This is the ultimate Corn Islands, Nicaragua travel guide. It’s written by yours truly, a longtime resident. I’ve lived on Little Corn Island off and on since 2011. Both Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island are wonderful. They are similar but different and we’ll cover both. These Nicaraguan islands are located about 70km off the coast of the Caribbean Sea. To many, the Corn Islands are considered the gems of Nicaragua and some of the most authentic Caribbean islands you’ll find.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Visit the Corn Islands?
- 2 How to get to the Corn Islands
- 3 Panga to Little Corn Island
- 4 Best Times of Year to Visit Corn Islands
- 5 Little Corn Island
- 5.1 Where to Stay on Little Corn Island – Hotels and Hostels
- 5.2 Where to Eat and Drink
- 5.3 Things to do on Little Corn Island
- 6 Big Corn Island
- 7 Safety on the Corn Islands
- 8 Banking on the Corn Islands
- 9 The Famous Ron Don
- 10 Caribbean Packing Essentials
- 11 Conclusion
Why Visit the Corn Islands?
The Corn Islands are a special place and above all else, unique. Many have said visiting the Corn Islands is like visiting other islands in the Caribbean 50 years ago. It’s a slice of life you won’t see many other places. There are no big resorts, cruise ships or signs of over tourism. If you’re planning a visit now, you’re in for a treat as it’s considerably slower. Lots of people still visiting the islands but it’s a perfect blend between those living on the islands and those visiting.
How to get to the Corn Islands
Getting to the Corn Islands is not that easy, that’s just a fact. There are no direct flights from anywhere except from Managua which is the capital of Nicaragua. Flying to the Corn Islands is by far the easiest way to travel to the islands. That said, there is also the possibility to go by bus and boat. We’ll cover all that below.
Flights to Corn Islands
If you’re going to fly to the Corn Islands from Managua, you’ll be flying with La Costena. There are two flights a day that leave Managua. One flight leaves in the morning at 6:30am, the second one at 2:30pm. It doesn’t matter which one you take because transport between the islands is coordinated to accommodate the flights.
The flight takes an hour or so depending on fi you make a stop in Bluefields. If you purchase online you usually end up spending $15 or more dollars. The cheapest way to get a flight to Corn Islands is to go to the airport and purchase it yourself.
If you call you often get the same price. The price of a round trip ticket is $165US. When purchasing make sure you ask for an “open ticket”. This will let you be able to leave when you want. There is nothing more common than someone coming to the Corn Islands, loving it and changing their ticket. The price to change a ticket is $40US.
I highly recommend you take the flight if you can afford it. Also, buying online is unpredictable it once quoted me $225 r/t.
Ferry from Bluefields to Corn Island
If you’re not going to fly, you’re going to have to take the ferry from Bluefields to Corn Island. How you get to Bluefields is up to you. There is a direct bus Managua to Bluefields which leaves daily. You can also take a bus to Rama and then take a ferry to Bluefields. The bus to Rama is the old school way but if you’re looking to save a buck and take the boat, just bus to Bluefields.
Every Wednesday the ferry from Bluefields goes to Corn Island, leaving at around 9am. It takes roughly 5 hours if the weather is calm, possibly more if rough. Once you arrive on Big Corn Island, you can head to Little Corn Island if you wish. More on that later in the Little Corn Island section.
There are also often cargo ships going back. If you talk to the right people you can jump on one. The only time I ever took the boat to Corn Islands from Bluefields was on a cargo ship. It’s not very comfortable but it’s inexpensive, it is what it is.
Panga to Little Corn Island
If you’re heading to Little Corn Island from Big Corn Island you’ll have to take the panga. The panga is an open air skiff which takes about 30 minutes. The way to Little Corn Island is the roughest due to prevalent winds, the way back is a lot easier. If you’re prone to seasickness bring some medication like Gravol.
If you’re arriving on Saturday, you can probably take the cargo ship over. It’s slower but way less choppy.
Best Times of Year to Visit Corn Islands
It’s always a good time to visit the Corn Islands, it’s just what are you looking for? The Corn Islands weather can be unpredictable. In the rainy season it’s slower and a bit cooler, it also doesn’t usually rain all day. In high season it’s busy, the weather is generally great. I’ve been on the Corn Islands throughout the whole year and I enjoy every season. If you’re coming for a classic Caribbean vacation, come during high season, more on that below.
High season on the Corn Islands starts in December and runs until Easter which is mid-April. These are the busiest months of the year and some of the best weather. It might rain a bit but generally not that much. It’s busy with fun people from around the world as North Americans are some of the biggest visitors. This is the time when most residents are there, most tourists come, expats and the islands are busiest.
If I was going to visit for only two weeks throughout high season, I’d go in March.
Rainy season on the Corn Islands can start in May and go as long as November. Having lived there for years, sometimes it rains all the time. Sometimes it doesn’t even rain and we wonder if it’s even rainy season. September is one of the best months and it’s no surprise that a festival is being organized now for that month. If you do have free time in September and wish to have a wonderful authentic experience, it’s a great time to visit.
The driest time to visit the Corn Islands is in March, April and parts of May. The weather is getting so unpredictable though, you never know.
Pro tip: Don’t pay attention to the weather network. Often it will say rain for a week but it’s sunny, just an hour or so of rain a day.
Little Corn Island
Little Corn Island is a true tropical paradise gem. It’s an authentic sleep Caribbean Island that is roughly one square mile. There are no cars, no roads and no motorized vehicles. There isn’t even power 24 hours a day. The main reason people come to visit is to just unwind and relax. Laze on the white sand beaches, go scuba diving, snorkelling and enjoy the nightlife. You can’t visit the Corn Islands without staying a night or two at the very least on Little Corn Island.
Where to Stay on Little Corn Island – Hotels and Hostels
Unless you’re looking to detach from everything, I always recommend people stay near town. The north-end is beautiful and it’s the most popular spot during the day. Once the sun has set though, it’s very slow. If you’re looking to go out for dinner or maybe get into the nightlife, just stay in town. If you’re a single female traveler or a group of girls, stay in town. Things don’t happen that often but the walk through the jungle in the dark isn’t something anyone wants to do.
There are lots of options for accommodation on Little Corn Island. If you want to find budget accommodation, it’s there. If you want to find a luxurious beach front boutique hotel, it’s there too. Another great option is staying at a private home. This will give you a far more authentic experience of what it’s like living in the Caribbean.
All these places are located on the north beach which is the most popular beach. The only drawback is that at night, there is nothing happening on the north-end of the island. I like heading to the north-end for a few hours but when I’m done, I like going back to town where all the magic happens.
- Yemaya Island Hideway – This is the nicest hotel on the island. Right now they have some incredible deals so it’s worth looking into it. The price used to be way more but these days it’s a bargain.
- Ensuenos – Really funky spot, barebones, no thrills. People who want to disconnect from everything love it.
- Peace and Love Farm – It’s pushed back from the beach on a quiet section of the north-end.
- Derek’s Place – The north-eastern tip of the island. It’s sort of like being in fantasy land. Basic wood cabanas by the sea.
- Little Corn Beach and Bungalow – A relaxed spot with the most amenities available on the eastern beach.
- Cool Spot – On the east side, laid back and right on the beach. It also has a restaurant, literally a cool spot to hang out.
- Carlitos – Similar to Cool Spot but usually a bit of an older crowd.
- Elsa’s Place – right next to Cool Spot, basic beach cabanas.
- Hotel Delfines – This is the nicest hotel in town. It’s locally run and right on the water. Air conditioned rooms and right in the thick of it.
- Three Brothers – The original Little Corn Island guesthouse / hostel. Run by a super friendly local family and situated right in town. This hotel also includes a kitchen and wifi which is helpful as restaurants can be slow and often aren’t open late / close early.
- Las Palmeras – A nice place right on the water, several rooms with a restaurant.
- Lobster Inn – Right in the heart of it all, affordable rooms and run by a friendly local family.
- Shell Hostel – Cheapest place to stay on the island, the owner is a friendly gent who likes to chat.
- The Lighthouse – Not actually in town but just outside and on the hill. Fun place with a popular bar / restaurant attached.
Where to Eat and Drink
Lots of places to eat on Little Corn Island and many of the places serve the same style of Caribe cuisine.
The strip is Little Corn Island’s version of the Las Vegas strip, these three are the popular spots to have a few drinks an watch the sunset.
- Tranquilo Cafe – An island classic and the main expat hub. American pub style food, lots of drink specials and events.
- The Shack – Right on the sea, super authentic laid back spot. If you’re going to LCI, have at least one beer at The Shack.
- Cafe Desideri – The Italian joint on the strip with a cool vibe, delicious food and lots of drink specials.
- Beach Bar – Cool vibe and literally, right on the beach. Also home to some of the most generous drink specials on the island.
- Bridgets – Delicious and friendly local spot run by a lady named Bridget. Oldest restaurant on the island, try it out.
- Havana Libre – End of the strip, tasty Cuban and local cuisine.
- Full Moon – Island style food run restaurant by a cool lady named Estella.
- Cool Spot – Island style food right on the beach.
- Turned Turtle Cafe – It’s part of Little Corn Beach and Bungalow. It has some delicious dinner options.
- Yemaya – They have a really solid beach bar, I just don’t go there anymore as it’s next to Fry Fish.
- Fry Fish – Locally run spot by a guy named Harley. Harley’s cool, the vibe is great, the drinks are strong and the prices are low.
- The Lighthouse – A fav place to hang out, partly because I live next door. Fun times and a very different vibe from the strip.
Private Homes for Rent
- Alta Vista – Best views on the island, fastest internet and can accommodate the largest groups. It’s located on The Hill near Lighthouse. Full disclosure, this is my place but everything mentioned is true.
- Troy’s Place – Great spot for people looking for a chilled out beach vacation. It’s right on the beach and the neighbour Bodi is pretty cool too. This is one of the most popular places to stay.
- Ensuenos – Lots of super unique places available, usually come up first when you’re searching Little Corn.
There are several others as well, your best bet is just to browse the listings. I like the idea of staying in a house, so you can catch a big fish and fry it up. Or if you wake up at sunrise you can make yourself some coffee or fry some eggs. There isn’t much happening town early morning except for The Shack.
Things to do on Little Corn Island
There is lots to do but not that much to do if that makes sense. It’s the kind of place you come to relax, read a book, go swimming and enjoy drinks at sunset.
Scuba diving is a big draw to Little Corn Island. There used to be more dive shops but now there are only two.
- Dolphin Dive – in the heart of town and owned by Delfines Hotel
- Little Dive Shop by the Sea – Connected to Derek’s Place on the north-end.
They’re both alright, check them both out.
This is a very popular activity and seems there are endless operators. Snorkeling will find you, no need to seek it out. If you’re slightly interested, do it. It’s a great experience and seeing other parts of the island from sea is an added bonus.
Lots of fishing trips, some for bottom fishing and trolling. Others for just trolling. Lots of islanders offer this service so ask around and go out with the Captain you get along best with. If looking for a Captain, just start asking around the pier. There is also the possibility to go fly fishing. Ask around as a gent named Brendan or Alfonso could take you.
The people at Farm Peace and Love offer horseback riding trips. I’ve seen countless people on these trips and they were always smiling. Also a great way to explore the island if you’re not physically up for walking around the whole place.
Regardless of which island you’re on, go catch a baseball game. They are good fun, competitive and did I mention a lot of fun?
There is a kitesurfing school on the east-side beach. The owner is a super friendly gent from France.
So the Lighthouse Hotel is near the actual Lighthouse which isn’t actually a lighthouse. Say that five times fast. It’s just a tower you can climb and get great views of the island. I recommend you climb it for sunrise or sunset if you’re going to do it. It’s a bit of a dodgy climb but you’ll be fine if daring enough to do it.
Lots of beaches on the island but Goat Beach is arguably the best. It’s to the left of Fry Fish Bar if you’re looking at the sea. Walk until you feel you’re at the end of the beach, then keep walking. You’ll find a remote beach with alright swimming and a wood staircase. It’s a great place to spend some time with a special someone on a secluded beach. You’ll also pass “the swing” along the way, great for photos.
Visit the Finca
Finca Valhala is on the very southern tip of the island. It has a great vegetable garden where you can get your greens. It’s a true blessing to the island as normally not a lot of veg comes on the cargo ships. Usually always a few types greens such as spinach, kale and arugula. If you’re lucky, there might even be some eggplants. If you want produce or not, it’s a nice walk and a beautiful setting.
Secret Coves behind Casa Iguana
Casa Iguana used to be a classic spot but due to poor management and neglect it’s in ruins. Behind Casa Iguana there are two private coves. They are worth visiting. The current can be a bit strong but they are certainly worth the visit if you’re feeling slightly adventurous. If you want to go, ask anyone living there and they’ll sort you out.
Big Corn Island
So Corn Island is often called Big Corn Island but it’s real name is just Corn Island. In fact, little island is just a neighbourhood of Corn Island. Big Corn is about four square miles and has roads, an airport, hospital and more. Big Corn Island is home to some of the best beaches in the Corn Islands, lots of nice places to stay and some good dive shops. It just lacks “The Strip” so there is no one central meeting spot so it doesn’t quite have the same social scene.
The cost is 20c anywhere you go. They will probably charge you 25c if leaving the airport but anywhere else 20c is it. It used to be 18c but I think it’s 20c now, either way, it’s a deal. Don’t be surprised if they stop and pick people up as they go, it’s just the way it is. If you’re in a rush and want to go direct, tell them and make a special deal for a special trip.
Pro tip: Ask a taxi driver to give you a tour of the island, 100c is a fair price.
Where to Stay on Big Corn Island – Hotels & Hostels
Big Corn Island has lots of places to stay. I’m going to list some of the more popular ones here.
- Angela’s Rooms – Little known spot but arguably the least expensive. Located in Brig Bay behind the bank.
- G&G – Also in town, great option for the budget minded traveler and it has a restaurant attached to it.
- Casa Canada – One of the nicer options, it’s on the south of the island right near Long Bay.
- Sun Rise Hotel – Right across from Casa Canada, similar but at a fraction of the price.
- Yellow Tail – Up in Sally Peachy, pretty basic.
- Big Fish – It’s in the north-end and right near Seaside Grill and a great beach.
- Arena’s Beach – Arguably the nicest hotel. Also right on the beach at arguably best spot for sunset.
- Hotel Morgan – On the north-end and reasonably priced.
- Island Roots Hostel – Funky hostel with really friendly owners.
- Momondo – A hostel in Brig Bay / North-End. Has some incredible views and right on the sea.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Victoria’s Pulperia – A classic spot with arguably the cheapest beer on the island. They also sell tacos and such during the day.
- The Italian Joint – It’s not called that but it’s right next to Sunrise Hotel. They have delicious pizza but I recommend you go for the lasagna.
- Seaside Grill – Great seafood, one of the most popular spots on the island.
- Dos Triburones – The dive shop cafe, a real expat hang out. Great view and open early for a coffee.
- G&G A favourite for people to hit up for breakfast while doing a run to Big Corn to get cash if you’re living on Little Corn.
- Arena’s Beach – They have a great breakfast, all their food is good.
- Picnic Center – Next to Arena’s Beach and a slightly less expensive option than Arena’s Beach.
- Fisherman’s Cove – Right at the dock, great place for a beer before the boat or a quick bite.
- Dos Equis – Can’t remember if this is the right name, between Dos Tiburones & Victoria’s. I like it.
- Jeanette’s – Used to be my favourite place for breakfast, there was a fire. It’s right near the bank. If it’s open, go.
There are others but these are the main ones I usually visit when I’m on the island. These are a great starting place for you.
Things to do on Big Corn Island
The things to do on Big Corn Island are very similar to that of Little Corn Island. You can go scuba diving, deep sea fishing and of course snorkelling. There are some things unique to Corn Island though.
- Soul of the World – I could go on about this forever but if you click here you’ll get an idea. Basically Corn Island is part of the “soul of the world”. Just ask your taxi driver to take you to “the pyramid on Quinn Hill” they’ll know. Also, you can get some great photos of the island from there.
- Rent a Golf Cart – Rent one for the day and cruise around the island. It’s good fun.
- Climb Mount Pleasant – It’s the highest hill on Big Corn Island, then climb the cell tower if you’r daring. Solid views and a rather easy hike.
- Watch the sunset at Arena’s Beach or Picnic Centre. It’s the best beach on the Corn Islands, hands down.
Corn Islands Slang
- Right Here : If you ask how someone is, they say right here. It’s so present and arguably the best answer ever.
- Just Cool: If you’re already in the present at right here and everything is cool, you’re just cool.
- How’s the Morning: Good Morning.
- Over Yonder – Over there.
- Moleste – Disturb
- Dear – Expensive
- Fresh Out – Stressed
- Funny – Weird – Hey Lobster, your shorts look funny.
- Simple – Dumb
- Clyde – Fed up
Safety on the Corn Islands
The Corn Islands aren’t a dangerous place but you do need to use your head. If you’re going to be drinking on Little Corn Island, stay near town. Also, lots of homes have bars and for good reason. Lock your stuff up and keep your head on your shoulders and you’ll have a great time. The biggest issue is people get caught up in the beauty while on vacation and forget common sense.
Banking on the Corn Islands
There is no bank machine on Little Corn Island and only one on Big Corn Island. It’s recommend you use the bank machines inside the international airport before you arrive. Credit cards are accepted in some of the larger restaurants and resorts but cash is still king.
The Famous Ron Don
The Ron Don pronounced “run down” is the classic dish of the Corn Islands. It’s a seafood blend in a coconut broth. If you’re visiting the islands you should definitely get one. Probably the best place to get one on Little Corn Island is at Bridgets or Full Moon. You’ll need to order in advance. On Big Corn Island, I don’t know the best place to be honest but most restaurants can set it up.
If you’re lucky, someone will invite you to one they’re making on the beach. That’s the most authentic way you can experience it.
Caribbean Packing Essentials
This is a quick packing list of what you’ll probably want to bring if you’re visiting the Corn Islands. Realistically you’ll be wearing flip flops, bathing suits and not much else the entire time you’re here. That said don’t forget the following…
- Prescriptions – If you need any type of medication, bring it with you. Bring enough for your entire stay. There isn’t much available so please plan accordingly.
- Bug Spray – If you’re someone who often has issues with mosquitos bring some bug spray.
- Sunscreen – You’re going to need it and I’ve never seen it for sale on Little Corn Island.
- Sun Hat – Bring a hat to wear when you’re out and about during the day. The sun is strong and getting burned the first day is no way to enjoy a vacation.
- Flashligh – If you’re on Little Corn Island this is a must. Especially if you’re staying on the east-side or north-end.
- Sunglasses – You forget these, you’ll wish you didn’t.
- Extension Cord & Adapters – Lots of the hotel rooms have one plug and it’s never where you want it. As a result, bring an extension cord if you’re staying a while. Also, lots of rooms don’t have grounded electrical plugs.
- Gravol – Get seasick? Take some Gravol with you as it can be a rough crossing.
- Condoms – I don’t think I’ve ever seen them for sale, anywhere. Might be able to get some on Big Corn Island.
No matter what, don’t forget travel insurance. If something happens you’re getting flown to the capital and it will cost you. Having travel insurance just smart anytime. Getting injured overseas can clean you out. Also, if you do get injured you want the best treatment available.
I trust this post gives you an idea of what’s happening on the Corn Islands. My advice is take the plane with an open-ended ticket. Spend a day or so on Big Corn Island then head to Little Corn Island. Stay there until you’re ready to leave and head back to Corn Island a day or so before it’s time to go. It’s a great idea to leave a day or so early if the weather looks dicey. The biggest issue is the wind, with strong winds sometimes the panga from Little Corn doesn’t run.
There you have it, a locals guide to the Corn Islands. Remember to take it easy and be just cool.