All You Need to Know About Little Corn Island Backpacking
So you’ve made it to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua! And like us, you’ve quickly realised 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 realise 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, cooking dinner on beach bonfires and eating fresh fish, so we decided to create the ultimate Little Corn Island Backpacking Survival Guide for the budget traveler.
Little Corn offers all kinds of accommodation for the budget traveler. 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?
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.
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.
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.
After a couple of weeks we worked out some amazing recipes from the island that are cheap and bloody delicious. Homemade coconut bread, vegetarian bean burgers, freshly grilled snapper and lots more. You’ve got the time, so get creative.
Fun and Entertainment
It’s a small island, so you’re not going to find pumping club life or fancy live events. But when there’s 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 recognised 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 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.
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 night we went down to the private coves to cook a bonfire dinner and stumbled across a HUGE sea turtle laying her eggs. According to locals this was an extremely rare sight, but they’re around.
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.
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. Don’t get caught breaking the rules or being a tool.
Also be aware of 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.
Other than that it’s all happy days and relaxing nights ahead for the Little Corn Island traveler!
Secluded beaches means tanning that white butt!