Getting to Corn Island
Fifty-four kilometres (thirty four miles) east of Bluefields, lie the lovely Corn Islands of Nicaragua. Consisting of two distinct islands, Big Corn Island (generally known as Corn Island) and Little Corn Island. These idyllic Caribbean islands are far enough from civilization that they have managed to retain their true tropical essence. Yet they are actually quite easy to reach. La Costeña airlines offers two daily flights from Managua to Corn Island, with a brief stop in Bluefields en route. La Costeña is notorious for leaving your luggage in Managua and sending it on the next flight. To avoid hassles, make sure you bring a carry on bag with essentials just in case…
Another option is to take the passenger ferry operating out of Bluefields, however this makes for a 4 to 6 hour journey which can be quite uncomfortable in rough seas, so I definitely recommend taking the flight, which is only 1 hour flying time from Managua versus a two day trip from Managua to Corn Island via El Rama and Bluefields. The government ferry operates once a week out of Bluefields to Corn Island. Departures are at 9:30 A.M. on Wednesdays and returns at the same time on Thursdays.
Corn Island has a total land area of only 13 square kilometres and has a road that basically goes around the island. The population of the island varies, but is generally around 10.000 souls at its maximum. In general, a taxi ride from the airport to the hotels will cost you approximately $1 US dollar per person or its equivalent to Nicaraguan Cordobas. There are several hotels around the island, most of them on or very near the beaches. English is widely spoken on the island as a first language, so you can feel free to ask locals for information in their language. They are also fluent in Spanish, but prefer English. Despite the fact that the islands are far away from the mainland, you will find that prices are extremely reasonable on both Corn Islands.
Fishing has traditionally, the economy of Corn Islands, however over fishing has changed this. Tourism has become a major factor in the local economy.
The Best of Corn Island
Probably the best beach in Corn Island is located on Southwest Bay. There a mile long white sand beach with tranquil waters awaits to temp you! There are three different hotels on this Bay, Arenas Beach, one of the two most complete hotels on the island (the other is Casa Canada), as well as Picnic Center, a nice hotel with a true island flavour and Martha´s B&B a nice ten room bed and breakfast with very friendly owners that will bend over backwards to insure that you are comfortable. All three of them have restaurant service on the beach. Martha and Ellery at Martha´s B&B offer fishing tours.
The best, upscale hotel on the island in my judgement is Casa Canada. The hotel is on the South end of the Island. This hotel boasts the only pool on the island and offers unique view of the ocean thanks to its infinity design; the hotel however does not really have a beach to swim in, but does offer breathtaking views and lovely vantage points from its ocean side location. Rooms at Casa Canada are modern, with a true Caribbean atmosphere and fantastic views of the sea from your bed. Casa Canada offers sport fishing, diving and snorkeling as well as hiking and horse back riding tours.
The lovely beach at Long Bay is seldom visited by tourists and is one of the secrets that corn islanders like to keep! A large expanse of white sand beach with no hotels or establishments on it, perfect for your secret Caribbean tropical experience!
There are several beaches and a variety of hotels around the island. Also worth mentioning is the Club Paraiso Hotel, on Brig Bay 1 beach. The smaller, more intimate Posada Bellavista is close by.
The highest spot on the island is Mount Pleasant with an altitude of 85 meters above sea level (approximately 280 feet). The view from the top of the mountain is excellent and allows you for practically a 360 degree panoramic view of the island. The local telephone company has tower on the top of the hill. Although homes are all around the island, the only actual town is Brigg Bay. This is were you will find the Municipal Dock and the airport. This is where you can find more stores to purchase supplies if there is anything you need on the island.
There is only one bank and ATM machine in Great Corn Island, so it is a good idea to bring plenty of cash. The Bank, Promerica is in Brig Bay, very close to the airport and the municipal dock. Most hotels do accept credit cards. US dollars are accepted at a reasonable exchange rate, however, don´t expect businesses to provide change for a $100 dollar bill. It is a good idea to bring smaller bills, it will make it easier to purchase whatever you might need.
Please take into consideration that reservations are a must for Easter Week and New Years. This is the local high season and the islands will be full! Other than that, you will usually find accommodations available on the island.
Diving in Corn Island
There is only dive shop on the island, Nautilus Dive Center. If you have a PADI divers credential you can enjoy diving with them, if you don´t this is the perfect time to take a tempting, introductory discover diving package or your open water diver course. Advanced courses are also available in English, Spanish and Italian.
Traveling to Little Corn Island
The Ferry to Bluefields as well as the ¨pangas¨ to Little Corn Island depart from the municipal dock at Brig Bay. The pangas are open boats with a capacity of 36 passengers, but are frequently over loaded. They do however operate with mandatory life vests for all passengers. Make sure you wear your life vest during the journey! Departures from Big Corn are timed to coincide with the scheduled La Costeña flights from Managua, and depart at 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. It is a good idea to be there at least 30 minutes before departure to ensure your seat on the boat.
These are fairly seaworthy vessels with two 200 horsepower engines and take about 30 minutes between both islands. Distance between the islands is a total of 7 miles or about 11 km. Cost of the trip is approximately 5.5 USA dollars per person at time of printing. Since the boat is open, it is a good idea to take clothing that will protect you from the inclemency of the trip. The sun will burn your skin and the sea will probably get you wet. Make sure your carry your camera or other equipment is protected from the water. There is a small shop across from the dock and you can buy a big black plastic garbage bag and put your bag inside it. This will protect it from getting wet during the 30 minute passage.
Finally I must state that despite the fact that the islands are very near between themselves, they offer very different atmospheres. Because of this, I wholeheartedly recommend that you take time to explore both islands to experience two different realities.