Wish You Were Here: Las Islas del Maís, Nicaragua

by Owen James Burke

cornisland

Picnic Beach, Great Corn Island (Photo: JSalita/Flickr)

Las Islas del Maís (the Corn Islands) lie about 40 miles (70km) off the east coast, which may be why so few travelers consider the extra 90 minute puddle-jumper flight.

Big, or Great Corn Island is said to be a nice place, but for a real step back in time, head to Little Corn Island. With a year-round population of about 1,200, things move pretty slowly there (save gossip, which is reportedly lightning speed, but helps to keep the unruly mooks away). Still, keep in mind that despite a lower-than-average volume of tourists, tourists can outnumber locals during high season.

cornbeach

Casa Oro del Negro Beach (Photo: Wonders of Wandering)

Conveniently, gringos will have not the slightest language barrier. English is the predominant language in the Corn Islands, as, up until 1894 the island was (supposedly) under British control (though it was mostly frequented by pirates). After 1894, the United States took control for the better part of the next century, though their grasp was weak and indifferent at best. In 1970, the U.S. acquiesced the islands to Nicaragua. In any case, it’d be hard to put up an argument that the islands were anything but autonomous, and with any bit of luck, that’s how they’ll stay.

Big Corn Island and Little Corn Island are both relatively small islands (3.9 and 1.1 sq. miles respectively), and no, there may not be much to do here, but that’s why we like it. Coconuts and lobster make up most of the islands’ economy, and there’s wonderful diving and fishing. Consider what Belize may have been like about 30 years ago and you may have an idea.

lobstercornisle

Local lobster, plantains, coconut rice and fresh vegetables (Photo: Wonders of Wandering)

Conveniently, gringos will have not the slightest language barrier. English is the predominant language in the Corn Islands, as, up until 1894 the island was (supposedly) under British control (though it was mostly frequented by pirates). After 1894, the United States took control for the better part of the next century, though their grasp was weak and indifferent at best. In 1970, the U.S. acquiesced the islands to Nicaragua. In any case, it’d be hard to put up an argument that the islands were anything but autonomous, and with any bit of luck, that’s how they’ll stay.

casaiguana

Casa Iguana

Lodging is plentiful varies from borderline posh eco-spa resorts to $10-a-night beachfront shacks. If you want to take the extra step (well worth it) you can hire a panga to take you from Big Corn Island to Wee Corn Island, where you can also find clean and cozy beachfront apartments or cabañas for next to nothing.

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