Destinations Nicaragua

Getting PADI Certified on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Last summer, I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Nicaragua. Little Corn Island, a tiny Caribbean island way off the country’s coast, was the absolute highlight of my trip. You can learn more about Little Corn Island and how to plan a visit from my previous post here.

A lot of travelers don’t end up visiting Little Corn Island since it’s only accessible by flying from Managua to Big Corn Island before taking a choppy panga ride to Little Corn. As a result, Little Corn Island is still relatively unaffected by the effects of mass tourism, making it an absolute treat to visit! You can get a fresh lobster dinner for only $6 and enjoy an oceanfront cabana for less than $30 per night! Sorry, I digress – I know you are here because you are interested in scuba diving! Little Corn Island is just so amazing that I can’t help ranting and raving about it.

Anyways, back on topic! Thanks to the limited amount of tourism and the island’s remote Caribbean location, the area surrounding the island has amazing, intact coral reefs! I never considered learning how to scuba dive until I went on my first snorkeling tour on the island. To be honest, the idea snorkeling in open water kind of freaked me out!

I reluctantly agreed to go snorkeling thanks to a hostel friend’s persistence (thank you, Rosie!) The water was so much clearer than anything I had experienced and we were able to check out several reefs. Getting so close to the reefs, seeing all the colorful fish, and even a few nurse sharks opened my eyes to this cool world found only underwater. I was hooked!

The next day, I signed up for the PADI Open Water Diver Course. There are two diving centers on the island, but I went with Dolphin Dive simply because it was closer to my beach bungalow. Both diving schools are priced the same. Trip Advisor ranks Dolphin Dive as #1 but I heard good things about the other dive shop (Dive Little Corn) as well.  The course was four days long and cost around $330 USD.


Getting certified in Southeast Asia is a bit cheaper, but this is still an awesome deal! For example, getting certified in Mexico, the US, or Australia, starts at $500 and is often much more. I later found out I could have received a  So, be sure to ask your hotel or hostel if they offer any deals!

The Course

PADI Open Water Courses consist of three phases: knowledge development, confined water dives for skill development, and four open dives. The first day of the course involved watching safety videos. Not gonna lie, this was incredibly boring and dragged on for hours! However, safety is obviously paramount when diving, so pay attention!

The next day, we practiced scuba skills in shallow water before moving on to deeper water. This was my least favorite part. I especially hated the exercise where you have to remove your regulator.  I had a lot of trouble relocating the regulator and started to panic when I couldn’t find it. My instinct was to plunge towards the surface for air, which is a huge no-no in diving.

I was pretty shaken up by the experience and considered leaving the course. Apparently, my experience was not unique. Diving simply isn’t for everyone and a fair amount of people do decide to quit the course early. Fortunately, my instructor gave me a pep talk and I rallied.  We worked on more skills for two days before progressing on to our open dives! Working on the skills was stressful for me, so I was surprised by how comfortable I felt when it was time to go my first dive. My instructor even told me I seemed like a confident diver, which was a total 180 from the beginning of the course!


Needless to say, the open dives were my favorite part of the course! We saw stingrays, nurse sharks, angel fish, and colorful fish I had never seen before.The first dive was a little intimidating and I ran out of air quickly.  There is a test at the end of the course as well. If you’ve paid attention to your instructor and the videos, it should be a piece of cake!

After I completed my course, I did three fun dives with Dolphin Dive. If you complete your certification with Dolphin Dive, they will offer you a discount. Each dive ended up costing around $25 with all equipment included. To learn more about Little Corn Island’s dive sites, check out this guide. There are some really great spots, so I would highly recommend scuba diving in Little Corn to experienced divers as well!

Getting PADI certified was a great decision and well worth the money! If you are looking for a cheap place to complete your Open Water Course, look into Little Corn! If you enjoy scuba diving, where did you complete your Open Water Course!?

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