CORN ISLANDS, NICARAGUA - NOVEMBER 2000
Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday
BIG CORN ISLAND
Even with all my traveling, I only knew one person who had visited the Corn Islands. Although he got malaria there, it was one of his favorite places.
I was ready to see some blue water. I was not ready, however, to sit on a bus for 10 hours. Going overland from Managua requires such a trip to the end of the road at Rama. Then by boat to Bluefields and Corn Islands.
The lonely planet guide calls this route to Bluefields a classic backpacker adventure, but I heard more horror stories than anything else about going overland. Nothing dangerous, just very dirty and uncomfortable.
So I would fly. The US State Department warning says stay off the local airlines, and US government employees are not allowed to use them! Oh well.
When you first walk into the domestic terminal at Managua airport, staff from Atlantic Airlines try to corral you to their side. But Costena Airlines has a larger network, and were very helpful with questions about schedules and fares. They take American Express!
There are 3 flights per day on Costena to Big Corn Island. The Cessna Caravan stops in Bluefields, and costs about $55, each way.
When you arrive on Big Corn Island, there will be "guides" waiting for you beyond the airstrip fence. They will offer to help carry your bags, find a hotel, etc.
One attached himself to me, and carried my bag to the Hotel Paraiso.
I soon learned you can take a shared-taxi, usually an old Russian jeep, to anywhere on the island for 10 cordobas.
I would suggest to not let a guide attach himself to you. He will just pester you for more money than a taxi, and is harder to get rid of than the taxi.
Hotel Paraiso Club has an excellent location. Opened in 1996, the hotel is operated by French-Canadians partners Mark and Bruno. $33 single, $38 double, nice bungalows with patios and hammock. Best place to stay, in my opinion.
VISA cards accepted, but no others. Telephone available.
This is the beach in front of the hotel Paraiso.
The second day I set out clockwise to walk around Big Corn Island.
I walked as far as the Bayside Hotel, with its lovely over-the-water bar and restaurant.
I looked at the hotel area, they are concrete blockhouse style, not so attractive really. They are one of the few places with A/C. Rooms are $35 single or double, cable TV.
And the offshore restaurant/bar is famous.
A little way down the road I visited Restaurante De Seva, where I enjoyed my first $5 lobster lunch.
I snorkeled a bit while lunch was cooking. The water wasn't extremely clear, but it was just the end of the rainy season.
After lobster, I continued my walk to the east side of Big Corn island.
I passed the entrance to a new hotel development, but no construction was going on. This is an Italian venture that has run into trouble getting permission to fill in part of a swamp.
This makes sense, as the locals know the swamps are the recharge area for their groundwater supply.
It is prohibited to use sand from the local beaches, so all building materials must be imported from the mainland. Costa Rica is quite close, and therefore a cheaper source of materials.
It was getting hot as I walked, and eventually I jumped into a shared taxi retracing my route back to Brig Bay.
Beach in front of Paraiso Hotel,
Big Corn Island
Big Corn Island sunset
In the afternoon the local school band came through Brig Bay on parade.
LITTLE CORN ISLAND
This is the water-taxi service available between Big and Little Corn islands.
It is known by the name of the boatman, Elario. Actually, Elario's son is the boatman.
Some islanders say he drives crazy, too fast for no reason, and somebody will surely be killed soon.
They talked about a trip a few months earlier where a whole boatload, tourists and all, were dumped in the ocean at sunset. They were lucky, another boat found them that evening.
The Elario boat stays on Little Corn each night. A 6:30 am run to Big Corn meets the morning flight to Bluefields and Managua. Then it returns to Little Corn with any arrivals from the plane.
It does the same round trip in the afternoon, again timed to meet the flights. $5 each way.
The boat completely leaves the water when it hits waves in the channel, so you hit very hard when the boat drops!
Bay on the west side of Little Corn.
This is the view looking north to the beach from Casa Iguana.
In front of the main village, fishing boats come and go all day.
I took a day hike from Casa Iguana up to the north side of the island. There is a lighthouse on a small hill, but I didn't get the directions right, and missed it.
Following trails until they disappeared, I showed up in someone's back yard, dogs barking furiously. What about that rabies vaccination?
This is a small shack on the north side, seemingly unoccupied at the moment.
North side Little Corn Island
For lunch, I walked into the village to Miss Rose's restaurant.
This is Miss Rose.
This is my second $5 lobster lunch
The jar on the right has hot peppers in it, called "China Peppers" here. I asked if they were Habanero or Congo pepper or similar, but nobody recognized these other names.
So I dug a pepper out and ate a quarter, indeed it was Habanero, but the almost clear-white skin made it look different!
These fishermen are drinking a
clear rum mixed with evaporated milk.
This is my third $5 lobster lunch.
On the east side of Little Corn,
there are two pleasant beach restaurant/bars
that open on the weekend.
This is my fourth $5 lobster Lunch.
Alex and Tonia, from Sydney, were honeymooning on Little Corn Island. They had just been married in Greece, and were on an around-the-world ticket.
They planned to travel around Central America, but once they landed at Casa Iguana, they hadn't moved for two weeks!
Grant Peeples, of Casa Iguana,
with two Scandinavian travelers,
hanging out in the dining area.
Little Corn Sunset
I did take the boat back to Bluefields from Litle Corn.
It runs twice a week.
Food and drinks on board, no problem getting a spot if you start in Little Corn.
Passengers at Brig Bay, Big Corn Island, waiting to squeeze onto the Bluefields Express as it arrives from Little Corn island.
Shrimp fishing boats
at El Bluff, near Bluefields
Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday