Until just a few months ago I didn’t even know the Corn Islands existed. These tiny islands off the east coast of Nicaragua resemble the Caribbean more than they do Latin America. And that’s part of why they are interesting. That and the fact that they are little known and not easy to reach. You gotta work for this one.
Fly from Managua to Big Corn Island on La Costeña airline. Book your tickets online, but before you do, decide if you will spend any time on Big Corn or go directly to Little Corn Island. You can only get between the islands on a panga (an open motor powered fishing boat). Remember you’ll need to do the trip in reverse to get back to Big Corn. Buying the airfare is the easy part.
We decided to take the second of three flights to Big Corn and hoped to ride the last panga of the day from Big Corn to Little Corn. This would give us a bit of extra time in case there was a delay. Everything about the flight was uneventful – from check-in to boarding to landing.
Taxi to Brigg Bay
Upon landing the taxi drivers outside the arrival area are obviously waiting to take passengers just like us (20 Cordobas per person) to the dock to catch the panga to Little Corn. This also ended up being easy. The taxi drivers speak English, as do most people on the islands, are friendly and super adept at stuffing your bags into their very compact cars. The ride is about 10 minutes. Obviously you’ll do this in reverse on your back.
Once we arrived at the dock several hours early there was nothing to do but wait to purchase our tickets to ride the panga. Since tickets are sold on a first come first serve basis, we we all set to be among the first in line. Luckily there was a restaurant next door where we got some food and drinks, happy to have made it this far.
Just as we were about to get out a deck of cards a short wiry local man approached out table and asked if we were waiting for the panga – it was going to be leaving shortly. So as not to miss our chance we paid the check and rushed our bags down to the dock. Bags were promptly loaded onto the boat as we handed $1 to the baggage handler and $5 to the boat captain. No ticket, just forked over the money. Just like that, we were off!
Upon departing Little Corn we arrived at the dock early, once again, to ensure we’d be among the first to get our tickets. Thank goodness we did (see HOT TIP #3 below)! We were set to catch the afternoon flight from Big Corn to Managua, where we’d spend our last night, at the fabulous Hotel Contempo, just in case something went wrong and we needed extra time.
#1 Buy your airfare online once you know your dates of travel. Be sure to coordinate your arrival and departure with your lodging based on availability and with the times of panga rides.
#2 Have cash ready. Nicaraguan Cordobas 20 per person each way for the taxi and US dollars for the boat ride. A $5 and a $1 are super handy since the boat ride is only 5 bucks and the extra dollar appears to be a tip for the baggage dude.
#3 Show up to buy your panga ticket early. On our return ride from Little Corn to Big Corn not everyone got onto the boat, despite the fact that they’d been sold a ticket. Oops. We we sat on a very crowded panga while a woman stood on the dock, crying, that she would miss her flight if someone didn’t offer to trade places with her. As fortune would smile on her, a few travelers exited the boat (hurray!) presumably because they were not catching a flight.
#4 The boat ride is about 30 minutes. If you can see white caps you’re in for a rough ride. Whatever the case, try to sit in the back of the boat. On one trip we sat in the front and endured an extremely bumpy (as in airborne off the seat) ride. Of course, as I write this I am reminded of the small child sitting directly behind me who managed to eat a cup of noodles and then have a nap! A lot of life is what you get used to ain’t it?
#5 Remain flexible! Even awesome advanced planning does not always translate to awesome execution. Some things are beyond control.
#6 CHECK OUT THE NEXT POST ON LITTLE CORN | BEING THERE…