There’s a place that will steal your heart. It certainly did mine. I would say it kept my soul, as well, but I think maybe it was already there.
Little Corn Island is, unquestionably, a slice of paradise. It encompasses the attractive melding so common on the Caribbean Coast of Central America, a mix of Afro-Caribbean and Spanish descendants. You’re never sure whether to greet someone with “hola” or “hello”, and too often the thick Caribbean accents make you unsure of what is being said anyways. Coconut milk, oil, or water feature in almost every dish on the island. There are no cars; the only engines exist in the boats docked offshore, always at the ready to take curious tourists out for snorkelling or diving excursions. Most power is shut off during the day, and comes on only as the sun sets; it shuts off again at some point before sunrise. And the beauty of the whole thing is that you don’t need it. You don’t need a car or a motorbike to get around, and when the waves are muffled by the thick growth of palms, once you are a few metres from the beach, there is a quiet unheard in much of Central America. The power? You realize how little you need it – the restaurants have power throughout the day to keep things cool and prepare food. As a tourist on a beautiful Caribbean island? This literal disconnect only makes it easier to relax and embrace the beauty and the vibe of the place you have come to. (As a write this, the laptop is showing an angry red bar and 12% battery. It’s our last day on the island, and I will have no access to power until we fly back to Managua. Plans of sorting through photos and finishing blog posts will have to be put on hold. Ahh, the beauty of it. 11%.)
Little Corn has next to none of airs often associated with idyllic Caribbean destinations. This is mainly because it’s simply not a luxury destination, and it’s also not particularly easy to get to. No cruise ships can dock here, there are no charter flights to the area, it doesn’t have an airport, and I think there’s one place on the island you can spend a couple of hundred dollars a night – if you like – but the vast majority of the accommodation sits in the $20 – $50 / night range. To get to Little Corn Island, one must begin their journey in Managua and take a small, La Costeña flight to Big Corn (often stopping in the town of Bluefields on the way). From Big Corn, it’s a rather long and hot walk, or a $1/person taxi ride to the muelle, or dock, where a twice-daily ferry leaves for Little Corn Island. The crossing can be a bit bumpy, and there’s a chance your things will get soaked, though most of them are stored in a hold at the stern of the crowded boat. The boat takes about an hour, and will deposit you at the dock on the west side of Little Corn. Here, if you’ve booked a room at some of the hotels offering “pick-ups,” a dude with a strong Caribbean accent will toss your bags into a wheelbarrow and head off on foot towards your destination. The village offers several accommodation options at a range of price points. The east side of the island, easily accessible by a few different tracks, has a line of beach bungalows and cabins that sit right on the beach. This is where we stayed. The north side of the island is a bit more of a trek (about 20 or so minutes from the edge of town) and offers a few of the nicest places to stay, as well as the nicest stretch of beach. The flight costs $165 round-trip. There is also an option to travel overland (and water) by bus and boat, which takes a couple of days and will run approximately $40 each way, including transport and accommodation.
The days were filled with what days are filled with when you’re on an island such as this: sun, swimming, spending the better part of an afternoon fetching and breaking open coconuts, eating, drinking, reading in hammocks, sleeping in hammocks, dealing with obnoxious parrots, wandering beaches, killing mosquitos, etc., etc. And it all sounds lovely, yes, but perhaps not entirely unique or extraordinary. And it probably isn’t. But this island has such an amazing feeling to it, from the soft sand underfoot, to the reggae music, to the fresh sea breeze, to the delicious food, to the ever-present smile on most peoples’ faces…. For such a small place, it seems remarkably uncrowded – doubtless the lack of vehicles contributes to this relaxed feeling. You can walk along the seaweed-strewn beaches, for example, of the eastern side of the island for a solid half hour at any given time of day, and not see another soul. Save for perhaps a kite surfer skimming along the water. Despite constant shortages of supply, the food is remarkably good, with a focus on fresh seafood (lobster, when in season) and the ever-present coconut. Wandering through the village in the day, the smell of baking coconut wafts through the air, as it forms the pillowy, delicious loaves of coconut bread that make their way onto every breakfast plate. (Coconut bread French toast. Amazing.) The diving and snorkelling around Little Corn is meant to be quite good, with a fair amount of bigger-ticket marine life making regular appearances, such as rays and nurse sharks. We didn’t partake in either, but had friends who did and quite enjoyed their experiences.
As I wandered around on our final morning, taking snapshots of things I’d been admiring for days yet hadn’t yet captured, I felt such a longing to stay. The only things preventing me from ringing up our airline to try to change our tickets was the imminent arrival (as in tomorrow) of two of my very dearest and nearest friends in Costa Rica.
So for now, it was adios to my little slice of paradise.
These are the places you hope to find, when you do something like this.