Little Corn Island Backpacking: Everything You Need to Know
So you’ve made it to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua! And like us, you’ve quickly realized it’s heaven on earth. You look out towards the horizon and see the sun shinning on bright turquoise waters. As the water approaches the shore it fades away to crystal clear, before splashing upon glistening sands. Coconut trees are so close to the shore that they hang out into the water and create natural shade along the miles of untouched beach.
You do a full 360 turn and realize you’re the only person. Paradise!
After 2 weeks on Little Corn Island we were pretty tempted to drop off the bags and take up residency, but we knew it was only a matter of time before we got called back to the road.
It’s a tough life relaxing on secluded beaches, hanging in hammocks, cooking dinner on beach bonfires and eating fresh fish, so we decided to create the ultimate Little Corn Island Backpacking Guide for the budget traveler to help you along the way. Just in case you need any more incentive to book your ticket and head to our favorite beaches in Nicaragua.
Accommodation on Little Corn Island
Little Corn offers all kinds of accommodation for the budget traveler and holiday goer. Isolated beach camping, rustic cabanas, dorm bed hostels and low range hotels. Whatever you’re looking for, the island has it covered. We posted up in the hostel Three Brothers for the whole time, and it was just what we needed. It’s centrally located, has $10 a night rooms for couples and a great kitchen to use. One of the few decent kitchens you’ll find in budget accommodation. You might need to walk an extra 10mins to get to the nicer beaches, but you’ll appreciate them more when you plan to make a proper day of it. And seriously, what else are you going to do with your day? It’s nice to wander through the town and say hello to the people leisurely going about their day.
Restaurants on Little Corn Island
There are a few bars on the sunset side that offer food, but if you’ve got a kitchen you’ll save a LOT of money by cooking. There’s also locally ran restaurants where you’ll find an assortment of food; rice and beans, fried fish, grilled conch, reasonably priced lobster and the famous ‘ron don‘, a seafood soup that contains a bit of everything. It’s a speciality of the island so you’ve got to try it at least once. Think of it like a seafood medley of all sorts.
In our experience, like always, cooking is still the way to go. Groceries and fresh produce may cost more on the island compared to the mainland, but they’re still a lot cheaper than buying food in the restaurants everyday. Especially if you throw in fresh fish caught that day by the local fisherman. After a couple of weeks we worked out some amazing recipes from the island that are cheap and bloody delicious. Homemade coconut bread (from collecting your own coconuts), vegetarian bean burgers, freshly grilled snapper and lots more. You’ve got the time, so get creative.
TIP: Bulk up on staple items before you head to the island, like rice, beans, pasta, tomato paste, oats, powdered milk, onion, garlic, spices and any luxury items like chocolate or rum. You can buy this stuff on the island from the assorted shops, but do your research. To get the best bargains you’ll need to jump around to different shops. Some sell oats cheaper, others onions, others potatoes, etc. Heading to a supermarket before you take a bus and boat to the Corn Islands is recommended.
Nightlife on Little Corn Island
It’s a small island, so you’re not going to find pumping club life or fancy live events. But when there is a party to be had, don’t expect the locals to take it lightly. We just happened to arrive on August 29th, the commemorative day on Little Corn for the abolition of slavery in 1841. As the story goes, the true date is officially recognized as August 27th, when the message arrived in Big Corn, but it took 2 whole days to get the announcement across the 7 mile sea separation, because the locals were too busy celebrating and were too drunk to paddle their canoes. We celebrated with the traditional Crab Soup Fesitval and they put on a massive free lunch for the whole island and it’s visitors.
A 10min walk out of the main street you’ll find the local baseball field. On Sundays you can cruise down with some lunch and settle in for an entertaining afternoon of fun. Just like a scene out of the Sandlot, nobody really keeps score or cares about winning. There’s lots of shouting and screaming at each other, but the kids have a blast and play until it’s too dark to see the ball.
To wind down from a tough day of sunbathing, grab a beer and watch the sunset at Tranquilo. One of the only bars on the island, this place gets filled at night with locals and travelers enjoying the drinks and laidback island tunes. They offer happy hour beers for 30C ($1.20) between 5pm-7pm and all day Wednesday and Saturday. They’ve also got one of the few access points to free internet if you’re feeling detached from the world.
For after hours there’s a very elusive bar called Happy Hut that has random opening hours. It could be shut, or it could be open till sunrise pumping out reggae hits like we found out one night.
Best Beaches in Nicaragua
The beaches! They are incredible. Seriously they’re the best beaches I’ve ever seen. Apart from being postcard perfect, they’re totally secluded and private. Everyday we’d walk out to a new spot and have it completely to ourselves. Swim, snorkel, enjoy a picnic or just relax. You’ll hear about Otto’s beach being one of the better ones, and it really is. There’s also hidden beaches and private coves, but you’ll have to go exploring to find them. One pro tip would be to invest in a decent hammock. We had our Eno Double Hammock, which was one of the best things we bought to the islands. There’s nothing like having a super comfortable hammock for some serious relax time.
Be sure to explore the beaches of Little Corn. One night we went down to the private coves to cook a bonfire dinner and stumbled across a HUGE sea turtle laying her eggs. We were careful to only observe from a distance and let her do her thing, only once in a while creeping a little closer to get a glimpse of this magnificent animal. After a couple of hours of digging, laying and hiding she finally waddled off the the ocean and swam away into the night. According to locals this was an extremely rare sight, but they are around.
Activities on the Corn Islands
For the more adventurous type the island also offers some amazing snorkeling and diving. You can get your open water certificate at a number of schools for just under $300, or take some of the more advanced courses/dives. If you’re not qualified, or short on money, there’s also fishing trips or snorkeling to the reefs that start at $20. If you’re even poorer, like us, you can rent a snorkel mask and flippers for $2.50 for 6 hours at some of the dive shops. Or if you want an authentic experience make friends with a local fisherman who will take you out fishing in exchange for a buddy to share a bottle of rum with.
Here’s one of the best things about the island. There’s no cars! Not even motorbikes! No noise, no smog, no hassling, just bikes and foot traffic. There’s one concrete footpath that runs along the dock side with a couple of side paths, but otherwise it’s just simple dirt tracks. This just adds to the incredibly peaceful serenity of the island.
Is Little Corn Island Safe?
You’re on an island of less than 2000 people, so there’s not much that stays a secret. People are respectful and expect the same, so don’t get caught breaking the rules or being a tool. Because the island is small it also means people won’t hassle you and it’s safe to walk about at night. As always, exercise caution and have your wits about you.
Also be aware of the territorial dogs. I stumbled into the wrong area one day and ended up with a decent bite on the ankle. A few worried minutes later I was relieved to discover that Little Corn has been rabies free since 2003, but it still freaks you out a bit when you’re waiting out that first week to see if you’re the one exception. There’s no need to be nervous, but a decent travel insurance goes a long way to ease the mind.
Other than that it’s all happy days and relaxing nights ahead on your travel to Little Corn Island!
Secluded beaches means tanning that white butt!