Difference between revisions of "Big Corn Island"
Revision as of 01:23, 23 June 2009
Big Corn Island lies approximately 50 miles off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
Great Corn Island was originally colonized by the British, and most native islanders have more in common culturally with other English-speaking Caribbean islands than they do with the mainland of Nicaragua. Many have English surnames.
Tourism on Great Corn Island is still in its infancy as most tourists gather on Little Corn. There are almost none of the things one usually associates with tourists traps (tourist markets, huge beachside developments by major hospitality corporations, time-share condos, etc.). The people are typically friendly and genuine.
Almost everyone on the island speaks both passable Spanish and English. For most of those native to the island, English is their first language, although there are many inhabitants who have come over from mainland Nicaragua and consequently speak Spanish as a first language. There are also others who speak Miskito or other Caribbean languages or dialects. The English spoken, however, is heavily Caribbean, and real communication can be far from effortless.
There is one local airline (La Costena Airlines) that flies to Big Corn Island from Managua (usually once in the morning and again in early to mid afternoon). These are 15-20 seat dual prop planes without pressurized cabins or conditioned air.  One Way flights are around 107 US and a Round trip around 165 US. Some of the planes go first to Bluefields before they continue to the Island.
Some days of the week, you can get from Houston or Miami to Managua in time to fly directly to Big Corn Island; other days, you will have to spend a night in Managua and fly to the island the following day. When you return from the island to Managua, again, you may have to spend the night depending on the timing of the flights.
The road system basically consists of a perimeter road that runs around the island. There are a few paved side roads, but only the one to Picnic Beach is of significant length.
there are many hiking trails into the center of the island and along the shore.
Getting around the island can be done by taxi (anywhere on the island for 15 cordobas =75 cents U.S.), by bus (anywhere on the island for 5 cordobas =25 cents U.S.) per person. One can rent bicycles,golf carts, cars, or motorcycles if one wishes.
The island itself is quite picturesque. hiking into the hills will bring you into tropical nature, there are two big beaches and lots of tiny and remote ones. A boat trip around the island will showcase its natural beauty. Baseball is the number one sport on the island, with even soccer a distant second, and taking in a local game will put you right in the middle of real island culture. There is very little of historic or artistic significance,
Snorkeling, scuba diving, and ocean fishing are all excellent. "Nautilus"  , an island institution, can arrange any such trips (including scuba instruction). Picnic Beach is beautiful, with fine sand and gentle waves (but beware the sand flies). Most of the tiny and remote beaches are between Sally Peaches and South End.
One can arrange to travel by boat to Little Corn Island, a short (easily less than an hour) ride away. Anyone with a boat for hire will gladly make the trip.
Snorkeling, Kayak rentals, and both sport fishing and fly fishing are available at "Anastasia's on the Sea." Also available is a snorkeling marine park designed to guide snorkelers to interesting coral formations.
Nighlife as anywhere else is mainly on weekends, weekends here go from thurstday night till Monday morning (don't miss the "sexy dance at Nico's).
The best restaurants on the island for typical island cuisine are Casa Canada (South End), Restaurante Sabor at Sunrise Hotel (excellent breakfasts & Sunday Bar-b-q) --right next to Casa Canada, Seva's (Dos Millas) & Paraiso. Paraiso has a fantastic menu including deserts. The food is varied from pasta and bruschetta to traditional island dishes and fresh fish. They also make the best pina coladas and coco loco's. They use coconuts cut from the tree. Nautilus restaurant offers gourmet island fusion dishes, pizza and vegetarian dishes. The cook at the Picnic center does an excellant job with local dishes, going to great lenth to prepare them correctly. Lobster fishing is a huge part of the island's economy, and lobster is on the menu at almost every restaurant. When the lobster are in season, lobster dishes cost $5 to $8, and are available at all local restaurants. Lobster is the primary industry in the Corn Islands, so lobster and conch are plentiful. Be careful of lobster tails under 5 inches long or under 5 ounces in weight because they are illegal. When the season is closed in early March time frame, the lobster dishes tend to go up slightly in prices, but are still reasonable in prices. For a very inexpensive lunch or dinner check out one of the little taco stands on the beach on the south end near long bay. They have fried tacos with salad that are excellent. There isn't a name on the establishment, but a taxi driver told us the locals call it "specitos" because the owner wears glasses.
It is not unusual to wait 40-60 minutes after ordering to receive one's meal. Everything is prepared from scratch after you order, so order before you get too hungry and be prepared to pass some time waiting for the results. After you place your order, typically the chef will make a trip off on his bicycle to fetch the needed ingredients for the dish you have chosen. This is typical of the relaxed pace everywhere on the island. It will be unusual to see anyone in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.
Also, do not miss the coconut bread (pan de coco), especially the sweet (dulce) variety. It is typically sold in small shops or from their houses by the ladies who make it.
Local fruit is incredible in its variety and freshness. You can get coconuts and mangos almost anywhere for free. Ask someone at your hotel to cut one down and you can drink the milk straight from the nut.
The best places to sit down and have a beer or cocktail during the day are at Picnic Center on the southwest side of the island and at Anastasia's on the Sea on the north end of the island. An interesting note, Anastasia's has the most exspensive domestic beer prices found on the island, even higher than Hotel Casa Canada's. After baseball games and on Sundays, Island Style is very popular. On Friday and Saturday nights, Reggae Palace is where the dancing is best. And on Sunday nights most islanders head to Nico’s for after hours fun. Nico's bathroom's lack a bit in hygenic maintenance.
There are a variety of places to stay on the island, ranging from extremely basic backpacker accommodations costing only about $10 U.S. per night to clean/comfortable/air conditioned places for $30-50 U.S., to a few more upscale places (which are still usually less than $100/night). Travelers reviews can be found easily online.
South End Sunrise Hotel falls in the middle pricing structure, but the rooms are very clean and spacious, and the proprietors (Lanmar and Ina) are very friendly and helpful.
The island is relatively safe and few travelers encounter problems, but you should definitely take the normal precautions and not let the peacefulness get your guard down. Violent incidents are rare, but have happened in the past.
One other note of significance is the electricity, which may go out on a nightly basis for several hours, and often goes out when it rains hard. There are hotels (Casa Canada, Morgan, Martha's B&B, Hotel Paraiso, Anastasia's on the Sea, Picnic Center, Vientos del Norte) that have their own generators to cover the gaps in electric service. Verify before booking. UPDATE : the electrical system has been renewed and is working well now
Currency & Prices
Officially, the Nicaraguan Cordoba is the legal tender, but most stores, restaurants, and taxis will gladly accepted U.S. dollars as well. With dollars, however, comes this caveat: if there is the tiniest tear on the bill (or pen marks, or any other disfigurement), the bill will not be accepted.
The ATM at the Banpro bank accepts VISA and MASTERCARD various hotels and tourist services accept those cards too
Life is a bit more expensive on Great Corn than on the mainland, on Little Corn it is much more expensive.