The Corn Islands, Nicaragua
Big Corn Island, also known simply as Corn Island, is approximately 70 kilometres (44 miles) off the coast of Bluefields, Nicaragua. It is 10 square kilometres (under 4 square miles), with quaint cobblestone roads, a new hospital built in 2017, an airport (flights come in daily from the capital Managua), and many stores, hotels and restaurants, as well as municipal offices, a baseball stadium and separate softball stadium too.
The beaches all around the entire island are gorgeous white soft powdery sand, and unlike many other Caribbean destinations, you will appreciate that all the beaches are open to the public.
To put size into perspective, the airport runway strip (see map in the photo gallery below) is approximately two-thirds the length of the island. It's small. Big Corn Island's population is approximately 6,000-8,000 residents, consisting of Nicaraguan locals (Creole, Miskito), descendants of slaves and pirates, and ex-pats from around the world.
As mentioned, there is an airport. The runway was lengthened a few years ago in plans for the airport to become "international" - this would mean planes could fly from other countries (ie. Costa Rica, or USA) directly to Big Corn without passengers needing to go first to Managua and change planes.
There is a newly constructed hospital (finished in 2017) with decompression chamber - a great safety tool for divers. However, first world conveniences and amenities here are still lacking. There is one dentist, and no veterinarian (there are a couple of volunteer vet teams who come here once a year each, for one week each, to do the basics for the island animals).
There are 10 schools, numerous churches, lots of small grocery stores, one (yes, one) ATM machine, and cobblestone roads with speed bumps every few hundred feet. There are taxis continually circling the island to pick up & drop off at a cost of about $1 US per destination (30 $ Cordoba per person). If two of you get into the taxi together, it's 30 $ Cordoba each for the ride.
You can also rent scooters & bicycles by the day/week (bicycles: $10 per day/$50 per week, scooters $25-$30/day, $150-$200/week). Corn Island Vacations can recommend motorbike rentals as well as taxi drivers who offer private tours around the island. There is also a place on Southwest Bay Beach (beside Arenas Beach Resort) that rents golf carts to cruise the island in as well.
A 30-minute boat ('panga') ride away from Big Corn Island, is Little Corn Island. With a resident population of just 1,200-2,000 people, there is a much larger population of tourists in the peak season. Little Corn Island has developed a rustic-meets-trendy reputation for being hip, cool, even more laid-back than Big Corn Island, and has NO CARS. Not even any scooters. None. Nada.
The upside: this is even more remote than Big Corn Island. You don't find this place by accident. The only way to get here is by boat from Big Corn Island. Most of the "action" happening here is along the front beach where the panga boats dock, although there are some definite "must-experience" restaurants and cabins further along the pathways. So once you're here, you don't have to go looking too hard for where to have dinner or where to make new friends.
All the "roads" on Little Corn Island are just walking paths, some not even wide enough for a cart (which, when you do see them, are often being pulled by people rather than horses!).
Many travelers are drawn to the "likke" island for its unique charm in having NO roads, and electricity for only about half the day. No motorized vehicles are allowed! The beaches are aMAIZing and the little island has a personality all its own.
The downside: this is even more remote than Big Corn Island. You won't find an ATM machine here. There is no hospital, dentist, or veterinarian. It's very difficult to get supplies to the island and certain foods can be hard to come by if they aren't grown on the island. Builders building their dream homes are finding it very hard to cope with the lack of supplies, and the time it takes to get them from either Big Corn Island (which now finally has a couple of lumber/hardware stores but they are not very big) or the mainland (Bluefields, El Rama, and Managua). Any supplies needing to go to places other than the front beach are carried by hand (or cart).
That being said, it's quaint, it's cool, it's little, and it's AWESOME.
Most of the visitors to the Corn Islands will tell you it was quiet, relaxing, and some may even go so far as to say boring. If you are looking for the party scene and wild night life, you won't find it here. If you are dreaming about lazy days in a hammock under a coconut tree, you've definitely come to the right place.
Shell on the beach, Little Corn Island