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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

The Ultimate travel guide to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

If pristine, Caribbean, white sand beaches, crystal clear water, no motorised transport, amazing seafood, and reggae music sound up your street, then you need to make sure Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, makes it onto your Central America travel itinerary.


The Corn Islands, Nicaragua, are well known amongst the travelling community, yet only a very small percentage of backpackers make either the long or expensive journey over to them. Whilst we would sing from the rooftops that the journey is 100% worth it, the fact that a lot of travellers don’t have the time or money to make it is what allows the Corn Islands to retain their charm.


Nicaragua’s transport network will, of course, improve over time; but as the Corn Islands sit off the opposite side of the country from the cities of Leon and Granada & popular backpacker spot, Ometepe; for the time being the reasonably expensive flight from Managua, or 7-hour uncomfortable local bus, followed by a 6-hour ferry taking you 50 miles/80km off the coast of Eastern Nicaragua, will hopefully protect the Corn Islands from an onslaught of tourism for some time to come.


However, if you are feeling a little intrepid and want to experience a true slice of paradise, the cheap, but long, bus and ferry journey there is totally worth it, and we are so glad we included the Corn Islands in our Nicaragua itinerary.


This Ultimate Guide to Little Corn Island will tell you all you need to know about how to get to the Corn Islands, how to travel between Big and Little Corn, where to stay, where to eat and how to spend your time.


 

Table of Contents


 

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14 amazing things to do on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua


1. Have a hammock day

When visiting such a chilled-out island it would be rude not to plan some time to do nothing, many of the beach bars and accommodations around the island have hammocks set up to enjoy the sea breeze, whilst listening to reggae music and enjoying a chilled beverage of your choice.

If you really want to do Little Corn in style, bring your own hammock and head to one of the many pristine coves on the south of the island, where there are no other people in sight, and set it up between a couple of palm trees.


2. Circumnavigate the island

It’s no secret that Little Corn is small, let’s face it the name even has little in it! This picture-perfect Caribbean Island has no motorised transport for a reason, the best way to see it is on foot. Try to set off early-ish to avoid the heat of the day, making your way around the circumference of the island will take a little over 2 hours at a chilled pace, more time if you want to allow time for some swimming or snorkelling.


Heading around the outskirts of the island on foot allows you to find all the hidden coves to while away the hours. We did it in flip-flops but if you have strap-up sandals they may be a better bet as at certain points you will need to climb over a few rocks and others wade through the shallows.


Secluded cove on the south coast of Little Corn, Nicaragua
Secluded cove on the south coast of Little Corn

3. Discover the underwater world surrounding Little Corn

What better way to experience the Caribbean than diving beneath its waves? There are a number of dive schools on the island, so even if you are new to diving this could be your perfect place to learn. The reefs around the island are teaming with fish, some of my particular favourite sightings were the nurse sharks, turtles and rays.


If you are a certified diver, it’s well worth going on a night dive here, especially in the first 2 weeks after the full moon. The bioluminescence off the coast of Little Corn will make you feel like you are on Pandora from Avatar. During our night dive we saw some amazingly inquisitive rays, octopus, squid, Green Turtles and loads of crustaceans.


As of June 2023, all the dive shops on the island have the same price, we chose to dive with Dolphin Dive as we felt most comfortable with them. Adam the manager is a British guy who has lived on the island since 2010. The current costs are;


Fun dives - $40 for dive 1 & 2, $30 a dive for your 3rd dive onwards (you pay an extra $10 for a night dive).

PADI Open Water - $360

PADI Advanced - $300

PADI Open Water & Advanced - $600


Dive shops

There are four dive shops on Little Corn Island. If you are travelling in high season, or considering doing a course it might be worth contacting them in advance. For fun dives, you should have no problem with availability. The other dive shops are Las Palmeras, which is rated well, Derek's Place, which is on the Northeast corner of the island and Olivers, however, Olivers only had a dive master whilst we were there which is fine for fun diving, but you wouldn't be able to get certified with them.


4. Take a snorkel tour

If diving isn’t your thing, why not try out snorkelling? Or even better, do both!

Many places on the island will offer to take you on snorkel tours. There is normally a minimum number of people for the boat to leave, so you may find yourself having to drum up business to get yourself going!


Alternatively, bring your own snorkel (or hire one for $5 per day) as there are so many reefs swimmable from the beach. Check out Otto Reef (just off Otto Beach) and to the northeast corner of the island there is a popular spot just offshore which is marked with a white buoy.


If you are feeling really brave and energetic it is possible to swim out to see hammerhead sharks from the east coast. I would not advise taking this on solo, some guys we met on the island swam out with one of the dive masters. It’s about 500m offshore!!


5. Spend the day at Otto Beach

By far the most popular beach on the island, Otto Beach is on the northern tip of Little Corn, it has a huge, white sand beach so it will feel far from crowded. Fry Fish Bar is located at Otto Beach. They have set up a few hammocks near their restaurant and even a swing from a palm tree for that perfect Instagram shot! Contrary to what Google says Fry Fish Bar seemed to close most nights at around 5:30 pm, so you may need to be wary of that if you are fancying a sundowner.


Becca swinging from the palm tree on Otto Beach, Little Corn
Becca swinging from the palm tree on Otto Beach

6. Go Sea Fishing

If fishing is your thing Little Corn will have you covered. Little Corn is so much cheaper for game fishing than many other Caribbean islands so make sure to check it out. The best time for fishing is just after the full moon as the fish bite more freely, therefore if that coincides with part of your trip, plan accordingly for a more fruitful time.


7. Check out the baseball

Baseball, being the national sport, is a big deal in Nicaragua. Currently, there is no team on Little Corn but 4 teams on Big Corn. Previously some week’s games would be played on Little Corn but as of June 2023 this isn’t possible, so to check out a game you need to take a panga over to Big Corn for the day. Why not use this as an opportunity to give Big Corn a try too and stay for a night or two there?


Speaking to one of the locals there is talk of a team trying to reform in August/September 2023, if you have any further news on this please add it to the comments. Thanks!


Light house - Little Corn. Child climbing up for a better view of the island
Light house - Little Corn

8. Hike up to the lighthouse

On the “road” out to Otto Beach you will see signs for the lighthouse. Located on the highest point on the island, it’s a great place to see the whole island. A great alternative to Otto Beach for sunset.


9. Test your brains a Tranquilo’s pub quiz

Tranquilo is the most popular place on the island, it’s great any time of the day. On Tuesday night Tranquilo hosts a Tacos and trivia night which is well worth checking out to see if your brain cells still work after a while on the road.


10. Eat amazing seafood

Being surrounded by water it won’t be a surprise that there is no shortage of seafood on the island. Whether you’re sampling fish and chips Friday at Tranquillo, Fry Fish Bar for lunch, or one of the cheaper eats like El Bosque in the forest, you are sure to have some amazing seafood on Little Corn.


11. Don’t forget Big Corn

Whether you opt to fly or take the ferry, either way, to get to Little Corn you have to pass through Big Corn. When it comes to the argument of Big Corn vs Little Corn, we like many other travellers have to say we do prefer Little Corn to Big Corn but that doesn’t mean you should skip it altogether. It’s good to spend at least one night over on Big Corn on your trip to the Corn Islands to experience a bit more “normal life” on the Corn Islands. Whether you opt to hire a bike for the day to get around, or navigate the island using the interestingly named bus stops, like Lobster, Big Corn is a beautiful part of the world and doesn’t deserve to be skipped altogether.


12. Go for a morning run

With most of the island’s electricity supply turning off between the hours of 6 am (5:45 am when we were there) and 1 pm you will be sure to have some early starts on Little Corn. It will be far from cool in the morning as it’s warm around the clock, but it will be the coolest time of the day to stretch your legs. Make sure to wear swimwear for your run though as you’ll want a dip to cool off after you’ve finished, or maybe even during your run!


13. Find your inner zen

If lying in a hammock in the shade of a palm tree, listening to the gentle lapping of the Caribbean on the shore with a gentle breeze to keep your cool doesn’t have you chilled out enough. Maybe it’s time to try out yoga. Kelly runs “The Little Corner” from the comfort of her beautiful oceanfront property. Even if you are a complete beginner all the way up to the more advanced yogis you are welcome at The Little Corner, the classes are a steal for backpackers at C$200 for a 90-minute yoga, meditation & relaxation session, followed by a lovely cup of tea overlooking the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island.


If you are more into self-guided yoga check out these 100% recycled cork yoga blocks and eco-friendly yoga mats on Amazon.

Sunset yoga at Little Corner Yoga - Little Corn
Sunset yoga at Little Corner Yoga - Little Corn

14. Get your forage on

The walk from the main street to Otto’s beach will take you past an abundance of mango windfalls. Little Corn has loads of mango trees brimming with fruit, so it’s time to get inventive on how many ways you can use mango, our most inventive was mango in our morning porridge.

You will also find an abundance of coconut palms, collecting coconuts that aren’t split open may be a little more challenging as you may need to climb a tree, but the reward could be a free sundowner if you have brought rum in from your shopping trip in Managua.


Important: Make sure to only forage from trees not on private property.


Map of where all the best things to do on Little Corn


Where are the Corn Islands?

The Corn Islands are 2 tiny islands about 80 km (50 miles) off the eastern shore of Nicaragua in the Southwest Caribbean Sea. The Corn Islands are Caribbean paradises. Little Corn is only 1.5 Km² and Big Corn is far from big at 13 Km².


How to get to Little Corn


There 2 ways to get to Little Corn, the route’s final leg is the same, a Panga (small skiff speed boat) from Big Corn to Little Corn. There are rumours spread about the “awful journey to the Corn Islands” but in all honesty, this seems to be spread by people that took the flight. We took the ferry and boat, it was a breeze but time-consuming. If you have the time do your bit for the planet, take the bus and ferry.


The easy but more expensive way to get to Little Corn

The easiest and the most expensive route is to fly to Little Corn, if you are only visiting Nicaragua for a few week’s holidays I would advise that flight is the way to go for you, otherwise, you will lose 2 days of your holiday (1 each way) getting to and from the Island due to the distance of everything else on the Gringo Trail and the closest international airport.


There are 2 flight routes to the island, 1 from Managua and the other from Bluefields. Realistically you are only going to fly from Bluefields if your ferry is cancelled or you miss it. The best place to fly to the island is from Managua. There are 2 flights a day, 6:30 am and 2 pm, 7 days a week. The return journey from Big Corn to Managua leaves at 8 am and 3:40 pm. The flight takes between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on if it stops in Bluefields. The base fare is $169 (more if booked at short notice or with high demand) for a return flight and can generally be booked a week before (more time is needed for weekends and busy times).


The flight company that runs this route is La Costeña (a subsidiary of TACA Airlines), you can book flights on La Costeña's website however, there is a $25 booking fee which can be avoided if you book at their office, over the phone +(505) 2298-5360, but you will need to brush up on your Spanish or you can also contact them via email on reservacion@lacostena.com.ni


Once you arrive at Big Corn, see below for info on the Pangas.


Tip: The luggage allowance is only 35lb (16kg) with excess baggage being charged at $1.50 per 1lb (450g) excess. Overweight luggage is transported on standby so there is a chance if you pack lots of costume changes you may be waiting a day or so for your little black dress!


The adventurous and budget way to get to Little Corn

The route to the Corn Islands is a lot easier than it was a few years ago. If you read blogs like Stingy Nomads and Along Dusty Roads (which we love by the way), they took on the journey when it involved a bus to El Rama and then an extra Panga. This route is no longer an option and has been replaced with an easier one.


Step 1: Get to Managua, there are so many places you may be coming from I’m not going to cover getting there but I have covered a few of the more popular options in our details post on “How to get to the Corn Islands without flying”.


Step 2: Make your way to Terminal Buses Costa Caribe, you will probably need to take a taxi here as it’s on the outskirts of Managua. Tell the taxi driver you want to go to Terminal buses Costa Caribe or Mayoreo (it is know by both names).


Step 3: Take a bus to Bluefields, the journey is 7-hour bus to Bluefields, including 2 breaks. The buses run daily at 6 am, 9:15 am, 11:15 am, 2:30 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:30 pm and 11:00 pm. The last bus would be too late to make the ferry the next day. Cost - C$320 (£7.10/$8.90)


Step 4: Take the ferry to Big Corn, the ferries only run twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, departing at 9 am (the return journeys are Thursdays and Sundays at 9 am) but you will want to get there by at least 7 am to make sure you get a ticket and a decent seat. The ferry takes about 6 hours depending on sea conditions, and costs C$255 (£11.15/$14).


Step 5: Take a Panga to Little Corn, see below.

To read about this journey in detail and hear about the conditions of the bus and the ferry on our journey, see our post on How to get to the Corn Islands”.


Panga from Big Corn to Little Corn

The Panga is the only way between Big and Little Corn, apart from hiring/owning your own boat. The Pangas run at really convenient times for both the ferry and flying so you can make the journey in one day if you do not wish to stay on Big Corn (Big Corn is worth a day or 2 if you have time though). The Panga is $10 (£8) each way.


Big Corn to Little Corn: 10 am and 4:30 pm, daily.

Little Corn to Big Corn: 6:30 am and 2 pm, daily.


Sunset on Otto Beach, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua - Palm trees and sun setting over very tranquil Caribbean Sea
Sunset on Otto Beach, Little Corn Island

Things to know before you visit Little Corn


Bring cash: The Corn Islands are one of those places around the world where you will go planning to spend a week but end up staying longer. Make sure to bring plenty of cash! There is no ATM on Little Corn and although many dive shops and restaurants now take cards and even offer cash advances, they will charge in the region of 6% for using a card. There is one ATM on Big Corn so you could do a day trip mid-holiday to Big Corn and use that, but it will cost $20 for the return panga, and as there is only one ATM there is a risk it could be out of order or cash!


Stock up: Being located 80km off the mainland, understandably everything is a bit more expensive on the island (sometimes up to twice as much!). It’s a good idea, to stock up on some store cupboard staples if you are planning to self-cater at all and some rum before you leave the mainland. The prices aren’t as bad as we expected in the island store, but it’s still much cheaper in Managua.


Some example prices from the stores on the island:

Eggs – C$8-10 each

Pasta – C$30-35 for a 200g bag

Small pasta sauce pouch – C$35

Loaf of sliced bread – C$110

Small stick of butter – C$75

Small block of cheese - C$75

Single basic veg like carrot/onion/pepper – C$10-20

Mangos – FREE!!!!

Rum – C$600 for a litre (we paid C$750 for 1.75 litres on the mainland)


Waterproof your bag: Depending on the time of year your bags can get a little wet on the panga between the corn islands. Either put your bag in a waterproof cover, use a waterproof bag liner or worst case use a bin bag as your bag liner.


Bring bus spray: More sand flies than mosquitos, but either way, like most of the Tropics, there are some nibbly bloodsuckers on the island. Bring plenty of bug spray with a high level of deet.


Bring a torch: Depending on where you stay you may need to walk back through jungle paths at the end of the night, which are only partially lit. The island has such a small community that safety concerns are low, even walking down jungle paths late at night, but a torch is useful to stop you from stepping on a jungle creature or tripping.


Is Little Corn safe?


Nicaragua in general is considered a safe destination to visit, despite the political unrest back in 2018. None of the violence was directed at tourists, it was protests against the government, which were ended in a very brutal way. As far as Little Corn is concerned it is probably the safest place in Nicaragua, being such a small community where everyone knows everyone, the crime rate is almost zero. They make sure of this by having a small police presence on the island too.


Where to eat on Little Corn Island


Tranquilo

Tranquilo bar is one of the only places on the island to have electricity in the morning, so if you are needing to make a call, Tranquilo is the place to go. $1.50 for a coffee with a free refill, while you check in with loved ones can’t be argued with. They offer some great food, and also have some fun themed nights like “Fish & Chip Friday”. “Tacos & Trivia Tuesday” and a local DJ plays the night away on a Wednesday with live drumming and a bonfire.

An amazing added bonus is they will fill up your water bottle for free, so don’t forget to bring it along!

Pasta at Desideri - tomato pasta dish with herbs sprinkled on
Pasta at Desideri

El Bosque (the forest)

El Bosque is the budget eat of the island. Rosa’s used to be a popular cheap eat but according to the locals, Rosa herself left the island a while ago and although the restaurant originally remained open, it hasn’t been seen open for quite a long time. El Bosque served delicious, fish, chicken & veggie dishes served with sides such as coconut rice, mashed potato and stir fry vegetables. All main course prices also include a small salad starter and dessert. Everything we had here was delicious.


Desidero

If you are wanting to splash out a little, spend an evening at Derideri, they have some amazing pasta dishes! Next door to Tranquillo, slightly more expensive, but the food really is worth what you pay!

Like Tranquillo they have a happy hour from 4:30 – 7:00 pm so get down there for a sundowner.


Where to stay on Little Corn


Since the Corn Islands are a little tricky for a holiday from the US or Europe, Little Corn remains a backpacker stronghold. On the island, there is only one high-end accommodation which does look nice, however, let’s hope it remains tricky to get to and the high-end hotels are kept to a minimum to keep the charm of the island.


Luxury

Yemaya Reefs – We didn’t stay here but it looks very nice, however, the price tag would put even flashpackers off. For C$21,000 (£500/$600) a night you can have an oceanfront cabin with a private plunge pool on the balcony overlooking the reef.

If Yemaye Reefs want to invite us back to the island to try it out, we would be open to offers 😉


Budget

Christina’s Guesthouse – If you are travelling as a couple or maybe a couple of friends this is the best budget option. The budget double ensuite is only $20 (£16) per night, the rooms are nice and clean, and the shared kitchen has enough equipment to get by. This is where we stayed and thoroughly enjoyed it.


Three Brothers Hostel – Three Brothers is the original and only hostel on the island & the only place with dorm rooms. The main reason I am not rating this over Christina’s is the regular reports of cockroaches in the rooms and kitchen. It’s a great budget option but many reviews rate it well as they say “It’s great for the price”. Privates are $12.50 (£10) and dorm beds are $7.50 (£6).


Graces Place - The cool spot - Another great option on the east side of the island. Cabin style rooms ranging from $17 a night for a double room with a shared bathroom up to $40 a night for a family-sized cabin with private bathroom and kitchen.


1 Comment


Lilian Kodua
Jun 24, 2023

Hi

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