My 1½ month stay on Little Corn Island, a Caribbean island in Nicaragua, ended a few days ago. I came to the Corn Islands by chance after a tip from some random person I met during my backpack trip in Central America. The idea was to stay for a maximum of one week, but that changed as I got a deal with a scuba diving center on the island. To stay on the island for more than a week without working or having some sort of project would be difficult for most people, because there is not much to do during the days besides chilling out on a beach or go snorkeling. The night life is okay even though there are not that many places to choose from: three local bars and one touristic. Most people choose to go to bed ridiculously early and going up early as well, sometimes for the sunrise.
Corn Islands are two islands, with the main island called only “Corn Island” while the smaller island is “Little Corn Island”. The bigger island has an airstrip, roads and cars (without number plates) and almost no tourists. Even though you “have” to pass this island to get to the smaller island, the majority of the tourists don’t even spend one night here but instead take a taxi directly from the airstrip to the speed boat that leaves two times per day to Little Corn Island. This is a shame because [Big] Corn Island is really nice and is struggling to get their part of the tourism business. But at the moment the airstrip is being rebuilt do be able to receive direct flights from Florida, which probably will explode the number of tourists traveling to both of the Corn Islands in the future.
Little Corn Island on the other hand is built up on tourism. The island looks like the typical Caribbean island that you see on pictures in magazines and there is no problem to find an empty beach that you can have for yourself while eating coconuts just fallen down from the palms. Besides coconuts it’s possible to find mango and avocado on some of the small tracks when there is season for it.
The island is perfect for relaxing with no cars or motorized vehicles at all. Even though Little Corn Island is small you can explore paths that go into uninhibited areas of the island or just take a walk in the nice local areas north of the harbor. Passing the boats “Live your life” and “Happiness” you will get a feeling what life on the island is like.
The prices on Little Corn Island are definitely more expensive than on the mainland of Nicaragua, or even comparing to [Big] Corn Island. This is mainly because of the long difficult way the shipped goods have to take to get to the island, but also because of the growing tourism industry. Most prices are written in US dollar, making it more difficult to compare prices with the mainland. There are no ATM machine to withdraw money on the island and only the foreign restaurants accept credit cards (with a 5% fee) which is a shame for the economy of the locals. Luckily there are a few restaurants where you can ask for cash-back for a 8-10% fee.
Scuba diving is one of the main attractions of Little Corn Island and the Holy Grail for the scuba divers that come here is to see the Great Hammerhead shark. Besides the Hammerhead shark there are also a chance to see Barracudas, Dolphins (rare), Nurse Sharks, Reef Sharks (rare), Spotted Eagle rays, Stingrays, Turtles (semi rare) and a lot of mid- and small size fish and ocean creatures, together with beautiful corals of all kind. If you are not into scuba diving you can rent snorkeling equipment for US$5 or go on a guided snorkeling trip with a boat for US$15 including equipment.
My last two weeks on the island the power generator was broken which was a big problem for a few places which could not afford to run their generators and had to shut down during this period. But even when the island’s main generator is working the electricity is only on during half the day between specific hours.
Although the island life is very slow and uneventful I will miss Corn Island, even the big tarantula that lived in my kitchen.
Some other notes about the island:
- Strong thunderstorms with rain are very common
- The homeless dogs are more happy here than on the mainland, due to the fact that the tourists feed them
- There are a lot of mosquitoes on the island, but most places to live have mosquito nets
- If you hear load drums in the night, don’t worry. Once a year the school kids do a parade on the Nicaraguan Independence Day and the whole month before they practice. Even though the drums is only played by 2-4 kids the sound is like from an army.
- A few people give a bad reputation to the locals here. As a normal common sense, don’t borrow money that you are not ready to loose. The same goes for paying in advance.
- The crab divers on Little Corn Island mostly go free diving, instead of scuba diving with bad result like on the big Corn Island.