We debated whether to stretch the budget for two flights to the islands. However, we reasoned as both of us had day-dreamed about the Corn Islands for months before leaving work, in fact we’d even had screensavers on our work PCs; we would be mad not to go. This was our dream destination in Nicaragua.
We travelled back from Esteli in the North, to Managua the Capital. Having heard stories of crime, we stayed at a Finca in the mountains overlooking Volcano Masaya. Mike the owner got up at 4am to give us a lift to the airport (he took the opportunity to take a crate of his advocados to market).
We checked in at the side departure hall, next to the new terminal, and were handed 2 laminated boarding passes. The plane was a twin prop 40 seater. We had been warned that had we been asked to stand on the luggage scales, we would have been on a single prop 8 seater, so we were glad this didn’t happen. The plane took about 45 mins to a place called Bluefields where we dropped off some passengers & picked up a few more. Then it was literally 10mins hop over the sea to Big Corn.
We were met by a taxi driver who told us 80% of the Island speak English (& Miskito), as the Islands were once part of the British Empire. It is certainly strange to hear & use English again after months of Spanish. In fact, the Corns feels like a typical Caribbean island & nothing like the rest of Nicaragua. The sea is crystal clear & the beaches, white sand.
We stayed at a resort near the airport, which has a number of cabanas with straw roofs. We had to push the budget, at $55 a night, but we knew it was expensive to stay on the islands.
Due to availability, we had 2nights on Big Corn, before moving onto Little Corn. We were warned that there are 3 types of boat & the crossing is rough: try to get the panga (fast speed boat) rather than the old fishing boat & avoid the blue/red boat. Luckily we were on the panga. The crossing was still choppy & the boat skimmed the waves then fell like a stone after each crest. Needless to say I was happy when 35mins later, I crawled out onto the dock.
Little Corn has no roads, just footpaths, through the jungle, to each side of the island. Originally it was recommended we stay on the secluded side, but we couldn’t get booked. These were literally shacks on deserted beaches; romantic, but away from restaurants & life (unless you want to trek back through the jungle at night). We were booked into a hostel, but decided to ask around in case somewhere better had availabilty. The Lobster Inn had rooms at $25 a night right on the beach & in town (bringing us back in on budget).
Electricty seemed to go off every morning from 9am to lunchtime & water is also turned off periodically. In Nicaragua generally, we’ve been used to this happening randomly.
You can walk around the island on the three main jungle paths to all of the beaches. From secluded snokelling spots to meters of white sand.
On one day, Colin decided to snokel on the beach outside The Lobster, he returned to the beach a little excited. He’d just swam by two sharks in about 5ft of water only yards from the beach (about 5-6ft long). We had been told that they were sometimes seen off the beach, but both of us assumed they’d be small things! Of course Colin was thrilled & wanted to go back in again.
Food on the Islands ranges from Lobster, prawn & fish to Rundown which is a kind of stew. Unfortunately we missed Lobster season by a few days & arrived just in time for a 4 month fishing ban.
Also available are some touristy cafe bars, which offer lattes & American snacks, which isn’t our thing & is far more pricey.
In one place we entered on Big Corn they had turtle on the menu, which I was horrified to see (I thought it was endangered?)
Little Corn is definitely the tourist mecca with bars & restaurants offering beach parties well into the night, but has not yet become overrun with tourism.
Big Corn seems to be mainly used as a transit spot from which to catch the boat across. Therefore it has a more local feel with less places to eat & drink, but a more traditional culture. It’s definitely worth visiting both.
The Corn Islands are truly idealic & I’m glad we treated ourselves to the flights.