What to do in Corn Islands
Las Islas del Maiz—the Corn Islands—are a pair of tiny Caribbean islands about 43 miles off Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast, and a trip there offers a glimpse of what the Caribbean was like 40 years ago, before the golf courses, franchise hotels, and cruise-ship docks. Oceanfront bungalows, sparsely used white-sand beaches, and fresh seafood are the islands' main draws, and all can be had for a fraction of the cost as you'd pay in other Central American destinations. The Corn Islands are a budget traveler's dream, with basic accommodations starting at around $10 per night.
Like the inhabitants of the Bay Islands of Honduras to the north, Corn Islanders have British colonial (and pirate) ancestors, so almost everyone speaks English despite the Spanish influence of mainland Nicaragua. Big Corn is the more developed of the two islands; this is also the point of entry via a small airstrip that receives domestic flights from the mainland. Little Corn is a less-developed, friendly outpost with no roads or motorized transport. Pangas ferry passengers between the islands twice daily.
Diving and snorkeling are favorite activities on both islands. Shallow, healthy reefs punctuated by swim-throughs and packed with tropical fish ring the islands, but the most popular dive site is Blowing Rock, an offshore pinnacle that attracts pelagic fish and sharks. On Little Corn, visitors hang around the waterfront, where beaches, restaurants, and accommodations are close by, or hike through the jungle to the north end of the island, which is fringed with empty stretches of sugar-sand beach. And on Big Corn, fishermen can join charters to catch game fish in the rich fishing grounds around the islands.
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