Corn Islands; Paradise without the Postcard
The opportunity to spend Christmas on a remote white sandy beach in the Caribbean was far too appealing to turn down, as I’m sure you can imagine! Well that’s exactly where I spent it this year and, despite being thousands of miles away from my partner and loved ones, the sound of the waves lapping the shores, the sensation of the burning sun working it’s magic on my naked body and the smell of the fish (or the seaweed, or the sea in general…) are providing memories of times gone by; memories so vivid that my boyfriend could well be lying beside me now, like he has done on countless beaches over the years.
The Corn Islands belong to the Central American nation of Nicaragua. They sit about 70km east off the mainland coast, positioned a distance below Cuba and diagonally down from Jamaica, Barbados and the Cayman Islands. Considerably smaller than their better known neighbours, their economy is equally as modest; you can get a taxi from any point on Big Corn Island to any other point and it’ll cost, with a tip, between 45-85 Great British pennies (approx. 70c – 1USD) On Little Corn Island no modes of transport exist; everywhere is explored on foot. All the hotels are independently owned (no unethical corporations here) and the feeling is so relaxed that the hotel / B&B owners generally live on site or, at least, make a point of socialising with the guests on regular occasions. I’ve come across only one large hotel, Arenas, which feels remotely chain-like. Positioned on what’s regarded as the best beach on the isle (Playa de Arenas), this resort has everything from a bar built into a boat on their beach to luxury seating overlooking the Caribbean Sea (which comes with a fee if you aren’t an Arena’s guest). It’s easy to see why people pay so much for the experience… It is stunning.
“easily the most luxurious, boutique-style B&B I’ve ever stayed in…”
My second abode, where I’m currently residing, is the Tropical Dreams resort, a lesser known B&B which has recently been taken over by a local man and his British wife. From the outside it appears a little rough around the edges (the sign is, like much of the signage on the island, quite basic and there’s no clear route to reception). However, once in, my friend and I were more than impressed; our room was next to reception so there was always advice on hand, the WIFI and air conditioning were perfect, the TV had English and Spanish options and there was an unlimited supply of complimentary local coffee. I arrived expecting only paradise and a few basics but here I am spoilt with all the usual modern amenities and glorious beaches around the corner! The biggest asset the Tropical Dreams hotel has is its owners. Kenzo and Rodney are simply lovely. We awoke on Christmas morning to a hug and a freshly filtered coffee, ‘nobody should be without a hug on Christmas day!’ Kenzo said as she squeezed us. After admitting how unsure I was as to the legitimacy of the business (due to the limited information I could find online) we talked about TripAdvisor, Booking.com and the other options available for building up clientele. Like many new businesses, the hurdles they need to jump through in order to get established on such sites can be quite difficult – It’s they who have inspired me to write this article; some extra online content for them perhaps?! 🙂
“The outdoor seating area is built across the road from the kitchen on the beach and, at night, all the lights create a beautiful atmosphere…”
Other dining establishments include the Dive Cafe (part of the Dive Shop) at the northern point of the island; this is a brand new building/business which includes a bar and fast food. It’s positioned on the sea with a decking area out back and they have happy hour on the bar every evening with 25% drinks (making these the cheapest we’ve come across) There’s also Restaurant Relax, located close to Tropical Dreams, however, the menu misleadingly says free coffee and refills with breakfast orders however we were charged for the few we ordered. Even with our hotel discount this particular place seemed pricy for what it was and for where it was located.
It’s fair to say, the Corn Islands are not a typical tourist hot spot. They are secluded, serene and completely at one with nature. If you fancy a coconut you climb the tree and pull one off – or ask a local lad to get it for you! There are no beggars, nor buskers nor tacky souvenir shops. As much as I want one, I’ve not even been able to find a postcard.