Turning a Profit on an Island Retreat

The first time John Morgan set foot on Little Corn Island, he was under its spell. “The moment my feet sunk into the soft, coral sand where the captain beached the water taxi, I had an overwhelming feeling of being home.”

John came from Charlottesville, Virginia, where he was working as a freelance photographer and field technical advisor for Fuji Film. When he discovered Little Corn, it was the beginning of a 15-year love affair with the island that saw John try his hand at running a dive shop before finally establishing the Tranquilo Café, which he owns and operates today.

Tranquilo is a laid-back yet lively gathering place for both tourists and locals. Gazing at fishing boats rocking on the calm Caribbean ocean or taking in a breathtaking sunset, patrons enjoy North American favorites like gourmet burgers, Baja-style fish tacos, and baked macaroni and cheese. Tranquilo’s sunset happy hour, live reggae music, and beach bonfires have become favorite pastimes for many visitors to Little Corn.

The Corn Islands are the least-developed inhabited islands in the Caribbean. The water glows electric turquoise, and the sand is as white and soft as fresh snow. Clear, calm seas make it an ideal destination for diving, sailing, and snorkeling. Activities on land consist mainly of lounging in a hammock. Natives are predominantly English-speaking, unlike residents on mainland Nicaragua.

The island has no cars, no roads, and an adventurous individual could walk the entire perimeter of the island in a day. A couple of dive shops, several bars and restaurants, and beachfront cabanas sit among local homes, churches, schools, and a soccer field.

“When I first came to Nicaragua it really humbled me how people here, living a much simpler life, could be so happy, or at least content, with far less material things than most Americans are used to—certainly than I was used to—and how privileged a life I had been living until then. I didn’t really know it at that point, but a seed had formed that was going to lead to a big change in my life.”

Owning and operating Tranquilo Café affords John a life where he feels comfortable, content, and fulfilled. He has learned to save during peak seasons and upgrade during the off seasons.

“I have the challenge and fortune of working with a great team of people, making our visitors happy, and living in a stunningly beautiful place. There are tough days, but you have those no matter where you live or work. Just like the saying ‘a bad day of fishing beats a great day at the office,’ I’m happier here than I have ever been anywhere else before. I’m home.”

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