in heaven.
Enjoy the following few words that will hopefully help (and convince) you to go. You will not regret it. How we managed to leave, we will never know but it wasn’t easy.
Table of Contents
Getting to Little Corn:
If you are on a tight travel schedule or have limited holiday/vacation time, grab yourself a flight. At the extremely low price of $160 return, flights depart from Nicaragua’s capital city Managua and fly directly to Big Corn Island. There are daily flights leaving Managua at 6am, 12pm and 2pm. You can visit La Coste’s website and of course book online to secure the price above, but if you want to bag yourself even cheaper flights, pick up the phone and book it “old skool”.
Save yourself a hefty phone bill by topping up your Skype credit and calling from there, it will cost you less than 1 cent per minute. Call +(505) 2298-5360 knowing that it may take you a few calls and you may be on hold for some time before you speak to an agent. At this point, unless you speak Spanish, you will need to ask for an English speaking agent.
Land and Sea:
The Rio Escondido “passenger ferry” is a medium-size, rough, overcrowded boat that leaves from Bluefields every Wednesday at 9am. The 7 hour journey isn’t the most pleasant but it’s such a fun adventure. To get to Bluefields, you will need to catch the bus from Costa Atlantica or Mayoreo Bus Terminal in Managua. Why choose this option instead of flying if it sounds longer and somewhat more hassle, I hear you ask? Well, this way will only cost you €25-€30. So that €130 you save can go to your new “live like a King” lifestyle while there.
We put together an extremely detailed, step-by-step guide on how to travel to The Corn Islands from Granada, Managua, Masaya and Laguna de Apoyo. You can find all you need here.
Accommodation on Little Corn:
Big Corn Island:
If the Rio Escondido is in any way delayed, it is probable that you might miss the last panga (a small motorboat) to Little Corn. If so, a night sleeping on Big Corn is your only option.
We were recommended to stay at Ike’s guesthouse. Ike is a man who knows everything there is about Big Corn. His hospitality is famous. He is in his own right famous! Unfortunately, after the 28 hour journey we had, the tiredness took over and we traded in a night with Ike for the nearest bed we could find.
This was Hotel G&G and it cost $15 per night for a massive private room plus bathroom. As you leave the main port, take a right and walk 10 minutes until you see a small fork in the road. Take a right here. You won’t miss the large Hotel G&G painted on the hotel’s roof.
The only thing we will say is not to eat here. The food is not what you pay for. Instead, head back towards the main road and at the fork, take a right. In less than 5 minutes you will see a small comedor on the left hand side. It looks like someone’s living room. Well, it technically is someone’s living room but hey, that must mean home cooked food, right? RIGHT! There is no menu, you will get what is available and for 100 cordobas (€3.50) you will get a typical Nicaraguan dish. Served on a large plate; enjoy the plantains (dried banana chips), gallo pinto (rice and beans) salad and carne or pollo (beef or chicken).
Little Corn Island:
You won’t be stuck for accommodation on Little Corn. From the minute you leave the port, colourful handmade signs pointing you left right, up and down will display the endless options. All of which are so reasonable considering you’re on a paradise island. There are top resorts among the beach should you wish to splash out, you can find comfortable, isolated cabins that sit on the beach as well as comfortable and homely hostels.
We stayed at the popular Three Brothers Hostel which didn’t disappoint! As you leave the port, take a left and walk straight until you see their sign. It takes 5 minutes or so.
The owner Randy, his son Jimmy and even Mammy (that’s what we called her) are such a pleasure to be around. You’ll instantly feel like part of the family. Their fun and charming personalities along with a very clean, comfortable hostel with two shared kitchens, a well-stocked shop, free water from the well and an affordable opportunity to head snorkelling and fishing, makes this the perfect haven.
Private rooms with shared bathrooms cost 20 USD per night. If you’re staying for longer than 5 days (which you totally should), have a haggle with Randy who is sure to accommodate you. Literally. He dropped our rate to 18 USD per night for 6 x nights. An absolute steal!
The only negative to Three Brothers is the Wi-Fi but if you’re looking for top speed broadband, you will not find it on Little Corn. So here’s another opportunity to completely switch off from the world. Instead, go chill on the beach and watch the world spin in front of you.
Things To Do on Little Corn:
Ask yourself this. What would you do on a small, lovable remote Caribbean island surrounded by palm trees, coconuts, clear blue seas and white sandy beaches? Eh, exactly.
With warm translucent seas, the beaches on Little Corn are a sight to behold. Take your pick of lonely, hidden gems by strolling around the island, or enjoy the chilled vibes on Otto Beach. What is appealing about this beach is that every morning, the staff from the local and very fancy Yemaya resort cleans the washed up seaweed salad. So it’s the “cleanest” beach per say.
Before you fork out on any of the local snorkelling or fishing tours, which cost around 20-30 USD, pop by the Three Brothers Hostel and ask for Jimmy or Randy. We are aware Jimmy was heading to work and live in Managua for a little while, which being honest, sucks for you! However you could enquire with Randy if there is a local beach party happening which includes snorkelling, fishing and the fresh Rondón lunch your palate will taste. Usually they hold these on a Saturday and if they can sign at least 6 people up, at just 30 USD per person, it’s a game changer.
We also hear the Greenhouse Hostel, which is two houses to the right of Three Brothers, hosts these “beach parties” so pop in and chance your arm!
Leaving at 10.30am, you’ll head out on a boat around the island to Otto Beach where they’ll set up a small bar, a mini-kitchen and speakers. Yes, there are tunes! You’ll start by heading out on the boat to a northern reef where you will snorkel for a good hour or so.
Full of beautiful fish, stingray, turtles, sharks (that won’t bite!) it’s such a beautiful experience.
Sidenote: It was my first time snorkelling and the open water fear reared its ugly head. When I first scrambled over the side of the boat, the captain told us to follow the guide ahead of us as he slowly veered the boat away. Total panic set in. I couldn’t get to grips with swimming while wearing the flippers and after a struggle had to jump back on the boat that the guild had signalled for me. Flippers off and a lifejacket on, I composed myself and gave it another bash! This time, more relaxed, I floated as I gawked under the Caribbean Sea. Seeing fish of all sorts and even sharks, I’m so happy I didn’t miss out and let the fear win. So, whether you are a pro or it’s your first time, take a dive under and check out Little Corn’s sea world.
After snorkelling you’ll head out further from the coastline to catch some snappers that will be used for dinner. Rondón, an Afro-Caribbean dish that will change your world!
If you suffer with seasickness this experience may not be a woefully enjoyable one. The sea can become a little rough and you’ll spend up to two hours out there, bobbling in a small motor panga holding onto a handmade fishing rod.
In our case, Luke happened to have fisherman’s blood and caught the following night’s dinner. After fishing we chilled on the beach and watched Jimmy put the day’s catch to good use while providing us with a masterclass in cooking the island’s speciality
Vitamin Sea Activities:
You can pretty much rent anything and everything you need to get out into the sea. From boat rides around the island, fishing trips and diving to snorkelling equipment (5 USD per day) kayaks, paddleboards, and the chance to get yourself a Padi qualification. You won’t be stuck for things to do.
Trek The Island:
There is plenty to explore around this cute 3km island. With different paths and off beaten tracks through the coconut rich jungle, you’ll be amazed at what you will see on your ramble. Watch out for the land crabs!
The Lighthouse Sunset:
You can catch a pretty spectacular sunset from Otto Beach itself but to grab a high view of the sun setting over the jungle, the old lighthouse is the place to go. Follow the road that leads left from the port, pass Three Brothers Hostel and take the right at the fork. After less than 10 mins you will see signs for the Lighthouse Bar. This place has a great 4pm-6pm happy hour by the way. Walk straight through and you will find an old lighthouse waiting for a climb. Also waiting is that beautiful sunset and a picture that is even too good for Instagram.
Visit The Farmhouse:
If you are looking for the freshest herbs, vegetables and fruit for little to nothing in price, make sure to head to the Farmhouse. In fact, just take a visit anyway and enjoy the aromas of nature’s tastes.
From the port take a right and head straight to the bottom of the island past the Seashells Hostel. Follow the pathway until it ends, and when it does, you will face a number of houses and might just worry that you have stumbled onto someone’s private property. Make your way around the houses (that were under construction when we were there) until you find another path that leads left. At the end of this path you will see double gates and the entrance to happy taste buds. At 70 cordobas a bag (€2), fill it with whatever you need. You are very welcome.
Get lost! Knowing you are on a safe yet secluded island, we can guarantee it’ll be fun. Myself and Luke had many days exploring and although we did venture so far into the jungle that we genuinely thought we would never be found (trust us to get lost on the smallest island we’ve ever been on) the laughs we had along the way were highly entertaining. Just be sure to bring some form of torch, in case it gets dark.
Go discover your own hidden beach and feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway, minus Wilson. No matter what way you walk, you’re bound to find the edge of an island and therefore a beach. So find your favourite beach and enjoy the feeling of complete isolation, peace and tranquillity.
Where to Eat on Little Corn:
Look, no matter where you opt in for food, you won’t break the bank. But for those who haven’t been following our ungraceful footsteps for long, we must tell you that we will always opt for the cheapest option available. Sure, isn’t that what us budgeteer backpackers do?!
In saying that, since we opted in for the land and sea journey to Little Corn, we did splash out and by God did we eat like kings here but alas, we did it without breaking the bank. As a massive seafood fan, Little Corn has the best we have ever tasted.
Whatever you choose to do, head for Rosa’s restaurant and prepare to be charmed. Here you can pick up a chicken, fish or a prawn dish served with a choice of mashed potato or pasta, vegetables and salad – all for 140-160 cordobas (€5). The best part… this cost includes a starter and dessert. You heard right! Be sure to treat yourself to the freshest lobster you’ll taste and for only 250 cordobas (€8). Again, starter and desert included.
A shout out to our dear friends Arden and Momo for introducing us to Rosa’s!
How To Get There:
From the port, take the road leading left and in 5 minutes swing another left, just before the Seashells Hostel. Follow the path until you see Rosa’s on your left. Don’t leave it until late for dinner; places do tend to shut up shop early enough. The latest we headed down was 8.30pm and we are pretty sure she closed after serving us.
With the exact same menu and prices as Rosa’s, although not as good, this is a nice alternative and a change of scene. It’s also the perfect back up plan should Rosa’s not have any lobster available. To note, March is the end of lobster season, and it is illegal to fish for lobster after this time. But hey, with one cop and a police station the size of a small living room, no wonder there are some badass-rule-breaking fishermen. Don’t worry; you will get your lobster.
How To Get There:
Same direction as if you were going to Rosa’s, El Bosque is located a little further down the path, past Rosa’s. You won’t miss it thanks to the lights. This local area will most likely be pitch-black, so dare I say it again? Bring your phone or a torch. One night I didn’t take my phone and we had a slight confrontation with a land crab. So eh yeah, do yourself a favour.
The Bagel House:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, travelling is all about experiencing new and local cuisine and why would you eat a bagel if you have all this new nosh to try.
Well, we will admit that after being on the road for more than two months sometimes all we want is some bread, a bagel and a taste of home. OK?! Oh and here you can indulge in some mouth-watering, homemade quiche. Don’t knock it. It’s the perfect little lunch for less than a few euros.
How To Get There:
From the port (as you can tell, the port is my favourite starting ground!) head left and take the first left you come across, less than 2 minutes. Head straight up this path and, after a 5 minute walk, you will see a small handmade sign to your right. Again, this does tend to close early hence why it’s the perfect place to lunch.
The Reggae Bar Grill:
We’re street-food addicts! In fact we refuse to return to Ireland until someone, somewhere introduces street-food, and we don’t mean burgers in a van. Although, what a movie (Irish joke!) Sidenote: Go watch one of the best Irish flicks called The Van and try not to laugh.
Smartly enough, some of the locals set up grills in their front garden, down towards the police station (ahem living room). But the one to note is the grill on the grounds of the Reggae Bar (a great place to visit for some local banter, cheap and single cigarettes and a game of pool).
At 100 cordobas (€3), you will get a large plate of meat or chicken, gallo pinto, salad and yucca. You can also get this to go, probably better off since there is only one set of tables and chairs.
The Patti Man:
One final shout out to our favourite Little Corn-ner. Forgive us for forgetting his name but we had dubbed him ‘The Patti Man’ and it really stuck. He sells freshly made coconut and ginger cookies as well as Jamaican patties. These are small pastries filled with either meat or fruit. We recommend the pineapple patti. So spend your cordobas with this legend. You won’t miss him! He always wears a smile and walks the length of the island on a daily basis.
Go treat yourself, and ensure your stomach also enjoys this piece of paradise.
Have you ever been to Little Corn? If so, do share your experiences with us below. If not, would you consider going? If there is anything we can do to help, get in touch!
And on a final (personal) note, we wanted to take the opportunity to give the biggest shout out to Jimmy from Three Brothers for making our stay truly unique. He taught us how to live the island life and even took time from his day to teach us how to gut a fish, how to make coconut milk and rice from scratch, and made sure we always had everything we needed to make our stay even more special.
Another big love for Arden and Momo who we met at a quiz night in El Salvador and managed to catch up in both León, Granada and as a lovely surprise, on Little Corn.