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I had so much trouble getting to the Corn Islands that, in a way, I was DETERMINED to stick it out.
I booked a Vacation Rental on Big Corn Island for 1 month and tried to get the best out of Big Corn that I could. The rental that I had in Big Corn was very nice: a 2-story, 2-bedroom house all to myself for US$500 / month.
AFTER ALL, people ‘rave’ about Little Corn on the internet … surely, it must have ‘something’ going for it!
The Little Corn boat is a 40-seater and it (normally) leaves for Little Corn at 10am and 4pm each day (seas permitting).
I turned up early at 9:10am (to guarantee getting a ticket). The ticket costs N$150 (US$5).
At 9:30am a young man came around the people waiting and started taking their biggest bags to the boat … duped again!
The boat has a ‘dry box’ where they store luggage so that it does not get wet … tourists can put their luggage in the Dry Box themselves when they get on the boat … but, this ‘entrepreneur’ did it for you (it’s about 20 meters from the ticket office to the boat) and, then, he tapped you for a tip. He suggested US$5 … I gave him N$10 (just for being a cheeky fellow).
We were lucky. The previous day we had strong winds and all-day driving rain. The boats were cancelled. In fact, in the 1 month that I was on Big Corn (over Christmas / New Year) the boats to Little Corn were cancelled about 1/3rd of the time (stranding people on Big Corn Island).
We waited for our luggage and ‘hit the streets’.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have come on the Bluefields ferry, you will arrive in Little Corn late afternoon / early evening on a Wednesday. With so many new people arriving at the same time, it may make sense to pre-book accommodation for a night (or 2) if you want to guarantee cheap accommodation.
ABOUT LITTLE CORN ISLAND:
As with Big Corn, Little Corn Island was, originally, colonized by the British … and most native islanders have more in common culturally with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua. Many have English surnames.
Tourism on Big Corn Island is still in its infancy … it is much more advanced in (the smaller) Little Corn Island (which is the opposite to Utila and Roatan in Honduras in that respect – the bigger Roatan is more advanced than the smaller Utila).
Almost everyone on the island speaks both passable Spanish and English. For most of those native to the island, English is their first language, although there are many inhabitants who have come over from mainland Nicaragua and (consequently) speak Spanish as a first language. The English spoken is heavily Caribbean and communication can be far from effortless for people unused to different accents and idioms … as I found out myself on many occasions in Big Corn 🙂
Cargo is transported around the island in push-carts and wheelbarrows.
THE WEST / THE VILLAGE – PHOTO GALLERY:
The village has a reasonably good beach that is 200-300 metres long and an average of 10 metres wide.
For many people, The Village is the ‘place to be’.
THE NORTH – PHOTO GALLERY:
Otto Beach is an ‘exclusive’ area and has an ‘up-market’ restobar. This is not a cheap area to stay. Even the Encuentros (the cheapest accommodation on the northern beaches) charges an average US$20 for a main meal.
But, Otto Beach itself is a public beach – and, probably, the best and busiest beach on the island.
THE EAST – PHOTO GALLERY:
This will take you across the island past Rosa’s Restaurant. It is only a few hundred metres across the island.
That starts opening up just before you reach the Full Moon restobar. The Full Moon prices are ‘average’. You can eat a vegetarian meal for about N$150. Otherwise, their main meal prices start at N$200. However, they do sell beers for N$40.
The first property that you pass is Elsa’s. Elsa’s offer small, rustic cabins at long-term rates of US$15 (single occupancy) and US$20 (double occupancy) at the back. The small, cheapest cabins at the front go for US$20 & US$25 (respectively). These rooms are very small with about a 1 metre clearance around the double bed and a very small cold-water private bathroom. If you want something bigger, you will be paying long term rates of US$30 & US$35.
Grace’s is bigger and more up-market than Elsa’s. The cheapest rooms are around the back and cost US$17.50 with (average) shared bathroom facilities. Their cheapest long-term rate for a small cabin with a private bathroom is US$35.
The next property is Carlito’s. Carlito was renovating all of his cabins (and his restobar). Due to the active renovations, Carlito offered be a ‘big discount’ on a waterfront cabin that had 2 Double rooms, cold-water private bathroom, and small kitchenette. His ‘special’ long-term rate was US$30 / night.
The beach at the front of these properties is reasonably good.
However, this side of the island is known to be windy. This is good – it keeps the mosquitos away – but some people may find it disappointing.
The resorts all have restobars that charge average prices (a little bit more expensive than the Full Moon).
WHERE TO STAY :
Accommodation is expensive for GRANDPAckers … if you rely solely on the internet, it will be unaffordable.
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find within GRANDPAcker price range … this is for 1 night in early February 2018 … the first month of the 3-month ‘Dry Season’.
PLEASE NOTE: The Corn Islands only have one ‘nice’ month each year: March. February and April are ‘unpredictable’. The rest of the year, basically, is ‘wet’.
PLEASE NOTE: The Electric Generator for the island is located immediately behind Christina’s Guesthouse. All of the accommodation options in this area can hear the generator at night. The noise level is similar to that of a humming Aircon unit or noisy fan.
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites sometimes display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 18% to the displayed price to get the final price.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …
Tripadvisor had no vacation rentals within our price range.
Vacation Rentals are, usually, displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any Security Deposit (if required). BUT, the displayed price may be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Service Fees (which can add as much as 16%).
In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion it is an absolute rip off. However, in Central America they are worth a look.
As with Big Corn Island, I knew that I couldn’t LIVE on Little Corn Island to GRANDPAcking Standard without getting ‘inventive’.
In Big Corn, a search of Blogs, Google Maps and Facebook pages helped me find a monthly rental. So, before my arrival, I did the same for Little Corn. I made up a ‘shortlist’:
- Shell Hostal (south of The Village)
- Hospedaje de la Savanna (near the baseball field)
- Three Brother (north of The Village)
- Grace’s Hot Spot
- Lobster Inn (in The Village)
- Seaview (north of The Village)
- Christina’s (north of The Village)
- Green House (north of The Village)
It took many hours of online research to draft up this shortlist!
Little Corn is small. I arrived at 10:00am … booked into my hotel by 10:30am … and hit the streets by 11:00am. By 2:00pm, I had been everywhere on the island.
PLEASE NOTE: Experience told me not to waste my time in a cheap hotel. I was going to be there for a month … I needed a long term rental.
I was amazed by how many hotels wanted US$30-50 for the simplest, rustic rooms.
MY SHORT-TERM ACCOMMODATION:
I booked my first 2 nights into Christina’s Guesthouse using BOOKING.COM (see, below). I needed time to look around the island to see what I could find long-term (if anything).
Christina’s is run by a Slovakian couple who have a very decent philosophy … they are trying to provide the best value for money that they can … they have even organised discounts for their customers in some of the restobars around town.
I can recommend Christina’s.
Have a look yourself:
LONG TERM ACCOMMODATION:
I didn’t come to the Caribbean Corn Islands to live in the centre of the island being eaten by mosquitos. I came for beach-life. I quickly discounted anything inland. My experience is that you cannot sit outside at night without being harassed by them.
I focused on the Eastern Beaches first. Elsa’s offered me a small Duplex Room back from the beach with cold-water Private Bathroom for a long-term rate of US$600 / month (single occupancy) and US$750 (double occupancy). The room was the size of 2 double beds. It had a mosquito net but no furniture. For US$750, I could get one on the beach (single occupancy).
The best that Graces Hot Spot could offer was a little bit bigger than Elsa’s for a long-term rate of US$35 / night (US$1,050 / month).
Carlito’s had a big cabin on the waterfront. It was very rustic but came with 2 Double Bedrooms, cold-water Private Bathroom, and a small Kitchenette. He offered it to me at a very ‘special’ rate of US$900 / month.
On Saturday night, I went down to the Eastern Beaches to spend the evening and to check it out. There was no-one there. It was boring. I decided not to stay in the Eastern beaches – this place is for couples who want a quiet time …
The Seaview have 2 small Studio Apartments. They offered one to me for US$500 / month. They include a cold-water Private Bathroom and a small Kitchenette. A bonus is that it included free wifi. Again, the Studio was only the size of 2 double beds. There was no furniture.
At the southern end of The Village you will find Leola’s. Leola’s rent a small studio apartment for US$600 / month. I do not recommend it … it was small and grubby.
The Red Lobster had Double rooms for US$15 (single occupancy) and US$20 (double occupancy). All of the rooms are the same and come with a cold-water private bathroom. They were small (with about 1 metre space around the bed), run down, and a bit grubby. I found the owner a bit unfriendly too.
The staff at Christina’s asked around town for me. Christina’s have 3 apartments themselves – but all had been taken. It was only January … but most of the long-term rentals around the island had already been taken. People in the ‘know’ had already booked them over the February-April ‘dry’ season. Many were pre-booked for 4 months. If I had searched earlier, I could have found a small 1-bedroom house or apartment with lounge and kitchen for US$500-600 / month. Alas, all of the best places were taken.
It was good enough for my purposes.
Little Corn already looks heaps better than Big Corn Island … the problem, however, is that prices are high for Nicaragua …
Most main meals around town start at N$200 (US$7). But, there are 2-3 restaurants that offer better value and cheaper prices.
A 350ml beer in the ‘in bars’ costs N$60 (US$2) – to get cheaper, you need to hit the Happy Hours between 4pm and 7pm. In Happy Hour you can usually get 2-for-1 cocktails too … prices start at US$4 for a Rum & Coke but they average about US$6.
Groceries are relatively expensive too (more than on Big Corn Island).
With my accommodation only costing US$500 / month (US$16.50 / day) I have a good start. This should give me enough spending money to eat in the cheaper restobars rather than eating at home all of the time.
I will tell you more about that in my next post.