A blonde walks into the jungle…

The Corn Islands are ~70 km off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Once a popular haunt for pirates, the Islands now boast a growing tourism industry. There are about 10,500 people between the two islands; only ~500 inhabit Little Corn. While Spanish is the official language, the locals mainly speak a version of Creole.

I booked a – treehouse? Bungalow? Hut? – at Ensueños, via Airbnb. Ensueños is on the northern tip of the island, about 30 minutes away from the Village. I had originally arranged with the host, Ramon, to have his neighbour Carlos pick me up at the pier, and take me via boat. However, the boat was broken so I had to make the trek alone. Ramon gave me clear directions and assured me the path was well-marked. I set off with my backpack into the jungle.

It was midday – roughly 32 degrees Celsius, with what felt like 1,000% humidity. My hair threatened to summon its own weather system and I quickly started a full-body sweat. Little Corn is still relatively undiscovered by the masses; the path was bordered by hostels and local homes with the odd large house – built by retired North Americans – dotting the landscape. It’s still wild; the path isn’t perfectly manicured and in some spots it complete disappears under fallen palm trees, leaves and branches taken down by a wind and torrential rain. Geckos scurry along underfoot.

(One home had a solid white wall, roughly eight feet high, that had been vandalized – “Down the Wall”; “No Wall = No War.” Clearly not Trump supporters.)

I walked for what seemed like forever. Just went I was certain I was lost, the turquoise waters of the Caribbean opened up between the trees. Turns out I actually was lost – I had missed a turn – but the view took my breath away for a moment.

I traipsed along the beach, finally stumbling into Ensueños. Ramon and his wife Judith were surrounded by their small children (I counted at least three, but kids under five always look the same to me so my observations are unreliable) amidst what I could only describe as a tropical commune. A central kitchen and eating area overlooked multiple huts and tree houses with thatched roofs, all built to disappear into the landscape. Twisted driftwood made for eccentric art, and shells and stones were set into concrete paths. The outdoor bathrooms and showers had walls made of concrete and coloured glass bottles.

I stayed in the Coco Hut, which I believe is how the Flintstones would design their vacation home. I took photos but they don’t do the place justice; check out the link. The window beside my bed offered a beachfront view, and an ocean breeze to keep me cool at night. Despite nights filled with gale force winds and some epic rain, I slept great.

One reason I picked Ensueños is its proximity to Otto Beach, which is noted as the best beach on the island. The property that overlooks Otto Beach, Yemaya, is recognized as one of the best Small Luxury Hotels in the World. When you can’t afford luxury, the next best thing is to stay adjacent to luxury, then crash its beach bar.

I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and reading in a hammock by the ocean. Ramon’s staff prepared lunch for the guests – “rundown” soup, which is a catch-all fish soup that serves whatever the catch of the day with an assortment of fruit and vegetables in a coconut broth. Of course, the ever versatile banana made an appearance. This was a new one – I had never experienced it boiled in soup.

There was a family from Edmonton staying at Ensueños – David, Sarah, and their two kids. Sarah and I began chatting over lunch and made arrangements for me to crash their family dinner that night, as I was nervous about walking through the jungle by myself.

[Sidebar: I had heard single women were discouraged from walking through the jungle at night from people that had visited Little Corn, and from the staff at Ramon’s. There have been stories of local men harassing and assaulting single women when drunk. I didn’t experience this at all – I ended up walking through the jungle alone at night multiple times, and was more worried about snakes than men. However, I was always sober and the island was quiet due to the recent storms. I would be extremely cautious about walking anywhere alone inebriated. Make friends, be smart, and use the buddy system.]

We all donned our head lamps (it gets dark at 5 pm) and hit up Tranquilo Cafe for happy hour (two for one drinks – the kids took down virgin piña coladas like college students) before checking out The Lighthouse, which had been recommended by my taxi driver on the big island. The food was delicious; really light, fresh fare. Their son won dinner though; his barracuda was divine. My Spanish failed me; I ended up with nachos. But they were excellent.

Full and content, we headed back into the jungle. White crabs scurried across the pathways in front of us, nipping at our ankles. Once back, I secured my mosquito netting and settled in for my first night in paradise.

Check out all of Ensueños’ available rooms here. If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to receive a CAD$45 travel credit towards any Airbnb booking, anywhere in the world.

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