How to get to Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

In Amazing world, Destinations, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, Travel tips & advice by Freestyle2 Comments

How to get to Little Corn Island? Be prepared it might be a terrible journey. It’s worth getting to the island although it may bring a number of unexpected and difficult situations.

For us it was one of the most difficult journeys but it was also a great chance to explore wild Nicaragua. I obviously new it’s gonna be much harder to travel in Central America than solo traveling in Asia. But few times it was just insane to reach our destinations. Here I’m gonna tell you how to get to Little Corn Islands. These amazing small paradise islands – Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island are located on the east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and are famous for beautiful beaches and wildlife.

*Did you know that there is no such a thing as Central America??? 🙂 there is only South America and everything above Columbia is North America.

I searched a lot for information on how to get to little corn island. People wrote so many different things on internet that we just decided to try to get there. We were desperate to reach the island. And trust me – it was terribly difficult journey. I had no idea how hard that can be to travel to this island. Anyway it was worth to live this adventure.

How to get to Little Corn Island.

The easy way to get to the island is flying to Big Corn island and the taking Panga (fast boat) to Little Corn island. Although plane tickets are quite expensive 100-200$.

The other way to get there means you need to travel:

  • from El-Rama to Bluefields (by fast boat – river taxi called Panga – 2 hours trip), it runs from 5 am.
  • from Bluefields to Big Corn Island (take a ferry – Rio Escondido, running only Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 9 am, capacity 60 people – 5 hours trip to get to Big Corn),
  • from Big Corn Island to Little Corn Island by Panga running few times a day (30 minutes trip).

How to get by bus from Managua to El Rama.

We took a night bus from Managua (depart from Costa Atlanta Terminal/Mercado Ivan Montenegro) to El-Rama. The night bus leaves at 9 pm from Managua. It takes 5 hours to reach El-Rama, where you need to buy a ticket for Panga taking you to Bluefields. First Panga from El-Rama to Bluefields leaves at 5 am. It’s very important to buy a ticket for Panga as soon as you get to El-Rama. There are a lot of people waiting for Panga to Bluefields. After you buy a ticket you can take a short nap in the bus, the driver always allows travelers to do that. 🙂 Second reason why you need to take first Panga to Bluefields is limited number of tickets for the ferry running between Bluefields and Bog Corn Island. Anyway the Panga schedule is for 5 am. But it never leaves on time. Panga is a fast boat, it only leaves after daybreak. It cannot run when it’s dark through shallow river with crocodiles having over 20 passengers.

From El-Rama to Bluefields.

So the bus left Managua at 10 pm and we reached El-Rama almost at 3 am. We went directly to buy the tickets to Panga to Bluefields. And guess what – we got last two tickets! There is a small ticket office few meters from the bus, so it’s not possible to miss it. The other ticket office is by the fence. Our ticket had number 2 – which means we take Panga no 2. There were 7 Pangas in the harbor. People are waiting in long queues for the check point. The soldiers were carefully searching our luggages before letting us on the boats. Finally after few hours waiting we left the harbor at 6.30 am.. And after 1,5 hour we reached Bluefields and quickly moved to ticket point for the ferry. We did not know where is the ticket office so we asked some people. The guy said that there is it’s not the harbor and we should go back to the place where we got off from our Panga. After heading the place again people told us that we have to go back again where we were as the ferry leaves exactly from another harbor. I got little furious!

Ferry to Big Corn Island.

By the time we got to the ticket point the queue was already very long and I knew we might not be able to get the tickets, as the capacity of the ferry is only 60 people. Well maybe it would be possible if the locals didn’t pass their ID to those standing before us. So basically after almost an hour you could notice only tourists standing on the queue because all the locals already got their tickets. Few moments later the lady in the ticket office shouted – no more tickets! ! And this is the point when you have to be prepared that nobody tells you the truth. Maybe it’s because nobody knows ferry timetable. It’s not possible to get clear information if there are any other ferries going to Corn Islands. Few people told us that there is a ferry from nearby island – El Bluff to Big Corn Island, leaving at 5 pm. There was also a local lady in pink dress (Pink lady) that she was desperate to reach the Corn Island. She has also been asking people and received same information so we decided to take panga to El Bluff. After reaching the island we followed the Pink lady as she went directly to the harbor to ask about the ferry to Big Corn Island. The guy in the harbor confirmed the ferry is scheduled from El Bluff so we were really happy and full of hope! Having almost all day we decide to go on the other side of the island and spend a day on a beach. The Pink Lady and a Canadian guy who we met before Managua came with us looking for any restaurant to eat something. Can you imagine the Pink lady was wearing high hills and of course she broke one on they stony path. I could not watch her walking without a shoes so I gave her my flipflops. My dearest flipflops 🙂 We reached completely empty El Bluff beach and abandoned pub, which had only beer. Luckily the Pink lady spoke to them and there was a hope we gonna get a modest meal. We were swimming in the see, sunbathing and chilling drinking beers. Before 4 pm we decided to go back to the harbor to wait for the ferry. But when we get there the guy told us that the ferry will come at 10 pm. We hang out a little in the harbor and decided to explore the village.

El Bluff port.

This island is a very strange place. I did not notice any tourists. This is the place where you can hear a tribe music and SpanEnglish language. We bought some food for the night and came back to the harbor. And guess what – the guy said the ferry is coming at midnight or event might leave the harbor at 2 am. There was no point looking for the room although we were totally exhausted. We decided to find a bench in the nearest harbor and get some sleep. Anyway there was a guard so it seemed to be a quite safe place. Before 2 am we returned to our harbor and found a lot of people waiting for the ferry. It gave us hope that the ferry might finally appear. We sat next to the gate to be the first entering the harbor. The guy said that the ferry will come at 5 am. I was already so tired that we fall asleep in front of that gate lying on the ground. At 5 am the rain woke us up and all the people started gathering close to the gate, the only place with roof. Ohh did I mentioned that the Pink lady disappeared and we never saw her again. In meantime she was speaking to the guy from the harbor and we think she might book a place in another boat. 🙂 Anyway it was almost 6 am. And there was no ferry on the horizon. After 32 hours in transit we had no hope and no more patience to hear another lies. We decided to go back to Bluefields by first Panga leaving at 6 am. The Canadian guy decided to stay and wait for the ferry. Of course the Panga left at 7 am and we reached the Bluefields after 20 minutes. The only thing that we could do is taking a taxi to the airport and ask for a price of the flight ticket.

Taxi in Nicaragua

Always ask for the price before enter the taxi. In Nicaragua the price for the taxi is per person. So they will often try to cheat you. The nice lady from a guesthouse told us that the taxi from the harbor to the airport is only 15 cordobas (half US dollar!). We got to the airport and bought the plane tickets (weren’t that expensive). After few hours we met our Canadian guy. There was a ferry at 7 am in El Bluff but only took two children from the crowd. 🙂 He did not manage to get the tickets for the plane and had to stay one day in Bluefields.

The plane was a small avionette taking 12 people on board. It was a great adventure flying in that plane! We were sitting just after the pilot. 😉 And finally reached Big Corn Island. Now we just had to wait for Panga taking us to Little Corn Island.

We booked for 3 nights quite expensive bungalow on the north of the island (50$ a day). This was meant to be our award for exhausting trip to the island. The bungalow are called Dobedo – never book this terrible place! It should cost maximum 15$, it’s old, neglected place. It is close to the Otto beach but the rest of the guesthouses located on the south are great price and value and it only takes 15 minutes to reach the north side of the island.  The stay was awful!!! It’s nice to walk around the island. The Caribbean’s see has blue and green colors!

History about Little Corn Island.

The islands were colonized by the British in 17th century. Caribbean see was a heaven for pirates. Number of ship wrecks still remain on the bottom of the see around the island and are accessible for divers. Corn Islands were previously called Skeleton Islands. There were home for tribe known for their cannibalism. On the island there is a lot of African people, who were probably shipped to reach a mainland and probably crashed over the islands. Walking late evening through the island you can hear a lot of tribe music and SpanEnglish (Creole)- very popular language on the island, which is mixed of Spanish and English. The islands were given to United States for 99 years until 1971. The islanders are English – speaking Crede people of mixed black heritage. Recently a lot of Miskito people from Caribbean mainland moves to stay in the islands.

Little Corn Island useful information.

There are no cash machines on Little Corn Island. You can get a cash back in two restaurants (10% provision). There are no cars and no roads. Just paths guide you to your guesthouse. The most beautiful beach is located on the north of the island and it’s called Otto beach. When you reach the harbor be prepared local people will stand with a small board containing a name of your guesthouse. They want to carry you luggage and show you the way to your hostel of course for money. The island is so small that it will take you 5 minutes to reach your place 🙂

After gross Dobedo we moved to great Tree Brothers hostel, which is close to the harbor. Really nice and friendly. But don’t count for a WiFi 🙂 We met a nice guy from Germany who told us his story about getting to the island. Well he was the” lucky” one to get the ticket for the ferry from Bluefields to Big Corn Island. He said that it was one of the worst and terrifying journeys in his life! The first thing he did after getting to Big Corn Island was buying return flight ticket. The ferry was overloaded, as they sell much more tickets than the capacity. The next 5 hours he spent in terrible crowd on smelly deck of rotten fish and oil. The luggages were located on the front of the deck and were constantly covered by waves. He was feeling extremely unsafe and see sick like at least half of the people. He was recovering two days after this traumatic journey through open see.

Don’t miss in Corn Islands!

Jelly cake – a coconut bread! Ask in small shops. There’s a bakery in one of the houses in Little Corn Island. Just ask anyone and they’ll show you the house.

Cinnamon bread is delicious as well!

Pick any coconut and ask someone to open. 🙂

Panga to Little Corn Island.

Be aware that weather conditions change rapidly and it may not be possible for Panga to run between the islands. Although it’s only 7 miles distance between the islands the see might get really rough. People often miss their flights from Big Corn as they wait until last day to leave beautiful Little Corn.


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