Please Don’t Go to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
Little Corn Island fulfills every Caribbean fantasy I could conjure
an untouched paradise
where magical jungle meets crystalline turquoise sea
colorful boats rock gently on a sleepy harbor
the water is warm
the air is breezy
and the smell of fresh coconut bread wafts
from pink, periwinkle, and lemon painted houses
where families sell pillowy loaves for less than a dollar.
Heaps of lobster come ashore from the salty sea
swim in coconut curry
and rest in satisfied bellies.
Everyone wanders the island barefoot
no shoes no shirt no problem
and drinks rum from fresh coconuts around a blazing bonfire.
Divers spend their days deep underwater
making dolphins, sharks, and stingrays their friends.
Yogis wander into the woods to a magical, spiritual space
and flow with a beauty who once called my jungle her home.
Travelers sleep in shacks, with no electricity in the day
grateful for the intermittent internet from gringo cafes.
Provisions are precious and come but once a week
reminding privileged travelers you can’t always get what you need.
Evenings feel as safe as balmy childhood summers
under a bedazzled sky and a glowing moon
the path is dark but fireflies will guide you home.
Time does not exist
rather the rise and set of the sun
the glow and fade of the stars
and though each day passes
to always stay the same.
whatever you do
don’t go to Little Corn.
Let it stay perfect
and let it stay mine.
But, if you must go…
Where to Stay on Little Corn Island
Little Corn Beach and Bungalows
Starting at $30/night in low season for 2 people, Master Suites for $140 in high season
This is the loveliest, most luxury accommodation on the beach side of the island. The cabins are beautiful, look out onto the ocean, are centrally located and on one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. They also have wifi which, while spotty, is pure solid gold on this island. It’s almost unbelievable that cabins start at $30. The inexpensive rooms fill fast, so book in advance. Kayak rentals and snorkels are available to rent and the onsite bar and restaurant is delicious.
Starting at $35/night for a cabin for 2
These cabins are built up on a bluff and have stunning views of the East side of the island. The onsite restaurant has wifi, free purified water, the best french toast I’ve ever tasted (soaked in coconut cream custard and topped with coconut infused syrup and shredded coconut), and uses organic ingredients from their own farm.
Cool Spot aka Grace’s Place
Starting at $15/night for a double with shared bathroom, $50 for a cabin with kitchen
I stayed at Cool Spot for more than a week and for the same price as a dorm bed in Costa Rica I was quite happy for my simply beachfront shack. Sure my feet were sandy all day every day but that’s part of the fun! I met awesome solo travelers here. It does have the most party atmosphere of the beach accommodations, which was annoying at times. They host twice weekly beach barbecues and bonfires.
Starting at $10 per night for a double
If you are a serious budget traveler, this is the only hotel (there are no hostels) on the island with a shared kitchen. Rooms are clean and the kitchen is spacious. It sits on the West side of the island in town, a fifteen minute walk across the jungle to the beach.
Where to Eat on Little Corn Island
$3-5 cocktails, $6-8 meals
The entire social scene of the island seems to center around Tranquilo Cafe. Every night they offer happy hour drink specials from 5-7 and have bonfires a few times a week. The ceviche, fish tacos, and burger are delicious and I became obsessed with their raw beet slaw (a valuable commodity on an island with no health food). Do not miss the amazing smoothies with fresh fruit, yogurt, and avocado. Did I mention they have the best internet connection on the island?
$5-8 for lunch, $8-12 for dinner
The tastiest restaurant on the island imho. My first night I enjoyed fresh kingfish fillet smothered in onions and coconut sauce with roasted veggies and green papaya salad. It was amazing. They also offer Italian treats like lobster pasta and lasagna. I’ve heard the breakfast is to die for as well.
$4-6 for breakfast, $10-15 for four course dinner, $6 for a life changing Pina Colada
The lovely beachfront restaurant of Little Corn Beach and Bungalows. Delicious breakfasts come with toasted local coconut bread topped with cinnamon and sugar. The dinner is by far the best deal on the island with an appetizer (usually a delicious homemade garlic bread), small salad, entree with starch and vegetable, and dessert. My favorites were the tender filet mignon on a bed of fresh spinach with a buttery, buttery, BUTTERY baked potato and the parmesan crusted snapper in a spicy red pepper cream sauce. Whatever you order be sure to try the Pina Colada. Thick, smooth, and creamy with a big dollop of toasted shredded coconut it blows any Pina Colada… no ANY DRINK I’ve ever had out of the water. It is amazing. Trust me.
Come here for local rondon (coconut seafood stew) and lobster. The atmosphere leaves something to be desired but if you want delicious, local food, you can’t beat it.
Some of the best and certainly the cheapest food on Little Corn is sold from local homes and on the street. Wander town looking for cardboard signs reading “hay pan de coco” and buy yourself a delicious loaf of local coconut bread. Next to the dock is a woman selling fruit and vegetables and ready to eat slices of watermelon for $.50. Be sure to find the old local man selling coconut cookies and Nicaraguan pati (similar to an empanada) on the street and on the beach.
What to Do on Little Corn Island
Explore the island
It may be called “Little Corn” but there is so much to see on this island. Walk the beach up to the deserted northern coves, explore the hidden beaches behind Casa Iguana, visit the farm on the South side, and climb the lighthouse in the center of the island. Tourist maps are readily available.
Diving is practically a religion on this island and there are plenty of reputable dive shops for you to choose from. If you are looking to get your open water dive certification it is an incredible bargain here for $300. Fun dives cost $35 and a one time experience for those without certification costs $65 for basic skills training and a 1 hour dive. I did my dive with Dolphin Dive and found them to be professional and fun.
There are some nice reefs you can swim to from the beach in front of Casa Iguana or you can arrange a snorkel tour for about $20. You can arrange a tour through your hotel or with any of the guys trolling the beach.
Trip to the Pearl Keys
$50 for a full day
A few hours from Little Corn lies a stunning island chain said to rival the San Blas islands in Panama. Some are completely deserted, others are privately owned. Arrange a tour to visit these tiny tropical islands, spend a few hours snorkeling and fishing, and eat a big seafood barbecue on the beach. I have heard this tour is phenomenal.
Yoga at Firefly Yoga and Massage
$10 for a 1.5 hour yoga class, intro specials available, $40 for a 1 hour massage
When friends from Puerto Viejo heard I would be on Little Corn they urged me to take some classes at Firefly Yoga and Massage. The owner and instructor, Sarah, used to teach at Om, my favorite yoga studio in the world. Her studio on Little Corn might be the loveliest, most intimate, sacred yoga space I have ever entered. Surrounded by screens in the middle of the jungle you hear birds chirping and the waves crashing during your yoga or massage session. Sarah is an incredibly talented instructor, showing me transitions I had never seen before. In the few classes I took I learned how to go deeper into several postures and with greater ease. Her words during meditation are beautiful and she has a soft yet strong presence which keeps her classes grounded.
Lay in a hammock. Soak up the sun. Float in the glowing aqua sea. Sip a cold cerveza. Everything else can wait.
How to Get to Little Corn Island
It is possible to arrive by bus and boat to the Corn Islands, but the stories I have heard are so horrific I’d like to urge you to just fly.
Flights leave twice daily from Managua to Big Corn Island in the morning and afternoon for $160 round trip. It is possible to book an open return ticket, which is dangerous as you might never leave.
From Big Corn Island take a panga for 30 minutes ($6) to Little Corn which leaves an hour after the planes land.
What to Know About Little Corn Island
Stay on the beach
The beach side of the island is breezier and you really can’t beat the views. There is nothing quite like watching the stars before bed and waking up to see the sunrise over the ocean.
There is no ATM on Little Corn, only on Big Corn, so bring lots of cash. Some restaurants and hotels accept credit cards and charge a 5% fee.
Take the South path to town
Walking between town and the beach across the jungle is inevitable. Take the paved South path at night as I’ve heard there have been robberies on less trodden paths. Bring a flash light.
Electricity stops in the daytime
Most places run off of generators, but there is still no electricity between 6am and 3pm. Charge all of your electronics at night and be prepared to wake up when the fans shut off.
Fresh produce is difficult to come by
This was my biggest struggle staying on this island. Having a nice big salad for lunch is downright impossible. It’s understandable as food comes in by freight once a week.
English is widely spoken
The native tongue is English Creole but locals speak English and Spanish fluently.
Lower your service expectations
This is a laid back island with a very different culture. Expect to wait a long time for your food and drinks. Expect your order to occasionally be wrong. Do not expect to be asked if you want another drink, to have your water refilled, your bed changed, or to have anything done in a timely manner. If you want something, ask for it. Relax and it will all be ok.
Come during lobster season
Fresh, cheap lobster is a huge bonus, but be sure to come during lobster season which typically runs July through March. The rest of the year lobster is not available or comes from the freezer.
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