:: L A S I S L A S D E L M A Ì Z / t h e C O R N I S L A N D S ::
- Big Corn Island & Little Corn Island -
Iguana Beach, Little Corn Island
The Corn Islands retain all the charm associated with the Caribbean: Turquoise waters, deserted white-sand beaches scattered in between rocky coves and fringed with coconut palms, Garífuna cuisine, magical sunsets, coral reefs, friendly people and an unhurried, peaceful pace of life. Garífuna are a mixture of African, Carib and Arawak and have a distinctive culture, making a living from fishing, primarily lobster and shrimp.
The islands are located in an isolated corner of the Caribbean about 70-85 km off the coast of Bluefileds and don’t see many visitors. Big Corn Island (Isla del Maíz) is the largest with nearly 6000 inhabitants, whereas its diminutive sister Little Corn Island (Isla Pequeña del Maíz) merely has 500 residents.
Almost every visitor to Nicaragua tend to skip the Corn Islands, hence the islands are some of the Caribbean’s unblemished gems, or hidden undeveloped island paradises, if you want.
:: B I G C O R N I S L A N D ::
– sees the most visitors, although very few –
Anastasia Point, Big Corn Island
The trip to Big Corn Island
My mental point of departure was a real dilemma: Should I do the hellish 12-14 hour bus-and-speed boat trip to Bluefields from Managua and then get up the following morning at ridiculous hours for a possibly very rough boat-crossing to the islands? This usual route to Big Corn Island is, to be honest, a pain in the ass! Or should I simply splurge and buy a 106 US$ one-way air ticket reducing the trip to a comfortable one and a half hour flight? Damn it! I was pretty worn-out from bussing through Honduras and, after all, this was a vacation, right? Furthermore, I could save some costly and valuable time flying... Slightly ambiguously, I decided to take the flight; Up a 6 a.m. in Léon, a chicken bus to Managua, taxi to the airport and off I went.
Air travel with La Costeña... Corn Islands, here I come!
Arrival and finding a place to stay
As we arrived, I pulled out up my backpack from the plane, went outside the small airport “office-shed” and started walking towards the village. After approximately half an hour I’d walked trough town, checked three or four places and picked my bed as well. There’s only one main street leading through town and, further on, around the island. There are some basic places to stay at and a few middle-range places with hot water, air con and the like. In town are many small local comedores (eateries) and food-stalls offering cheap food, usually fish or chicken. Yummy!
One or two local families usually share a one/two-room cabin,
made of left-over sheer metal
Along the only main road are many small paths leading to different neighbourhoods;
It’s very rewarding to take a stroll down these to suck in impressions and meet people
Local girls, Big Corn Island
My place – Beach View Hotel
In Big Corn Island I stayed in Beach View Hotel north of town. I had to pay 10 US$ a night for a bed, fan and cold shower, probably one of the cheapest deals in the island. I was the only visitor except from a friendly French guy who’d stayed there for more than two months. Luckily, I’d brought with me my head lamp as it gets completely dark after sunset; there are no lights in the street and the stroll into town is a 10 minute walk.
My hotel in North End, Big Corn Island – the turquoise building
Left view from my terrace – It calls for snorkelling!
Right view from the terrace
A walk and a motorbike ride around Big Corn Island
Big Corn Island is only 6 sq km and you can easily walk around it in 4-5 hours – the walk is roughly 15 km. One day I spent the morning walking around the island following the shore, and in the afternoon I did the trip on a rented motorbike, sticking to the paved road.
My route on foot: North End, Anastasia Point, Sally Peaches, Silver Point, South End, Long Bay, Southwest Bay, Waula Point, Brig Bay and Mosquito Swamp Point.
Anastasia Point, Big Corn Island – There’s a nice restaurant here build over the water
Deserted beaches along Sally Peaches in Big Corn Island...
...I didn’t meet any people here for the one-hour walk down this endless beach.
Another cove at Sally Peaches, Big Corn Island
Around the island are pretty wooden houses, a few churches and good beaches, although the really magical beaches are located in Little Corn Island. I brought my snorkel gear with me (mask, fins and snorkel). The corals at North End and Sally Peaches are really in good shape and the waters offer abundant fish. One places, I saw four lazy nurse-sharks and moments after some reef-sharks.
Local fishers at Long Bay, Big Corn Island
Be careful of crossing crabs when riding a speedy motor bike...Yearh, right!
It only took me 15-20 minutes to ride around the island on my bike.
Fishing boat in Brig Bay, Big Corn Island Local boy fishing for sardines by throwing a net
One of the absolutely most amazing things in Big Corn Island are the sunsets... just sitting at the terrace with a cold beer, listening to the waves and enjoy the day turn into night. Wow, I really miss that.
Sunset from my terrace, Big Corn Island
Sunset further down the beach at Mosquito Swamp Point, Big Corn Island
:: L I T T L E C O R N I S L A N D ::
– remote, far-flung and undeveloped –
Otto Beach, Little Corn Island
Travel to Little Corn Island
In order to go from Big to Little Corn Island I had to take a water taxi. The journey takes about 45 minutes. I arrived in Pelican Beach where a number of primitive hotels and restaurants are placed. There are no vehicles in the island but only a sandy path leading to the northern and eastern parts of the island. I went around town to talk to the locals and watch how they produce lobster traps. Lobsters are in season from June to February, so people where pretty busy when I was there in August.
Arrival at Pelican Beach in Little Corn Island
Local fisher producing under-water lobster trap, Little Corn Island
Locals in the village, Little Corn Island
My place – Casa Sunrise
As I had to find a place for the night, I picked the path leading north from the village and started walking. After approximately 45 minutes I reached a little paradise-like stretch of beach with 3 bungalows: Casa Sunrise. Apparently, I was the only visitor and the owner was very happy to have me there. For 10 US$ a night I had my own bed, fan and the water-edge very nearby.
My bungalow at Casa Sunrise, Little Corn Island
The beach at Casa Sunrise, Little Corn Island
A walk around Little Corn Island – Endless beaches…
Little Corn Island is far smaller than the big island, but it still takes 4-5 hours to walk around the islet as it’s surrounded by rocky coves in between the many deserted white-sand beaches. I followed the beaches/coves around the entire island instead of the path in the jungle, thus I had to do some simple rock climbing along the way in the southern part of Little Corn Island. I did enjoy it, although I wore my slippers; trainers would have been more comfy.
My route: Peter Beach, Jimmy Lever Beach, Big Fowl House Beach, Iguana Beach, Coral Beach, Georges Cay, Garret Point, Otto Beach, Goat Beach, Coconut Beach, Water Hole Beach, Coco Tree Beach, Gun Point Beach, Majagua Beach and, finally, Pelican Beach.
Jimmy Lever Beach, Little Corn Island
Big Fowl House Point, Little Corn Island
No-name beach in between Big Fowl and Iguana Beach. Very private and untouched.
My morning in Little Corn Island – an anecdote from paradise
I’m wide awake at 6.30 a.m. as I went to bed the previous night at 9 p.m. There’s no electricity after 8 p.m. and it’s very quiet in the night. I start by gulping down half a liter of water and then I open the tree door out to the terrace. The sun is still coming up and reflects its crimson color at the sky and at the azure-blue sea. I walk down to the chalky white beach in the lagoon. It’s over-sown with palms and nearby are two small boats lapping gently in the surface.
I stay there for a moment to enjoy the view, watching the lagoon. All quiet. The sea is almost as smooth as a mirror. 200 meters out in the sea is the break and the coral reef. I rub my eyes and put on mask, snorkel and fins. Slowly, I swim towards the reef while the visibility gradually improves and the sandy bottom is replaced by coral and small fishes. The reef is 3-6 meters below the surface and immediately I encounter three lazy nurse sharks. The coral reef is alive and in good shape – no indication of dynamite fishing or bleaching.
At 8.30 a.m. I’m back on the beach. The strong sun has burned away the last couple of skies. The sky is all blue and the ocean display more different color nuances now. I put on some sun screen and start to saunter towards the village. Once in town, I find a little restaurant, but the owner has dropped the key. As I wait for her to find it I enjoy some fresh coconut juice. Around 10ish I have a big cup of coffee, banana bread and shrimp soup with coconut and Caribbean curry. Yummy! I feel ready to start the day. It’s tolerable, isn’t it?
Coral Beach, Little Corn Island Georges Cay, Little Corn Island
Coral Beach, Little Corn Island
Garret Point, Little Corn Island
Garret Point, Little Corn Island – A good place to laze in a hammock
Otto Beach, Little Corn Island
Water Hole Beach, Little Corn Island