Nicaragua, Part Two: Little Corn Island

Looking out from Little Corn Island
Looking out from Little Corn Island

If you missed Part One, find it here.

After three plane trips, a taxi, and a panga ride, we finally arrived on Little Corn Island. To say that I was excited would be an understatement. The exhaustion of a long trip melted away as we took in the gorgeous surroundings. Crystal-blue water, perfect palm trees, rustic island huts… oh, it was amazing.

The first priority was to check in at our hotel. Since there are no roads or vehicles on Little Corn Island, we would be hauling around our luggage until we found the place! Just like on Big Corn, we were greeted by lots of locals. I’d recommend having a good idea of where you’ll be staying during your time on the island, because you will be hounded mercilessly by folks trying to drum up some business by convincing you to stay with them. We worked our way through the throngs of people and headed towards Hotel los Delfines.

We had opted to stay at this hotel because they are partnered with one of the dive shops – aptly named Dolphin Dive. As a bonus, the hotel is conveniently located near the panga dock, so we didn’t have far to walk. As another bonus, it’s one of the few places on the island that is air-conditioned. Before we arrived, I didn’t think that air conditioning would be a big deal. We were on an island, after all. There would be a breeze! However, it ended up being highly appreciated.

After a quick walk down the main road, we found Hotel los Delfines.

The view from our room
The view from our room
Our room
Our room
Porch chairs
Porch chairs

Here’s where we learned some important information about the island. There is electricity, sure. But it’s on a generator, and sometimes the system for the entire island fails. The locals are annoyed by this, but  used to it. There are some breezier hotels on the far side of the island, where losing air conditioning wouldn’t be as much of an issue. But if you choose to stay in town, the thick, still, humid air of your hotel room is a perfect environment for mosquitoes, should your power go out and you decide to open your windows to encourage air flow.

But we didn’t come to Little Corn Island for amenities like air conditioning and Wi-Fi. We came for natural beauty, to escape from it all. And since the power was out most of the time, escape we did!

Let’s take a look around the island. Remember, there are no roads, no motorized cars. Any shipments that arrive to the island are transported via handcarts on a walkway that circles the island. This walkway is how everyone and everything gets around. Want to grab lunch? Check the grocery store for some biscuits or an iron? Check out the beach? Hit the road.

A view of the main drag on Little Corn Island
A view of the main drag on Little Corn Island

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As you walk around, you’ll probably see some of the local dogs. Don’t mind them. They’re just hanging out, enjoying the sunshine and – on occasion – the beach.

The hounds of Little Corn
The hounds of Little Corn

There are some incredible views from the main drag of the island. If you look towards the sea, you’re guaranteed to see boats and sparkling water the color of emeralds and sapphires.

Some palm trees and boats
Some palm trees and boats

Care to get a little closer? The beach is just steps away…

Steps to the beach
Steps to the beach

Of course, you could always stay a little closer to the road and watch the water from a shaded bench.

An ocean view from the shade
An ocean view from the shade

For me, personally? I’d rather dig my toes into the sand.

A view of the Little Corn beach
A view of the Little Corn beach

If sunbathing right off the main drag isn’t your thing, you can cross over to the other side of the island. You may see chickens, iguanas, and other wildlife as you move through the trees. And when you pop out, you’ll find a gorgeous beach.

Secluded beach
Secluded beach
Beautiful beach
Sand and crystalline water as far as you can see

On the other side of the island, things got a little crazy. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant. It looked like many of the others: open frame, gorgeous view.

The view from our lunch table
The view from our lunch table

The owner showed us the catch of day, just-filleted and on its way back into the drink.

Ready for lunch?
Ready to eat?

Unfortunately, something happened that was a little typical of the island. We perused the menu. It looked pretty standard for those parts: seafood, chicken, breakfast foods, beer. Now, a little bit of information about my boyfriend. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like to pick apart his food. Give him a carefully trimmed steak,or peeled shrimp and he’s a happy guy. He’ll always pick the chicken breast over drumstick, just because he doesn’t want to pick apart his food. Xavier asked the waitress about the fish preparation. “Is it served whole?” She replied that it was not. “Does it have bones?” She said it did not. “Does it have scales?” No, no scales.

Then we changed to questioning in Spanish and the line of questioning was repeated. When it was ascertained that the fish would be served as a plain filet, we ordered one.

A half hour later, our lunches arrived. My shrimp looked good, but Xavier’s fish? Well, let’s just say that they had pulled the thing directly out of the ocean and fried it. All the talk about filet, no bones, no scales, had meant nothing to the waitress. It was annoying, only because we had gone to such trouble to find out how the fish was prepared. If she had just been honest, he would have ordered something else. No harm done. But now we were presented with an entree that looked exactly the opposite of what had been described and promised. Long story short, when we asked the waitress what had happened, an uproar ensued which resulted in three separate people yelling at us, insisting that we eat and pay for the fish that they had prepared. Which was completely different from the fish we had been promised. It was like we had asked for a bowl of soup, been presented with a salad, and then chastised for not wanting something we hadn’t ordered. In the end, we didn’t have to eat or pay for the fish – but they charged us triple for the water and beer that we’d ordered.

(This might be a good time to interject a little anecdote about another meal on Little Corn. We ordered omelets for breakfast at a beach hut. It was early and we were definitely the first customers. When our omelets arrived, they were literally full of ants. It was clear that the chef had simply dumped eggs into the pan without checking to see what had crawled in there overnight. Xavier’s had about six ants cooked into the egg. He gamely ate around them – “it’s protein!” Mine had quite a few more. I took little bites to avoid the ants, but after I picked aside  twenty ants with more requested another omelet. My point is, we’re easygoing).

I understand the consternation of the restaurant staff. I really do. We were the only customers eating at that restaurant, and they had prepared and cooked our food to order. But the experience did put a damper on the day. Trust me, I hate to complain. We were literally in paradise and it would have taken quite a lot to bring us down. Granted, customer service in Central America is much different. This was just on a different level.

The thing about Little Corn Island is, and this is something we heard from residents and fellow tourists alike, is that some locals are resentful of the fact that their income is dependent on tourists. While most of the people we met were very nice, there were some who definitely would take advantage of travelers. For example, I was on the porch at the dive shop when a smiling local offered me coconut cookies from a Tupperware. In Spanish, he told me the price was ten cordoba – about 40 cents in US dollars. I took a cookie and practically inhaled it. When I wanted to pay, I confirmed the price with the vendor – “Ten cordoba, right?” I asked. He shook his head: “No, it’s 20.” Now, I’m not going to cry about paying 80 cents for a cookie. It’s not a lot of money to me, and clearly the other guy needs it. But it’s the principle. I would have paid 80 cents from the beginning. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve been taken advantage of.

I hate to bring up these situations, because they were a small part of a wonderful three days on the island. But they are worth mentioning. I think anyone can have a great time on Little Corn. Just bring a flexible attitude and be aware that some folks may have ulterior motives and, as a tourist, you may be targeted. Maybe this is no different than travel anywhere.

One of the gorgeous ocean views
One of the gorgeous ocean views

We did find one place that we really enjoyed: Tranquilo Cafe. It was owned by Americans, and clearly they were doing something right because it was packed every night. This bar and restaurant, located right on the main stretch of “town,” is a wonderful place to spend an island evening. Start off with their happy hour, because they have some of the best mixed rum drinks you’ll find on the island! The Scary Mary rum punch will knock you on your butt and find you running down the main road of the island at 1am, begging locals to find you langosta. Anyway. That didn’t happen to me, so it’s just a speculation. Tranquilo Cafe also serves delicious food. We loved the ceviche and fish tacos.

The majority of our time on Little Corn was spent scuba diving – I’ll get to that in the next post! But we didn’t have much time to explore the rest of the island. On our next trip, and there will definitely be another trip, we will try to see just a little bit more. There’s never enough time, is there?

Places to go: Tranquilo Cafe, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

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