Friday, May 27, 2011

Exploring Little Corn Island in Nicaragua

Photo by Jagal
Located 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea are a pair of islands that are still untouched by mass tourism, high-end resorts, and busy cruise-ship ports. Known as the  Las Islas del Maíz, (The Corn Islands), the pair consists of the 2.3-square-mile Big Corn Island and the quieter 1.5-square-mile Little Corn Island. Each island’s major characteristics are more associated with Caribbean islands like Jamaica or the Bahamas and you will find turquoise-blue waters, sugar-white sands, swaying palm trees, and even strains of reggae music wafting through the air.

The history of the Corn Islands sounds like something from of a pirate’s tale. Due to their isolated location, they were once a frequent stopping point for both British and French pirates and buccaneers in search of their next conquest, whether it is a merchant ship loaded with supplies or gold. In fact, several known shipwrecks are still scattered throughout the region, which have become popular diving areas. Unfortunately, some areas still serve as a haven for drug traffickers and it is not unusual to see the United States Coast Guard flying over the area.   

Little Corn Island is special in its own way. It has the same characteristics as it larger counterpart, but as hard as it is to believe, it is much quieter. In fact, before my first visit, a friend kindly told me "Bring mosquito repellent and an extra roll of toilet paper, and expect the electricity to be off each morning." But despite the rustic qualities, you will be guaranteed peace and quiet. There are no cars, and traffic consists mostly of bicycles and dogs.

Traveling to Little Corn Island

Transportation to Little Corn Island is by smaller boats known as pangas and the one-way fare is C$120. The boats depart daily at 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. from the northern end of Brig Bay on Big Corn Island and arrive at Pelican Beach on the western side of Little Corn Island.  The 18-mile journey takes approximately 30 minutes. As I always say, double check schedules because they can change at any moment or be cancelled due to weather. One piece of advice is that if you are prone to seasickness, make sure to check ahead and ask about the water conditions. The boats are small and they feel every wave. Since the trip can take about an hour, it can leave you feeling either exhilarated or horrible.

Little Corn Island consists of a thick jungle in its center surrounded by white-sand beaches as well as rocky coves on its eastern coast. The majority of visitors come to the island to truly get away from it all and either snorkel, dive and just enjoy some great food. Here are some activities:

Hiking to Lighthouse Hill 

Lighthouse Hill – Also known as the Mirador, the highest point of the island at 125 feet includes a lookout point that offers a 360-degree view of the surroundings. It is approximately a 30-minute walk from the waterfront.  

Diving and Snorkeling


Since the island has about 10-square-miles of reefs to explore, it has become a haven for snorkelers and divers. Some of the best snorkeling is off the northern end, which happens to be the more remote area of the island. The two recommended diving companies are: Dive Little Corn on Pelican Beach ( that includes PADI-certification courses with day and night dives, and Dolphin Dive (, which is conveniently based at the Hotel Delfines (north of Jokeman Bank). The hotel ( also includes Caribbean-style bungalows that are some of the better accommodations on the island.  


(photo by Dane Brian)
In addition to the Hotel Delfines, there are two others that are worth mentioning: Derek’s Place and the Casa Iguana. Derek’s Place ( is a great place to stay when looking for a romantic accommodation. The wood and bamboo bungalows (only four) are built on stilts, which overlook the northern point of the island with spectacular views. It also receives its electricity from solar energy to avoid the morning blackouts. The Casa Iguana ( is located just south of Iguana Beach on the southeastern portion of the island. The 14 bungalows are situated on a cliff overlooking a deserted beach and it is also run by solar and wind power. It is one of the best accommodations on the island, so make sure to reserve your bungalow early  especially during peak season.


 (photo by Dane Brian)
Finally, no visit to either of the Corn Islands is complete without a good seafood meal. My recommendations are: Miss Bridgette’s at the dock on Pelican Beach, or either Carlito’s, Grace’s or Elsa’s on Cocal Beach on the eastern side of the island. Miss Bridgette’s is known by locals as having some of the best seafood at the best prices and you can tell because it always seems to be busy. The others on Cocal Beach also have affordable meals with a great menu. But wherever you end up, remember one thing: the service is some of the slowest in the country, which gives you time to chat, enjoy that cold beer and remember why you chose to come there in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! Thanks for reading and sharing with your friends! I have been posting on this blog since February 2011. Take care!