When we were kids, Terry and I both dreamed of living on a tropical island. The kind of place you see on TV with clean beaches, warm blue water, tropical fish and plenty of coconuts (can we include Ginger and Maryann?). While you are at it, get rid of the tourist infrastructure, the people trying to sell you souvenirs and beaches choked with chaise lounges and incontinent kids. That dream came true when we found an opportunity to house sit on Corn Island.
Where is Corn Island?
Corn Island is located 43 miles off of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. The island is about 5 square miles (10 square kilometers) with a high point of 371 feet (Mount Pleasant Hill).
This tropical isle is home to around 5,000 people, most of which are of a English speaking Creole background that could have you think you are in Jamaica with their distinctive accents and lively music (unless their second favorite music playing – classic old country. What a surprise to see young people enjoying Conway Twitty’s greatest hits!) The main driver to the economy is commercial lobster fishing. This replaced the coconut farms that were destroyed 25 years ago in a major hurricane.
Life is a bit isolated on Corn Island. There is a twice a week ferry arriving from a remote Nicaraguan coastal community, Bluefields. Most tourists arrive on a La Costeña flight. People excitedly emerge from the little planes.
This may be due to the intoxicating view of the Caribbean you enjoy in your approach or you know you pushed your luck in a rough sounding little single engine craft that is as easy to board and exit as a tight pair of jeans. The airfield bisects the small island. Conveniently, in between the three daily flights you are allowed to short cut across the airfield to reach destinations on the other side of the island, saving over a mile in the process.
Getting around the island is convenient. There is a paved loop approximately 6 miles long that generally follows the beach. Taxis, in the form of small economy cars, circle regularly. Customers have a flat rate of 20 cordobas (66 cents US) for your destination. The car will be shared with any other passengers the driver encounters. An even more economical approach is to take the bus. The bus circles in a clockwise direction, taking people for the rock bottom fare of 10 cordobas (33 cents).
The bus is a fun way to meet people as well as get the insider information on needed supplies or destination. Dexter the bus driver knows the island like few others and will point out (and drop you off in front of) a barber, good hardware store, or yell out to fishermen unloading their canoe when you want VERY fresh fish. Walking or riding a bike are also efficient ways to get around if you get started early or later in the day as the sun is intense. There is always something to see with great views over the water, diverse fruit trees, and people that became friends.
Our Temporary Home
Home during our over 9-week stay is on the appropriately titled “Long Bay”. Beautiful sand and little development makes this half mile long beach facing the rising sun a lovely location to start the day.
This beach features bigger waves super for boogie boarding or a cool dip on an always hot day, but protected beaches with exceptional snorkeling and swimming are only a short distance away. We are in a comfortable home with not one but two cute lively beach dogs that enjoy treats even more than they want attention.
Sweeney and Brownie are great company with one small exception. They feel the beach in front of the house is theirs, and any man, child, dog, horse or cow that attempts to walk past is chased and intimidated.
Island life is relaxed and is unique from other places we have visited. Groceries are different. While there are many tiny stores here and a few markets/commisarios that would be similar to what we know, the choices are limited and it is common to run out of staple items in between boat arrivals.
Produce is mainly limited to old potatoes, cabbage that has had better days, onions, tomatoes, and squash. Bananas surprisingly are one of the items not always available. Sliced bread is at the store, but the island is blessed with home based bakeries that produce excellent coconut bread (pan de coco). But without an official distribution cycle, you have to know where to knock to see if today is a baking day and what is still in stock.
Islanders are passionate about baseball, and as small as the island is, it features one of the finest stadiums in Central America. Home games are lively and are the center of island activity. A great place to enjoy the loud fans, tasty treats, and cold Toña beer. Terry watched over three innings before she gave up on baseball and headed home. That is longer than she gave the New York Yankees.
Our real passion is the water and its coral reefs. Corn Island is a dream come true if your dreams involves warm water, private beaches with white sands, viewing abandoned ship wreck, tons of colorful fish, warm clear water and easily obtainable reefs. We will talk about that in our next post.
Have you been to to the Corn Islands? Do you agree with our description? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.