Awesome Tips Bucket List Worthy
Crystalline waters as clear as glass, sugar-white beaches lined with palm trees and enough coconut bread to last a lifetime: these are the Corn Islands. Situated off the coast of Nicaragua and accessible via a short plane ride from the capital city, Managua, there are two islands here; Big and Little Corn. Both are largely free of the kind of tourism that now plagues other parts of the Caribbean, but Big Corn with its 10,000 inhabitants and local vibe attracts fewer visitors than its car-free, carefree little sister island.
How do you know which one’s for you? Easy: do both. Head to Big Corn for emptier beaches and more local food. Then, check out Little Corn to experience the island party life among more tourists. Both are good for diving, but Creole, Spanish and Mestizo-speaking locals are in constant dispute about where the best beaches lie.
Your best bet of course, is to make up your own mind. Here’s how to uncover the Caribbean’s best kept, most unique secret: the Corn Islands.
An island experience like no other, tourists and locals wander jungle-dense Little Corn barefoot most of the time, because who really needs shoes in paradise?
Cars are completely absent here and the electricity runs only from 1pm-6am. If you’re a Wi-Fi addict, don’t worry as you can still get your fix at many of the island’s beach bars.
But really, it’s probably better if you just switch off, lie back and chill-out…
If you’re not at home in a hammock, there isn’t really a whole lot else to do on Little Corn except watch the world go by from either the beach, or the bar. Lots of people head to the island to learn how to dive and there are a few places to learn, or go snorkelling. During baseball season you can watch a game in Little Corn’s stadium, which also just so happens to be on the way to the island’s best beach in front of luxury resort, Yemaya which is no doubt where you’ll spend most of your time chilling.
Tasty Italian, local and Western food is served at Cafe Desideri ($8-10 for a meal), along with hangover-curing smoothies and delicious cocktails. Later on you’ll notice that all nightlife on the island seems to centre around Tranquilo bar, so let your hair down with a beer or cocktail there and later, head on just follow the crowd to the waterfront reggae bar to dance the night away under the stars. For beautiful rooms just minutes away from the wharf, stay at the impeccably-run Sunshine Hotel ($55 for a double in low season) where the helpful managers will help you plan the rest of your island stay.
Although often overlooked by its smaller sister island, Big Corn is able to an authentic island experience unrivalled by nowhere else in the Caribbean. In the day, the island hums to the soporific beat of reggae and bachata music, whilst in the night it comes alive with reggaeton. Even if you head to Big Corn in high season (Dec-May), chances are you’ll get the polar-white sands entirely to yourself, bar the odd fishermen. Sometimes they may even offer to share their catch with you for a photo opportunity or, take you out on a fishing expedition for a day’s lunch. One thing’s for sure: the pace of life moves like everything else on this island; fantastically slow.
Wandering around the island via the loop road takes around around two hours by foot, but a taxi to any location will cost you just 25 cordoba (less than $1). If you want a culture fix, check the artwork by famous artist, Rafael Trenor, located on Quinn Hill, called “soul of the world.” It’s part of a global project whereby a giant cube is positioned in one of the world’s eight “corners” – Big Corn Island just so happens to be one of them.
There are also plenty of secluded, breathtaking beaches on Big Corn to bask on; Long Bay and Picnic Centre being two of the most popular. However, when you want to enlist some proper help for your in-the-sea experiences, scuba and snorkelling courses are best booked at the excellent and accredited Dos Tiburones Dive Shop. Expertly led paddle-boarding lessons should be arranged through Stand Up Paddle Boarding.
Be sure to sample Nicaragua’s famous Flor de Caña rum on the island, best served at the waterfront chill-out bar, Spekito‘s. And when you’re after an archetypal Caribbean dish, Rondon (fish stew in coconut milk with lobster and starchy vegetables) is best served at beachfront restaurant Seaside Grill. The stunning views at no extra cost.
For luxury cabana accommodation, an on-site restaurant with delicious local food and an unforgettable infinity pool that melts into the sea, Casa Canada is the place to relax and unwind ($104 p/n).