Little Corn Island is off the coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean Sea.
This island was first inhabited by Native Americans such as Garifino or Miskito
The island was colonized by the British, and most native islanders have more in common culturally with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua. Many have English surnames.
Tourism on the island is still in its infancy, and what is there is small, basic and, thus far, fairly eco-friendly. Some of the places to stay rely on solar and wind power for their electricity, and many have their own wells which draw drinkable water and/or collect rain water. The people are typically friendly, laid back and genuine.
Almost everyone on the island speaks both passable Spanish and English, the latter being the first language of most who are native to the island. The English spoken, however, is heavily Caribbean, and real communication can be far from effortless. There are many inhabitants who have come over from mainland Nicaragua and consequently speak Spanish as a first language, and others who speak Miskito and other Caribbean languages or dialects.
Many people assume that both islands are similar, they tend to stay on the "Big" island for several days, and save the last day or two for Little Corn. The most overheard statement on Little Corn is "Wow, this is so much better (more beautiful, cleaner, more natural, nicer, better amenities, diving, hotels, etc.), I should have come here sooner!" And anyone who doesn't have a stockholders' meeting or a graduation to get back to, almost invariably finds a way to stay longer than they had planned. It's not at all uncommon for someone to come for a few days, only to stay for a month or more. Many calls are made to change flights. So the point is, if you plan your stay for longer, or to just go direct to Little Corn on the panga right after your flight arrives, you'll have listened to the best advice there is about a trip there.
Almost everyone reaches the island via the twice-daily panga (ferry), which leaves Big Corn Island at 10AM and 4:30PM, and leaves Little Corn at 6:30AM and 1:30PM. The price of the panga is C$130 (US$6). The ride takes between 30 and 45 minutes and can sometimes get pretty rough. The back of the boat is less rough, while the front is less wet. Sitting on your life vest will help ease the pain in your ass on the rough days. As much as some people love the breakneck speed the drivers used to cross at, they have become more considerate of the more fragile on board.
You'll need to reconfirm your flight from Big Corn Island back to the mainland 24 hours before; if you're patronizing one of the dive shops they'll do it for you, or the Dolphin Hotels (Los Dolphines) internet cafe, or Farm Peace and Love's internet cafe if you stay on the North end of the island. If you are staying on the East Side of the island (Cocal Beach), Casa Iguana offers an internet cafe and/or Little Corn Beach and Bungalow offer satellite WiFi with your own device. Tranquilo Cafe will also let you use their cell phone to confirm, or their WiFi for a Skype or Google Voice call. They also have a house laptop if you don't have Wi-Fi ready device.
Schedules change, routes shift and transportation can be unpredictable. For the latest updated information on how to get from Managua to Little Corn Island by plane, bus and boat, view the graphic: Managua to Little Corn Island  [dead link]
The island is walkable, and in fact you have no choice... there´s not a single motorized vehicle on the island, and no roads on which to drive anyhow. There's a paved sidewalk along the west coast near the pier, and beyond that you´re hiking through narrow dirt paths through the jungle-like interior of the island. You could walk the length of the island in less than an hour, though the paths get muddy and slippery very quickly during the rain. You can walk most of the east side of the island along the beach, with a couple of tricky spots at high tide.
There are bicycles on the island, though take care on the rough dirt paths. Ask at your guesthouse if interested. If you choose to run around barefoot, keep an eye out for broken glass. Walking bare foot is never advised, unless you're walking on the beach. The "City" walkways are often too dirty for bare feet, so wear flip flops at least, but walking is only easy to those are in good physical shape, it is a remote island after all. Great place for morning and evening jogging around the island. Water shoes are also recommended as there is plenty of coral around the island that can cut your feet or legs while swimming.
There's not a whole lot to see on the island, per se, other than the deep blue sea. There are a couple of tiny and uninteresting churches, and a couple of sunken boats to gaze at offshore.
A run down lighthouse lies on the northwestern-ish part of the island, next to the giant cell phone tower that dwarfs it. It´s climbable and offers an awesome view of the whole island, but take care on the ladder, and think twice if you´re afraid of heights.
There is a football (soccer) field in the center of the island which might see an impromptu match a couple times a year, and a newly renovated baseball field further north from the lighthouse. When there's a local series going, you can see the equivalent of the best of old fashioned small town baseball, with a great mix of local islanders, ex-pats, and tourists in the bleachers. One of the few good things that Americans brought to Nicaragua.
- [dead link] Dive Little Corn (just south of the dock), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 8AM-5:30PM daily. A well-run 5 Star Gold Palm dive shop (awarded to dive shops that excel in all of PADI's environmental, safety and certification standards), that can do PADI courses up through assistant instructor. The first shop in the country does three dives daily and has certified several local dive masters. Join them for regular trips to Blowing Rock or beach cleanup days. Check with their webpage for updated specials. Kayaks, snorkeling trips and gear available. Visa and MC accepted. One of the largest local employers on the island. Same owner as Casa Iguana.
- Dolphin Dive, at Hotel Delfines (south of the dock), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Managed by a new team, this is the other well-run dive shop on the island. PADI courses are available up through dive master, they employ locals, and profits remain on the island.
Fishing out of Little Corn is casual and often productive. No license required, just rods in PVC rod holders while trolling ballyhoo baits from an open 20-ft panga. Elvis and Alfonso can be contacted by asking in the village. Elvis charges US$35 per person for a 3-hr trip. King mackerel, barracuda, and mahi mahi (dorado) are surprisingly abundant. They offer the best in locally guided trips, and are great guys who will make your day, no matter what you catch.
Fly Fishing Little Corn: A great guy named Brandon offers a full service fly fishing charter on Little Corn Island. Try your hand at catching the elusive Bonefish, Tarpon or Permit. Or go for all three for a "Grand Slam". Along with these on shore fish, you can to go for big game fish off shore. He offers lessons in fly fishing and casting, he'll have you casting and catching fish in no time. No equipment? No problem. Fly Fishing Little Corn has a selection of rods, reels, and lines available to be booked with our charters. Prices start at US$50/person. Check out the website for more information: www.flyfishinglittlecorn.com
Little Corn Fishing Charters Sport fishing tours are run from "Grendel," an open 26-foot center console super panga with two fighting chairs and bimini top to provide much needed shade. It's equipped with GPS, VHS, down rigger and high-speed planer. Generally, trolling in Little Corn is with rigged ballyhoo. Near the island coast (about 5 miles out and closer), anglers chase after kingfish, sailfish, amberjacks, barracuda, African pompano, snapper and mackerel. The mahi mahi and yellow tail average around 30 pounds. The saifish is more common a catch than one would suspect. US$50/person for 3 hours; min. 2 people; $10/person thereafter; 2 trips daily. Ask for Chris at Dive Little Corn or Casa Iguana. No reservations required. Visa and MC accepted.
- Little Corn Island Beach & Bungalow, Cocal Beach, Breezy Side (just east of the dock), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. open daily. Rated "One of 27 best affordable beach resorts in the world" by Travel and Leisure. This eco-friendly resort has immaculate bungalows all with ensuite bathrooms with hot showers situated right on the beach. Turned Turtle Restaurant and Bar (one of the top rated restaurants on the Big and Little Corn Island) has great margaritas and Pina Coladas (their frozen drinks are actually frozen, not blended so you don't get a drink watered down with blended melting ice) and serves bistro style food with an island flare at good prices. The Turned Turtle has the most timely and friendly service on their side of the island. Breakfasts start at US$2.99 and they offer a brewed coffee bar with all the fixin's which opens at 6:45AM, lunches start at $4.90, snacks for as little as $2 and four course dinners start at $9 and require no reservations. Many vegetarian options too! Another plus, owners manage and live on site. from US$45.
- Tranquilo Cafe, Front side (on the beach between the two dive shops), ☏ . 11AM-9PM daily (closed Thursdays). American style bistro/cafe with quality food, and excellent, fast (especially for Central Am.), service. Appetizers include bruschetta & "Catch of the Day" ceviche. Entrees: big and juicy cheeseburgers, fresh fish tacos, grilled chicken sandwiches, and quesadillas. Great veggie offerings as well. Nightly dinner specials that include home-made mac & cheese, wing night, fish & chips. Huge home-made chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, brownies, & home-made rum cake. Ice cream. Fresh brewed hot and iced Nicaraguan coffees, local fruit juice "frescos", smoothies, cocktails, and ice cold beer (including Guinness!) The place to go before or after a dive. Famous for their twice weekly Bonfire Parties, "Pub Quiz", and DJ nights. Also features free WiFi, a gift shop that showcases local crafts, as well as t-shirts and traveler necessities US$2-8.50.
- Cool Spot (south of the port). This popular place straddles the sidewalk, but it´s all about the beachside stand where you can pull up a barstool and get something cold to drink, or partake in their simple but tasty meals. mains C$75-135.
- Habana Libre (just north of the port). Open only randomly, this spot serves up delicious chicken and pork dishes. Some of the specialties require advance ordering. If you hang around long enough, you'll get an ear full from the owners about their anti-foreigner sentiments, which is ironic since the husband is from Cuba. mains from C$100.
- Farm Peace & Love (north side of island, just east of Ensueños). Paola is a lovely Italian woman, cooking up truly superb Italian fare out of her house. A 3-course dinner runs US$15/person, and ingredients are often grown fresh on her farm. Reservations are needed 24 hours in advance, either by dropping by or having Dive Little Corn or Casa Iguana contact her by radio.
- [dead link] Casa Iguana Bar, Restaurant & Lounge (towards the southeast, head south from the port and follow the signs). Guests and visitors are welcome to dine and lounge in the spacious lodge. Traditional breakfast served with fresh fruit in a timely manner for US$6. Small snacks & free organic fair trade coffee are available self serve station all day long (patrons can donate money to the children's reading room). Fresh fruit juices and cocktails, great view of the entire breezy side of the island. A 3-course meal every night prepared with local ingredients and fresh caught fish for about US$15. A vegetarian option/dietary restriction options are always available. Full bar. Sample menus and details on website.
- Dereks Place Bed and Breakfast, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua (NE Corner of island). Whether you're a guest or not, you must make reservations to eat in the "family style" meals. Delicious meals, meat or vegetarian dishes. Specialties include brick oven pizza, Coconut bread, fruit dishes. Often with a cozy bonfire and hammocks on the beach. $4-9.
Beer is available at most guesthouses and restaurants around the island, as is the usual Flor de Caña rum.
Little Corn Beach and Bungalow's "Turned Turtle Bar and Restaurant" on Cocal Beach offers what they term "island famous" margaritas, homemade Pina Coladas and the island version of a mudslide, "Jeff's Mudhole". Homemade corn chips with salsa and guacamole and maybe the islands only "crispy" french fries are all offered along with their friendly beach side service. The bar and beach is a great place to laze the day away in a hammock and enjoy a drink or three.
Tranquilo Cafe. Front side. Lots of Happy Hour Specials from 5-7PM, and the best place on the island to be "seen", share travel stories, and enjoy the view and sunset. Besides beer (including Guinness), it has the largest cocktail menu on the island. Also fresh brewed hot and iced Nicaraguan coffees, local fruit juice "frescos", smoothies. Famous for their twice weekly Bonfire Parties and DJ nights. Also features free WiFi until 10PM for those who can put down that iPhone while chilling. Until late, depending on the crowd.
There are few hotels near the port, while the more rustic places are scattered around the island. Note that the island has an almost constant easterly breeze, keeping the eastern and northern sides cool, while the western side near the port swelters in the sun most of the day. The wind also helps to keep the mosquitoes and sandflies to a minimum, which you may want to consider in choosing your accommodation.
Near the port
- Lobster Inn, ☏ . Rooms with private bath and fan, from US$20.
- [dead link] Hotel Los Delfines, ✉ email@example.com. Rooms are air-conditioned, have television and their own bathrooms. Probably the most "modern" of the hotels on the island. They have their own restaurant, which serves up the typical, but better than average Nica meals. Mastercard and Visa are accepted. This hotel is connected to Dolphin Dive and is a good option for those coming to take courses of just do boat trips. US$40/50/60 for single/double/triple.
- Three Brothers Guesthouse, ☏ , . Check-out: 10AM. Includes kitchen, large dining and common room and outdoor patio with hammocks. 120 meters from the port, relaxed atmosphere, impeccably clean and family run. $10/12/15 for a variety of room types.
- Little Corn Island Beach and Bungalow, Cocal Beach, Breezy Side (go directly east across the island from the dock, take every right turn including once you hit the beach, go 100 mtrs south on beach or 500 meters north of Casa Iguana on Cocal Beach), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: varies, check-out: 9:30AM. On Cocal Beach. 8 of 12 cabins are only steps from the water. This eco-friendly lodge is only place on Little Corn island that recycles rainwater for in bungalow use. Immaculate en-suite bathrooms (with hot water showers) include towels, toiletries and beach towels. Clean, high quality sheets, quality beds, comfy "My Pillow" pillows, in room fans (some with ceiling fans), rechargeable power keeps fans on in the nicest cabins, free wi-fi (for guests with own device), French doors and 14 foot verandas open on to beautifully landscaped grounds and the azure blue Caribbean. Four bungalows are Master Suite Gullivers with King size bed, refrigerator, sitting area and larger verandas are steps from the beach. Two new jungle Master Suite Gulliver cabins are the nicest available at the resort and in private garden setting, yet only a 1 minute walk to the beach. Accept MasterCard and Visa (hotel guests only and a hefty convenience fee applies), have recycle bins (owners volutarily ship at their cost all non-recyclable waste that can not be properly disposed of to the mainland for more appropriate disposal) and are very active in "eco friendly" practices in regard to their impact on the island. Bungalows, US$59 and up.
- [dead link] Casa Iguana, East Side (towards the southeast, head south from the port and follow the signs), ✉ email@example.com. Check-out: 10AM. Opened in 1994 as Nicaragua's first eco-lodge, Casa Iguana sits on a private explorable 40 acre reserve above two private coves, with a farm and a long stretch of white coral sand beach. 15 Casitas with wide verandas and views are painted in a collage of Caribbean colors and are constructed to allow the trade winds to pass through them. The beds are comfortable, in-room safes are provided, and the restaurant serves great food and cold drinks while you marvel at the view (breakfast, lunch and dinner). The lodge is also a popular hangout with travelers and guests perusing the book exchange, boardgames or drink menu all day and night. They've got potable well water so as not to sell water bottles & have recycling bins. Prices can a bit higher than the other lodging on the island, but their entry rate of US$20/night for a cabina with shared bath is a great deal-they have beautiful, clean grounds and views, are relatively easy to get to, and family friendly. A staffer meets the ferry at the port to greet arriving guests and will have your luggage carted directly to your casita and back to the dock after your stay. 3 types of accommodation; Internet cafe; Free WiFi for guests; Bath towels and beach towels; 2 night watchmen at night; 24-hour electricity provided by an off-grid wonky generator/wind/solar set-up. Iguana also supports a US women's college by sponsoring an annual trip of biology researchers to study the reef and island aquifer while educating locals on their findings. Accepts MC/Visa and personal checks. Owner is not on site, and can be difficult to contact. Furthermore, the premises need a little upkeep, as they are suffering from some years of neglect. Also be aware that on this side of the island the winds can be very strong and may not provide for the most relaxing stay. US$20-85; Mastercard and Visa accepted.
Further south, there are 3 places all next to each other, which have the cheapest huts on the island, beachfront restaurants in the sand serving whatever is available that day, and little to distinguish them from each other. While some have an official name, most are known by their owner's name. From top to bottom:
- Carlito's / Sunrise Paradise. Particularly noteworthy are the three beachfront huts. Their huts are on stilts which may help distance you from critters. US$35 for the beach front cabins. US$8-15.
- Elsa's Place. Sweet old Elsa runs this old cheapie, and her restaurant turns out a tasty fried fish. Simple huts on the beach, and use of her kitchen which is well-stocked and may have the only sharp knives you'll find at a hostel in your travels. From US$5.
- Grace's / Cool Spot. Cabanas are a bit cozy but every room offers a hammock on the porch. The water is just a coconut's throw from the hotel. Restaurant offers a good selection of food ranging from local to more western dishes. Graces Cool Spot offers fishing and snorkeling trips, as well as sunset rides when the weather permits. There is a bonfire weekly and they regularly cook up a big pot of the island's favorite dish, rundown. Rooms vary from double room with shared bath to a cabana with 2 double beds with a private bath and kitchen. This is a fun place to stay on the island. US$15-50.
- Derek's Place (at the northeast point of the island, take the trail from the north of Dive Little Corn and stay straight at all crossroads). Probably the most desirable spot on the island to many, they´ve got 4 beautiful huts made creatively from natural materials strewn across a bright green grassy lawn overlooking the sea. Derek and Anna are both quite interesting, and serve up 3 meals on request. There are 3 huts with double beds, and 1 larger hut with 2 double beds and glass bottle walls, all with comfortable mattresses. It´s about a 20-minute walk through the jungle to get here from the port, or if you´ve made a reservation you can request Derek to pick you up from the port in his boat. US$35-40.
- Ensueños (head north from the port and follow the signs for about 20-30 minutes). Along the north of island, this place, run by the friendy Ramon, is fairly remote and popular with long-term travelers. Huts are decent and unusual, and everything is set further back from the beach than most, under the palm trees. There´s a restaurant on site which serves surprisingly gourmet meals (Andrea, the chef, is amazing) on request. From US$25.
The island is relatively safe and few travelers encounter problems, but you should definitely take the normal precautions and not let the peacefulness get your guard down. Violent incidents are rare, but have happened in the past.
Carry a flashlight (torch) if you won´t be back before dark, getting lost in the jungle wouldn´t be fun for most people.
There are a lot of dogs running around the island, and while usually friendly, keep your eye on them.