When people hear “We’re going to the Corn Islands,” they usually get a little jealous. Then they usually ask a follow-up question: “how are you getting there?” And when you respond with “we’re going by land,” they usually cringe a little bit with fear and disgust.
This trek takes about three days with good planning and has been rumored as nightmarish. That’s right folks, nightmarish, and we were about to do it. There are a few options when it comes to getting to the Corn Islands. I’ll explain how we got there and the other options.
Your first option is to fly there. This is the easiest and least adventurous. It is $182 (give or take a few dollars) if you buy round trip. This is your best option. If you fly one way, it’s $124. Yeah, only $60 less. You can also just fly to Bluefields for about $64 and take the panga and bus back to Managua. (This obviously works both directions)
First, how we did it. When we left, we were in San Juan Del Sur and had to get to Managua. No matter how you get there, you need to leave from Managua. We took a chicken bus to Rivas and then another to Managua. This was no more than $10 for both buses.
The next step, once we were in Managua, was to find somewhere to stay. Do this ahead of time, we got stuck in a hotel that was too pricey for us. We spent Sunday night there ready to take the Monday night bus to El Rama, but did not plan well and that was sold out so we had to take the bus at 6:30 Tuesday morning and cross our fingers that we would arrive on time for the noon panga. You can stop holding your breath now, we made it with minutes to spare.
Our first panga, yes, we had two, broke mere minutes into the ride. We sat around on the water for a bit while the driver tried to fix it, but we ended up turning back and switching pangas. This one zipped off down the river, we were finally off to Bluefields! Two hours later, we finally arrived with no idea where to go. All we knew was we wanted to get somewhere quickly before it got dark.
Now comes the big decision. With the rumors of six hour-vomit filled boat rides floating around, did we want to get there fast and semi-uncomfortably or take a little longer with bunks? We chose quickly, anticipating getting very seasick, we wanted it to last for the least amount of time possible. Rio Escondido it was. We had to get in line at 7(ish)AM Wednesday morning. Both boats ONLY leave for Big Corn on Wednesday. This is important with planning everything to get to Bluefields.
With our tickets in hand and an hour and a half to waste, we headed to a small cafe right by the wharf for a light breakfast. We were scheduled to leave at nine, so we got there a little early to get good seats. After sitting on the boat with a nice view, we were told to get off the boat to give the captain our tickets. Wait, what? Why didn’t we just have to do that when we got on? Who knows. It was the worst ticket system ever. So we did this, made sure we were right at the front of the line and went back to our seats. Finally, we were leaving for Big Corn.
This was the moment of truth. Would be sick for hours or just having a merry old time? I took two Dramamine just in case. I was expecting to be rocking side to side the whole way but it was more of a choppy ride going over the swells. Every now and then water would splash in a bit, but nothing like the horror stories we heard before we left. I am glad I took Dramamine but wish I took another one later on the boat because towards the end I felt a bit more like I wanted to throw up all over. However, I didn’t, but a couple other people did and it did not look fun. Is it ever though?
Six hours later, I was able to yell “Land ho!” with Big Corn in view. Finally. Four days after we started the journey. With a place to say and our feet on land, we got a taxi for a whopping 60 cents to our hospedaje, right on the water. Don’t tell me this wasn’t worth it because it definitely was. The rumors weren’t true (in our case at least) and we made it to land with our breakfast still in our stomachs. After an early night to bed, like 8 PM, we got up even earlier, like 5 AM, and prepared for the panga ride to Little Corn. This was also rumored to be a rough ride with getting soaked a high possibility. If you want to stay dry, sit up front if you can. I promise you will get wet in the back. Very wet.
There is one more option on how to get from Bluefields to Big Corn, Captain D. This is a much larger boat with bunks on it. Sounds nice, right? Maybe. This one, we heard from someone on Big Corn, ended up taking 18 hours because there was so much cargo on it. This is instead of the regular six or seven. It’s probably not always like this, but something to consider. This also leaves Wednesday, but at noon. It then makes a stop in El Bluff and leaves from there at 5 PM bringing you into Big Corn at night, or in some cases very early morning.
Once we were there, I was so glad we got there the way we did. It was much more adventurous and not a lot of people seem brave enough to do it that way. So, props to everyone that goes by land. The islands are a much-needed reward after all the effort put into getting there. Treat yourself and don’t do anything too tough. Eat good food and lay around for a week, you deserve it!
We ended up flying back due to time restrictions and were more scared on the flight than the whole way there. It was a bit rough, but cool to see everywhere we went through, but from above. I wouldn’t have done it differently and am glad we got to fly.
- No matter how you go, you have to leave from Managua. If you go by land get there by Monday just to be safe.
- Buy your night bus ticket ahead of time if you can, otherwise, you’ll probably be on the 6:30 AM bus, meaning you need to find somewhere to stay again in Managua, and leaving you under pressure hoping to make it in time for the noon Panga to Bluefields.
- The boats from Bluefields to Big Corn ONLY leave Wednesdays, at the time of writing, so you should be in Bluefields on Tuesday.
- Get up early to get in line for tickets, you don’t want to have done all of that only to miss the boats. We went around 7 and didn’t have any problems.
- Decide if you want to take the Rio Escondido, a much shorter, possibly slightly rougher ride (what we did, thankfully), or the Captain D, which is three times as long, about 18 hours, but has bunks. I’ve heard horror stories of both, but our trip was fine.
- If you get seasick, take a Dramamine, or motion sickness stuff, before and maybe halfway through the ride.
- Once you get to Big Corn, I would spend the night then take the earliest Panga to Little Corn. You have a better chance of finding accommodation earlier in the day.
Have you been to the Corn Islands? How did you get there? Did you enjoy your time there?