Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
Reached by ferry from Big Corn and then a private boat trip, this upscale yoga retreat with its own organic garden offers a great Caribbean island escape with style.
Opened by an experienced hotel operator who already runs "eco chic" resorts in Tulum, Mexico, Yemaya is a well–designed and professionally run operation, despite its location on a tiny Nicaraguan tropical island with no vehicles and only 1,200 people. This posed some challenges in the construction and procurement stages and the location can still pose transit delays when the sea is rough.
The trip is worth it, as they say, with an atmosphere of laid–back island living that can easily make you forget how many days you've been here. The 14 cabanas are scattered around the seven–acre property in between coconut palms, with pathways winding between them to several beaches, the yoga platform in the foliage, and the main building with a restaurant and lounge.
The restaurant is easily the best on the Corn Islands, not even taking into account the terrific 180–degree views of the shifting water colors and the sky during sunup and sundown. Items rotate depending on what's fresh and are written up each day. These can include stepped up dishes like lobster summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce or steak with roasted chili peppers, crispy onions, and citrus soy sauce. At least one vegetarian dish is available for each meal and the smoothie menu here probably tops anything you could get in the capital: 15 options on a chalk board that contain local ingredients plus beetroot, green tea, or ginger. Many of the items served here grow in the extensive organic garden on the hotel's property. You can take a stroll through and find lemongrass, mint, cinnamon, figs, and Thai basil. Others, like coffee, and cacao, are abundant in Nicaragua and arrive regularly by boat.
The units available come in four main sizes and layouts. The smallest are listed as "junior treehouse" and are studios without a kitchen. Next up are the regular treehouse units with a deck. Rates at Aqua are quite reasonable, however, so you might as well make the small splurge to the two highest levels: luxury suites and penthouses.
You don't have to be a health nut to enjoy the meals and smoothies here, plus there's a full bar on site for those reluctant spouses who want nothing to do with the two daily yoga sessions. Those who do want to take advantage of the classes though are guided by an experienced instructor on a huge open–air platform with banana trees and tropical foliage waving in the breeze. A smaller circular platform looks out at the gorgeous Caribbean waters just off the shore.
Several postcard–perfect beaches are good for snorkeling and are safe for swimming. If you take a kayak out you could circle the whole island. Staffers can also set up diving trips for those who want to explore the local reefs. A six-sided massage room under a palapa is the place for a variety of spa treatments.
Some of the cabanas look out at the beach and sea from their balcony, while others are tucked further back from the shore. All of them are basically the same otherwise, with custom crafted furniture and interesting local decorative touches. A king bed or two twins is supplemented by an extra bed with drawers underneath and the armoire will hold more than what you probably brought on vacation. Double vanities in the bath are made of stone and the stone and tile showers with a small garden in them have a wall of glass block letting in plenty of light. The breeze coming off the water here is constant, so the cabanas have been designed to let the air flow through.
There are thankfully no TVs here, but you can get online if you need to via a satellite antennae on top of an almond tree in the middle of the property.
While the ecological aspects of Yemaya aren't aggressively promoted, by necessity the resort is relatively self'contained. Almost all the waste here gets composted or fed to a neighbor's pigs. The resort avoids items that can't be reused or recycled and grows a good bit of its own food. It uses tankless water heaters to keep energy waste at a minimum. It's unlikely you'll feel deprived here though: this is an island getaway that keeps you pampered while you completely unwind.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.