The Corn Islands: Big Corn vs. Little Corn

East beach Little Corn Island

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

So you’ve read our article on Nicaragua’s Corn Islands and have decided that the off-the-beaten-path Caribbean adventure is indeed worth a visit. The key question now is which of the two islands, Big Corn or Little Corn is right for you.south beach on Big Corn IslandLocated 50 miles off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, these two islands are nowhere near the better known Caribbean islands, but still have the same stunning features –white-sand beaches, crystal clear water, breathtaking sunsets and palm trees as far as the eye can see. What sets the Corn Islands apart from the more well-known Caribbean islands is the lack of 5* luxury resorts or fancy spa hotels and forget about an afternoon of cocktails at a swim up bar.

What sets the two islands apart is the fact that while Big Corn has an airport, roads, cars, international cuisine options and 24-hour electricity, just a 25 minute boat ride away Little Corn Island is a very remote island where aside from getting out on the water, the only thing to do is relax.

Little Corn Island

Getting to Little Corn is the only real adventure; the rest is truly about relaxation. Little Corn is reached first by flying in to Big Corn from Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, making your way down to the ‘dock’ and jumping in a simple motor boat which takes you to the smaller island. The day before we traveled to Little Corn, one of the boats had capsized at sea, and although rescue boats were immediately at hand and no one was hurt. Pack your belongings water-tight and hold on, because if you are up for that little adventure, you will land on a tiny island without any motorized vehicles and a laid-back way of life.

Little Corn ferryHere, wheelbarrows are the common means of transport. Don’t expect paved roads (although on the West side of the island there is a paved footpath), and there’s no electricity either – at least not before 2pm each day, so switch off your Blackberries, pull up a hammock and get ready to relax for a few days.

Walk around the 1.6 sq km island in about two hours, and cross from west to east side in about 10 to 15 minutes. During the day, you might meet Frank, who will climb up a tree and cut down a coconut for you for a buck. You can do it yourself for free, as did fellow vacationers we met here.

Frank cutting coconuts on Little Corn IslandIf crossing at night, bring a flashlight, as the main east-west path is actually a trail through the jungle, although the closer to the beach you get, the path is lit by the millions of stars in the sky. Take a boat trip out off the coast and snorkel, or join the many avid divers who enjoy the great diving off the coast of the Corn Islands.

In terms of food, don’t expect anything fancy. Shops sell basic essentials and there are a few simple restaurants along the main path on the West side of the island, including a pizza place, a café with muffins and quesadillas, and a few places that serve cheap, local food. The island doesn’t have an ATM (yet) and cash is essential, so make sure you get enough cash while you are on Big Corn Island.

Huevos Rancheros on Little Corn Island

Who might prefer Little Corn Island?

  • Adventurous travelers who don’t mind packing a flashlight and insect repellent when going on vacation
  • Travelers who like to get to know a place and its people well, and meet other travelers
  • Families with kids looking for family-friendly adventure
  • People who don’t mind basic accommodation, are not freaked out by the occasional spider or mind eating at local hole-in-the-walls

Fresh catch on Little Corn Island

Where to stay on Little Corn Island

We loved that even with quite a few hotels for such a small island, it felt like an unexplored piece of land in the middle of the ocean. The beaches are gorgeous and yet completely empty, the people are friendly and you can get a good feeling of how the islanders live rather than being tucked away in a resort somewhere.los delfinos hotel room Little Corn Island

  • Grace’s – Cool Spot for shoestring travelers with no fear of insects (US$15 for a beachfront bungalow for 2 people with shared bathroom, US$25 with private bathroom, no wi-fi)
  • Carlito’s for travelers who don’t need much comfort (Beachfront bungalows with private bathroom US$30, no wi-fi)
  • Hotel Los Delfinos for the budget conscious (US$50 for a double room with hot shower, free wi-fi)
  • Little Corn Beach & Bungalow for a bit more comfort (from US$32 + 15% tax for a double room with hot shower, free wi-fi) You can read our full review here.
  • Yemaya Island Hideaway – The most exquisite hotel on Little Corn Island. The bungalows are stylish and spacious and each one comes with its own private plunge pool. Pure luxury! Rates start at US$98, depending on the season.
corn island hotels

Big Corn Island

Coming from the mainland, Big Corn feels tiny, but returning here from Little Corn, the island earns its name. The population is 7 times that of Little Corn, and yet Big Corn still feels sleepy. The island is still walkable at 6sq km, although here hopping in a cheap cab makes much more sense to get from A to B. You can easily cut across the airport runway whenever the two planes that fly in and out each day are gone.

big corn island beach Despite the more developed infrastructure on Big Corn, there is not an awful lot to do here either. No shopping, little entertainment and relatively few hotels scattered around the isle. The electricity is on 24 hours a day, which makes getting online easier, and lazing around watching TV possibly an all-day activity.

Diving and snorkeling are possible from here, as is cruising around in a golf cart. enjoy the fabulous beaches, drink cocktails while watching the sun set on Southwest Bay beach, where the Arenas hotel even has white leather lounge sofas right on the beach. Nicaragua is big into baseball, so fans of the sport (or anyone looking for entertainment) can head to the well-built baseball stadium which turns into the place to be for the entire island once a week.

Sunset on Big Corn IslandBig Corn Island does not feel as secluded as Little Corn and is missing that deserted island feeling. Whereas on Little Corn, you can spend your days walking through the luscious green coconut palm tree woods to find small beaches around the island, Big Corn has only a few beaches (though bigger than the ones on LC). In fact, the whole north part of the island seems rather rough and not suitable for swimming.

The food choices on Big Corn are considerably more expensive, but the island has everything from Caribbean and Indian curries, to Italian, vegetarian and top sea food choices.

Who might prefer Big Corn Island?

  • Travelers who prefer a little bit more luxury and easier travel options.
  • Those who prefer taxis or golf carts rather than doing everything on foot.
  • Tourists who just want to relax in one place rather than doing much exploring.

south beach big corn island

Where to stay on Big Corn Island

The range of hotels is wider on Big Corn, with more shoestring cheapies as well as a higher level of luxury.

  • Beachview Hotel for shoestring travelers (US$15 for a double with shared bathroom, US$25 with private bathroom, TV and AC)
  • Martha’s B&B – great rooms, brand new TVs and delicious breakfast (US$50 + 15% tax, free wi-fi)
  • Arenas Hotel for a comfortable beach vacation (rooms starting at US$75 for 2 people, free wi-fi)
  • Casa Canada for the most luxurious getaway and the only infinity pool on the island (US$65 + 15% tax, free wi-fi, including breakfast)

Marthas B&B Big Corn IslandHave you visited the Corn Islands? Which island do you prefer: Little Corn or Big Corn? Where would you go for the perfect Caribbean vacation?

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    1. Andi, we’re sure that you’d love the Corn Islands – they are perfect for diving, have amazing beaches and the best thing: they are inexpensive.

    2. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Little Corn Island twice. 1st time with my 2 daughters and (at that time) my future son-in-law. We stayed at Casa Iguana and enjoyed everything it had to offer: Excellent sea-food (fresh daily catch), Nicaraguan food prepared by the locals in the many different, small restaurants. I remember having lunch at a Cuban restaurant. About the Wheel barrow? Yes! That’s the way they carry your luggage from the shore to the “casita” right on the beach. In November of 2014 we went back to L. C. I. My youngest daughter wanted a “destination wedding”. What an experience!!! The ceremony was right on the beach. A local Christian Pastor officiated and it was beautiful. A breath-taken ceremony, Beautiful sunset! Gorgeous scenery! We couldn’t have asked for more. And you know something else? The price was right since the US Dollar goes a long way there. All the guests were so much impressed with the Island that since then many of them have gone back on vacation. My husband and I are thinking on retiring there. Truly! it’s just a paradise there.

      1. Teresa, so happy to hear that you also enjoyed Little Corn Island. A little paradise … and it would be an amazing place to retire in!

    1. Hey Arthur, thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked this post – it’s definitely an affordable Caribbean vacation. Hope you make it one day!!

    1. It was actually really hard to find wi-fi while we were there. Our B&B didn’t have any, but down the beach where two hotels (Picnic Center & Arenas) which (I believe) both had wi-fi. We didn’t find a single cafe or restaurant on Big Corn with wi-fi, on Little Corn it was easier for some reason – although the satellite wi-fi only worked when the electricity went on (about 2pm).

  1. Love your review! I’m planning a trip for my boyfriend and I. Getting a bungalow at Casa Canada is high on the list! When do you think is the best time to go? I want to avoid the rain as much as possible.

    1. I think February through May are the months when it is the driest. We went in January and it rained occasionally, and it was overcast for a couple of hours every day but then the clouds usually moved on. I heard that it is pretty wet during the summer months, and November & December are also rainy & rough seas. Are you planning to visit Little Corn Island as well?

  2. we are beachcombers,and like to search the shores for seashells. Does Nicaragua permit the taking of seashells out of thye country?

    1. Hi Linda – I actually don’t know, Linda. I have never had a problem taking some small seashells with me from the places we’ve visited, but they were only small shells, not like conch shells or something like that 😉

  3. hey dani and jess,

    first of all –> really great review!!!
    I am going to be on the islands for about one week (first week of 2013 🙂 …you have posted, that in january it might rain occasionally… therefore I would like to know
    1) is it worth getting there for just one week?
    2) in case of rain-is it better to be on the big island (regarding other activitier / entertainment..)?
    3) you also wrote, that there is not very much to do on the little island except snorkeling and chilling – what would you say is the difference to the big island?

    looking forward to your answer!
    thanks & greetz!!

    1. Yes, it’s definitely still worth it. Even though it rains occasionally, there are still plenty of sunny hours every day – so I think, you’ll still enjoy your week! Which island is better in the rain… hm, that’s a good question. The hotel we stayed in on Little Corn (Little Corn Beach & Bungalow) had a nice covered common area with board games and books, so we spent a lot of the rainy time there 🙂 I guess I’d prefer Little Corn during the rain because it’s still small enough to just go to a cafe or restaurant (on Big Corn you have to take a cab to get around). And as for #3, well Big Corn is actually MUCH bigger! Little Corn is easily explored in half a day (walking the island), the rest of your days there will be spent sunbathing and snorkeling / swimming. On Big Corn, you could go see a baseball game or explore the island a bit more, but we mainly spent our days enjoying the beautiful beach and the (small!) town. I hope this helps somewhat 😀 Enjoy your trip!

      1. thank you dani!
        yes, your reply helps indeed – we will visit the islands (i guess the small one) …yeeha for sure – thanks, just two days left and the trip will start B-) bye dani, I wish you the best!

  4. Hey Dani, we are going to go to the Islands in July. What do you think of packing just shorts and Tshirts is that all they wear over there? any more ssuggestions on how to pack? and to does it seem pretty safe over there?

    1. Yes, T-shirts and shorts are the most common. I needed my fleece sometimes during the rain showers that pass over the islands occasionally. I’d also recommend bringing some waterproof bags for your electronics for the lancha ride from Big to Little Corn – the sea can be pretty rough and stuff gets wet sometimes. The islands are pretty safe, but keep in mind that the people there don’t have much… i.e. when they see a flashy iPhone or digital camera laying around, they might be tempted 😉

  5. We are planning a trip to Little Corn at the end of Feb. 2013. I noticed that your photo stream has photos of LCBB and Delfinos. Is there a place you would recommend for a week’s stay?
    Thanks. Love your photos.

    1. We loved both those places – Delfinos was right in the middle of all the restaurants (the few that there are!) which was more convenient for quick breakfasts / dinners, while LCBB was on the other side of the island, where there was not much around the few hotels that are scattered along the beach. The other hotel that we keep hearing good things about is Casa Iguana.

    1. Hi Dan – there is not much accommodation on the island, which is why we booked a hotel for a couple of nights prior to our arrival, but then we ‘shopped around’ and moved to a cheaper place. I don’t think May is high season though, so you might be luckier than us 🙂

  6. Thanks again for the great info girls!

    As you saw, I am on little corn now & I am now thinking I will take the ferry straight back to the plane & give Big Corn a miss as most seem to do.

    Thanks again 🙂


  7. Hi Dani and Jess,

    Thanks for sharing this information! I’ll be heading to Nicaragua in February and I’m still trying to figure out which island to visit. Would it be worth it to do 2 nights on the big island and 2 nights on the small island? Or could we do a day trip to LCI and return to stay on the big island? Not sure how much of an ordeal to expect with the boat.


  8. Great post Dani. We went to Little Corn Island in 2009 and loved it. Such a crazy boat ride over. 🙂 We stayed at Gracie’s on a beach bungalow. Everyone was so friendly. We would love to go back again one day.

  9. Me and my boyfriend are planning to go in november for 3 nights at little corn island and after reading your impressions we are very anxious to get there!!! its a paradise!!!

  10. Hi all, thanks for the info. Im thinking of coming down from the States end of December (2014) for Corn Islands stay a week or two, is there a u.s. city or airline that is best/chepaest to come to Nicaragua from/on? Who would know?

    Do i have to stay over in Managua or can you connect straight?

    And can you find rooms off the plane or do you need reservations? Also, is there tropical fruits to pick or buy, or is it best to bring food bought in the capital?

    Im obviously a Newbie, so take pity !!

  11. Hi
    My partner and I have been to Nicaragua 3 times before.
    We are thinking of visiting Little Corn Island on our next trip.
    Can you please provide some direction from your experience about how gay friendly people are overall. We are a male/male couple, traveling with a lesbian friend.
    Any information you share will be valuable and greatly appreciated.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Wil, I would say it is relatively gay-friendly (especially the Lighthouse, I’ve been told), but keep in mind that it still is a tiny island in the middle of nowhere where people aren’t exposed to same-sex love very often. I would definitely recommend toning it down and respect the local culture (I found Central America in general not overly gay-friendly, with the exception of Costa Rica, but I mean that in the sense of gay establishments, etc). I hope this helps – I still think Little Corn is amazing and since you’ve been to Nicaragua before, you kinda know what to expect with regards to the people.

  12. Stayed at both twice in last 6 months. I love both a lot, but LC gets small quick. BC has better beaches more options for everything. If I went back I would spend two days at LC and the rest at BC. Just the FACTS! Have find! Say hi to Turtle man!!!??

    1. Hi Andy, thanks for the recommendation 🙂 I guess everyone’s got a different taste.. I’d still spend more time on LC than on BC but that’s just my opinion 😉

  13. I’m torn! My fiance and i are going in July and I can’t decide on big corn or little corn. We are suoer laid back and little corn seems more our vibe but most reviews I read about lodging there includes cockroaches….. I have a terrible ohobia of cockroaches. What was your experience there?

    1. Hi Autumn, this is a hard decision but I’d go for Little Corn! I don’t remember any cockroaches in the places we stayed at!! If you google the name of a place you’re considering + tripadvisor + cockraoches you’ll find reviews that mention roaches, if there are any. But really, I don’t recall seeing any on the islands!

  14. Which island would you recommend if your main interest is snorkeling and diving? I know Big Corn has the Dive Center with boats going out daily when conditions allow? How is LC, both for boat availability and for snorkeling from shore? Thanks!

    1. I can’t recommend Little Corn Beach Bungalows. The reservation price was significantly higher than the walk-in rate (and way higher than listed here). I kept getting the feeling they just wanted to wring every last dollar out of me. Filling a water bottle costs a buck, self-serve crappy coffee was two fifty. Stay at the Lighthouse instead. Also Beach Bungalows is on the opposite side of the island from the main drag so getting home at night can be a dark and wet adventure.

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