I’m a cheap traveler, doing almost anything to lower my cost of travel. So when looking at going to the Corn Islands in Nicaragua I knew I didn’t want to pay $200 for a flight. This determination left me with two choices: I either didn’t go at all, or I would try to get there via bus and boat. Bus and boat it was. I did my research and asked around, but I kept getting conflicting answers. I was not to be stopped however, and Wednesday morning I left Hospetaje Ortiz in search of the illusive on-the-ground path to the Corn Islands
Over view :
Isla Ometepe -> Managua (bus)
Mangua -> Rama (bus)
Rama -> Bluefields (boat)
Bluefields -> Big Corn (boat/plane)
Big Corn-> Little Corn (boat)
Isla Ometepe ->Managua
DO NOT LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY, you need to go to Managua to take a bus to Rama. I took a 10 am bus from Altagracia to Moyogalpa on Isla Omepete ,and the coinciding boat ( at this time the boat and bus are coordinated to allow the bus passengers to catch a ferry) to San Jorge.
San Jorge has some of the worse taxi drivers I have ever experienced. They will do anything to get you to take a ride in their car, lying not withheld. My past has taught me to never ask a taxi driver for directions because once the driver senses weakness (from a tourist) they typically will try to pounce. I didn’t listen to my own advice in San Jorge, and ended up in a taxi with a driver spinning all types of tails. He told me first that there weren’t any buses to Rama, then that they were unsafe ( I wouldn’t even take one of those buses, he said) and then that I would be able to take a bus easier from San Jorge del Sur (Don’t worry, he could drive me all the way there). Eventually I caught on to his nonsense and got out of the taxi at the bus station. This is all a long winded way of saying that I took a bus to Managua out of the Rivas terminal, but you should be able to take a bus directly from the port where the ferry drops you off in Managua.
When the bus entered Managua I asked around and a nice woman offered to tell me when to get off for the terminal Ivan Montenegro. While disembarking, myself and another tourist couple made the connection that we were going to the same place, which made the upcoming trip much more enjoyable. Cost: 50c
Upon arriving at Terminal Ivan, I bought an “express” bus ticket to rama leaving at 9pm that night (We purchased tickets for both the bus and the boat from Rama at the same time. note this doesn’t give you specific boat, it only guarantees you a spot on a boat) …. 6 hours later the bus took off, 9pm only to stop at Terminal Mercado until 9:45. This leads me to believe you can take a bus from either location, you just need to make sure you buy your ticket in time. At the end of my trip I ran into a man trying to get to Little Corn, and he ended up stuck in Managua for an extra day because the tickets had sold out. The bus was relatively nice and reminded me of the overnight buses in South East Asia. The bus arrived in Rama around 3:30am after multiple stops (none with a restroom) to pick people up. Cost: 160c
Rama -> Bluefields
At this point in the journey it’s really easy to figure out where to go because everyone is going to the same place. Upon disembarking the bus we walked over to a small outside (covered) waiting area with a small office. We waited in line where we then received a ticket with the boat number. Some how our bus was the last of a few to arrive in Rama and we ended up with the last 6am boat, giving us only 3 hours from when the 1.45 hour boat left to catch the ferry to Big Corn. We waited under the overhang for a couple of hours until we went to the port (Paying a port fee of 15c) Where our boat actually left at 7. Cost: 250
Bluefields -> Big Corn
We arrive at Bluefields, walked off the dock, took a left into a small office, and then followed a small path between buildings until we reached a road. At the end of this road we could see the ferry preparing to leave. Wednesdays at 9am is the only consistent, government ferry to Big Corn. There are other boats, but their trips are not consistent. We arrived in Bluefields with just under an hour before the ferry left. We waited in line to buy tickets for 45 minutes moving no more than 2 feet, before an official announced there was no more space. About 10 more people were able to plead their case and get the precious ferry ticket; myself and the couple were not so lucky. After missing the ferry I had to again make a decision: did I want to role the dice and see if Captain D left the following day, or did I want to take a plane. I chose the plane. I said goodbye to the couple ( they chose to try and take the ferry) and went to the airport without buying a ticket. I was able to save about $30 buying the ticket from the airport versus online. The flight was a smooth 30 minutes. Cost: $98 round trip flight bluefields, Big Corn.
*I chose a roundtrip because it was only $30 more, and I didn’t want to worry about potentially missing my flight back to Managua and thus Seattle.
Once on the big island I thought travel wouldn’t be as stressful, and in part, it wasn’t. Getting to little corn was simple and I caught a 4pm panga to Little Corn the same day I arrived. Getting off Little Corn was incredibly more stressful. Because of an impending storm the boat schedules were all up in the air and inconsistent. I ended up taking a 9pm boat out of Little Corn 4 days later. My friends, the Couple, arrived on Little Corn the day after I left. It had taken them 5 days to get from Bluefields to Little Corn; I’m glad I choose to fly.
As always let me know if you have any questions!