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, 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

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