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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Visit to Corn Island (Khueny Tips)

Used to be the British buccaneers (and still a frequent stopover for Colombia-based pirates), Big and Little Corn Islands are now low-key vacation spots in an isolated corner of the Caribbean. The two Islas del Maíz retain in many ways the magic associated with the Caribbean - clear turquoise water, white sandy beaches fringed with coconut palms, excellent fishing, phenomenal coral reefs to explore and an unhurried, peaceful pace, as yet uncluttered with Cancún-style resorts. Little Corn in particular lives up to this elusive image. Christopher Colón breezed through in 1502, but it wasn't until 1660, when a French pirate by the name of Jean David Nau arrived, that continuous contact was made with the local Kukras-Mayangna Indians. In the 1700s British pirates and African slaves arrived, and both groups mingled with the Kukras. Although the British were asked to leave the islands in 1786, as part of a treaty with the Spanish, they returned in 1841 after independence from Spain; an event still celebrated after August 27 with crab soup and dancing. Many Miskito Indians from the nearby "Miskito Coast" as well as Nicaraguans from the "mainland" have moved to Big Corn Island in recent years,diversifying the population and languages overheard on the island. Still, the laid back atmosphere and lifestyle seems to
overtake anyone who visits The Corn Islands. The tourism and hospitality industry is in its infancy! Here you can still get a room for less than $10 in a family run hospedaje and buy an excellent dinner from street vendors for $1.50. The local beer is always cold and you buy rum by the bottle at the restaurants. Adventure travelers seek out The Corn Islands for their fishing (flats and offshore), scuba diving and snorkeling.

The Corn Islands are surrounded by a barrier reef system which is a unique underwater ecosystem for snorkeling and scuba diving. Whether snorkeling from the beach or on a dive excursion with one of the local dive operators, one can expect to see a wide variety of corals, sponges, tropical fish, rays, schools of snapper, turtles and even dolphin. Don't miss the famous "Blowing Rock" which is a rock/coral formation teaming with marine life, which climbs from the sea floor, 100 feet below, until it broaches the ocean surface. Divers see a mix of tropical fish as well as larger offshore species including barracuda, mackerel, jacks, pompano & shark. Those who have never scuba dived before can take advantage of a "discover scuba" course for a one time scuba experience or enroll in a PADI dive certification course which can be completed in 3-4 days.


Many major airlines fly into Managua, Nicaragua's capital city. After clearing customs and immigration, exit the terminal and walk to the left. Just a short walk to the end of the airport terminal, you will find a separate terminal building for the regional airlines which provide service to Bluefields, Big Corn Island and Puerto Cabezas. La Costena Airlines flies these routes with the last flights leaving Managua at 2:00 p.m. Round trip tickets to Big Corn Island cost approximately $165.00 USD. Reservations are required and can be made by emailing the owner at Flight time to Big Corn Island is approximately 1 1/2 hours with one stop in Bluefields. Baggage is limited to 30 lbs per person. Once you land on Big Corn Island, claim your luggage and reconfirm your return flight. From here you can get a taxi anywhere on the island for 15 cordobas per person ($.95). Be firm about going to your desired/reserved hotel as many taxi drivers receive commissions for diverting visitors to particular hotels. To get to Little Corn Island, take a taxi to the Municipal Wharf in Brig Bay where you will find the water taxi waiting on the lower, wooden dock. The schedule for the water taxi to Little Corn is coordinated with flight arrival and departure times;

Big Corn - Little Corn at 10a & 4p
Little Corn - Big Corn at 7a & 2p

Travel time is 1/2 - 1 hour depending on weather. In the event that you must guarantee your connection with return flights, it is advisable to overnight on Big Corn Island.

For those who wish to do a "day trip" to Little Corn, without having to "overnight" on Little Corn Island, a new water taxi service, "Blandon," now offers departures:

Big Corn - Little Corn at 7a
Little Island - Big Corn at 4p.

A taxi anywhere on the island (each stop) costs 15 cordoba per person (<$1.00) during the day and 20 at night. Corn Island's primary industry is fishing. Nicaragua's 3rd largest export is lobster, most of which is processed in Big Corn Island. Motorcycle
Motorcycle Rental: 2006 & 2007 Yamaha 125 with electric start. $30 per day, $100 security deposit.

Take a visit to the 400 year old wreck of a Spanish Galleon by snorkel, dive or glass bottom boat excursion. The wreck lays in 15' of water off of Waula Point, Big Corn Island. Clearly visible are 14 cannons and the original anchor. No known archaeological survey or salvaging has ever been done on this wreck. Hike to the highest point "Mount Pleasant Tower" on Corn Island
through plantations and lush flora and view the 360 panorama of the island. Plan a Corn Island wedding or engagement ceremony officiated by the local judge, everything can be arranged by local hotel managements. "Soul of the World-Excavation", the culpture project by renowned artist, Rafael Trenor, located on Quinn Hill, Big Corn Island.

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