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“Paradise Found”
Review of Casa Iguana

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Casa Iguana
Reviewed 8 February 2009

Let me say at the outset that TripAdvisor is not my usual source for travel information or reviews. It's been my experience that far too many of the folks who take the time to review on this site seem overly interested in upscale amenities and what I'll refer to as "stateside" comfort. Let's be clear---Casa Iguana is located on a small island, far off the coast of a third-world country. Every time I visit--and I've been many times---I marvel that I can have a glass of Chilean wine with a dinner prepared by a Chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America!
Anyone surprised by the casitas at Iguana must not have checked out their excellent website www.casaiguana.net. The photos, if anything, make the accomodations appear more basic than they are. The platform beds are simple, but extremely comfortable, and each comes with a mosquito net that I have never found the need to use---and I've been there at all times of the year. The view from a hammock on the deck of your Casita is unmatched anywhere in the Carib. Anyone who objects to taking a solar shower in the great outdoors (although completely private!) just shouldn't be on Little Corn. To have the option of a flushing, ensuite toilet in a cabin on a cliff set in a seaside jungle---magical! Casa Iguana has constantly evolved since it's original owners, Grant and Cathy, first built it. As improvements have been made, and amenities added, expectations have been heightened, and it seems that what began as a truly offbeat, eclectic undertaking has begun to attract some folks who don't understand the beauty of a simple, friendly, spectacularly beautiful hideaway of a sort that can't be found in the Caribbean anymore.
The food is the best on the island--bar none! If guests are successful fishing that day, we share their catch for dinner. To have your own casita (not a room!) with a deck overlooking the Caribbean in a meticulously maintained but altogether natural setting for under $100 is a bargain. The staff aren't there to entertain you---if you need entertainment beyond diving, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, playing volleyball with the locals or just hanging out in "town" waiting for the fresh bread to come out of a local's oven, you probably should consider somewhere else. And as for the boat ride over---the website makes it VERY clear that it's bumpy, and that you're likely to get wet. While some may find that a nuisance, most of us who make repeat visits just smile and know that it's what keeps away those you don't want to share this paradise with.
And I haven't even mentioned the diving. It may lack the diversity of Bonaire, the walls of the Bay Islands, or the corals of the Indo-Pacific, but I can tell you this. The diving on Little Corn is much better than one might expect, with sharks on nearly every dive, (including a resident Hammerhead!) spotted eagle rays, turtles, beautiful gentle drift dives, and spectacular bioluminescent night diving.
I've been to 62 countries, stayed in everything from the Ritz to Nepalese huts with squatters, and Casa Iguana is one place I always look forward to returning to.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled solo
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8  Thank bowsermania
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 6 February 2009

Our stay at Casa Iguana was a big disappointment. Inexperienced and uncaring management completely spoil the beautiful location Casa Iguana has on Little Corn Island. The management along with the "interns", dive staff and other gringo hangers-on that treat Casa Iguana like their personal social club make the place unpleasant for guests. When we arrived our casita had absolutely no water. We notified someone at the lodge, a couple hours went by we again notified someone. Kelly stopped by our casita and her solution was to tell us if we wanted to shower to use another shower. We were paying $65 a night for a private bathroom and shower (both unusable without water.) After telling her that if we weren't going to get what we were paying for then we wouldn't be paying $65 a night, only then did she actually put any effort into finding out what the problem was...and it was a simple fix. Our casita obviously had not even simple maintanence done in a very long time. We had to close the screen doors by putting chairs in front of them because all the eye/hook closures were missing. When we asked Mgmt if they had any eye/hook closures we were told with a laugh that they hadn't any of those in a long time. And certainly they didn't show the initiative to use a plyers to bend a nail over as a temp fix. Both our mosquito net and screens had holes in them so mosquitos were a big problem in our casita. At Casa Iguana if you have any complaint you get the response "this isn't a resort" this is "rustic." Well my husband and I travel quite a bit and at Casa Iguana "rustic" translates into "we don't give a dam" and the place ends up feeling like a money grab. The Mgmt is so non-existent that we were told by many people staying at the 3 other places down the beach that they walk into the CI lodge all-day-long and fill bottles with water and coffee for free. Several told us they even got free breakfast...it seemed to be well known to do this. There is no "adult supervision" at Casa Iguana and it is truly a waste of a fantastic location...maybe this would be acceptable at $25 a night but absolutely not at $65/75.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Vivica
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 January 2009

My husband and I stayed at Casa Iguana for 3 nights in December/January…over the New Year’s holiday. I’ll start out by saying that we do a lot of traveling…we are not into big mega resorts or all-inclusive wrist band type of places, and we don’t need to be waited on hand and foot. We prefer to get off the beaten path, and stay at smaller more intimate hotels, and we generally do not mind staying somewhere “rustic”.

Having said that…the rooms at Casa Iguana were totally what we had expected…rustic, but cozy, even cute. We stayed in one of the Deluxe Economy rooms…our balcony, which was nicely equipped with 2 hammocks, and the view, were absolutely perfect!! The setting and layout of the hotel was also lovely and tranquil, with its own pretty beach, that was very nicely maintained compared to other beaches on the island.

Upon arrival on Little Corn, Kelly (one of the on-site Managers) was there at the panga dock to meet us with a warm welcome…this was great…she had a staff member load up our bags and sent them ahead while she walked us to the hotel, and got us acquainted with the island…again, great!! Unfortunately, this is where the good review ends…

So maybe I should back track for a minute…I should have known from my first point of contact with Mary Burke, the owner…I didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from the start. I had emailed her to check availability and upon her very brief, unwelcoming response, I immediately responded and told her to proceed with the booking…she responded back saying that the availability had changed in between our email correspondence, and offered up a different room category…again, I immediately responded saying to proceed, and again she responded back with different availability…this went on a few more times…seemed like an inefficient and frustrating process. And as I said, none of the emails from her were welcoming or friendly in any way, as you would expect from someone in the hospitality business. Finally, we got the reservation sorted out…

A few weeks prior to the trip, I had contacted Mary again…since we were going to be staying at Casa Iguana over the New Year’s holiday, which I assumed would be a busy time…I wanted to inquire about booking some activities in advance…particularly fishing and scuba diving (they also own and run one of the two dive shops on the island). Mary sent me her usual cold, one sentence response saying we didn’t need to pre-book anything, and we could make those arrangements when we arrived. So….when we arrived, we were told that the Diving was all booked up for the time we were there, and that the Dive shop was actually closed on New Year’s Day…would have been nice if Mary could have informed me of that. Oh, and as for fishing…their boat was under repair while we were there…I understand that things happen…but no one went out of their way to help us arrange fishing with someone else on the island…so no fishing either.

We did most of our dining at Casa Iguana…and I have to say the food was excellent…Mark is the Chef…he also is Kelly’s husband and the other on-site Manager. Casa Iguana doesn’t do lobster because according to them “everyone else on the island does it so well”…okay, cool….so we stopped in the restaurant/common area one day to inquire about where to go to get the best lobster on the island, and Mark was there to “greet us”…we also wanted to get some drinks to take down to the beach with us. He was really rude right off the bat, reluctantly got us our drinks, and shortly answered our question about the lobster…when he asked us to pay cash for the drinks, we told him we were guests and his attitude slightly changed…apparently, he hadn’t realized we were staying there, and maybe would have been a little friendlier if he knew that from the beginning?? I understand that he spends a lot of time in the kitchen, so he may not be fully aware of all the guests that are staying at the hotel…but then he should change his approach of being rude to outsiders, if he isn’t sure who is who.

I guess that is a good segue to comment on the rest of the staff…for lack of better words, it felt like the place was being run by a bunch of kids…and we didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from any of them…even Kelly’s friendly greeting was short-lived. I understand that we were there on New Year’s and the staff wants to have a good time and celebrate too, but they still have a business to run, and it seemed they were more concerned about getting their party on, then what was going on with the guests at the hotel…and it doesn’t seem they have a very good example in the owner, who lives offsite in the states and seems to be more interested in collecting the paycheck rather than providing a good vacation experience for guests…again, the place is in a lovely setting…it’s so sad because if the attitude of the staff was different, and they were committed to making their guests have a great stay, it would have been a world of difference…so much potential, but the people really make the place….and the owner/staff here failed miserably.

One last side note…Our panga ride on the way to the island was quite rough…we fared okay, but others on the boat really seemed put off…they really pack the boat with people, as well as numerous supplies, weighing it down…and in our case, they had us hold a large plastic tarp over our heads to avoid us from getting soaked…good for keeping us dry, but really seemed like it could have caused a very dangerous situation if that boat went over…and life preservers were scarce…so just a note that the hotels don’t tell you much about…the panga is not for the faint hearted.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank gringa430
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 January 2009

Okay, so here's the deal... Casa Iguana isn't for everyone. I just might not be one of those people, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Having been to over 40 countries and seen some stunning natural surroundings while staying in a variety of eclectic accommodations, the bar has been set high for Casa Iguana and Little Corn Island.

First of all, the island is not easy to get to. Several taxis, a plane, and a life-threatening panga boat ride finally gets you to the trash-lined shoreline of Little Corn. That's right - candy wrappers, random flops, empty bottles, cans, broken down boats, old lobster traps and bits of rusty metal isn't exactly my picture of a remote tropical paradise.

There is an eroded sidewalk along the main shore lined by the 'beach' on one side and a mix of tacky, candy-coloured, cement 'hotel' facades, broken down shacks and barbed wire. A 10 minute walk down a dirt path crosses over to the other side of the island and leads through a few questionable rusty-aluminium-roofed restaurant shacks leading to Casa Iguana.

The CI grounds are huge and very well maintained. Dirt paths outlined by mini palms and coconuts and marked by hand-painted signs lead to the various cabins, the 'internet cafe' and main restaurant.

We had both a Deluxe Casista and the Grand Casista. At $90 (CDN) a night these are far overpriced, but I suppose 'the raw experience' is what's it's all about. None the less, I had a hard time justifying this cost for rusty padlock security, unfinished architectural details, exposed rusty nails, bare bulb lighting, cold OUTDOOR shower (a hose actually) with NO LIGHTS, the chainlink fence preventing direct beach access...

I like to think I have no problem 'roughing it' - at $25 a night. It's difficult not to feel like CI is overpriced.

On the positive side, it probably is the BEST place on the entire island to stay - which doesn't say much for the rest! And the evening atmosphere at the fully booked restaurant (amazing food) is a real unique treat. The beach isn't bad on this side (a little rough and needs to be cleaned up), and it's definitely a very quiet place to relax and escape the tourist crowds.

Overall, just be prepared for what I'd call some serious RUSTIC CHARM at a pretty steep price.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled with family
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4  Thank Mangotree42
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 January 2009

Recently returned from a three night stay at Casa Iguana with two friends. This was my first visit to Little Corn Island after having been told of the laidback nature and gorgeous Carribean oceans.

Stayed at Casa Iguana for three nights. Although I would recommend Casa Iguana, it is the prettiest and most convenient hotel on the island, our stay was not without a couple of hick-ups. When we arrived they did not have the room we were promised, all reservations are done through the owner in Chicago and not on site in Little Corn Island. The manager told us there was not much they could do about the mix-up, pretty frustrating to move into a smaller room when promised a large room with ocean view. The room had a double-bed and futon, with no sheets or bug net. The manager promised she would bring sheets, pillows, etc. within an hour, however, she never arrived. I asked her after dinner for the bedding and she said promised she would bring it before I went to bed. Once arriving back to the room there were no sheets or pillows. Pretty disappointing for paying $75.00 a night.

After two nights in the smaller Cabana a larger ocean-view room became available for our final night. However, the change was not without a couple hour delay to get keys and have the room cleaned. The ocean-view casita had an amazing ocean-view and was worth the extra price.

Casa offers nice food options, breakfast is comprised of five different options all priced at $5.00. Dinner is available nightly, must let the staff know by 2:00 pm if you do not want to eat dinner at Casa or they will charge you the price of the night's dinner. They grow vegetables and fruits in their garden.

Overview: Gorgeous location, nice food and friendly staff. Very-laid back staff who expects you to be laid back too even when room reservations are unfilled or bedding is undelivered. Reserve an ocean-view casita.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled with family
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2  Thank texasrunner84
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 November 2008

If you wake up one day with the inclination (or have on your "bucket " list) to travel to an "off the beaten path" destination, then you need look no further....my wife Lynn and I recently returned from our honeymoon, nearly 3 weeks of stress free bliss, at Casa Iguana on Little Corn Island. This was my fourth visit to Casa Iguana and Lynn's second ( which speaks volumes) Prior to arrival, we hoped the friendly, laid back, rustic atmosphere that had drawn us back , had been preserved by the new owner, Mary Burke, and we were not to be disappointed.
Casa Iguana has a first rate staff, headed by managers Mark and Kelly, a very friendly young couple from Maine. Mark is a first rate chef, whose meals never disappointed us, he even cooked up for dinner, to share with all the guests, a barracuda I had caught. Kelly was a pleasure to talk to, and as we had many questions during our stay, was very insightful and helpful as to the goings-on of the island,
A lot of work has gone into this eco-resort since our last visit, most noticably the grounds, which have been cleared of much of the unruly undergrowth but still retains a wild jungle feel, with plenty of banana, coconut and other fruit trees mixed in with jungle plants and flowers. The casitas have undergone renovations as well, with fresh paint in bright caribbean colours, and sport new deck chairs and hammocks. The casitas are simple, yet clean and comfortable, with pleasantly cooling ocean breezes inviting an afternoon nap in the hammocks on the decks.
We felf very safe with the dive shop ( Dive Little Corn) staff, headed by Instructors Clint and Michelle, all of whom were very professional during the course of many fun and interesting dive trips, (of which "Blowing Rocks" is a must-do!). Both the resort and the dive shop have very friendly resident dogs, which are more than willing to be surrogate pets and have their tummies rubbed by those missing their own canines back home. Careful though, you could really fall for one of these friendly critters. Lynn and I did, and miss "Piglet" terribly.
We must give kudos to the residents of Little Corn Island as well, as the island is noticably cleaner, and even friendlier than on our last visit. Keep up the good work!
So if you really want to get away from it all, with no cars, no noise, deserted beaches, and get to know the real caribbean and her people then this may be just the place for you. It is for us, and we look forward to our next visit to this quaint, inviting paradise.

  • Stayed: October 2008, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank senorwoody
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 September 2008

My husband and I spent five nights at Casa Iguana in August, 2008, and had a fabulous trip!!! In fact, I would probably recommend this hotel over any on the island. Even our panga driver recommended it to some others coming to the island with us. We wanted to extend our trip, but due to lack of space on any flights for the rest of the week, we couldn't.

ROOM
We paid $65/night for a cabana. This is a bit high for Nicaragua in general, but it was worth it! Plus, it's an island where everything is imported (food, etc. It's all higher!) Our cabana was private, secluded, and we could see the sunrise from our bed every morning. No roads, no cell phones. It was just what we needed.

The cabana was perfect in size and had a great back porch. The shower was outside and did not have hot water, but considering how hot it is there, it was not a problem. The only issue we had was that my husband had a hard time sleeping at night. We didn't have a breeze despite open windows and being on the hill. I had no problems at all. The ONLY recommendation I have is for ceiling fans. Although we were there in the rainy season and othertimes I'm sure it's not quite as humid.

GROUNDS/HOTEL
Immacuate! The employees take pride in their jobs. A flashlight is a must, but that is true for the entire island. It gets dark around 6 pm each day and there is very little lighting on the island. Walking to our cabana after dinner required a flashlight and agility to dodge what we considered the "crab maffia" on the path.

Each afternoon there is a volleyball game with staff and guests. While we didn't play, it sure looked like a great time.

The food is FABULOUS! We ate dinner there four out of the five nights and that was only because we were determined that at least one night we needed to have lobster. Other nights you were treated to three-course meals made by a US-trained chef who uses local ingredients from their garden and daily catch. My husband and another guest caught some barracuda and the entire hotel enjoyed it for dinner that night. Breakfast is $5 and dinner is $14. They do not serve lunch. We loved meeting people at our hotel at dinner time. It was a little like being in summer camp, but that was what we loved about it.

Honestly, one of the best attractions to the place was payment arrangements. It was one of the few places that takes credit cards. Since there are no banks on the island we did not want to worry about carrying tons of cash with us. We were able to keep tally of all of our breakfasts, dinners, drinks, nights, etc. and then just pay at the end in one big bill (which wasn't even big!). But, that made the rest of the trip so much more pleasurable.

STAFF
They were great! We enjoyed meeting all of you and hope to come back again soon!

SAFETY
We only had one time where we felt unsafe and that was when we went out for our lobster dinner. It was also a national holiday and everyone was drunk. We had some guys (while we were eating) eyeing our wallet and asking for money. They followed us for a bit, but in the end we were fine. Just be smart. Don't walk alone at night along the dark paths.

HELPFUL TIPS
-La Costena has zero organization, but they're the only airline going there. Be sure your seat is confirmed. When you get to Managua you have to go to a side office to get your paper tickets and then in a different place to check your bags. The employees waived their buddies in front of us and we were lucky to get the last two seats (even though we'd paid a month in advance). Computers are not used. We had to dig through a box of piles of papers to find our tickets. They also book up FAST!!! If you want to get off the island, be sure you have a flight with a confirmed seat, or be prepared to wait awhile for an opening
-Dive Little Corn is fantastic as is the staff. I got PADI certified in 4 days. Thanks Kevin!
-Get the best lobster ($10) ever at the woman's house behind Dive Little Corn. Just steer clear of the drunk locals on national holidays.
-Bring Deep Woods Off
-Hike to the beaches on the north part of the island...and stay all day!
-Sit in the back of the panga between the islands--Casa Iguana staff will meet you at the pier with a wheelbarrow for your luggage=)

  • Stayed: August 2008, travelled as a couple
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9  Thank MBroyhill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Casa Iguana

Address: East Side, Nicaragua
Region: Nicaragua > Southern Atlantic Autonomous Region > Corn Islands > Little Corn Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #6 of 7 Hotels in Little Corn Island
Price Range: £15 - £79 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Caribbean as it used to be: An island, a culture, and a way of life that hasn't yet felt the impact of the 20th century. Opening its doors in 1994, CI became Nicaragua's first eco-lodge. Relax on its 40 acre reserve and explore its secret coves, jungle and farm. Whether or not you are a guest at Casa Iguana, we invite you to join us for our famous breakfast, lunch or dinner and enjoy cocktails and lounging in our lodge to take in the best view on the island and meet interesting people! ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Casa Iguana Hotel Little Corn Island
Casa Iguana Little Corn Island, Corn Islands, Nicaragua

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