Aaron

http://www.categori.se Earth 13 posts

There's lots to do on Ometepe: hiking, kayaking, biking, or maybe just relaxing and hanging out. First time visitors should should be aware, however, that getting around the island can be logistically challenging, and most activities will take up an entire day. Plan accordingly.

Activities

Hiking Volcán Concepción

Volcán Concepción is the highest of the two volcanoes that collective constitute Isla de Ometepe. It is 1,610 metres high and has a beautiful cone shape.

Visitors wishing to hike the volcano can join a guided tours group for ca. US $15 to reach the middle of the volcano (i.e. to an altitude of ca. 1000 metres) and ca. US $20 to go further up. The first part of the ascent involves trekking up gently slopes of lush green tropical forest. During this section, you're likely to see howler monkeys and white faced monos. The second part of the ascent is steep. Vegetation changes at higher elevation. After the tree line (if it's not cloudy) there are some spectacular views.

Note that some guides are only willing to take you to ca. 1300 metres at highest. Anything beyond that is rather dangerous, with strong wind and ravines of loose rocks. Also note that prices includes only the guides, not transport to the start of the trail, nor any snacks. Bring your own food or at least plenty of water—2 - 4 litres per person. Also pack a jacket—it can get quite cold and windy.

Hikers are encourage to begin the ascent early. Tours from Moyogalpa start around 7am.

Hiking Volcán Maderas

Hikers can summit Volcán Maderas and swim it the crater.

It's known to be a tough but interesting climb that traverses a variety terrain. One first passes through fields meadows and then begins the ascent through rainforest jungles. The terrain shifts fairly quickly to steep mud walls before turning eventually to gravelly volcanic rock. After summit the volcano, hiker can continue by making the steep descent to Maderas' crater lake—a soft marsh, blanketed with the brightest green grass, that transitions into a freshwater lagoon.

Depending on the cloud cover, the views during the climb range from spectacular to lacklustre to non-existent. The reward is the hike itself. It fun to behold the dense jungle of hanging bromeliads and lichens and to hear the calls of birds and monkeys. If you keep your eyes on the canopy, you're likely to see white-faced capuchin monkeys and mantled howler monkeys as well as parakeets, squirrels, butterflies, large beetles, caterpillars, bats, and urracas (large blue swallowtails). Closer to the top, on a clear day, one can catch some spectacular views of Concepción. It's also possible to pitch a tent and camp out overnight at the top of Maderas, provided you're willing (and able) to carry your gear.

The 4km ascent is long, muddy and slippery. To reach the summit takes about four-hours on average, but can take up to 5.5 hours depending on your group and personal level of fitness.

A guided tour cost about US$20 per person. Pack sufficient food and water and remember to bring a light jacket.

Relaxing at Ojo de Agua

Ojo de Agua is a natural pool of running mineral water.

Kayak & Boating

Kayaking the Rio Istián, which cuts across the isthmus connecting Volcán Concepción and Volcán Maderas, is fun and adventurous opportunity to check out some of Ometepe's wildlife. If you depart early, you'll see a tremendous variety of birds, and you're also likely to spot turtles, caimans and howler monkeys.

Tours can be organized through nearby hotels, e.g. Caballito's Mar Hotel (tel: (505) 8451 2093).

Horseback Riding

Horses help to traverse muddy and steep terrain with relative ease, and hence offer island explorers access to various sites and landscapes that one might otherwise miss. Go for a ride towards the lake and explore the tiny villages. Go to San Ramon waterfalls. Canter along one of the island’s beaches or trot the ring around Maderas Volcano. The beaches around Santo Domingo are also a nice place to ride.

There are few independent operators, so the best bet for organizing a riding tour is via your hotel. Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir is known to help with such tours, including a ride to the slopes of Vulcán Maderas (steep terrain through the forest, plantations and pastures scattered with volcanic rocks, offering some great views). The price for renting horses and a guide should be between US $5 and US $7 US per hour. As of 2010, Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir was helping visitors with a 2,5 hours ride for US $5 per hour.

Biking / Mountain Biking / Motorbiking

To cycle around Maderas it is 35 km. The unpaved roads on the island are comprised mainy of dirt and rough gravel. Ideal for mountain biking, but also a bit bumpy. The south-eastern section of the island in particular is mostly unpaved, rutted and muddy. You share the road with the horseback riders, dirt bikers, walkers and cow herders, but overall there is little traffic.

One can rent a mounting bike at many hotels on Isla de Ometepe. As of July 2009, Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir offers rentals for US $3 per hour.

References

Photo Credits

Ometepe - Activities

There's lots to do on Ometepe: hiking, kayaking, biking, or maybe just relaxing and hanging out. First time visitors should should be aware, however, that getting around the island can be logistically challenging, and most activities will take up an entire day. Plan accordingly. Activities Hiking Volcán Concepción Hiking Volcán...

Natural Sites

Volcán Concepción

The Concepción volcano is ca. 1610 meters in height.

Volcán Concepción, the northern volcano, is the taller of the two volcanoes with a near-perfect cone shape,,although it's usually shrouded by thick cloud cover.

Volcán Concepción

Volcán Concepción is still active. It has erupted at least 25 times since 1883, with notable recent eruptions in 1986 and 2010. Concepción's eruptions are characterized by frequent, moderate-sized explosions. Those who summit the volcano to peer down into its crater will also be able to see active fumaroles.

Volcán Maderas

Volcán Maderas is ca 1,394 metres in height.
Volcán Maderas

Technically still active, the latest activity occurred over 3000 years ago. There are no confirmed eruptions in historical time. In September 1996, however, a mud slide on the volcano (caused by heavy rainfall, not volcanic activity) killed 6 people.

Laguna de Maderas

Laguna de Maderas is located in the 800-meter-wide summit crater. The lagoon is bordered by reeds and often fogged in by a curtain of mist. The lake water is cold, but it is possible to swim in it.

Casacada San Ramón

Another classic Maderas hike is to the the mossy, 40m [131ft] San Ramón waterfall.

Reaching the San Ramón waterfall involves a ca. four-hour trek. Bus service to the base of the trail is available each morning from Moyogalpa and Altagracia. Exit at the ecological station. Buses return from San Ramón in the early afternoon.

Reserva Charco Verde

The Reserva Charco Verde offers swimming, hiking and kayaking amidst beautiful nature and abundant wildlife. The reserve is situated on the southern end of Volcán Concepción, near to San José del Sur.

The trail into the reserve passes the Laguna Charco Verde, a green pond said to be home of the ancient witch Chico Largo. According to the legend, he Chico Largo protects the tomb and gold throne of Cacique Nicarao. In exchange for your soul, Chico Largo will give you a life of luxury.

Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor

Between July and December (peaking in August and September) some 30,000 female Olive Ridley turtles and a few hundred leatherback turtles visit Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor to nest. It's a joy to behold the turtles laying eggs on the beach, not to mention tiny baby turtles making their death-defying run for the water.

Several hotels, including Hotel Nina and Casa Oro Hostel, run night tours, including transportation (bring insect repellent). Unfortunately, the tour guides aren't always vigilant in protecting the turtles on these trips, during which distance and respect are vital necessary to the turtle's well-being. New environmental legislation is, however, being brought into effect to promote the turtles' substantially.

Located south of San Juan del Sur, Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor is managed by Fundación Cocibolca.

Playa Santo Domingo

Playa Santo Domingo is a 4 km long stretch of gray sand (i.e., black and white) situated on the north-eastern side of the Island, just north of the narrow isthmus that connects the Concepción side and the Maderas side (roughly equidistant between Altagracia to Balgüe). It is the longest beach on the island and said to be one of the prettiest freshwater beaches in Nicaragua.

Along Playa Santo Domingo are some of the island’s finest accommodation options and scenic lakeside hotels, restaurants and bars. There is also a small canopy zip line and, as in other places on the island, you can rent bikes and go horse riding. The swimming can be nice, but the water is usually choppy.

Playa Santo Domingo

If you're taking a chicken bus, just ask the driver to let you off there. Nearby accommodations are Finca Santo Domingo and Villa Paraíso (Tel: 045-34675). Both accept credit cards and cost ca. $4 per night.

Playa Marsella

Playa Marsella is a spectacularly beautiful beach with good snorkelling and an adequate estuary break. Watch the currents here, and don't forget the sunscreen because there's very little shade. If you need to escape the sun's rays, you can always kick back with a cool drink at the upmarket resort complex.

Merida

Merida is a village on the west side of Vulcán Maderas. The town is a hub for a range of activities, including horseback riding, kayaking and mountain biking. It is also an easy point for scheduling excursions to Vulcán Maderas, Cascada San Ramón (a 40m high waterfall) and to El Cogüito (Monkey Island). There also a new boat service between Merida and Moyogalpa.

Ojo de Agua

Ojo de Agua is a natural pool of running mineral water.

Cultural Sites

Moyogalpa

Located on the north-western coast of the island, Moyogalpa is the largest village (with a population of 6700 inhabitants) and commercial centre on Isla de Ometepe. Visitors can find a choice of hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and Internet cafes [the fastest internet on the island], a post office, a tourist office and most of the island's tour companies. Moyogalpa also has the only bank and ATM on the island.

From the port, Moyogalpa's main drag rises up to a charming Catholic church where it meets the main road connecting to the rest of the island's communities. There is also a small archaeological museum, La Sala Arqueológica, located toward the top of the main street. The museum features a small but interesting collection of pre-Columbian artefacts.

Fun cultural events include the Fiesta de Santa Ana, July 23-26, featuring the Baile de las Inditas which is performed with traditional costumes and the resonant sound of the marimba. Sometimes there are also bull fights and duck and chicken races. Staple foods of the fiesta are chicken, rice, beans, and fish, with vegetables, breads, cheeses and coffee also.

Moyogalpa is accessible via 1-hour ferry ride from San Jorge on the mainland. The ferry from San Jorge arrives in Moyogalpa.

Altagracia

Altagracia is a small town situated northeast of Volcán Concepción. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the name of the town was Astagalpa, meaning 'House of the Herones' in the Náhuatl langauge.

Altagracia is the second largest town on the island. At its centre is the (aptly-named) Parque Central—a grass lawn with a small shop selling snacks and drinks, a small garden, and some tall trees. Around the park are a variety of small shops and food stalls. Nearby are the church and the museum.

The main annual Fiesta celebrated in Altagracia is Fiestade San Diego, November 12-18—a week-long commemoration of the pilgrimage and death of Altagracia’s patron saint. The community gathers to dance the Baile de Zompopo. A representation or statue of the saint is carried around the island, a symbolic re-enactment of the saint’s pilgrimage. The idol is returned to the Catholic church of Altagracia on November 18th. Every April 28-30, the people of Altagracia throw a festival in honour of San Pedro Martir.

Just north of Altagracia there is a ferry terminal, Puerto de Gracia, which provides transportation to Granada and San Carlos (twice per week to both destinations) as well as to San Jorge (daily). If you happen to be arriving to Puerto de Gracia, you'll be greeted immediately by local, offered a free ride into town, and invited to stay at various hospedajes. Refuse once, and you’ll be offered a second time, with a discount on kayak rental. Take the flyers, accept a ride: you'll be in the loving care of very hospitable nicaraguensës. Have fun, have a drinking, play some guitar and join a feast.

Altagracia Church

Altagracia church is situated next to Parque Central. It is a yellow building dating from 1924 and it is connected to an older church building. In the older church there was a photo exhibition when I visited. It was a lovely photo exhibition with photos from Nicaragua, by Nicaraguan photographers. To visit the exhibition a donation of 20 cordobas should be paid (July 2009). Outside the church there is a Sculpture Park with pre-Colombian basalt rock figures, like eagles and jaguars.

For a close encounter with well-maintained stone carvings, visit the church located right in the center of town.

Museo de Ometepe

The Museo de Ometepe was founded in 1994. This small museum covers the history, geography and traditions of the island. On display are pottery, traditional dresses and a model of the island and its volcanoes. The museum also showcases some petroglyphs and stone statues.

Admission is 30 cordobas (as of July 2009). The museum is open between 8am - 4pm, Mondays - Saturdays. After you've finished learning all about the island, you'll be invoed to purchase art objects and replicas.

El Ceibo Museum

Visitors also can learn about the history of Ometepe at the history El Ceibo Museums in Sacramento (10 kilometers from Moyogalpa).

Moisès David Ghitis Rivera, the museum's founder, started his collection at age 12 (1976) by collecting bills, coins, agricultural implements and other archaeological artefacts that he found on his parents' land. El Ceibo was inaugurated as a Numismatic and Precolumbian Museum 31 March 2007. It is the only private museum of prehispanic artefacts on the island of Ometepe and one of the few museums with a large collection of pre-Columbian pieces on permanent displayin Nicaragua. The initiative was supported by Rivera and his friends who donated pieces found in different parts of the island.

Access to the Museum is free to island residents, has a modest entrance fee of US $ 6 for foreign tourists to visit both museums and US $ 4 for domestic visitors.

Finca Ecologica, El Zopilote

Finca Ecologica El Zopilote is a permaculture farm and hostel located about 10-minutes up a private dirt trail from the village of El Madroñal. Run by a few peace-loving Italians assisted by seasonal worker (including many international volunteers), the farm cultivates respect for the environment and nature. The farm does its best to limit the use of cement—construction building to the greatest extent possible from natural stone and rock, recycled materials such as glass, bottles and metal, and natural materials such as bamboo and palm. The compound also utilizes compost toilets.

Pizza Night at Zopilote

The land is completely planted with trees and plants of all kinds, including a nursery and a vegetable garden. For those interested in permaculture, sustainable living and ecology, El Zopilote organizes tours: learn about composting, rainwater harvesting, solar power, trash recycling and more. El Zopilote also hosts members of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

When visiting Finca El Zopilote, be sure to check out the lookout tower, which offers exceptional sunset views of Volcán Concepción in the foreground.

View from the Lookout Tower: El Zopilote

Also check out their small shelling farm- and locally-made organic products, including coffee, chocolate (6 different flavours), nutella, peanut butter, tahini, marmalades (made with seasonal fruits, herbs and spices from the farm), chutnies, liqueurs, honey, as well as cold pressed coconut oil and banana vinegar, as well as natural soaps made with oils and plants from the farm) and notebooks (made from their homemade recycled paper).

Finca Magdalena - Organic Coffee Farm

Finca Magdalena is an organic farm on the slopes of Vulcán Maderas, a 20-minute hike uphill from Balgüe.

The farm is part of a working cooperative that produces coffee, honey and organic fruits and vegetables. It also serves as a backpacker's hostel, offering dorm-style accommodations in an old wooden farmhouse, along with some cabañas for those who'd like a little more privacy. Volunteers are welcome to help the co-op. The hacienda, built over 120 years ago, comprises two large buildings and several smaller ones. Meals are served from the finca's porch, which terrific views. There are also several petroglyphs scattered around the grounds.

During the coffee season, which usually runs from November to February, guests can watch or even participate in various stages of the coffee harvest and processing, all of which is done the old fashioned way—by hand. Volcano hikes and horse riding tours can be arranged on request.

Petroglyphs

Isla de Ometepe is known for its rich pre-Columbian past. Petroglyphs and stone statues are scattered all over the island. More than 1,700 petroglyphs have been found, most of them on the Maderas side of the island. These petroglyphs were carved in volcanic basalt ca. 800 to 1,200 years ago [the earliest dates back about 4,000 years ago / 1000 B.C]. The carvings are about a centimetre deep. Petroglyphs on the island of Ometepe paid homage to the Nahuatl gods. The most common motif is the spiral, representing perhaps calendars or the Nahuatl concept of time and space. Their calendar consisted of 18 months of 20 days each, which made a year of 360 days. Other images carved in the rocks depict anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, like lizards, turtles, frogs and monkeys.

The biggest concentration of petroglyphs can be found on the north and northeastern slopes of Volcán Maderas. Around El Porvenir there is a marked trail where about 20 petroglyphs are marked [as of December 2010, visitors have to pay US $1, but for guests of Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir]. Others can be found around Balgüe. Some hotels will offer tours, like Albergue Ecológico El Porvenir, Finca Magdalena and hotel Finca El Porvenir. Some petroglyphs can also be seen in the museum in Altagracia.

Other good sites to find the petroglyphs are Finca Magdalena, Finca el Porvenir and La Palma

References

Ometepe - Sights & Attractions

Natural Sites Volcán Concepción The Concepción volcano is ca. 1610 meters in height. Volcán Concepción, the northern volcano, is the taller of the two volcanoes with a near-perfect cone shape,,although it's usually shrouded by thick cloud cover. Volcán Concepción is still active. It has erupted at least 25 times...

Albeit a small island, there's still a lot of fun to be had on Big Corn Island. Here's a list of ideas to help inspire you.

Enjoying Local Cusine

Be sure to try some of the local dishes. Coconut bread is made on the islands, as is the traditional Run-down (also Rondón) soup consisting of fish, potato, vegetables, and coconut water.

Anna and I didn't get much of a chance to explore the various places to eat on Big Corn Island, but partaking of the locale cusine was one of our favorite past times on Little Corn.

There are two dishes in particular for which the Corn Islands are known: coco brean and 'rundown'.

Coco bread can be purchased at any number of small, family-operated, home-based bakeries. Each one guards their recipes. If you're buying coco bread, you might also try other traditional baked goods, including a variety of buns, tarts, soda cake and spicy meat patties (hot patties).

'Run Down' is a traditional dish of tje Corn Island, usually served for special occasions. It isa stew consisting of local seafood (or meat) and "bread kind" (breadfruit, cassava, plantains, coco, banana, dasheen & sweet potato) that is cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with fresh, local herbs.

Anna is also a huge fan of drinking coconut water from a fresh coconut, though it's a bit harder to find than one might expect.

Massage

Anna and I found two places on Big Corn known for their massage offerings (neither of which did we try):

Posada Bella Vista

Italian Masseuse, Teresa, offers 1 hour massages for only $30.

Anahata Massage

Located in Paraiso Hotel offers relaxing Swedish Massage therapies. Full body (1 hour massage) costs 25 USD. To make an appointment, call : 8365 5078 or 2575 5111 (or stop by).

Diving

The Corn Islands offer good conditions for divers of all categories. People who never dived before can get certified on Corn Island, and certified divers can rent equipment and set off to the reef right away.

Kevin Wells: Cruisin Ray

Gorgeous, tropical fish are abundant in the reefs around the Corn Islands. They come in every color, shape, and size. One also has a good chance of spotting rays and sharks. Outside of Big Corn Island there is an odd, rocky formation that rises up from the sea floor to the surface, located several kilometers off-shore called the Blowing Rock. As the reefs are close by, the boat rides are short.

Big Corn’s only diving outfitter, Nautilus Dive Center [Brig Bay; +505 2575 5077; open 8am - 6pm], gets mixed reviews—regarded as relaxed to some, disorganized to others—and some of the equipment is a bit worn. The staff are known to be friendly and have good local knowledge. English-speaking dive guides lead trips to the local reef (US$40 per dive) as well as two-dive trips to Blowing Rock (US$95). It also offers a snorkeling tour of a sunken Spanish galleon immersed in 5m of water where one can can see several cannons, an anchor and chestlike structures (US$25). Various other dive packages are also available.

The difficulty ranking of scuba diving is based on the assumption that obtaining a diving certificate takes some time and effort. Diving at Corn Island is probably easier than in other places because there are few people and you therefore receive personal attention. Obtaining your PADI Open Water Certification (recognized worldwide) takes around 4 days.

Divers who already have their PADI certification can do regular or specialty dives (like deep water dives or night dives). Introduction dives are also possible, allowing beginners to learn more about the basics before starting the complete course.

Nautilus prices:

  • Nautilus PADI Open Water Certification: $250 (exclusive; + $35 for the book)
  • Fun Dives: $55 (two tanks)
  • Blowing Rock Dives: $75 (two tanks)
  • Discover Scuba Mini: $75 (introduction course)

For more information, contact the operator.

Reservations are only necessary during Easter and Christmas.

Snorkeling

The Corn Islands are also great places to snorkel. The reef is quite close to the surface of the water, which allows snorkellers to see a tremendous varaity of fish without the need for scuba equipment.

Bodyboarding

There are often nice waves at Waula Point beach and Long Beach for bodyboarding. Cafe del Mar and Nautilus rent boards.

Boating

Boating is a great way to see all the different beaches of Big Corn Island (including those that are difficult to access over land). Just sit back, relax, and let your boat captain regale you with stories and gossip as you sip beer and bathe in the sun. If you want, you can stop for swim or walk around. The price is around $20 an hour for a boat (which can be easily shared by up to six people).

Ask your hotel staff to charter a boat.

Hiking

It is possible to walk around the island's along the main paved road in ca. 2.5 - 3.5 hours. There are also several dirt trails that cut across different parts of the island.

Trekking along the beaches can involve a bit efforts to traverse the rocky bits, especially around the southern point know as 'El Bluff'.

A tower near the soccer field at South End is the highest point on either of the Corn Islands, and it offers some excellent views.

Motorbike, Golfcart, and Bike Rental

In order to see more in less time, a bike, motorbike, or golfcart can come in handy.

The paved road of the island is 12 kilometers long and there are several dirt roads that lead into the different neighborhoods. Prices for motorbikes are around $17 for half a day; golfcarts go for around $24 for half a day. They can be rented at Hotel Arenas Beach and Hotel Sunrise. Bikes are about $10 per day, and they can be rented at Hotel Morgan.

Shopping

While Big Corn Island doesn't offer a sophisted array of shopping outlets, one can find just about anything that you may need during your stay. Checking out the latest island fashions, jewelry, toys, music, and local crafts can also be a fun way to pass an afternoon.

Baseball

Once can catch a baseball game at the Stadium each Sunday during playing season. Islanders are passionate about their baseball and softball, making the games a lively way to pass the day. Matches run throughout the day (from 9AM until 5PM).

Parties & Nightlife

Nico’s

Nico's is a truly authentic island experience: part lobster cooperative, part rocking bar. While it's no longer the wildly popular spot it once was, Nico's still offers a spot for drinking and dancing from noon-2am Thu-Sun. The biggest party is the Sunday session.

Nico's is situated within a warehouse by the water´s edge.

Other Live Music Venues

Nautilus restaurant features live music every Saturday night. Locals and visitors all welcome to join the jam session.

Every now and then Myers Bar near the dock invites local musicians to play Calypsos and Mentos from the good old times.

There's also an island-style disco called Torito in Long Bay.

Other Activities

Other activities that can be undertaken include watching a local baseball match on Sunday, taking a boat tour around the island, go sport fishing or enjoy the local nightlife (Friday-Sunday).

References

Photo Credits

Big Corn - Activities

Albeit a small island, there's still a lot of fun to be had on Big Corn Island. Here's a list of ideas to help inspire you. Enjoying Local Cusine Be sure to try some of the local dishes. Coconut bread is made on the islands, as is the traditional Run-down...

Natural Sites

The island is quite picturesque. Hiking inland reveals the tropical jungle landscapes; there are two big beaches and lots of tiny and remote ones. A boat trip around the island will showcase its natural beauty.

North End

Big Corn Island's North End is characterized by crystalline waters, stunning beaches and beautiful coral reefs teeming with colourful aquatic life. There are main beaches: North End Beach and Sally Peaches.

North End Beach

North End beach is the less popular of the two North End Beaches due to being relatively narrow, situated very close to the road, and crowded by houses and small restaurants. It does, however, make for a nice view when sitting a cold beer or coconut milk in the afternoon heat. There are also many sunken and permanently moored boats at which to gaze.

Sally Peaches

Sally Peaches is a well-regarded snorkelling spot located on the north-east side of Big Corn Island. It's also a pleasant place to hand a hammock and to relax under the shade of the palm trees.

The soft white sand of Sally Peaches begins just next to the road and continues on past rustic lodgings to some more offer some more secluded areas. The beach is characterized by gentle waves, thus also making it a pleasant area for long swims. [Some people report that the surf can sometime get a little rough.]

Sally Peaches can be reached within a few minutes walk north from the main dock, or 5 minutes by taxi.

South End

Long Bay

Long Bay Beach is located on the south-east side of the island. The waves of Long Bay are stronger than the other beaches and it's a little more rocky, but it's still regarded as a nice beach for swimming. When the winds get stronger (October-December), high waves turn Long Bay into a great surfing spot.

As relatively less-visited beach, Long Bay is nice spot for those seeking a bit more privacy than may be afforded at Sally Peaches—though the beach bars and hotels aren't too far off.

In order to reach the beach, enter through a dirt access road just off the main island road, about 10 minutes by taxi from the main Pier.

South West Beach

South West Beach features a calm sea and a white beach that is ideal for swimming.

Bluff Point

Bluff Point is the southernmost point on Big Corn Island. It's a bit less accessible due to the lack of footpaths or roads. Large rocks make it not a great site for swimming or relaxing, but offers some spectacular views that can be enjoyed when hiking or walking around the island.

East Side

Most of the tiny and remote beaches are between Sally Peaches and South End. Beware many beaches have litter, plastic bottles and trash scattered about them.

Brig Bay Beach

Brig Bay is the commercial hub of Big Corn Island—the municipal docks where all fishing, cargo and passenger vessels arrive, and where many of the island's hotels, restaurants, bars and shops are found. This is also the the main 'town' of Big Corn Island (actually more like a small group of houses lining the main road). There is an Internet café and an ATM. It is also the area with the best cellular signal (for both Movistar and Claro).

Brig Bay is not commonly used for swimming and relaxing due to the boat traffic and lack of much of a sand coastline. If you poke around a bit along the smaller paths and trails, however, there are a few hidden spots.

Waula Point

Located just south of Brig Bay, Waula Point offers some other stunning views and tranquillity. About 15' of water off of Waula Point (near to the Paraiso resort), is a 400-year-old wreck of a Spanish Galleon that can be explored by snorkelling or diving, or viewed with a glass bottom boat excursion. Clearly visible are 14 cannons and the original anchor. No known archaeological survey or salvaging has ever been done on this wreck.

Picnic Center

Picnic Centre is a beach on the south-eastern part of the island. The beach is known to be good for swimming due to its calm waters and gentle tides.

Picnic Beach is the cleanest and most beautiful beach, with fine sand and gentle waves. There are two restaurants, the picnic centre which has thatch cabanas to sit under, and Arenas. Arenas has wonderful white cabanas and will bring food and drinks out to the beach. This beach is great when the sun is shining, but in the evening and when it rains there are tons of sand flies that bite so beware.

Inland

Mt. Pleasant Tower

Hike to the top of Mount Pleasant (the highest point on Big Corn Island), through small gardens and lush jungle, to find a 360° panoramic view of the island from an old view tower.

Mount Pleasant is pretty much in the centre of Big Corn. Trails can be found throughout the island. One can find a fairly well-defined path starting at Sunrise Hotel. Another option is the a road that leads uphill from Casa Canada, past a school. Behind the school there are some paths that lead up to it.

Yet another road starts near the north side of the airfield. Generally speaking, the hike in takes between thirty and forty minutes.

Aquarium

Directly to the east of the town's dock and behind Fisher's Cave there is an area of the ocean that has been closed off from the rest of the water.

Considering how most animal exhibits are in developing nations, this one is not that bad. It is an enclosed area that allows fresh ocean water can go back and forth through the walls. You can walk along the walls to get different angles to look at the marine life. When I was there they had barracuda, nurse sharks, turtles and other aquatic creatures. It was a decent size although I wish it was bigger for the nurse sharks. Hopefully it teaches the local kids to enjoy the marine life that surround their island.

Cultural Sites

Ebenezer Baptist Church

Ebenezer Baptist Church is a rather large church located on the North End, originally founded in 1852 by Reverend Edward Kelly.

Soul of the World

Soul of the World is part of a global sculpture of artist Rafael Trénor, located on Quinn Hill, Big Corn Island. The sculpture itself, which resembles a pyramid in form, is considered to be a tribute to the Goddess of the Earth Mother.

Each of the eight sculptures comprising this project represents a corner of an imaginary cube within the earth. According to the artist, there is only one positioning of this imaginary cube where all eight vertices would break on land. The antipode of the sculpture placed at Big Corn Island is located on Cocos Islands, Australia. The 6 other vertices are located in Hawaii (USA), Tierra del Fuego (Argentina or Chile), Galicia (Spain or Portugal), Kalahari Desert (Botswana), Lake Baikal (Buryat Republic, Russia) and South Island (New Zealand). Trénor started the Soul of the World project in 1988.

The area around the Soul of the World is a park, La Loma. The park has a small playground and basketball court and is surrounded by cement benches. Behind the court is a small wall that borders the monument. Within this area, three tiled paths that go up to the pyramid. The park is reportedly overgrown with weeds and in poor condition.

References

Photo Credits

Big Corn - Sights & Attractions

Natural Sites The island is quite picturesque. Hiking inland reveals the tropical jungle landscapes; there are two big beaches and lots of tiny and remote ones. A boat trip around the island will showcase its natural beauty. North End Big Corn Island's North End is characterized by crystalline waters, stunning...

Our bags are packed and we're ready for some adventure! Per our custom, and to help us ensure that we make the most of our visit to Little Corn, Anna and I trawled the internet in search of tips for things to do. Here's what we found:

Yoga

Yoga courses abound all throughout Nicaragua, and Little Corn Island is no exception. Many of the island's accommodations offer free morning and afternoon yoga sessions. If your does not, try asking if you can join in at another place for free and, if not, what the costs are to join in. Yemaya offers a yoga retreat package and two beautiful outdoor decks on which to practice. There's also the Firefly Studio at Little Corn Beach and Bungalow (LCBB) that offers two yoga classes daily and is open to all island visitors and residents.

Massage

Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa

Yemaya offers a selection massage and aromatherapy options at varying prices. Anna and I enjoyed a 1-hour massage with coconut oil for US$60 per person.

Firefly Yoga and Massage Studio

Swedish and Rolfing style massage by appointment. Contact Firefly Studio at info@littlecornbb.com or call LCBB at +505 8 333 0956.

Karma Shack

The Karma Shack, at Carlito's Place, offers Swedish massage, foot reflexology and facial acupressure treatments.

Snorkelling

Anna and I are not certified divers, as as temping as it is to get certified while in Nica, we've opted to enjoy Little Corn's aquatic majesty the simple way: with a mask and snorkel. Looking over both Google's satellite imagery and available online resources, the best areas for snorkelling on Little Corn are the eastern and northern beaches.

Most of Little Corn's accommodations have equipment to rent. The island's various dive shops offers guided snorkelling tours—a good way to learn something about the reef and the fish.

In terms of equipment, Anna and I decided to buy our own mask and snorkel to ensure we had clean, new equipment that fits properly. Snorkels and masks aren't terribly expensive, so depending on the number of days one plans to be in the water (and factoring for the cost of rentals at between US$5 - US$15 per day) investing in your own equipment can end up being a pretty good deal.

Diving

Diving enthusiasts have a small selection of outfits to help guide your under-sea explorations. The two main spots are those situated close to the dock: Dive Little Corn and Dolphin Dive.

Scott Nichols.

Dive Little Corn

Located south of the dock, Dive Little Corn is a 5-star dive shop (this rating acknowledges that the dive shop excels in all of PADI's environmental, safety and certification standards). The shop offers PADI courses up through assistant instructor and has certified several local dive masters. It was also the first shop in the country to offer three dives daily. Their featured trip is to Blowing Rock. They also sponsor beach clean-up days. Kayaks,
snorkelling trips and gear also available.

Close to Little Corn Island there are impressive underwater caves. These caves are not particularly large so there is no special expertise needed to swim around and observe these spectacular structures.

Visa and MasterCard accepted.

Dolphin Dive

Dolphin Dive is the Island's second-largest dive centre. Operated from Hotel Delfines (south of both the dock as well as 'Dive Little Corn'), Dolphin Dive offers PADI courses up through dive master. Prices are as follows:

  • 'Discover Scuba Dive' (half-day introduction) = US$65
  • PADI Open Water - 4 day full dive certification = US$305
  • PADI Advanced Open Water - 2 days = US$250
  • Open Water / Advanced Open Water combo = US$500
  • Rescue = US$230
  • Divemaster = US$850

[Insider Tip: Guests of LCBB get a 5% discount on all prices listed above.]

Dolphin Dive employs locals, and profits remain on the island.

Fishing

Fishing on Little Corn is casual: no licenses are required and you can fly fish from on shore. When fishing off-shore, rods must be in PVC rod holders while trolling ballyhoo baits from an open 20 ft panga. Near the island coast (about 5 miles out and closer), anglers chase after kingfish, sailfish, amberjacks, barracuda, African pompano, snapper, mackerel, mahi mahi (dorado), sailfish, jack fish and tuna. The mahi mahi and yellow tail are rumoured to average around 30 pounds, and the sailfish is said to be a more common catch than one would expect. On-shore fly fishers seem to enjoy chasing Bonefish, Tarpon or Permit (and catching all three is called a "Grand Slam").

For those looking for insider tips about the best spots to cast, you can either search out a local guide or otherwise charter a tour. Anna and my internet research suggests the people to ask for local tips are Captain Elvis (nicknamed "Dopey" ) and Captain Alfonso. Elvis and Alfonso take anglers out for ca. US$45 per person for 2-4 anglers for a 3-hour trip. Costs including tackle, bait and fuel. Elvis' number is +505 8-836-6068; Alfonso's is +505-8-4342520. If you don't have access to a phone (or you can't get a signal), both Elvis and Alfonso can usually be reached by asking around Little Corn Beach and Bungalow or by asking at Ms. Bridget's restaurant by the dock (Ms. Bridget is married to "Dopey"). You can also ask for them around the village.

For those wishing to book a tour, the two best-known outfits are Fly Fishing Little Corn and Little Corn Fishing Charters.

Fly Fishing Little Corn

Fly Fishing Little Corn offers a full service fly fishing charter, including 'big game' off-shore excursions. They provide both gear (a selection of rods, reels, and lines) as well as local expertise. A guy named Brandon offers lessons in fly fishing and casting. Prices start at $50/person.

Little Corn Fishing Charters

Little Corn Fishing Charters has been organising fishing excursions for beginner and experienced fishermen for over 10 years (Chris has over 25 years experience). Deep-water expeditions are 3 hours. Sport fishing tours are run from "Grendel," an open 26-foot center console super panga equipped with GPS, VHS, down rigger and high-speed planer. Costs are ca. $50/person for 3 hours; min. 2 people; $10/person thereafter; 2 trips daily.

No reservations required. Visa and MasterCard accepted.

Little Corn Fishing Charters

Kite Surfing

While our intial Internet research suggested that one cannot rent kiting and windsurfing equipment anywhere in Nicaragua, Anna and I discovered a 'Kite School' next to LCBB during our visit offers tuition and equipment for rent. This seems to be a relatively recent development—spurred, perhaps, by the good press from Kitesurf Magazine. The Kitesurfing instructor, Nacho, operates the outfit from the north end of Cocal beach on the east side of the island. Nacho can be contacted at +505 8498 5381. An individual 2-day course is US$270. The intro course (1 hour) is US$50. Prices for equipment rental varies according to the duration of the lessons.

Iguana Beach is also known to be a good windsurfing and kite surfing beach, and Casa Iguana offers to safely store equipment (though they don't provide monitoring or rescue service).

We didn't investigate too much (there was no one at the school when we passed it), but it doesn't seem that there's much support for wind surfers.

Horseback Riding

One can explore Little Corn's lush interior on horseback. The most renown guided tours are organized by Farm Peace & Love. Casa Iguana will also help to organize horses on request.

Dance & Party

Little Corn is a small island, but it's not without a party. There are two local dance clubs: Happy Hut & Eagle Bar. Biggest parties are Saturday nights.

References

Photo Credits:

Little Corn - Activities

Our bags are packed and we're ready for some adventure! Per our custom, and to help us ensure that we make the most of our visit to Little Corn, Anna and I trawled the internet in search of tips for things to do. Here's what we found: Yoga Yoga courses...

So what is there to do on a remote island? Anna and I chose to visit Little Corn Island precisely because we wished to distance ourselves from the hustle and bustle of daily life: to unplug and unwind. For us, the highlights of our trip were soaking in the sun, enjoying the nature, and doing a whole lot of nothing.

There are, however, a few things to see and explore while on the island. The following is Anna's and my pre-departure list of activities, derived from Internet research:

Cultural Sites

The Internet suggests that there are a couple of local churches, though Anna and I were not able to identify them during our casual strolls around the village. The same is true with regard to sunken boats (though there are several such boats visible from the North End of Big Corn).

Little Corn does have a small lighthouse situated next to a large cell tower. Anna and I also didn't manage to find this one in the end (though I did manage to locate it on Google satellite). The cell tower is climbable and offers an great view of the island. Take care on the ladder, and think twice if you´re afraid of heights.

J-P Keskinen: View over the Island

There is rumoured to be a football (soccer) field in the centre of the island. This one also eluded us. We did, however pass the newly-renovated baseball field each time we walked from Yamaya to the Village (also visible from Google satellite.

Near to the basketball court in the north part of the Village (just after you turn right at the fork in the road) is Radio Likkle I— the local community radio station. Radio Likkle I welcomes visitors and islanders alike to help create new radio shows with the intent to educate listeners, i.e., cryptocurreny, self-sustenance, farming, bacteria and disease control and awareness, environmentalism etc. They also offers inexpensive access to the Internet and sell local music to help their operations. [phone= 707-633-8792; hours= 12-10 pm] Visitors can also contribute to the station's crowdfunding campaign (which accepts crypto-currency).

Finally, there's the Bottle House and Cultural Center—a small structure constructed of bottles by Little Corn's artist, jewelry maker & mayor "Tall Boy."

Domroc.

Natural Sites

From Anna's and my perspective, it is the natural beauty of Little Corn that makes the island so attractive. With no roads or motor vehicles, visitors are free to roam the entire island landscape happy and carefree.

While we're certainly no experts on all the local names for beaches and other geographic and geologic features, Anna and I did manage to compile what we feel is a fairly comprehensive list of 'natural places to see' while on Little Corn Island:

Otto Beach

Otto Beach is located on the the north end of Little Corn Island. This is perhaps the best beach on the island: an excellent place to swim, snorkel and relax.

Otto Beach

Even with the newly-constructed Yemaya located there, the beach remains mostly quiet and is impeccably clean. Otto Beach is a solid 20+ minute walk from town. Getting there involves climbing the hill that sits in the centre of the island and a march through jungle.

George's Cay

George's Cay is a secluded beach—a short distance from Derek's Place to the north and LCBB to the south. It's one of beaches on Little Corn Island with few visitors. Enjoy sunbathing or swimming in complete privacy, surrounded by nature, crystal clear water, white sand and a gentle ocean breeze.

Blaze Point Beach

One of the defining characteristics of George's Cay are the rocks that separate it from the beaches to the north and south. Accessing the beach from the north requires traversing a little hill or otherwise hopping across the rock outcroppings at low tides.

There are no signs marking the beach.

Kelly Gully Beach

Located in the eastern part of the island, Kelly Gully beach offers calm and crystalline waters, towering palms of coconut, white sand and a narrow strip of grass next to the coast. Kelly Gully is especially nice for a beachside stroll at low tide, with the gentle waves lapping calmly at your feet.

Kelly Gully Beach

At higher tides, the beach mostly disappears and only the narrow grass bed and equally thick strip of seaweed debris remain.

Cocal Beach

Cocal Beach is located in the southeastern part of Little Corn Island, about 10 minutes south of Kelly Gully Beach and 25 minutes north of Iguana Beach. Yet another of Little Corn's crystal-clear white sand beaches, Cocal Beach has slightly less seaweed debris than its neighbours—due in large part to the clean-up and maintenance efforts of Little Corn Beach and Bungalow. If you are lucky you will observe the crabs building their houses or spot a rays out in the shallow sandy waters off shore.

Cocal Beach can be easily accessed from the Village by taking the path the crosses the island from just south of the port.

Cocal beach (and Cocal Swamp) is marked by a couple of brown wooden signs.

Iguana Beach


References

Photo Credits

Little Corn - Sights & Attractions

So what is there to do on a remote island? Anna and I chose to visit Little Corn Island precisely because we wished to distance ourselves from the hustle and bustle of daily life: to unplug and unwind. For us, the highlights of our trip were soaking in the sun,...

Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes (Concepción and Maderas) joined by a low isthmus in Lake Nicaragua, the Republic of Nicaragua. The name derives from the Nahuatl language: ome meaning 'two' and tepetl meaning 'mountain' (i.e., 'two mountains'; also translated as 'between two hills'). At 276 square kilometres, it is the largest island in Lake Nicaragua (aka Lago Cocibolca). The island attracts tourists with its pristine forest, petroglyphs and other archaeological treasures, unique wildlife, deserted beaches and eco-lodges. One can hike, kayak, and cycle—all in the shadow of the two looming volcanoes.

The most important towns of Ometepe Island are both located on the northern (Concepción) side of the island. Altagracia (population. 7,041 as of 2005) is situated on eastern shores; Moyogalpa (population 4,795 as of 2005) is located on the west, and the site of the island's main harbor as well as it's new airport.

Highlights of Isla de Ometepe include the waterfall at San Ramon, the scale model of island located in in Moyogalpa, the legends and lagoons of Charco Verde, the petroglyphs and the island’s signature dish of whole, fried tilapia, known as pescado corriente.

While playing an important role in Nicaragua's tourist economy, Ometepe is still off-the-beaten-path—offering plenty of room for exploration and tranquillity to enjoy its pristine natural environment.

History

Ometepe Island has been a place of refuge for, and the promised land of, many historic and pre-historic peoples. It is regarded as the birthplace of two great cultures: that of Mexico and of Guatemala.

The island is part of the archaeological area known as Greater Nicoya, which also encompasses the Rivas area on the lake shore and descends into Costa Rican Nicoya Peninsula. This region continues to yield a wealth of archaeological data due to its fertile soils. Evidence suggests that the island may have been inhabited as far back as 25,000 years—at the time when settlers were crossing the Bering Strait. Isla de Ometepe has been inhabited continuously since the Dinarte phase (ca. 2000 B.C. – 500 B.C.).

The first known inhabitants were the Nahua peoples from Mexico. Later came the Niquirano peoples, who established an important settlement on the island. Traces of this past are reflected by the petroglyphs and stone idols on the northern slopes of Maderas volcano. The oldest date from 300 BC. Peoples of Nahuatl and Olmeca origin also migrated to Ometepe and were later invaded by Chorotegas and other Nicaraguan peoples.

There is a classified Ometepe period (A.D. 1350–1550) within Greater Nicoyan Period, which corresponds to Mesoamerican Postclassic period. This period is associated with the migration of the Nicarao into the area of Greater Nicoya.

After the Spaniards conquered the Central American region in the 16th century, pirates began prowling Lake Nicaragua. They came in from the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River. These pirates stole the women, animals, possessions and harvest of the peoples of Ometepe, and established their own settlements—forcing the indigenous inhabitants to retreat inland. The island was settled by the Spanish at the end of the 16th century.

Many folk traditions are kept alive, and inhabitants of Ometepe celebrate more religious and folk festivals than anywhere else in Nicaragua.

Economy

Ometepe Island has a traditional economy based on livestock and agriculture. The fertile soil at the base of the volcanoes yield crops of coffee, tobacco, plantains and bananas. Plantains are the major crop.

Today, Ometepe is developing a strong tourist industry based on island's nature beauty and exotic vegetation, animal and bird life, as well as for its rich archaeological past. The opening of the Ometepe airport opened in 2014 (IATA airport code MNLP) promises to further bolster tourism to the island.

The national currency is the Cordóba, but the US dollar is widely accepted—particularly in smaller denominations. [Be sure, however, that your bills are in excellent condition, as locale may refuse to accept them if they're defaced in any way.]

Getting There

The Wrong Wat to Reach Ometepe

From Managua

The easiest way to get to Ometepe from Managua is to fly. Currently, there are two flights available per week: on Thursdays (departing 12:00 noon) and Sundays (departing 3:00 p.m.).

The other option is to take a bus. There are a few direct chicken buses each day from Managua to San Jorge. Otherwise, the route involves three segments:

  • Managua — Rivas (111 km)
    • Buses leave Mercado Huembes every 20 minutes; the trip takes ca. 2 hours.
  • Rivas — San Jorge (5 km)
    • Buses and taxis take 15 minutes.
    • A shared taxi to San Jorge from Rivas bus terminal should cost no more than C$20 per person. Agree the price first, otherwise you risk getting overcharged.
  • San Jorge — Moyogalpa
    • Ferry boats run daily; the trip takes ca. 1 hour.

From Granada

Isla de Ometepe can be reached from Granada by ferry with boats departing to Altagracia from Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays. The ferries depart from Granada at 11 a.m. and take between 4 and 6 hours. [We also read somewhere that there's another ferry service departing Granada on Mondays and Thursdays around 2 pm.]

Crossing the lake isn't always a smooth ride. Between November and February heavy winds make the water of the lake pretty choppy; even the ferry can get thrown around a bit. Sitting indoors doesn't necessarily guarantee a dry ride either, as water can splash in through the windows, even when they are closed.

In addition to the ferries, there are also the small lancha boats. Although they look a bit battered, they're reputedly safe and cost slightly less than the ferry. The lancha don't operate on Sundays.

Boats returning to Granada from Altagracia depart Tuesdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. The cost is of the ticket is between US$2 and US$5.

From San Jorge

Reaching Isla de Ometepe from San Jorge is a simple, one-hour, 17km boat ride. There are two classes of boats: smaller, less stable lanchas (motorboats) and larger, less frequent ferries, which can also transport bicycles, motorcycles and cars (with 72 hours advance notice). The ferries depart Ometepe from Moyogalpa and leave regularly. The price is C$35-C$50, depending on the type of boat.

Getting Around

There is much to see on Ometepe, and many ways to see it: bus, car, horse, bicycle, canoe, or on foot.

Buses travel in a figure eight around the two volcanoes, frequently on weekdays, and scarcely on the weekends. Schedules are posted, but not adhered to. Ask around—the locals always seem to know when the next bus is coming, and where you’d be most comfortable waiting (usually in front of someone’s tienda). The two hour long island-wide bus ride, with stops along the way, is a magnificent slideshow of the beautiful scenery and colourful livelihoods that define Ometepe. The bus stops to pick up passengers, and there are many opportunities to shoot photos through an open bus window.

Cars may be rented from Ometepe Tours Rent-a-Car, frente al Hospedaje Moyogalpa, contiguo al Muelle de San Jorge, Moyogalpa. Tel: 045-94116 or 34779. Los Ranchitos Soda Restaurante rents cars and horses, frente a la estación de Policía, Altagracia. Tel: 045-94112.

There are many spots all over the island from which you can rent bicycles, scooters and dirt bikes.

Several other hotels rent bicycles and arrange guided tours.

Rents horses, bicycles, and canoes. None cost more than $21 per day.

It’s easy enough to get around Ometepe on your own, but to get a close look at some of the more secluded spots, try Ometepe Tours, with offices in San Jorge (continguo al muelle, San Jorge, Rivas. Tel: 045-34779,), and in Moyogalpa (costado este del Gasolinera Shell. Tel: 045-94116).

While there isn't much motor traffic in general, getting around the island can still be a long and slow process. Most of the roads on Isla de Ometepe are unpaved (so you higher speeds aren't really an option), and any journey will involve frequent stops to accommodate passing herds of cattle as well as stray horses, pigs and chickens.

Safety

Ometepe has a reputation for safety, with few reported incidents against tourists. Keep your wits about you and your eye on your belongings. If you travel from Managua to San Jorge by bus, beware of pickpockets.

What to Bring

Bring the cash you need. A few places accept traveller's cheques, but usually they incur a transaction fee. Credit cards are accepted at the larger resorts and hotels. There are two ATM machines on the island, one in Moyogalpa, and one in Altagracia.

If you plan to hike either volcano, bring lightweight hiking boots or at least sturdy sneakers. A packable waterproof jacket will also come in handy. Swimwear, shorts, and sturdy sandals should suffice for all other activities. Bug spray, sun block, a travel towel and a good hat are important too.

When to Go

While it is possible to travel to the island year round, the best weather is generally between early December and late March, when it rarely rains and the temperatures range from the mid to upper 80’s during the day and a comfortable low 70’s at night. By April, it is increasingly hot and humid, with the rainy season starting in mid-May and lasting through November. Nevertheless, it rarely monsoons and even during the rainy period there are long stretches of clear weather.

Dry season lasts from December through May, though the best cultural festivals take place in November and July. Wildlife viewing is excellent year-round, and is one of the island’s main attractions. Over 80 bird species inhabit the island. Migrating birds flock to Ometepe in May.

Anyone travelling to the island of Ometepe anywhere between October and February, if not well after, do not be talked into a beach tour. There are no beaches at Ometepe during these times. The best time to hit up beaches on Ometepe is between June and September.

References

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes (Concepción and Maderas) joined by a low isthmus in Lake Nicaragua, the Republic of Nicaragua. The name derives from the Nahuatl language: ome meaning 'two' and tepetl meaning 'mountain' (i.e., 'two mountains'; also translated as 'between two hills'). At 276 square...

Big Corn Island (sometimes referred to as 'Great Corn') is a Caribbean gem—home to lively bars, adorned by colorful wooden houses, and surrounded by virgin beaches. Visitors come to enjoy such activities as swimming, snorkeling, diving and fishing. One can also explore the island on horseback, or simply relax and stroll across the landscapes. Measuring ten square kilometers in size, Big Corn is large enough for to lost when wandering the hillsides and beachfront neighborhoods, yet small enough to find your way home again.

People

Big Corn is Creole. May people have British ancestry—carrying such surnames as Quinn, Downs, Morgan, Campbell, Taylor, Forbes, and Bowden. Islanders tend to be very proud of their distinct heritage and feel that they have more in common culturally with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua. Many emphasize their distinctions from the "Spaniards" from mainland Nicaragua.

The people are characteristically friendly and genuine. Locals enjoy pick-up baseball games and lounging on their verandas.

Language

Most Islanders speak a unique dialect of Caribbean Creole, though almost also command both passable Spanish and English. Some people also speak Miskito and other Caribbean dialects and langauges.

Economy

The Corn Islands' primary industry is fishing—especially lobster fishing. Fresh lobster is a staple ingredient in the islands' traditional fare. Lobster is also Nicaragua's third largest export commodity, Most of the country's lobster is is processed on Big Corn.

Lobster Traps on the Beach

Tourism is Big Corn Island's second-largest industry.

Climate

The average year-round temperature on Big Corn Island is ca. 30° Celsius (85° Fahrenheit) with fresh easterly breezes. The rainy season extends from mid-May through mid-September (but can extend longer) with afternoon showers almost daily.

Health & Logistics

Special vaccinations are not required for travelers, though use basic preventative health care measures: mosquito repellent and sun block.

US Dollars are widely accepted on the Corn Islands (and almost everywhere in Nicaragua, for that matter). An increasing number of hotels are accepting credit cards, though if you intend to pay for your accommodations with credit card, confirm the arrangement prior to arrival. There is an ATM machine at the bank on Big Corn and a bank that also accepts Visa cards.

Electricity and water supplies on Big Corn Island are and constantly improving. Most parts of the island now have 24 hour per day access to both. Internet available at various restaurants, bars and hotels.

Getting In

Getting to Big Corn Island from outside Nicaragua is usually accomplished by way of Managua— Nicaragua's capital city.

Domestic flights from Managua do not depart from the main airport terminal but rather from a separate building next door. Anna and I used La Costeña Airlines; the departing terminal was just next to their office [to the right of the main airport terminal building, if you're facing it with your back to the street].

La Costeña flights depart from Managua to Big Corn Island twice daily. Round trip tickets cost approximately US$165. Tickets can be booked online. Flight time is approximately 1 1/2 hours, typically (but not always) involving a layover in Bluefields. Baggage is limited to 30 lbs per person ($1.20/lb over). La Costeña flights can be subject to delays, though services are improving dramatically with La Costeña recently joining the Taca/Avianca Group.

Boats from Bluefields to depart Wednesdays at 9:00 AM. The cost of the ticket is C$250 and arrive at Big Corn's Brig Bay Beach. More information about reaching Big Corn by boat can be found here.

Insider Tip: When arriving on Big Corn, be firm with the taxi driver about going to your preferred hotel. Some taxi drivers receive a commission for bringing guests to particular spots.

Getting Around

Big Corn Island is walkable. The 12-kilometer road takes about 3.5 hours to walk.

There are also many other forms of transportation of which to avail. Taxis use a fixed-rate system for any destination on the island, with each stop costing 15 cordoba per person during the day and 20 at night ( < US$1). There's also a bus known as "flash" that each hour goes around the entire island. There are also several sites where one can rent a bicycle. Some places even offer golf carts.

References

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Big Corn Island (sometimes referred to as 'Great Corn') is a Caribbean gem—home to lively bars, adorned by colorful wooden houses, and surrounded by virgin beaches. Visitors come to enjoy such activities as swimming, snorkeling, diving and fishing. One can also explore the island on horseback, or simply...

Little Corn Island is located off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea. A tiny jewel of bountiful emerald jungles, tranquil white sand beaches, and crystal clear ocean waters, Little Corn embodies most of the imagined ideals conjured by the term "tropical paradise". People looking to escape city noise, stress, and worries will definitely find solace here.

Located ca. 15 - 18 kilometers (ca. 10 miles) northeast of its big sister, Great Corn Island and measuringi a a mere 2.9 square kilometers (ca. 1.8 square miles), Little Corn has no cars, very few motorized vehicles of any kind, and relatively unreliable communications infrastructure.

While many people assume that Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island are similar, they are not. As getting to the Corn Islands can be a bit involved, there's a tendency for people tend to stay on Big Corn for several days, and then to visit Little Corn only on the last day or two of their trip—and they often regret it. One of the most over-heard statements on Little Corn goes something like: "Wow, this is so much better. I should have come here sooner!" And anyone who doesn't have to return for work or school obligations on a specific date tends to find a way to change their tickets and to stay longer than they had originally planned. In other words, just go directly to Little Corn Island.

People

Little Corn Island is one the most friendly places you’re likely to find encounter as a global traveler. With ca. 800 permanent residents, the island enjoys a real sense of community. Most people are willing to talk with you and share their experiences, as well as help you out. The people are both laid back and genuine. Locals live, drink, dine, shoot pool and dance in 'The Village' (sometimes referred to as 'Frontside').

Once colonized by the British, many native islanders still have English surnames. Culturally, most islanders share more in common with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua.

During high season there can be more foreigners on Little Corn Island than locals.

Language

The first language of most who are native to the island is a localized version of Caribbean Creole, though almost everyone on the island speaks both passable Spanish and English. There are also many inhabitants who have come over from mainland Nicaragua and consequently speak Spanish as a first language. Others who speak Miskito and other Caribbean languages or dialects.

Economy

Two industries dominate the economic production of Little Corn Island: fishing and tourism.

Fishing, in particular for lobster, has long been the mainstay of the island. In recent years, however, tourism has been gaining in importance apart in the island's economy.

While the tourism sector is still in its (relative) infancy, there exists a (relative) plethora of accommodation options—from smaller hostels featuring funky and creative beachside cabañas and bungalows to larger, more luxurious resorts. In addition, the majority of accommodations can be considered (relatively) eco-friendly to the extent that they rely on their own electricity from solar arrays and and tiny wind generators and draw draw potable water from the island's aquifer or collecting and filtering rainwater for guests' consumption. Tourists can also take their pick of beaches for swimming and snorkeling, and the more adventurous can enjoy diving hosted by top-rated, PADI-certified outfitters.

Otherwise, the island's rich and deep jungles provide for the subsistence of most of the island's local population, with mango, coconut, and breadfruit trees growing abundantly in the wild.

Logistics

Bring what cash you need. Few places will accept traveler's checks. Acceptance of credit cards is improving, but one should always carry sufficient cash to cover the bill in case the Internet is down or if the power happens to be out. Little Corn Island has no ATM / bank machine, though some of the the hostels, such as Carlito's place, will help travelers in need to withdraw cash against your credit card (a hefty service fee may apply).

Be sure to save at least $20 per person (in small bills) for the panga ridge to Big Corn and for the and cab back to the airport.

Safety

Little Corn Island is relatively safe. Few travelers encounter problems. Violent incidents are rare (but have happened in the past). Take standard precautions: keep a few different stashes of cash in case a bag gets lost or stolen; lock up valuables; don't flaunt your wealth; don't get too wasted. Carry a flashlight (torch) at nights as it does get pretty dark and getting lost in the jungle isn't too much fun for most people (then again, within about 10 minutes of walking in any direction and you should end up somewhere familiar). Mind the stray dogs; while usually friendly, they're still animals and often hungry.

The best advice that Anna and I received was to bring mosquito repellent and an extra roll of toilet paper, and expect the electricity to be off periodically.

Getting There

Little Corn Island can only be reached over water. Getting to there first involves [getting to Big Corn Island] and then finding the dock and catching a 35- to 45-minute panga ride.

Unless privately chartered, the pangas run twice daily. at ca. 10AM and 4:30PM from the lower dock at in Brig Bay. [Municipal Wharf ois 1.5 km from the airport, so take a taxi.] Return pangas leaves Little Corn at ca. 6:30AM and 1:30PM. [If there are not enough people to make a trip worthwhile, the captain will only go once.] The price is ca. US$6 (C$130 - C$165, according to the exchange) per person. The schedules for the water taxis to Little Corn are coordinated with flight arrival and departure times. If you're staying on the far side of Little Corn, take the morning boat to avoid arriving at dusk.

Be careful with the pangas. Although probably not meant for such, the pangas tend to run more than twenty passengers at a time. Also, be aware that sometimes the voyage to Little Corn can get pretty rough. The back of the boat is less rough, while the front is less wet. Also, it's not unheard of to see your driver taking a swigs from a bottle of the national Flor de Caña rum as he navigates through the waters. [Matters have probably improved a bit in recent years as compared to some of the earlier trip reports that Anna and I encountered, but still... be prepared for to be shocked and jolted.]

There is also a less reliable boat, "Roger Saul", that runs at 4pm (or sometime after) that takes an hour or so to get to Big Corn, except Saturdays. Some might say that this option is more comfortable and dryer but also longer. Departure times:

  • Big Corn - Little Corn at 8, 10 & 4:30
  • Little Corn - Big Corn at 6:30, 1:30 & 4

When returning to Managua, you'll need to reconfirm your flight 24 hours in advance. The dive shops can help you out, as can (likely) your hostel or hotel. Otherwise find a a place with Internet access: on the North End, try Yemaya or Farm Peace & Love; on the East Side, try Casa Iguana or Little Corn Beach and Bungalow; in the Village, try Tranquilo Cafe. In the event that you must guarantee your connection with return flights, it is advisable to overnight on Big Corn Island.

Get around

Getting around Little Corn Island is accomplished primarily by walking (some locals have bicycles, and Anna and I even spotted a motorized scooter). There's a paved sidewalk along the west coast near the pier, and beyond that numerous narrow dirt foot paths criss-cross the island, with the larger ones crossing either north to south or east to east. You can walk the length of the island in less than an hour and you can circle its perimeter in about 3 hours (with a couple of tricky spots at high tide). If you choose to run around barefoot, keep an eye out for broken glass. Village walkways are often too dirty for bare feet, so wear flip flops at least. Water shoes are also recommended as there is plenty of coral around the island that can cut your feet or legs while swimming.

References

Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Little Corn Island is located off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea. A tiny jewel of bountiful emerald jungles, tranquil white sand beaches, and crystal clear ocean waters, Little Corn embodies most of the imagined ideals conjured by the term "tropical paradise". People looking to escape city noise,...

If your idea of a perfect vacation is walking along white sand beaches, enjoying spectacular sunsets, snorkeling in clear waters, swaying in a hammock, and (if you have time for it between all the other relaxing activities) reading books, then Nicaragua's Corn Islands are the destination for you. There are no country clubs, martini bars, 5 star restaurants, or tour buses. Even the official tour signs advertise that no mini drink umbrellas! Instead, you get ca. 70km (50 miles) distance from Nicaragua's mainland and a worlds apart from your normal routine.

The two Corn Islands‐Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island‐are covered by exotic fruit trees, adorned with crystalline coves and surrounded by stunning reefs (part of the Belize Barrier Reef) and even a few underwater caves. The islands offer a superb Caribbean experience and side of Nicaragua in a beautiful and mostly unexplored environment. Here you can still get a room for less than $10 in a family run hospedaje and buy an excellent dinner from street vendors for $2.50. The local beer is always cold and rum is served by the bottle at many of the local restaurants.

Undertake adventure sports like diving or sea fishing, or just relax and enjoy the beach and tranquil surroundings. Temperatures hover year-round at ca. 30° Celsius.

People

Descendant from indigenous populations (primarily peoples of the Mosquito Gulf), British prospectors and freed slaves, as well as recent in-migrants from the Nicaraguan mainland, local Islanders are a diverse population speaking their own distinctive version of Caribbean Creole.

History

Several stories exist about the origin of the name "Corn Islands". Some say that the islands were named by British sailors who used the area to re-provision their boats with game meat —having misspelled the Spanish word 'carne' as 'corn'. Others say that the islands were so named after the corn (maize) that was once grown on the islands.

What is certain is that both British and French pirates and buccaneers in the 17th century often sought haven on the Corn Islands. Surrounding them remain untold numbers of shipwrecks and other sunken treasures.

In the more recent past, the islands were utilized by for drug-running and other criminal activities (and tourists experienced crime problems as a result). Corn Island, Nicaragua being only a short distance from Colombia’s San Andreas Island, results in it being a passing point for drug runners. Narcotics traffickers pack their ships and speedboats with their cocaine cargo, en route to its prime customer, the United States. As it can sometimes happen, these boats get intercepted by diligent coast guards and marine police, which can lead to the cocaine packages being dumped overboard. In recent years, these drug bundles have been washing ashore on the beaches of Corn Island, where they are seen as a godsend to the locals. For them, selling its contents can profit more money than they've ever seen. Even today, it is not unusual to see the United States Coast Guard flying over the area.

Today, the security situation is greatly improved and criminality dramatically reduced. Police are present on both islands. By using common sense, most risks to tourists can be mitigated.

Economy

Most people make their living from harvesting lobster and fish.

While many adventure-minded tourists seek out The Corn Islands for their fishing (flats and offshore), scuba diving and snorkeling, the tourism and hospitality industry is in its infancy.

Tourism infrastructure is small-scale, though there are many charming places to stay and visitors often enjoy the personal attention they receive. One should not, however, expect the same level of amenities as may be found in more mature tourist locales.

Health & Safety

The Corn Islands are ports of call for Colombian drug boats, which combined with a history of bare-bones law enforcement and a growing, youthful tourist industry, has led to serious problems. Petty theft is common, and muggings, hotel break-ins and even sexual assault have been reported. Solo female travelers should get a hotel room (as opposed to a bamboo shack) with real locks and doors. Anecdotally, crime happens mostly to tourists who have purchased cocaine earlier; your cool new friends know you're high and have money.

Police presence was radically increased in late 2005 in response to these problems, and many issues were being resolved at press time. Regardless, be careful and ask locals for the latest.

Electricity and telephone services do not always function.

Getting There

Reaching the Corn Islands can be either easy and rather comfortable or difficult and tiring—depending on the transportation method chosen.

Of course, the key factors in one's decision tend to be available budget, time for traveling, ethics concerning resource consumption, etc.

By Air

The fastest, most convenient (and also most expensive option) for reaching the Corn Islands is to fly from Managua to Big Corn Island. Big Corn's airport is served by Atlantic Airlines (575 5055) and La Costeña (575 5131). La Costeña has two flights daily that depart from a small terminal building next to the main terminal at Managua International Airport.

In a trip that takes on average 1 hour and 45 minutes, passengers are flown by small planes (single or double propeller planes)—sometimes passing through Bluefields )(and even Ometepe) along the way. Departures are at at 8:10am (LC), 8:35am (AA), 3:40pm (LC) and 4pm (AA). The cost of the flight is around US$130 - US$170 round-trip. La Costeña airlines state that you need to check in an hour and a half before your flight time. In reality, they are not consistent in applying this rule—meaning some days they do, some days they don’t. Although Big Corn's airport has recently been approved for international flights, there still do not appear to be any direct connections with Miami and Houston.

When entering and departing Big Corn Island by air, expect to pay a small tax (ca. US$5).

By Boat

This scenario easily cuts down costs by two thirds or more, but it also means spending more than a day traveling under less-comfortable circumstances. Adventure is definitely ensured during this journey though, and it can surely be a great experience.

Boats make the four- to six-hour trip between Bluefields and the Corn Islands on Sunday (9am, US$12,), Tuesday (mornings; US$6) and Thursday (9am, US$9). Alternatively, Big Corn Island can be reached by taking the ferry that departs once a week from El Rama. El Rama is a small port town at the Escondido River that has a decent bus connection with Managua. Ferry 1 is the name of the ferry that travels back and forth between El Rama and Bluefields.

When to Visit?

Dry season usually occurs between January and April. For diving, we've read that the best time to come is September-October, when the hurricane season starts in the more northern regions—drawing away tourists due to the bad weather. Storms on the Corn Islands are reported as occurring in October-December, characterized by strong winds and heavy rains.

Avoid going during Nicaraguan national holidays such as Semana Santa (Easter week) and Christmas. Prices are more expensive and accommodations fill up quickly.

References:

Nicaragua's Corn Islands

If your idea of a perfect vacation is walking along white sand beaches, enjoying spectacular sunsets, snorkeling in clear waters, swaying in a hammock, and (if you have time for it between all the other relaxing activities) reading books, then Nicaragua's Corn Islands are the destination for you. There are...

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Contact

If you'd like to get in contact with us for any reason, please write to aaron [at] categori [dot] se....

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Anna and I use this website as a discussion tool between one another when planning a vaction (or sometimes just researching a place). We benefit from the work of others have invested: the knowledege, tips, photographs and other informational components upon which this website depends. We'd like to acknowledge the...

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