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Island Dreaming: The Temptations of Little Corn Island

February 18, 2015

Sometimes we all like getting to our island vacation destination to be easy. You know the kind I mean: an absolute minimum of stress, bother, and inconvenience. Granted, with an airport experience itself that can be stressful not to mention time-consuming, who wants to go to a lot of trouble to reach paradise? But some people do. Are they insane, nuts, or just plain masochistic? Not quite. You see, sometimes the rewards look like this:

(Otto Beach on an island off Nicaragua. Photo: Brian Johnson & Dan Kantner, Flickr.)

 

This, my friends and fellow Island Runaways, is Little Corn Island. It's been the Holy Grail of island experiences for me for many a year. In fact, when popular travel blog Uncommon Caribbean asked me for my wish list of Caribbean destinations for 2015, Little Corn made the top spot. Why, you may ask? And where? And what are these isles that I'm so eager to get to? Good questions, all of them, which I'll quickly try to answer.

(Hammock time on Little Corn. Photo: descubriendoelmundo, Flickr.)

 

The two Corn Islands, Big Corn and Little Corn, lie approximately 43 miles or 70 kilometers off the eastern coast of Nicaragua. In Spanish, you'd say Isla Grande del Maiz and Island Pequeña del Maiz, but interestingly, although the islands are Nicaraguan, folks speak English here. Yes, that's right, in an odd twist of history, these two slivers of tropical paradise were once British protectorates and today, they have a Creole Caribbean identity all their own. They also feature shockingly beautiful beaches, crystalline seas, and unbelievable fishing, diving, and snorkeling.

(Stunning tropical coral reefs and fish. Photo: @N3T1O, Flickr.)

 

You want truly unspoiled Caribbean, where you're not squeezed in with a whole crowd of other tourists? You might want to investigate the Corn Islands. Little Corn, as you can glean from its name, is smaller, and as it happens, MUCH less developed. On Big Corn, there are hotels and even resorts. On Little Corn? You will not find any motorized vehicles or paved roads (although there is a single paved sidewalk). Travelers stay in tiny compounds, cottages, or an eco-lodge like Casa Iguana. Some lodgings are "rustic," perhaps even spartan, but I wouldn't mind, because I suppose that's the trade-off for pristine island beauty.

(Little Corn Island is definitely not overdeveloped. Photo: Courtney Boyd Myers, Flickr.)

 

The island's appeal for me? It's a place where you can play castaway, really and truly disconnect. As I told Uncommon Caribbean, on Little Corn I think you could "fall off the map," at least for a week.

 

So, exactly how difficult is it to reach Little Corn Island? First you fly to Nicaragua's capital, Managua. From Managua you take a (somewhat smaller!) plane on Costeña airlines to Bluefields on the coast, then continue on to Big Corn Island. Now, you take a "panga," an open boat from Big Corn to Little Corn. I hear the ride can get pretty "exciting" at times (meaning: a LOT of bouncing.)

(The panga you take to Little Corn Island. Photo: purpleglobetrotter, Flickr.)

 

When I tell you this island has captured my imagination, I'm not kidding around. In fact, some years ago when I was writing a lot of fiction, I set my short story "Jerusalem, Nicaragua" there. Its premise: an American couple had set up a small inn on the island and lived there with their little son. They had come to Little Corn to escape troubling memories from back home. The story was eventually published by the Connecticut Review. But all the research I once did into Little Corn, and the time I spent conjuring up how it felt to be there...has still not materialized into a real experience.

 

Will I get there in 2015? Maybe you will reach Little Corn before I do. There are so many islands to explore, and for our next Island Runaway, we are opting for a more easily reachable island: St. Maarten/St. Martin. That being said, I'll always be drawn to the secret corners of the world, those islands that sing their siren song for those of us who, perhaps selfishly, don't want to share our tropical paradise with too many people.

(Someday I hope to eat at this Little Corn Island cafe. Photo: Courtney Boyd Myers, Flickr.)

 

 

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