Monday, April 6, 2009
Peace, Love and the Economic Crisis: NiCaribbean Style
When most people think of "Nicaragua", visions of volcanos, wide open spaces, a tumultuous history and lots of farm animals probably come to mind. Perhaps travelers are also starting to become aware of historical sites such as Granada and León, and Pacific beach resort towns such as San Juan del Sur and Popoyo.
Despite Nicaragua's burst onto the scene as one of the top global travel destinations, the most well known locales are not always the most authentic. Although Nicaragua boasts a rich national history, there is one aspect of the country's geography that has been consistently separated from traditional Nicaragua and its Spanish influence. And with good reason. East of Managua, roads quickly become scarce and unmaintained. The over 500 kilometers of Caribbean Coastline which make up Nicaragua's Mosquito Indian Province are separated by the largest rainforest in the New World after the Amazon Basin. Sadly, the indigenous residents of these formerly Dutch and British colonies suffered the brunt of brutality during the country's civil war, but are a peaceful people who, while still struggling economically, have colorful customs and a unique culture compared to the rest of Nicaragua.
Regardless of the fact that we are in 2009, Caribbean Nicaragua is still largely unexplored and greatly inaccessible. The thick jungles and rivers of this area can only be accessed by foot or boat in many places. To reach the most populated provincial town of Bluefields in the southwest, the only way by land is through tedious hours on buses and boats... Luckily, today there are regional flights from Managua that convert this formerly 12 hour journey into a semi-luxurious 50 minutes of viewing Amazonian-like terrain below while sipping on Rojito soda, compliments of La Costeña operated by Taca Airlines.
Upon arrival to Bluefields, the next logical step is to connect through to Big Corn Island, just another puddle jump east into the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Big and Little Corn Islands are the center of Caribbean Nicaragua tourism, although the footprint of the Gringo is still not so obvious. This is reflected in the low crime rate, low prices for food and hotels and low technology in getting from Big Corn to Little Corn (at least the boats have life jackets).
LOW VOLUME OF WESTERN TOURISTS + 2ND POOREST COUNTRY IN LATIN AMERICA = CHEAP TROPICAL VACATION
So let's say you make it from the US to Managua to a rogue Caribbean island all in one day, which is quite possible with the frequent flight table. What is there to do in the middle of nowhere, you might be wondering? Plenty, if world class fishing, diving, snorkeling, relaxing and feasting on fresh lobster appeals to you. Sound expensive? It's not, unless you're looking to actually BUY an island. In fact, Little Corn was recently ranked one of the best global travel destinations during the current economic crisis on MarkerMap.com.
I have traveled to Little Corn Island a few times now since living in Nicaragua, for work and play and I can never wait to go back. This past trip I stayed at a place called Farm, Peace & Love on the less traveled North side of the island. When I say "less traveled", I mean that most of the accommodations are located on the West side, although you can walk around the island in a matter of a couple hours. There are no cars on Little Corn. Although there are roads on Big Corn, I prefer to get from point A to point B in a golf cart. It's all a matter of personal preference. Anyway, if you like B&Bs, organic food, privacy and friendly hosts, FarmPeaceLove may be for you. (Disclaimer: Power is from a generator on Little Corn, so it is not reliable and cold water showers are the norm).
A few things I love about Little Corn Island:
~Crystal Clear and Calm Water
~White Sand Beaches
~Huge Variety of Dive Spots
~Perfect for Snorkeling, or Fishing, or Reading, or doing Nothing...
~Hiking Around w/o Seeing Another Person
~Organic Coconut Oil
~Lobster for $12/plate
~No Cars (there is a sidewalk around the Town side)
~No Phone Reception (unless you really look hard for a signal)
~Perfect Place to Relax
~Ridiculously Perfect for a Honeymoon or Romantic Getaway
~Everyone Speaks English (for those of you still working on your Spanish)
~Huge Variety of Tropical Plants, Birds and Flowers
During my first trip to Little Corn I tried to do some sort of activity every day and dive multiple times, but on my last trip I felt content simply strolling around the coquina sand beaches, reading and swimming in the clear, blue water. The Corn Islands are not for surfers, but I think surfers can still appreciate the beauty of this place and it's great to recuperate from a long surf trip on the Pacific side. They are also not really a place for night life and partying, although Big Corn offers substantially more ambiance (Arenas Beach is a good pick for this with a more lively and all-inclusive feel, complete with shipwreck beach bar). Despite the Hostel subculture on Little Corn and Big Corn's annual Carnaval, life on the islands is quiet and relaxed. Hopefully visitors in the future will respect that as much as people do now.
REAL ESTATE IN THE CORN ISLANDS
Land is still quite undervalued in the Corn Islands, and free, clean and clear property is available through the right contacts. In contrast to the rest of the country, this market is still fairly under-explored and has untapped potential, but some sustainable development is currently in planning phases on Big Corn. It's actually quite amazing to be able to buy ocean view or beach front property here that is at a fraction of a fraction of the cost of The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands and even Roatan in Honduras, which has undergone triple digit price increases in the past few years.Please contact me with any specific questions on buying property in this province.
While the Corn Islands are only a very small speck in the Atlantic Province of Nicaragua, they are a must-visit for anyone who wants to see a different side of the country's culture.
For more info on travel and accommodations to the Corn Islands, please see this helpful website: http://www.bigcornisland.com/.