Arriving at Little Corn Beach & Bungalow (LCBB) feels like how Tom Hanks must have felt in the movie Castaway, except we were there on purpose. The remote Caribbean island is either a six to eight hour boat ride from Nicaragua’s Moskito Coast or a one-hour flight from Managua to Big Corn Island, followed by an adventurous 25-minute boat ride to Little Corn, the appropriately named smaller of the two islands. You quickly realize that this is far from a familiar Florida vacation.
Assuming you have called ahead to reserve a room (a must!), you will be greeted at the dock by an English speaking member of LCBB staff, all of whom outside of the owners Kristine and Scott are native Nicaraguans. The owners are from Colorado and only opened Little Corn Beach and Bungalow at the end of 2009, which makes their inclusion into the book 1,000 Things to Do before you die just that much more impressive.
Suitcases belonging to LCBB guests, or in our case backpacks, are loaded into a wheelbarrow and the long trek to the hotel begins along a dirt path which ends at the beach on the other side of the island. The twenty-minute walk snakes between plots of land, past houses and shortly, deep into the forest. No signs indicate your path, just the well-worn grass and it would have been impossible to find the hotel otherwise, which lies just a three minute walk along the nearly deserted white sand beach.
Once we (finally) reached Little Corn Beach and Bungalow the owners welcomed us and gave us a run down of how the eco-friendly island hotel works, from recycling and purifying rainwater to drink and reduced rate water bottle refills to water-saving shower methods and Little Corn’s reduced electricity. The island’s generator is not turned on until 2pm each day, which means no electricity to make the breakfast and no wi-fi until mid-afternoon each day, all the way until the wee hours of the morning, around 3am, when power is cut again.
The LCBB is set up as nine bungalows in a slight U shape, all open onto the beach, with two chairs on a front porch facing the sea. Each bungalow is named after a famous shipwreck – we stayed in the Gilligan Bungalow. The theme in each room is subtle, not cheesy, and the beds are so deliciously comfortable that falling asleep to the sound of the waves, not 60 feet away, couldn’t be more relaxing. We would love to be able to give more information about the rooms, but it was very difficult to nail down the owners for more than a few seconds at a time to learn more about the place.
The open area between the bungalows and the beach is filled with no less than five hammocks slung between the perfect hammock-hanging palm trees. Although it appears that nature created this amazing setting naturally, watching the way Kristine and Scott spend the day hard at work makes us think that even this area was all part of a master plan to create the most relaxing, secluded space on the Corn Islands. This goal would be an undeniable accomplishment, judging by our sloth-like behavior on our Corn Island vacation. This is all a carefully constructed illusion, indeed, as there is a $10 a night cheapy just next door (no particular name, these cabins are very basic, but the ‘hotel’ also comes with a kitchen, great for saving money on the overpriced island.)
The hotel beach restaurant, charmingly named the ‘Turning Turtle’, is also right out front, with five tables and a games corner. The food left much to be desired (See Room for Improvement below), but Jack Johnson and Bob Marley wafting softly from the speakers kept alive the perfect beach feeling at Little Corn Beach and Bungalow. Admittedly, breakfast was a treat each morning. Meals start at US$3.50 and are all under US$6. Creative dishes include the ‘Island Benedict’ or ‘Caribbean French Toast’, plus a fairly authentic “Nica”, or local Nicaraguan, breakfast. There is also bottomless coffee for US$1.50 during breakfast.
Stand Out Features
The beach front hammocks
The hammock area at LCBB sits within a well-maintained garden with perfect beach views is ridiculously relaxing. The on-site bar and restaurant makes it too easy to grab a bite or have a drink in the hammocks as well.
The games corner
The beach front restaurant has a little games corner with couches for those bad weather days, as well as in the evenings, when the secluded beach area offers nothing more than a walk on the beach instead.
Snorkeling equipment for rent
LCBB’s prices are in dollars rather than the local cordobas, making drinks, dinner and snacks very overpriced. One great deal at LCBB is the daily snorkeling equipment rental, available for $5 for 24 hours. Go on a tour, possibly arranged by the hotel, rather than snorkeling alone near the shore. You will see much more this way for only $10, as the water near land is dark and not meant for snorkeling.
Room for improvement:
Vegetarian food options
For all it’s quirkiness and creative name choices, this supposedly eco-friendly hotel does not spread its passion to animals or air miles. There are next to no veggie-friendly meals, and the four-course meal for dinner each night (around $13, not cheap by Nicaraguan standards) just leaves out the meat portion of the main dish (leaving rice, veggies and a little salad) without reducing the price or offering a vegetarian main dish.
The menu is a meat-heavy American menu compared to its remote island location, and while some of the fish is locally sourced, the large list of meat options for lunch and dinner must need to be flown in (the cake, on the other hand, is deliciously and locally handmade). Also, the four-course dinner happens every night, and no other smaller or a la carte options are available, so diners are forced to eat the whole dinner or walk in the dark to another restaruant. Safety isn’t an issue on this tiny island, but it would be more comfortable to be able to order off the lunch menu or maybe just a side of fries with a beer.
Lack of Flexbility
It’s that lack of flexibility that frustrated us the most during our stay. Although they seem to go above and beyond for guests, Kristine and Scott’s adherence to ‘company policy’ came at a terrible time for us. We had been out on a snorkeling adventure since 1pm, and when we returned at 330 the kitchen was closed (it is closed daily between 3-5). This was a heavy hour of swimming and the windy weather had made the water terribly rough. Seasick and soggy with salt-water, we wanted nothing more than a Cuban grilled cheese before falling into bed for the afternoon. We asked both Scott and Kristine (who organized the tour for us and knew that going out snorkeling was not on our previous itinerary) and although staff was in the kitchen, neither would put an order of food in for us at that time. We were reduced to a slice of cake and fries, not exactly what we needed after what truly was a difficult day at sea.
We could only reserve a spot in the bunkhouse for two of our nights, as LCBB is really that popular. The bunkhouse is the ‘budget’ accommodation option at $35-$40. A normal-sized cabin is split in two, and we slept on bunkbeds. The building quality was much worse than the beautiful cabins out front, the bathroom was so see-through so guests can hear and smell the other guests doing their business. The walls were also so thin you can hear even the slightest bit of ‘business’ going on in the bedroom, too. We felt immense relief once we moved into our own little Gilligan cabin.
Little Corn Beach & Bungalow is an excellent Caribbean getaway for any budget traveler who is ready for a relaxing splurge, for families who need a safe place to let their kids run around while relaxing with a book in a hammock, or as a couple looking for a romantic beach-getaway in an off-the-beaten-path destination. LCBB is probably the best spot to enjoy is the perfect Robinson Crusoe island vacation – as long as you are not a vegetarian, not on a strict budget and do not require very personalized attention.
Location: On the South East side of the island, follow the cross-island path through the jungle or get picked up from the ferry boat
Price: Standard cabin with en-suite bathroom US$64 low season/ $74 high season, deluxe cabin with kitchen US$85/$94, bunk bed with shared bathroom US$17.50/$20 per person
LGBT Friendly: not especially, this is a family-oriented hotel and we are pretty sure they thought we were ‘friends’.
Amenities: Wi-fi, games & books, beach, on-site restaurant, hammocks
Digital Nomad Friendly: The Wi-Fi here is satellite and works great, but only from 2pm due to electricity rationing.
If you found this post useful, check out the rest of our Hotel Tip of the Week series.