Little Corn Island, Nicaragua with the family
So we went to Little Corn Island over last weekend. Julie (my wife) her mom Linda came to Leon for a night, then in the morning we drove the 1 hour into Managua to get on La Costena Airline. This is the little regional carrier that services certain places in Nicaragua like Big Corn Island, Bluefields, Puerto Cabezas, and a few other small cities in the country.
The planes they use for the Managua to Bluefields to Big Corn run is a 44 seater twin turbo prop type. It’s fine. Not noisy, goes fast. The gate for this is next to the international airport (to the right) if you were facing the Augusto Sandino International Airport in Managua. You check your bags, then you have to pay $5 USD per person at this little window for a national “tax.” Once inside the gate there is a small cafe, and one door. Not very air conditioned space nor comfortable but it works.
La Costena Airlines works alot like Southwest in the US in that there is not assigned seating NOR is there any order to boarding so try to get up by the front of the line so you get a more choice seat. Also, expect a luke warm coke, water or orange fanta and that’s about it.
The flight takes off from Managua and stops briefly in Bluefields, a city of about 200,000 people that are mostly engaged in the fishing trade on the Caribbean seaboard as islands are scattered all over. Bluefields is located on the mainland. The flight from Managua to Bluefields is about 1 hour.
The airplane touches down for about 30 minutes and people get off/on. Then you’re back off to Big Corn Island for about a 20 to 30 minute flight. I’d overall give Costena a VERY GOOD score! Roundtrip this ticket is only $160 USD but apparenly the fee is set by the Socialist government here. I want to be very clear that Daniel Ortega and the FLSN are not the demons the US has made them out to be. One HELL of alot better than the Somosa regime when everyone was living in terror, US citizen or not. Not once, not for a second have I felt unsafe in Nicaragua like I constantly did in Mexico.
You would think with a lack of competition they would jack the price, or have lousy service, but it’s not the case at all. When I went to Big Corn in 2006 the price was $174 …and guess what? They had a competitor called Atlantic Airlines that is now defunct. So…the price went down and the service improved? Huh? Even though I have a MBA I was taught no competition was a bad thing 100% of the time. Not so in Nicaragua.
By the way, when your bags come off the plane they simply bring them in and dump them in the middle of terminal floor. Be ready for that.
Once you land on Big Corn, it’s back to trains, planes & automobiles to get to Little Corn. There are (thankfully) no flights to Little Corn Island. You have to take a 15 cordoba or $.75 cent taxi ride from the airport in one of the world’s shittiest cars. None have plates by the way.
From this point…bear with me. I have ALOT of information to tell you if you want to go to Little Corn Island.
Once at the “dock” you pay $3 cords or about a dime USD for your “entry fee” which is just some dude standing there by the fence where the cabs drop you off. For you yankee gringos – the NICE part about the Atlantic side of Nica is that everyone speaks English, mixed with spanish & some creole or Caribbean lingo so you can get by on just English.
Once inside the “dock” you then walk down to the Pier (on to it). The Panga leaves about 30 minutes after you arrive so I recommend bringing your bags or luggage to the panga (a panga is a 35 foot boat with flat slat seats that is the ONLY way to get from Big Corn to little corn island. You will need a trash bag to put your stuff in so it doesn’t get wet. If you forget it, there is a store across from the entrance that doesn’t look like much but they sell trash bags for $.75 cents each. ANYWAY after you drop your bags go to the little restaurant there for a bite to eat or a drink. It’s actually SUPER good. Don’t screw around though..order RIGHT away and when the food comes immediately ask for your check. It (the Panga) takes 25 minutes, it can be wet and it can be rough and slightly un nerving but not scary. If you have a young child or infant BRING YOUR OWN LIFE VEST. I brought my 14 month son with but had a life jacket. It’s a big time piece of mind.
I recommend when you’re done at the restaurant go stand by where the Panga is to be loaded. When they begin loading, it’s a MAD DASH to get on (again no assigned seating and honestly, my belief in human nature is a bit rattled every time I go through this experience as people are fucking assholes trying to push on ahead of you. Don’t be afraid to move hard and fast. You want to try to get on as far back as possible to the captain as it’s the smoothest and driest ride. The locals know this and couldn’t give two shits about “backpackers” nor gringos with babies. This white dude literally made eye contact with me and then pushed by me with my son Miller in my arms. If I didn’t have the baby I would have knocked him out cold. Remember …if it WAS SUPER EASY to get to little corn it’s be overrun with tourists and not be half as cool. This is an adventure that’s worth it!!
Once on, put your life jacket on. Don’t be a dumb ass. The ride isn’t bad but like I said, you will be damp when you get off from ocean spray. Once you arrive, if you have pre-booked your hotel on Little Corn they will have sent a rasta dude with a wheel barrel to pick your butt up and your luggage. Yes, you should tip when you arrive but not excessive so you ruin shit like idiots from California did in Cabo San Lucas. $1 to $2 USD or $20 to $30 cords is fine.
Make sure you book a room on the beachside. Personally, I recommend these Little Corn Hotels Only:
The best: Little Corn Beach Bungalows (hands down best property, food, service, and cabinas – gringo owners from CO) also 100% KID FRIENDLY they helped us SO MUCH with our Son Miller I will link a STELLAR trip advisor report on them as well! Scott & Kristy ROCK!! (the owners)
Next up: Casa Iguana (over priced but also Gringo owned by a trust fund baby from Chicago) Best view on Island. Cabinas 2nd nicest on little corn, service sorta suckie, food is still excellent.
If you are a “romantic couple” (no kids) and want a really UNIQUE stay book Ensuenos. The cabinas look like something out of Lord of the Rings hobbit style.
Little Corn Island does not have nor allow motorized vehicles. You walk everywhere. You also should know that electricity is not on from 5 a.m. to about 11 a.m. from the generators the government provides on the Island. NO property has Air Conditioning – so make sure you have CONFIRMED you get a fan when you arrive. Honestly, with the trade wind breezes you don’t need AC. I’m sensitive to heat and am telling you this.
Soon, Little Corn Island will be discovered and get all fucked up like every other Island in the Caribbean like Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Total tourist trap now. Total shame. Little Corn isn’t like this yet.
The water here is INCREDIBLE – clear like the Bahamas to about 90 feet or like Cancun if you’ve been there. I went snorkeling with Elsa’s (this little restaurant down the beach) with Peter and Restin for $15 USD ($20 if you don’t have gear) they take you out on their boat for 2.5 hours or until you say “enough.” While it’s not “cozumel” or like belize (the idiot Nica government hasn’t figured out yet to protect the reefs by closing sections like Belize does, nor actually having and enforcing fishing laws so the waters are kinda low on fish 😦 I did see…
Sea Rays, Bluefish, Yellow Snapper, Barracuda, and guess what…my FIRST EVER real live Sea Turtle!!! Wow are they fast! The coral reef is still pretty vibrant…if they listen and start closing sections of it wow will this place rock. The reef is about 100 yards off shore . I recommend the reef where Restin & Peter take you down south of Ensueno’s by Otto Beach. Just ask at your hotel for Restin from Elsa’s and they will direct you to him. He’s nice as hell, a young native wanting to make a living. I usually don’t hardcore endorse someone like these guys but a $15 snorkel trip? give me a break!
Elsa is Restin’s mom and has EXCELLENT fried chicken and fried fish at her beachfront restaurant.
Bring mosquito repellent! Use liberally! Also, be prepared for US prices on hotel, food, drinks. Still, a beach bungalow not 20 yards to the waters edge was $84/night at Little Corn Beach Bungalows. Not outrageous, not ultra cheap either. INSANE service is near perfect by the owners. As they are Gringos, they get what whiteys like me want. Great food & drink, I’ll pay and all..but I want good service and they have it.
Also, DO MAKE THE WALK back into the village to go to the 360 view. My suggestion is tip a local $5 bucks to take you there. it’s an old light house at the highest point on the island you can see the entire island by climbing it. SICK!!!
Also…go to the Tranquillo Cafe in the village, owned by a dude from Virginia US. BEST BLT I’ve ever had and I ALWAYS order either a BLT or a chicken fried chicken if it’s on the menu in the US…hint hint…he uses coconut bread for the toast! Stupid good!
Questions? Hit me up. 800 821 2176 or http://www.nicaeco.com I can set you up on this trip with my nicaragua tour company Green Pathways here in Leon and give you personal advice on Little Corn Island Free.
Also..SKIP Big Corn besides using the airport. It’s like a dirty jamaica. No bueno.