This pair of 2 small islands in the Caribbean has a really sweet name: the Corn Islands. Doesn't that make you want to go there right away? Well, it did, at least for me.
On Saturday, at the last minute, just 1 hour before check-in time at the airport, I decided I had enough of Managua after not even 24 hours. Called La Costena, the domestic carrier, and made an on-the-spot decision to buy a US$164 round-trip ticket to Great Corn Island. After the US$720 round-trip tickets from Boston to Managua, it's my biggest splurge so far this trip.
It turned out I was extremely lucky that there were seats still available just 1 hour before departure; the tiny, 46-seater propeller plane was full when we took off.
Landed an hour before sunset to great views of the light blue sea and wide sandy beaches. Checked into a cheap hotel right next to the beach. Hotel Beach View, at just US$10 a night for a room with private bathroom. Granted it's not the most luxurious accomodation, and that beach was pretty terrible compared with the others around the island, but US$10 a night on a Caribbean island was just too good to be true. Only in Nicaragua, which is another reason why you should visit. Talked to a couple of locals and found out about a local baseball game the next day. Saved a calendar entry in my phone: Baseball Game, Great Corn Island, 9pm. Best calendar entry ever! (especially since it has nothing to do with meetings or school!)
Woke up around sunrise the next day. Weather was swell! Breezy yet warm and clear, blue skies all around. I spent the morning exploring the island on foot, walking on perfect sandy beaches, dipping my toes into the turquoise sea water, and scrambling up rocky outcrops. Had plenty of time afterwards to just lie on the sand and enjoy the sunshine, as well as indulge in cheap seafood, of which there is plenty along the coasts of Nicaragua.
During my 3-night, 2-day stay in Great Corn Island, I had lobsters twice, a memorable seafood soup at a beachfront restaurant, Rondon (a delicious plate of seafood consisting of shrimps, lobster and fish cooked in a coconut sauce) in a local, down-to-earth eatery, and quite a bit of fish.
The locals are fascinating. They are darker in skin color, and speak a type of Creole that is hardly comprehensible. Although they do speak excellent English as well. Unfortunately, because the Corn Islands are rather touristy compared to the rest of the country (though not at all when compared to the other Caribbean islands), they are not as forthcoming as I expected.
The demographics of the Corn Island are constantly changing. Native islanders, with African heritage, are in the minority, and complain about other races moving in, like Miskitos, Ramas and other ethnicities. The biggest hotels on the island, are also either majority or fully-owned by Westerners. And so when I walked around the island, I witnessed many poor neighborhoods and run-down shacks, though with a difference: they have the best view in the world, a view of the multi-colored Caribbean, golden sand and swaying palms.
On my second day in Great Corn, the weather became very bad. Overcast skies and strong winds meant that the beach wasn't as alluring anymore. I went snorkelling for a couple of hours, led by a local guide, which was a very good decision because the seas were extremely choppy and not at all calm. I swallowed a lot of water and still am not a big fan of snorkelling though I did see some ridiculously amazing corals and fish.
My best experience in the Corn Island was in the Corn Island Culture House, a newly-opened museum between the airport and baseball stadium (Oh, I didn't get to see the game in the end. For some reason there was nothing going on when I went there at the scheduled time). An extremely knowledgeable historian (I forgot her name) guided me through the fascinating culture and history of the Corn Islands. It was INCREDIBLE. She talked about the heritage of the people, their legends and myths (including the ghosts of pirates who would enter dreams and show the way to buried treasure) and even highlighted the Chinese heritage of Corn Island. Apparently before the Sandinistas took power in 1979, there were quite a few Chinese people living on Great Corn Island. However, fearing the Communists, they all left, except one middle-aged guy who still remains on the island till this very day - I didn't get to meet him though.
Kind of bored the second day, because of the weather. Contemplated going to Little Corn, the other island, but heard about the ferry capsizing the day I arrived and really didn't want to run that risk, so I shelved that plan.
And so after two days in paradise (when the sun was shining), I knew it was time to leave.