Why not read our Retirement Reviews.
In my “Beginner’s Guide” to Little Corn Island, I provided information about:
- How to get from Big Corn Island to Little Corn Island
- Why I chose to stay in The Village
- What Little Corn Island looks like
- Where to stay
- What ‘short term’ accommodation I found
- What ‘long term’ accommodation I found
In this post, I will tell you more about what it is like to actually live on Little Corn Island and a lot more about everyday costs.
I, also, do a quick comparison between Little Corn Island and Gili Air Island in Indonesia.
PLEASE NOTE: US$1 is approximately N$30.
ABOUT LITTLE CORN ISLAND:
Little Corn is criss-crossed by pathways and mud tracks. There are no roads. There are no motorised vehicles.
The Village is located on the west coast around the boat dock and it is the only township on the island. Little Corn has a population of about 2,000-3,000 people.
Most people speak English as their first language.
WHERE TO STAY :
For more detail, read my Beginner’s Guide. In summary:
- The northern beaches are isolated and expensive
- The eastern beaches are quiet and windy
- The centre of the island is quiet and has the most mosquitos
- The Village (western beaches) offers the best balance and the most variety
MY ADVICE: If you are a couple seeking solitude, go to the Eastern Beaches. Otherwise, go to The Village.
MY ACCOMMODATION (1):
GRANDPAcking accommodation on Little Corn is expensive … there are very few cheap options. Online, the cheapest Double Rooms with Private Bathroom start at US$30 / night. I needed to break GRANDPAcking Standards and find a monthly rental … this helped me keep my costs down in other ways too …
It included free wifi, but the wifi was very slow and unreliable.
I paid US$500 / month (all inclusive) which worked out to be US$16.25 / day.
MY ACCOMMODATION (2):
After 2 weeks in The Little House, my Landlady moved me into a 2 bedroom apartment that had become free at the back of Christina’s for the same price (US$500 / month including electric). It was a win-win because it meant that she could rent out The Little House to 6 people and earn more income and I got a nicer apartment.
I shared the apartment with a young French Canadian girl who worked at a bar on the island.
And, the whole property had nice breezes through the mozzie-meshed open windows.
There was no WiFi.
You can hire a ‘Wheelbarrow’ and ‘driver’ to transport your luggage from The Village Boat Dock to anywhere on the island. To the eastern beaches, pay no more than N$150 / US$5. To the northern, N$300 / US$10.
Boats from Little Corn to Big Corn leave daily at 6:30am, 1:30pm, and 4:00pm. The cost is N$150.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Free Internet is poor and unreliable everywhere; even the internet at the ‘in bars’ is frustrating and too slow to stream video. One business has, more-or-less, a monopoly on internet supply to Little Corn Island … the connection is shared and over-loaded.
On most occasions, even though free internet was available, I used my own Mobile Data Plan. Even though I only had an ‘H or H+’ signal, it was significantly faster than the free internet.
In and around The Village, you get both a Movistar and Claro signal. On the eastern and northern beaches, you only get a Claro signal.
For more advice on which Mobile Internet Provider to choose, prices, etc read my notes on Nicaragua. Claro have the widest signal on The Corn Islands.
Topping up and renewing a Claro package on Little Corn is not easy: only a few places do top ups and even fewer places know how to renew your package properly. There are 2 such places:
- The first is a small store next to the Reggae Bar (which looks like someone’s home)
- The second is at the far south of The Village opposite to the Color View Restaurant
I wanted to buy an N$110 Mobile Internet Plan (700MBs of data for 7 days), they wanted to charge an extra ‘top up service fee’ of N$40 (an additional 36%). This is just greedy … it is a simple electronic transaction and there is no reason for it to be any different from elsewhere in Nicaragua … it’s not as if physical goods are being shipped from the mainland. I topped up on the Claro Website using my Credit Card instead.
PLEASE NOTE: Mobile data (Claro and Movistar) ‘disappears’ on Little Corn at an alarming rate and there is no logic to it. This happens to other people as well as I. One day you can buy a 1-Week 700MB Data Plan, use hardly any of it, and wake up the next morning with nothing. Any credit you have on your phone can also just ‘disappear’. This happened to me 3 times with Claro and 2 times with Movistar. There is obviously a problem. I lost about US$15. Only top up with what you need.
Food & Drink is, generally, about DOUBLE the prices that you get on the mainland.
PLEASE NOTE: The stores around the boat dock are the most expensive. Avoid them if you can. They are there to capture unawares people getting on / off the boats and charge higher prices than everyone else.
EATING AT HOME:
If you are on a budget, make sure that your accommodation has a kitchenette or shared kitchen. You can eat at home for less than half the price of eating out.
- 1 Egg = N$6
- 1lb Tomatoes = N$30
- 1lb Potatoes = N$30
- 1lb Onions = N$30
- 2L Water = N$45
- 4L Water = N$55
- 2L / 3L Coca Cola = N$65 / N$90
- 1/2lb Cheese = N$40
- 1 Small Loaf of Coconut Bread = N$25
- 150g Tortilla Chips (Rancheros) = N$50
- 1 Large Chili = N$10
- 1 Head of Garlic = N$10
- 9g Margerine = N$10
- 9g Butter = N$45
- 200g Pasta = N$20
- 1 Large Sausage = N$12
- 1 Chicken Thigh = N$50
- 1lb Mince Beef = N$65
- 1L Flor De Cana Rum (7 year) = N$480 (N$350 back on Big Corn)
- 150g Instant Coffee = N$130
- Pack of (20) Cigarettes = N$65-75 (N$40-45 for the same brand back on Big Corn)
Meat and Vegetable prices are slightly more expensive than those on Big Corn Island – but, not by much.
MY ADVICE: If you bring groceries, only bring high value items … cigarettes, rum, etc.
GRANDPAckers cannot afford to eat in the ‘in bars’ (like the Delfine, Tranquillo and Desideri). Meals start at US$7 and they are small.
FIRST STOP / BRIDGET’S:
Located only 20 meters south of the Boat Dock. It is listed under ‘Cheap Eats’ on Tripadvisor. I tried their Fish Ceviche (one of the cheapest items on their menu) for N$200. It was the worst value for money Ceviche that I have had in the 2 years that I have travelled in Central America! It was TINY! That is a teaspoon next to it in the picture!
I was told by a local that they do have better Value For Money (V4M) meals … and, are one of the best places to get a Lobster Meal. Their Lobster Meals started at N$300. Other main meals started at N$230.
Located on The Village waterfront just south of Hotel Los Delfines. Color View was one of my favourites.
They also do pretty good pizzas.
I found myself eating Dinner at Color View most evenings (when I ate out).
Alas, the week that I left Little Corn, Color View put up their price of the Lobster Meal from N$200 to N$300. I suspect that other prices around town will be going up too before the Peak Month of March … you may even see the N$100 Breakfast around town increase in price in March too …
I found myself eating Breakfast at El Bosque most mornings.
In the cheaper restobars (like Bridget’s and the Full Moon), a 350ml Tona beer is N$40. Bars do not sell 1 litre bottles. Stores charge the same price.
In the more ‘in’ bars around the island (like the Tranquillo), you pay N$60 which drops to N$45 in Happy Hour! The average price of a cocktail is US$7. On Big Corn, you can buy a 1 litre Tona for N$55 and a 350ml for N$25.
At these prices, GRANDPAckers need to seek out Happy Hours …
Rum-based cocktails go for the best prices – but, make sure that they are using Flor De Cana rum (and, not the cheaper and nastier Plata rum).
Located 400 meters along the path to Otto Beach. Happy Hour 4-6 (4 to close on Sunday – ‘Sunday Funday’). Happy Hour Cocktails start at US$3 (for rum-based ones). Beer is not included in Happy Hour and costs N$60 / US$2. They have no Wifi.
It is popular on Sunday Funday. I am a beer drinker and I needed to get onto WiFi to do some work – so, I didn’t stay long … but it looked like it was going to be a nice atmosphere and a pleasant evening.
They also provide free UV-filtered water – you don’t have to be a customer … but the water tastes a bit ‘weird’.
MONEY / BANK / ATM / MONEY EXCHANGE:
If you were unable to do so back on the mainland, you can stock up from the ATM on Big Corn. The ATM has a high transaction limit and dispenses both N$ and US$. I was able to withdraw N$20,000 and US$650 in single transactions. You are charged a 4% fee for the privilege.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe here. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
There were a lot of mosquitoes around … and, they were annoying … especially around sunset (you got eaten alive). Bring plenty of repellent. In the cheap hotels (such as The Red Lobster), make sure that your room has good mozzie mesh on the windows and / or your bed has a mosquito net.
Watch out for the locals in the bars that come up to you very friendly … then ask you to buy them a drink or lend them money. It happens too frequently for my liking.
Drugs (including Marijuana) are highly illegal in Nicaragua and there are big penalties if you get caught. There is a very ‘low key’ drug scene on the Corn Islands.
WHEN TO GO:
There is a drier period from February to April, but the trade winds ensure that (unlike the Pacific coast of Nicaragua), rain still falls frequently during this period.
For the rest of the year (when tropical low pressure dominates) rainfall is extremely heavy.
I arrived on the 20th January and stayed for 1 month through to 22nd February. It rained (to some degree) every night. 25% of the time, we would have storms at night. We had showers almost every morning at about 6am. These showers could go on until 9am. 50% of the time there would be more showers late morning. 35% of the time there would be showers again mid afternoon. It was, usually, sunny with clouds during the day.
At this time of year, the weather was rarely bad enough to stop the boats sailing (between islands and to/from the mainland) but, you could get wet if you were unlucky enough to travel in a shower (which was a high probability).
MY ADVICE: To get the best out of Little Corn Island, you need to come in March (plus/minus 1 month). If you come at this time, you are coming in Peak Season and you will be paying full rate for your (all ready over-priced) accommodation.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO DO:
The Lighthouse advertises Poker starting at 2:00pm on a Friday afternoon with N$30 beers.They don’t run it anymore. They have a Sunday Funday that starts at 4pm with discounted cocktails.
The Tranquilo Bar runs a Quiz Night every Tuesday at 9pm.
The Tranquilo Bar and the Desideri Bar put on the occasional live music in the evenings (1-2 hours after Happy Hour closes).
The Reggae Bar offers 4 Pool Tables (at N$10 / game). The Reggae Bar also gets busy late at night as the disco gets going … Saturday night is the biggest night. They also put on the, occasional, live music and karaoke.
2 hour snorkeling trips cost US$20. 4 hour Fishing Trips cost US$70.
You can SCUBA dive at ‘average’ prices but check visibility before you book.
WALK THE EAST COAST:
One of my favourite things to do was to walk the East Coast Beaches from Casa Iguana to Otto Beach each day. I started at the El Bosque with Breakfast.
The walk is very pleasant and takes about 60 minutes at a leisurely pace. A great way to get a tan at the same time as getting some exercise. In bad weather, the beach walk can get a bit problematic in some places. You can cut inland and use the goat track from Little Corn Beach & Bungalow. If you take the track on the right after the mud bridge, it takes you to the 2nd secluded bay. From here on, it is always easy.
With Breakfast, this 60 minute walk, 2-3 hours on Otto Beach, and the 30 minute walk from there back to The Village … you have a perfect day.
Alas, after a while, you do start getting a bit ‘tired’ of walking down puddled, mud paths whilst trying not to slip over.
From Little Corn Island, I will be heading for Bocas Del Toro, Panama. This is going to be a long and arduous journey:
- A boat from Little Corn to Big Corn
- A 6-8 hour ferry from Big Corn to Bluefields / El Rama
- A night in El Rama
- A 6-7 hour bus from El Rama to Managua
- A 1 hour bus from Managua to Granada
- 1-2 nights in Granada
- A long distance bus to Panama
I have already made it back to Big Corn Island. I left on the 6:30am boat from Little Corn to Big Corn to get there in time for the 9am ferry to Bluefields … only to discover that the ferry is cancelled. I am, now, stranded on Big Corn Island until Sunday (3 nights). I will try and catch the 9am Sunday ferry direct to El Rama (8-10 hours).
I will tell you more about that in my next post.
GRANDPAckers cannot afford to LIVE on Little Corn Island to GRANDPAcking standard.
However, GRANDPAckers can holiday on Little Corn with only a few ‘minor’ adjustments to lifestyle.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
MY ACTUAL COSTS:
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I did not live on Big Corn to GRANDPAcking standard.
I had to spend 2 nights at US$28 / night in an hotel (Christina’s). My long-term accommodation cost was US$500 for the month (including electric).
Internet around the island is slow and frustrating. I spent nearly N$1,700 over the month on Mobile Data Plans (albeit with about N$600 of that just ‘disappearing’ into the unknown realms of the service provider(s)).
I averaged about N$90 / day on Breakfasts – I ate in restaurants most of the time.
I averaged N$8 / day on Lunches – I don’t eat Lunch anymore so, this was mainly for snacks.
I averaged about N$145 / day on Dinners – I bought groceries and ate in my apartment 50% of the time.
I got my drinking water free at the Desideri.
My COE worked out to be about N$820/ day (US$27).
COST OF LIVING (COL):
In / Out Costs: It cost me N$160 to get from Big Corn to Little Corn.
Living Costs: I averaged about N$185 / day – mainly on 4 Happy Hour beers. I treated myself to some 7 year Flor De Cana rum to have back at home (N$1,400). I spent N$1,155 on personal items, entertainment, and equipment.
My total COL was N$1,055 / day (US$36).
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down in Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE:
You will need to deviate from GRANDPAcking Standard… but, only for accommodation.
Accommodation: Book yourself into something for the first 2 nights at about US$30 / night. Anywhere will do. Christina’s is worth a look. Once here, ask around. If you are here in February to April (the best 3 months) all of the good long-term accommodation may have already gone. Good places can be found for US$400-500 but they get ‘snapped up’ and booked out solid for 4 months at a time. By February to April, you will have to pay a premium price of US$600 / month to get something half decent.
Transport: You are island bound. On the island, you can walk everywhere. A return day trip for 2 people to Big Corn costs N$600 / US$20 … but, this trip is only worth doing if you (1) need to get to the ATM or (2) go to stock up on rum and cigarettes.
Communications & Fees: Your budget includes a N$60 Claro SIMcard and 2x 15-day Internet Packages (N$180 for the first and N$230 for the second); I assume that you will top up for free on the Claro Website to avoid the high ‘store service fees’.
Food & Beverages: Your budget is N$895 / day. This is to eat all of your meals in the Cheap Restaurants (Color View, El Bosque, Rosa’s).
Your COE is US$52 / day (89% of your total budget).
COST OF LIVING:
This leaves you US$6 / day (N$180) to LIVE on.
You will NOT be able to LIVE on that … it buys you 2 Happy Hour cocktails or 4 Happy Hour beers.
To have some spending money, you will need to buy groceries and eat at home each day. You can eat at home for less than half the price of eating out. This does not meet GRANDPAcking Standard.
Little Corn Island DOES NOT make it into my Retirement Reviews.
LITTLE CORN, NICARAGUA vs GILI AIR, INDONESIA:
I find myself compelled to compare Little Corn Island to Gili Air, Indonesia as a 1-month Holiday Destination.
Gili Air is HALF the cost of Little Corn Island.
I, now, compare what I got for that money:
It rains in Little Corn all year round – the best month to go is March plus/minus 1 month. You can go to Gili Air all year round.
You can SCUBA dive in both locations. Gili Air is known to be one of the cheapest places in the world to do a SCUBA dive course.
Little Corn Island attracts its ‘regulars’ who return year after year. Most of these’regulars’ come from the USA and Canada … probably because it is cheaper and easier for them to get to the Corn Islands than it is to get to somewhere like Indonesia.
Big Corn and Little Corn are both 60kms from the mainland. You can see Big Corn from Little Corn. Yet, some prices on Little Corn are DOUBLE what you pay on Big Corn. There is no good reason for it
Little Corn are putting margins upon margins for almost everything. Even the boat back to Big Corn costs N$200 (it is only N$150 if you catch the same boat from Big Corn to Little Corn).
HOWEVER, you can afford to holiday on Little Corn Island if you get a monthly rental and eat at home.
MY ADVICE: The Corn Islands are hard to get to, over-priced, and over-rated. The weather isn’t that great either. There are many other better places to go (whether that be short-term or long-term). If you are looking for this type of holiday experience, the Gili Islands in Indonesia beat the Corn Islands ‘hands down’.