Fifty miles east of Bluefields, on the Atlantic Coast, Big Corn Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nicaragua. Travelers come from all around to dive and snorkel in the crystal clear water and lounge on the soft, white sand. Because it is on the Caribbean Coast, the culture is different from other places in Nicaragua. English is the primary language on the island, although most inhabitants speak Spanish as well. You will also find many principal Nicaraguan dishes, such as Gallo Pinto (rice and red kidney beans) laced with sweet hints of coconut. Curry is popular, as well as Chop Suey left over from the large Chinese population that once inhabited the island. Fish is fresh, and the local dish, called a â€˜Rundown,â€™ is made from coconut oil, fish, meat and vegetables. Reggae and country music can be heard throughout the island day and night.
When the Europeans first arrived to the Americas, the fierce Kukra Indian tribe, infamous for their cannibalism, inhabited Big Corn Island. During this period, both Big Corn and Little Corn Island were referred to as the â€˜Skeleton Islands.â€™ Although the islands were first discovered by Spanish settlers, French and Dutch pirates and their Moskito Indian allies soon swarmed in for a piece of the pie.
The islands became a British protectorate from 1655-1894, when they were given back to Nicaragua. They then became subject to American advising in 1914, although they were still considered Nicaraguan territory. In 1971, the lease was up and Nicaragua took back full control of the islands. The territorial conflicts turned the island into a cultural Mecca, which is now inhabited by Jamaicans, Creole, Moskito Indians and Spanish Nicaraguans.
Congruent with the history of the rest of the country, Big Corn Island has also fallen victim to bad luck. In 1989, Hurricane Joan destroyed almost 95% of the island, in addition to most of its palm trees. This was a huge blow to its economy since most of it was based on palm oil production. Currently, fish and lobster sustain the economy, although it is becoming more and more dependent on tourism due to the growing depletion of these resources.
Despite all of the obstacles, Big Corn Island is growing considerably in tourism. It is not only less expensive than its neighbor, Costa Rica, it has all the comforts and necessities a traveler could need or want. Simple hotels can be found for $10/night, and more luxurious places on the beach, such as Arena Beach or Casa Canada have all the amenities you could desire for around $90/night, or less depending on the size of your party. There are restaurants all over the island that offer Caribbean food, European dishes and traditional Nicaraguan fare.
The highest point of the island is Mount Pleasant, which is 60 miles above sea level. Take a hike or horseback ride up the path and witness a birdâ€™s eye view of the tropical beauty emanating with character, resiliency, passion and pride.