My love for Central America grows stronger with each trip I take. What started in Costa Rica brought me to Nicaragua and will undoubtedly keep bringing me back for more. Except this time, I ventured beyond the mainland to a speck of land in the Caribbean Sea called Little Corn Island. No airport, no roads, limited electricity and just a few hundred people. Sign me up!
Where to stay: Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa is located on Little Corn Island, some 40+ miles off the eastern coast of Nicaragua. Getting there is part of the experience, and I’ll get to that in a bit. Yemaya’s dozen or so bungalows dot the shoreline of this delicately touched morsel of paradise. Yemaya is all about operating in harmony with the environment. This is not an all-inclusive, all you can eat, tourist-ridden theme park. It’s a special place that has been built into the natural setting with respect and honor. The kitchen uses local ingredients, many grown right on the property and serves its culinary offerings below a thatched-roof restaurant where the island breeze blows freely. Before you step inside for a meal, consider taking your shoes off to further elevate the experience.
I don’t do a lot of yoga, but I can tell you that Yemaya is something out of a yogi’s dream. There are daily sessions on the wooden deck overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. You can also just grab a mat and setup shop elsewhere on the pristine grounds.
Wi-fi is available but choppy (for those who have a hard time fully unplugging), and there are lapses in electricity as well as they run off a generator. There is no AC in the bungalows, and some toilet/shower etiquette to adhere to. All of this once again, is to maintain a balance with the ecosystem. Appreciate it and embrace it!
Where to eat: Food on the island is fresh and delicious but it’s important to remember that you’re in a very remote spot of the world. Certain products are limited and the only way to get them to the island is by freight.
Yemaya’s menu changes almost daily and is heavily comprised of what’s readily available. Sip on one of their freshly-made juices or grab a workout fueling smoothie- they’re all good. And let me just say that the fried chicken and waffle dish is unreal.
You’ll undoubtedly want to switch it up and sample what the rest of Little Corn has to offer. But remember that you’re on a laid-back, carefree island. Don’t expect fast service at any of these places because that’s not what it’s about.
Tranquilo Cafe is where you want to be if you’re looking to grab a cocktail (and maybe a taco or two) once the sun goes down, but it’s also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner service. There’s live music, trivia, and bonfire parties so it’s a great spot to meet fellow travelers and make new friends. Get there early for the happy hour deals!
Cafe Desideri is the perfect place to catch a sunset as it’s just a few steps from the shore. Throughout the day you’ll find locals and visitors sprawled out on the grassy patch in front of the cafe, just before where the sand hits. Local artists and venders like to setup along the strip as well. The cafe has a variety of menu items including some pasta dishes. The desserts are great too.
Note: Many of the cafes, bars and restaurants are located in the town area on the southern portion of the island, whereas a few of the hotels are scattered along the northern edge (Yemaya is one of them.) You’ll need to stick to the map (it’s easy to follow) to navigate along the main paths that connect the island. Remember to grab a flashlight if you plan to stay anywhere in the town past sunset as walkways are barely lit. As a precaution, be mindful of your personal belongings. There is no police force on the island and I have read about occasional robberies. I felt very safe during my stay but to avoid finding yourself in an unfavorable situation, stick to the outlined routes on the map and if possible, travel with a companion.
Getting there: Now, in order to get to Little Corn Island, you’ll have to get to Big Corn Island first. I highly recommend flying although you could take a boat. Pack lightly because the planes are small and every bit of space is utilized. La Costeña is a domestic airline that offers roundtrip service to Big Corn twice daily from Managua, conveniently located right at the international airport.
From Big Corn, you’ll be getting on a panga- a small fishing boat, to get to Little Corn. The boat leaves shortly after you land. You’ll have all your belongings in tow so once again, pack lightly. Bring a poncho and put it on because you will get wet. The weather and the conditions on the water can obviously vary. If the sea is calm, you should be fine. But there are times when the waters are too rough and the pangas don’t operate. And then there are those in between times when things can get tricky. On Yemaya’s website there is a warning for individuals with certain medical or mobility conditions to reconsider this part of the trip. If you’re well suited to venture on, make sure you strap on a life vest and prepare for what has the potential to be a very uncomfortable ride. But also know that with an experienced operator, these types of boats are very safe and can handle difficult conditions extremely well. My trip to the island was on the rougher side, therefore I do want to stress this point. On the way back I got to experience the gentler side of the sea, and felt much more at ease. In the end everything balanced out and the ride proved to be one heck of an adventure.
Must see/do: The island as a whole has plenty to explore. From the town, to the beaches, to the farms and everything in between. Let the map be your guide, slather on the sunscreen and get out there. There’s a lighthouse located in the middle of the island that you can climb up to catch a sunset. You can arrange for a snorkeling session or venture out on your own. Diving is also an option and there are several dive shops to pick from. But most importantly, embrace the spirit of the island and just kickback and unwind.
Once you’re back on the mainland….
Granada is great place to visit if you have some time leftover after your stay on Little Corn. You can rent a car right at the airport in Managua and make the hour long trip. The old colonial city is filled with brightly-colored, Spanish-influenced buildings and churches. One of them, La Merced, has a tower that you can climb for views of the city or to catch the sunset. There is also Lake Cocibolca (Lake Nicaragua), one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world. And of course, the Mombacho Volcano, just a few kilometers outside of Granada. You can hike up the volcano, through the cloud forest, and enjoy a view of the city and the lake below.
Little Corn Island is so special to me that I was hesitant about writing this post. It’s a place to cherish and preserve. If you embark on a journey there, I hope you carry that same sentiment along with you so that it can be enjoyed by many more people for a long time to come.
* These are simply my observations, opinions and suggestions.