Lying 70km off the country’s Atlantic coast, the CORN ISLANDS (Las Islas de Maíz) offer white beaches, warm, clear water and a Caribbean vibe – the kind of place you come to intending to stay for a couple of days and end up hanging around for a week or more.
Like many parts of the Caribbean coast, during the nineteenth century both larger Corn Island and tiny Little Corn were a haven for buccaneers, who used them as a base for raiding other ships in the area or attacking the inland towns on Lago de Nicaragua. These days it’s drug-runners who use the islands, unfortunately, as part of the transportation route for US- and Europe-bound cocaine.
Big Corn is home to virtually all the islands’ services, has a reasonable selection of hotels and restaurants, and is large enough to ensure that – if you’re prepared to head far enough – you can get your own patch of beach. More backpackers head straight to idyllic Little Corn, though if you have time you might want to try them both out. Reached by a quick but bouncy panga from the bigger island, “La Islita” is extremely quiet, with rustic tourist amenities – bring sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a torch and money. Set on just three largely undeveloped square kilometres, with a population of just over a thousand, the island boasts lush palm trees and beautiful white-sand beaches, great snorkelling and diving, good swimming and, above all, plenty of peace and quiet – with no cars on the island, traffic consists of bikes, dogs and wheelbarrows.Read More
It’s possible to walk round the entire island of BIG CORN in about three hours. Brig Bay stretches south from the dock and main town past shacks and perfectly serviceable sands. Long Bay, across the airstrip heading east, is quieter and less populated and there are plenty of places to swim in either direction. North of Long Bay is South End, where there’s some coral reef good for snorkelling – there’s more on the northeast corner near the village of Sally Peachy. The southwest bay, Picnic Center, is a fine stretch of sand near a loading dock – there’s a huge party here during Semana Santa, when crowds of people come over from Bluefields and the locals set up stalls to sell food and drink.
About 1.5km offshore to the southeast, in about 20m of clear water, is the wreck of a Spanish galleon, while the beach in front of Paraíso Beach Hotel boasts three newer wrecks, lacking the historical excitement of the galleon but with excellent marine life within wading distance of the shore.
If you’re going to work up the energy to do anything at all on LITTLE CORN, it’s likely to be diving or snorkelling; the island has around nine square kilometres of glorious, healthy reef to explore. Little Corn is even easier to navigate than its larger neighbour; all pangas arrive at and depart from Pelican Beach, while most backpackers stay on Cocal Beach on the east side of the island. The north end is even more remote and quieter than the rest of the island, and best suited to couples or families. There’s great snorkelling both here and off Iguana Beach, just south of Cocal Beach – ask your accommodation for advice, as some reefs are a fair swim away.