Skip Navigation

Corn Islands

Photo © Tom Travel

Travel Guide Central America Nicaragua Corn Islands

edit

Introduction

isla5

isla5

© All Rights Reserved canica

The Corn Islands are located off the Caribbean coastline of Nicaragua and are an even better way of escaping it all in the country. The main islands are the aptly named Big and Little Corn Islands. The main activities include relaxing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and ocean fishing which are magnificent. Picnic Beach is probably one of the most beautiful areas with fine sand, palms and crystal clear waters. Sandflies are the only negative aspect probably. Between the islands you can arrange boats which usually take an hour or so.

Top

edit

Geography

The Corn Islands consist of the Big Corn Island (Isla Grande del Maíz; often simply referred to as Corn Island; Isla del Maíz), with an area of 10 square kilometres, and Little Corn Island (Isla Pequeña del Maíz), with an area of 2.9 square kilometres. The total area is 12.9 square kilometres. Mount Pleasant Hill in the north of Big Corn Island, is the highest elevation of the islands, at 113 metres. Little Corn Island reaches a height of 38 metres at Lookout Point in the northern part of the island.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

Big Corn Island

The island is quite picturesque. Hiking into the hills will bring you into tropical nature; there are two big beaches and lots of tiny and remote ones. A boat trip around the island will showcase its natural beauty.

Baseball is the number one sport on the island, with even soccer a distant second, and taking in a local game will put you right in the middle of real island culture. Baseball (or fast-pitch softball) is on Sundays and there are typically 3-4 games. The stadium is right next to the airport and the island museum. The first game starts at 08:30 and is not very well attended. There is usually one men's game then one women's game alternating throughout the day. The final game is the highlight sometime around 3-4 depending on previous games. Soccer is also on Sundays and is just down from Casa Canada on the south end.

There is very little of historic or artistic significance except for an art installation at the top of Quinn Hilll. It's a small pyramid in the middle of a park. It is one of 8 sites around the world.

Little Corn Island

There's not a whole lot to see on the island, per se, other than the deep blue sea. There are a couple of tiny and uninteresting churches, and a couple of sunken boats to gaze at offshore.

A run down lighthouse lies on the northwestern-ish part of the island, next to the giant cell phone tower that dwarfs it. It´s climbable and offers an awesome view of the whole island, but take care on the ladder, and think twice if you´re afraid of heights.

There is a football (soccer) field in the center of the island which might see an impromptu match a couple times a year, and a newly renovated baseball field further north from the lighthouse. When there's a local series going, you can see the equivalent of the best of old fashioned small town baseball, with a great mix of local islanders, ex-pats, and tourists in the bleachers. One of the few good things that Americans brought to Nicaragua.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

Crab Soup Festival

This festival is held annually on the Corn Islands every August. It celebrates the release of the 99 slaves on the island by the Queen of England during the nineteenth century, and has turned into the biggest celebration on the islands, heralding their heritage.

Top

edit

Weather

The Corn Islands have a tropical climate with generally hot and humid conditions. Temperatures are around or just above 30 °C during the day most of the year and most areas are still above 20º at night. Nicaragua has two seasons regarding rainfall. A dry and slightly cooler November to April season and a wet season (but not raining all day) during May to October. Hurricanes occasionally hit the country from July/August onwards.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

There is one local airline (La Costeña Airlines) that flies to Big Corn Island from Managua (usually once in the morning and again in early to mid afternoon) and Bluefields. These are 15-20 seat dual prop planes without pressurized cabins or air conditioning. One way flights are around US$107 and a round trip around US$165. Some of the planes go first to Bluefields before they continue to the Island. There is a weight limit for the plane so be careful about how much luggage you bring. They weigh each passenger with their luggage before boarding. When you arrive in Managua exit the airport and go left to the small building next to the terminal. You can purchase tickets there, but need a reservation in advance most of the time. You can change the return date for your ticket with no trouble or fees as long as there is room on the plane.

Some days of the week, you can get from Houston or Miami to Managua in time to fly directly to Big Corn Island; other days, you will have to spend a night in Managua and fly to the island the following day. When you return from the island to Managua, again, you may have to spend the night depending on the timing of the flights.

There are conflicting reports as to whether Nature Air (Costa Rica'S domestic airline) flies to/from Corn Island out of San José.

By Boat

From Managua, the overland trip can take as much as three days. First you will have to get to El Rama (don't worry, the road is in excellent condition and there are several departures daily). From there you can either take the next boat to Bluefields (if connections align; as the late afternoon boat leaves only "when needed", this is not a given) or see whether a direct boat for Big Corn leaves that day. Try to avoid staying the night in El Rama. While it is not a bad place in any way shape or form it is rather boring and can't compare to Bluefields. If you have to spend the night, take the fast boat at the crack of dawn (your bags will be searched, so make sure that there is nothing that should not be in your bags). The ride will be a bumpy, life affirming and wet 1 1/2 to 2 hours to Bluefields. In Bluefields you can check out the city but should go to the pier where the boat to Corn Island leaves as soon as possible (the pier where you arrived is a different one) and ask when the next boat for Corn Island will depart. Sometimes you might have to catch the boat in El Bluff instead, which is further out into the bay and can be gotten to by one of the boats leaving at the pier where you arrived. When buying the boat ticket, you will be asked for your ID number, so bring your passport. As the boat schedule is rather erratic and subject to change at a moment's notice, you should ask when the return trip leaves to avoid being stranded on Big Corn. Should the boat ride (roughly seven hours for seventy kilometers) convince you of the benefits of aviation, book your flight back already on arrival (don't worry, changing the date is rather easy if space is available) as La Costeña is infamous for overbooking planes and "bumping" passengers who dare arrive less than one hour prior to boarding. Given that the planes are rather small Cessna-types, there are not all that many seats on the plane to begin with.

Almost everyone reaches the island via the twice-daily panga (ferry), which leaves Big Corn Island at 10:00am and 4:30pm, and leaves Little Corn at 6:30am and 1:30pm. The price of the panga is C$130 (US$6). The ride takes between 30 and 45 minutes and can sometimes get pretty rough. The back of the boat is less rough, while the front is less wet. Sitting on your life vest will help ease the pain in your ass on the rough days. As much as some people love the breakneck speed the drivers used to cross at, they have become more considerate of the more fragile on board in recent years.

Top

edit

Getting Around

Big Corn Island

The road system basically consists of a perimeter road that runs around the island. There are a few paved side roads, but only the one to Picnic Beach is of significant length.

There are many hiking trails into the centre of the island and along the shore.

Getting around the island can be done by taxi (anywhere on the island for C$18) (~US$0.75), by bus (anywhere on the island for NIO5) (~US$0.25) per person. However, the bus seems to have no reliable schedule to speak of.

You can rent bicycles, golf carts, cars, or motorcycles. A taxi will generally pick up other passengers along your route - don't panic, this is normal. If you are in a hurry (and you really should only be if you have a plane to catch), you should tell the driver as they are prone to taking circuitous routes to get several people to their destinations.

Little Corn Island

The island is walkable, and in fact you have no choice... there´s not a single motorized vehicle on the island, and no roads on which to drive anyhow. There´s a paved sidewalk along the west coast near the pier, and beyond that you´re hiking through narrow dirt paths through the jungle-like interior of the island. You could walk the length of the island in less than an hour, though the paths get muddy and slippery very quickly during the rain. You can walk most of the east side of the island along the beach, with a couple of tricky spots at high tide.

There are bicycles on the island, though take care on the rough dirt paths. Ask at your guesthouse if interested. If you choose to run around barefoot, keep an eye out for broken glass. Walking bare foot is never advised, unless you're walking on the beach. The "City" walkways are often too dirty for bare feet, so wear flip flops at least, but walking is only easy to those are in good physical shape, it is a remote island after all. Great place for morning and evening jogging around the island. Water shoes are also recommended as there is plenty of coral around the island that can cut your feet or legs while swimming.

Top

edit

Eat

Big Corn Island

Be careful eating here if you are a picky eater or have dietary restrictions. Most of the menus have the same items (usually fish and other seafood), and vegetarian and vegan food is rare and unvaried (mostly pasta and French Fries). Fresh vegetables and produce are hard to find and very expensive (salads typically are small and cost around C$100).

The best restaurants on the island for typical island cuisine are Casa Canada (South End), Restaurante Sabor at Sunrise Hotel (excellent breakfasts & Sunday barbecue), right next to Casa Canada, Seva's (Dos Millas) & Paraiso. Paraiso has a fantastic menu including deserts. The food is varied from pasta and bruschetta to traditional island dishes and fresh fish. They also make the best pina coladas and coco loco's. They use coconuts cut from the tree. Nautilus restaurant offers gourmet island fusion dishes, pizza and vegetarian dishes.

The cook at the picnic center does an excellent job with local dishes, going to great length to prepare them correctly. Lobster fishing is a huge part of the island's economy, and lobster is on the menu at almost every restaurant. When the lobster are in season, lobster dishes cost US$5-8, and are available at all local restaurants. Lobster is the primary industry in the Corn Islands, so lobster and conch are plentiful. Be careful of lobster tails under 5 inches long or under 5 ounces in weight because they are illegal. When the season is closed in early March time frame, the lobster dishes tend to go up slightly in prices, but are still reasonable in prices. For a very inexpensive lunch or dinner check out one of the little taco stands on the beach on the south end near long bay. They have fried tacos with salad that are excellent. There isn't a name on the establishment, but a taxi driver told us the locals call it "specitos" because the owner wears glasses.

It is not unusual to wait 40–60 minutes after ordering to receive one's meal. Everything is prepared from scratch after you order, so order before you get too hungry and be prepared to pass some time waiting for the results. After you place your order, typically the chef will make a trip off on his bicycle to fetch the needed ingredients for the dish you have chosen. This is typical of the relaxed pace everywhere on the island. It will be unusual to see anyone in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.

Also, do not miss the coconut bread (pan de coco), especially the sweet (dulce) variety. It is typically sold in small shops or from their houses by the ladies who make it.

Local fruit is incredible in its variety and freshness. You can get coconuts and mangos almost anywhere for free. Ask someone at your hotel to cut one down and you can drink the milk straight from the nut.

Little Corn Island

  • Little Corn Island Beach & Bungalow, Cocal Beach, Breezy Side (Directly East from the dock), ☎ +505 89232517, e-mail: info@littlecornbb.com. open daily. Little Corn Island Beach and Bungalow (rated "One of 27 best affordable beach resorts in the world by Travel and Leisure) eco friendly resort has immaculate bungalows all with ensuite bathrooms with hot showers situated right on the beach. Turned Turtle Restaurant and Bar (one of the top rated restaurants on the Big and Little Corn Island) has great margaritas and Pina Coladas (their frozen drinks are actually frozen, not blended so you don't get a drink watered down with blended melting ice) and serves bistro style food with an island flare at good prices. The Turned Turtle has the most timely and friendly service on their side of the island. Breakfasts start at US$2.99 and they offer a brewed coffee bar with all the fixin's which opens at 6:45AM, lunches start at $4.90, snacks for as little as $2 and four course dinners start at $9 and require no reservations. Many vegetarian options too! Another plus, owners manage and live on site. from US$45.
  • Tranquilo Cafe, Front side (On the beach, conveniently situated between the two dive shops), ☎ +505 8361 3758. 11-9 daily (closed Thursdays). American style bistro/cafe with quality food, and excellent, fast (especially for Central Am.), service. Appetizers include bruschetta & "Catch of the Day" ceviche. Entrees: big and juicy cheeseburgers, fresh fish tacos, grilled chicken sandwiches, and quesadillas. Great veggie offerings as well. Nightly dinner specials that include home-made mac & cheese, wing night, fish & chips. Huge home-made chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, brownies, & home-made rum cake. Ice cream. Fresh brewed hot and iced Nicaraguan coffees, local fruit juice "frescos", smoothies, cocktails, and ice cold beer (including Guinness!) The place to go before or after a dive. Famous for their twice weekly Bonfire Parties, "Pub Quiz", and DJ nights. Also features free WiFi, a gift shop that showcases local crafts, as well as t-shirts and traveler necessities US$2-$8.50.
  • Cool Spot (south of the port). This popular place straddles the sidewalk, but it´s all about the beachside stand where you can pull up a barstool and get something cold to drink, or partake in their simple but tasty meals. mains C$75-135.
  • Habana Libre (just north of the port). Open only randomly during a recent visit, this spot serves up delicious chicken and pork dishes. Some of the specialties require advance ordering. If you hang around long enough, you'll get an ear full from the owners about their anti-foreigner sentiments, which is ironic since the husband is from Cuba. mains from C$100.
  • Farm Peace & Love (north side of island, just east of Ensueños). Paola is a lovely Italian woman, cooking up truly superb Italian fare out of her house. A 3-course dinner runs US$15/person, and ingredients are often grown fresh on her farm. Reservations are needed 24 hours in advance, either by dropping by or having Dive Little Corn or Casa Iguana contact her by radio.
  • Casa Iguana Bar, Restaurant & Lounge (towards the southeast, head south from the port and follow the signs). Guests and visitors are welcome to dine and lounge in the spacious lodge. Traditional breakfast served with fresh fruit in a timely manner for US$6. Small snacks & free organic fair trade coffee are available self serve station all day long (patrons can donate money to the children's reading room). Fresh fruit juices and cocktails, great view of the entire breezy side of the island. A 3-course meal every night prepared with local ingredients and fresh caught fish for about US$15. A vegetarian option/dietary restriction options are always available. Full bar. Sample menus and details on website.
  • Dereks Place Bed and Breakfast, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua (NE Corner of island). No matter if you're a guest or not, you must make reservations to eat in the "family style" meals. Delicious meals, meat or vegetarian dishes. Specialties include brick oven pizza, Coconut bread, fruit dishes. Often with a cozy bonfire and hammocks on the beach. $4-9+.

Top

edit

Drink

Big Corn Island

The best places to sit and have a beer or cocktail during the day are at Picnic Center on the southwest side of the island and at Anastasia's on the Sea on the north end of the island. Anastasia's has the most expensive domestic beer prices found on the island, even higher than Hotel Casa Canada's. After baseball games and on Sundays, Island Style is very popular. On Friday and Saturday nights, Reggae Palace is where the dancing is best. And on Sunday nights most islanders head to Nico’s for after hours fun. Nico's bathrooms lack a bit in hygienic maintenance.

Little Corn Island

Little Corn Beach and Bungalow's "Turned Turtle Bar and Restaurant" on Cocal Beach offers what they term "island famous" margaritas, homemade Pina Coladas and the island version of a mudslide, "Jeff's Mudhole". Homemade corn chips with salsa and guacamole and maybe the islands only "crispy" french fries are all offered along with their friendly beach side service. The bar and beach is a great place to laze the day away in a hammock and enjoy a drink or three.

Tranquilo Cafe. Front side. Lots of Happy Hour Specials from 5-7pm, and the best place on the island to be "seen", share travel stories, and enjoy the view and sunset. Besides beer (including Guinness), it has the largest cocktail menu on the island. Also fresh brewed hot and iced Nicaraguan coffees, local fruit juice "frescos", smoothies. Famous for their twice weekly Bonfire Parties and DJ nights. Also features free WiFi until 10pm for those who can put down that iPhone while chilling. Until late, depending on the crowd.

Top

edit

Sleep

Big Corn Island

There are a variety of places to stay on the island, ranging from extremely basic backpacker accommodations costing only about US$10 per night to clean/comfortable/air conditioned places for US$30–50, to a few more upscale places (which are still usually less than US$100/night). Travelers reviews can be found easily online.

  • Fishers Cave. Located right at the municipal wharf so you can't beat it for convenience. The rooms are really nice with big beds, air conditioning, views of the island over Brigg Bay and a restaurant that serves excellent breakfasts. This is the place to stay if you don't want to get up early to catch the boat or panga. You can also buy your tickets to the Capt. D right here. mid-range.
  • Hotel Morgan. Always highly rated, Hotel Morgan is clean. The upstairs rooms have a balcony looking out over the sea. They offer a restaurant that serves really good food, even if you don't stay here you should have lunch here. Hotel Morgan is a pretty good deal for the traveler. US$15-50.
  • South End Sunrise Hotel. falls in the middle pricing structure, but the rooms are very clean and spacious, and the proprietors (Lanmar and Ina) are very friendly and helpful.
  • Cabanas Vientos del Norte (Ike's Place), North End (About 1 mile NE of the dock), ☎ +505 8836-7188. Vientos del Norte is a great place on the North End of Big Corn Island. Ike Siu is the owner, and he has 8 rooms about 15 metres from the ocean. His rooms range from $10 per person in a dorm style up to $50 oceanview with AC/Fridge/microwave, etc., although you may be charged extra for using a credit card or some of the amenities. Also has wireless internet for guests. Ike will do just about anything for his guests. You can use the kitchen. Free airport/boat pickup and dropoff. Food is available. US$10-50.
  • Paraiso Beach Hotel, Brig Bay2 (Shipwreck Beach), ☎ +505 2575 5111. Check-in: any time, check-out: any time. Paraiso Beach Hotel is a well known Corn Island resort, able to accommodate 45 people in 15 rooms, all decorated in traditional Nicaraguan style. They are made to make you feel right at home. The cabanas are built 80 meters from the beach. Paraiso Beach Hotel has bathing, diving, fishing, waterskiing and snorkeling. Coral reefs are just minutes off shore surrounding the island 3-4 metres deep, visibility 25-30 metres. Has a restaurant - basic breakfast is great, and free with your stay. Has a computer with internet access for guest use. US$35-65.
  • G and G hotel/hostal (Hotel), Brigg Bay (Reggae Palace). Very lively hotel with good bar and restaurant. Nice rooms with TV and A/C, very secure. Parking available. Wifi free for guests. Beach is just a 2 minute walk. Really one of the best deals on the island. rooms from US$15.

Little Corn Island

There are few hotels near the port, while the more rustic places are scattered around the island. Note that the island has an almost constant easterly breeze, keeping the eastern and northern sides cool, while the western side near the port swelters in the sun most of the day. The wind also helps to keep the mosquitoes and sandflies to a minimum, which you may want to consider in choosing your accommodation.

  • Lobster Inn, ☎ +505 847-1736. Rooms with private bath and fan, from US$20.
  • Hotel Los Delfines, e-mail: hotellosdelfines@hotmail.com. Rooms are airconditioned, have television and their own bathrooms. Probably the most "modern" of the hotels on the island. They have their own restaurant, which serves up the typical, but better than average Nica meals. Mastercard and Visa are accepted. This hotel is connected to Dolphin Dive and is a good option for those coming to take courses of just do boat trips. US$40/50/60 for single/double/triple.
  • Three Brothers Guesthouse, ☎ +505 8658 8736, +505 8927 072. Check-out: 10:00am. Includes kitchen, large dining and common room and outdoor patio with hammocks. Located 120 meters from the port, relaxed atmosphere, impeccably clean and family run. $10/12/15 for a variety of room types.
  • Little Corn Island Beach and Bungalow, Cocal Beach, Breezy Side (Go directly east across the island from the dock, take every right turn including once you hit the beach, go 100 mtrs south on beach or 500 metres north of Casa Iguana on Cocal Beach), ☎ +505 89232517, e-mail: info@littlecornbb.com. Check-in: varies, check-out: 9:30am. Currentlyl rated #1 hotel by Trip Advisor on the Corn Islands, Little Corn Island Beach and Bungalow is located right on Cocal Beach. 8 of 12 cabins are only steps from the water. This eco-friendly lodge is only place on Little Corn island that recycles rainwater for in bungalow use. Immaculate en-suite bathrooms (with hot water showers) include towels, toiletries and beach towels. Clean, high quality sheets, quality beds, comfy "My Pillow" pillows, in room fans (some with ceiling fans), rechargeable power keeps fans on in the nicest cabins, free wi-fi (for guests with own device), French doors and 14 foot verandas open on to beautifully landscaped grounds and the azure blue Caribbean. Four bungalows are Master Suite Gullivers with King size bed, refrigerator, sitting area and larger verandas are steps from the beach. Two new jungle Master Suite Gulliver cabins are the nicest available at the resort and in private garden setting, yet only a 1 minute walk to the beach. Accept MasterCard and Visa (hotel guests only and a hefty convenience fee applies), have recycle bins (owners volutarily ship at their cost all non-recyclable waste that can not be properly disposed of to the mainland for more appropriate disposal) and are very active in "eco friendly" practices in regard to their impact on the island. Bungalows, US$59 and up.
  • Casa Iguana, East Side (towards the southeast, head south from the port and follow the signs), e-mail: casaiguana@mindspring.com. Check-out: 10:00am. Opened in 1994 as Nicaragua's first eco-lodge, Casa Iguana sits on a private explorable 40 acre reserve above two private coves, with a farm and a long stretch of white coral sand beach. 15 Casitas with wide verandas and views are painted in a collage of Caribbean colors and are constructed to allow the trade winds to pass through them. The beds are comfortable, in-room safes are provided, and the restaurant serves great food and cold drinks while you marvel at the view (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The lodge is also a popular hangout with travelers and guests perusing the book exchange, boardgames or drink menu all day and night. They've got potable well water so as not to sell water bottles & have recycling bins. Prices can a bit higher than the other lodging on the island, but their entry rate of US$20/night for a cabina with shared bath is a great deal-they have beautiful, clean grounds and views, are relatively easy to get to, and family friendly. A staffer meets the ferry at the port to greet arriving guests and will have your luggage carted directly to your casita and back to the dock after your stay. 3 types of accommodation; Internet cafe; Free WiFi for guests; Bath towels and beach towels; 2 night watchmen at night; 24-hour electricity provided by an off-grid wonky generator/wind/solar set-up. Iguana also supports a US women's college by sponsoring an annual trip of biology researchers to study the reef and island aquifer while educating locals on their findings. Accepts MC/Visa and personal checks. Owner is not on site, and can be difficult to contact. Furthermore, the premises need a little upkeep, as they are suffering from some years of neglect. Also be aware that on this side of the island the winds can be very strong and may not provide for the most relaxing stay. US$20-85; Mastercard and Visa accepted.
  • Carlito's / Sunrise Paradise. Particularly noteworthy are the three beachfront huts. Their huts are on stilts which may help distance you from critters. US$35 for the beach front cabins. US$8-15.
  • Elsa's Place. Sweet old Elsa runs this old cheapie, and her restaurant turns out a tasty fried fish. Huts are set back a bit from the beach, with the prime real estate given to tables and chairs. From US$5.
  • Grace's / Cool Spot. Cabanas are a bit cozy but every room offers a hammock on the porch. The water is just a coconut's throw from the hotel. Restaurant offers a good selection of food ranging from local to more western dishes. Graces Cool Spot offers fishing and snorkeling trips, as well as sunset rides when the weather permits. There is a bonfire weekly and they regularly cook up a big pot of the island's favorite dish, rundown. Rooms vary from double room with shared bath to a cabana with 2 double beds with a private bath and kitchen. This is a fun place to stay on the island. From US$15 - $50.
  • Derek's Place (at the northeast point of the island, take the trail from the north of Dive Little Corn and stay straight at all crossroads). Probably the most desirable spot on the island to many, they´ve got 4 beautiful huts made creatively from natural materials strewn across a bright green grassy lawn overlooking the sea. Derek and Anna are both quite interesting, and serve up 3 meals on request. There are 3 huts with double beds, and 1 larger hut with 2 double beds and glass bottle walls, all with comfortable mattresses. It´s about a 20 minute walk through the jungle to get here from the port, or if you´ve made a reservation you can request Derek to pick you up from the port in his boat. US$35-40.
  • Ensueños (head north from the port and follow the signs for about 20-30 minutes). Along the north of island, this place, run by the friendy Ramon, is fairly remote and popular with long-term travelers. Huts are decent and unusual, and everything is set further back from the beach than most, under the palm trees. There´s a restaurant on site which serves surprisingly gourmet meals (Andrea, the chef, is amazing) on request. From US$25.

Top

Corn Islands Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Corn Islands

This is version 4. Last edited at 12:44 on Feb 9, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License