How to get to Little Corn Island? Be aware it might turn into a terrible journey but I would never in this world miss the opportunity to travel there. It’s worth getting to the island although it may bring a number of unexpected and difficult situations.
For the two of us it was one of the most difficult journeys but it was also a great chance to explore wild and truly local Nicaragua. I obviously new it’s going to be much harder to travel in Central America than solo traveling in Asia. I’m going to describe all possibilities 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 geographically there is no such a thing as Central America??? 🙂 there is only South America and everything above Columbia is North America.
I searched internet for information on how to get to little corn island but people leave so many different information that it was impossible to trust what’s the best way. All we knew we were desperate to reach the island. But trust me – I could never imagine that this journey can be so hard. Anyway it was worth to live this adventure.
How to get to Little Corn Island.
The easiest /and most safe/ 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) – read more information below!
- from Big Corn Island to Little Corn Island by Panga running few times a day (30 minutes trip).
Get a bus from Managua to El Rama and Panga boat onward to Bluefields.
We took a night bus from Managua (departs 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. The first Panga boat 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, as there are a lot of people queuing for Panga to Bluefields. After buying a ticket you can take a short nap in the bus, the driver always allows travelers to do that. 🙂 The second reason why you need to take first Panga to Bluefields is limited number of tickets for the ferry running between Bluefields and Big Corn Island. Panga is scheduled for 5 am but it never leaves on time. Panga is a fast boat and it only leaves after daybreak. It cannot run when it’s dark through shallow river with crocodiles having over 20 passengers. So having the boat schedule always remember that the day cycle dictates the running times.
The bus left Managua at 10 pm and we reached El-Rama for 3 am. We quickly turned to buy tickets to Panga to Bluefields and guess what – we got last two tickets! There is a small ticket office located just few meters from the bus stop, so it’s not possible to miss it. The other ticket office is next to the fence. Our ticket had number 2 – which means we are to take Panga no 2. There were 7 Pangas in the harbour and all the people were waiting in long queue to go through the check point. The soldiers were carefully searching our backpacks before letting us on-board. Finally after few hours waiting we left the harbour at 6.30 am.. And after another 1,5 hour we reached Bluefields and quickly head off to the ferry ticket office. But we weren’t sure where to find it!
Ferry to Big Corn Island.
At the time we reached the harbour it was already pretty busy and we had no idea where to find the ticket office to the ferry. And this is where it gets messy! We asked a guy who told us it is not in the harbour and that we should go back to the place where Panga dropped us off. After heading the place people told us that we have to go back to the harbour as the ticket office is located there. 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, due to limited ferry capacity of 60 people. while standing in the queue we saw that all the local people were passing their ID to those who were already standing in the queue ahead of us. So basically after almost an hour waiting we didn’t even slightly move in the queue and few moments later we heard the lady in the ticket office shouting – no more tickets! ! From this moment nobody will be telling us true information. Maybe because they don’t want to help you or maybe because nobody knows ferry timetables. I was a little upset that the ferry plan wasn’t successful, as we knew the next ferry is in 2 days. We started asking around and it was very difficult to get a clear information on 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 (who we after called Pink lady) desperately looking to reach Corn Island. She also has been asking around how to get to the island and was told same information about the ferry from El-Bluff. There was also a Candian guy Eithan who joined us and we all decided to take panga to El Bluff. After reaching the island we followed the Pink lady as she went directly to the harbour to ask for the ferry to Big Corn Island. The guy in the harbour confirmed the ferry is scheduled from El Bluff so we were really happy and hopeful! Having few spare hours we decided to explore the island and the amazing beach on the other side of it. The Pink Lady and a Canadian guy who we met before Managua came with us looking for any restaurant. Can you imagine the Pink lady was wearing high hills all this time and of course she broke one on the stony path. I couldn’t watch her walking in one shoe, so I gave her my flipflops. My dearest flipflops!! 🙂 After a short walk we saw one of the most stunning, empty lagoon beach I’ve seen so far with one abandoned bar in the middle of it serving only beer. The see was rough and there were a lot of wooden pieces strewn around the sand. Luckily the Pink lady spoke to one bar staff who was around and filled us up with a hope we might be getting a small meal. We were swimming in the see, sunbathing and chilling. It felt like lost paradise where time or money does not exist. Around 4 pm we had to slowly get moving back to the harbour to catch a ferry. Once we got there they guy told us that the ferry is coming at 10 pm. Having another couple of hours we decided to hang around the closest village.
El Bluff tribe village.
El Bluff island is a very strange place. there are no tourists /which I usually adore but necessarily this time/. There was a strange atmosphere in the air, you could hear tribe music and Spanglish language everywhere. We bought some food for the evening and came back to the harbour. And guess what? The first thing the guy said was that the ferry is coming at midnight and might leave the harbour at 2 am. There was no point looking for the room at that stage although we were totally exhausted. We decided to find the nearest bench in harbour and get some sleep. There was 4 of us, the harbour was guided so it seemed to be quite safe place. The good sign was that a lot of people gathered for 2 am in the harbour. We sat next to the gate to be the first to get to the ferry. Suddenly the ticket office guy came and said that the ferry will come at 5 am. I can’t describe how tired I was, I basically fell asleep in front of the gate lying on my backpack. At 5 am the rain woke us up and all the people were queuing for the entry gate. Ooowww did I mention the Pink lady disappeared and we never saw her again?? Without saying a word! After I gave her my flip flops, after we paid her food and drinks, she just disappeared without a notice. Earlier we saw her talking to the guy from the harbour and we thought she might arrange another boat for herself, that we weren’t aware off 🙂 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 believe more lies. We decided to go back to Bluefields by first Panga scheduled for 6 am. The Canadian guy decided to stay in El Bluff as he believed the ferry will come. Our Panga left at 7 am and reaching Bluefields in only 20 minutes. The only thing we could do at this stage is taking a taxi to the airport and ask for flight ticket price.
Taxis in Nicaragua.
Always ask for the price before taking a ride. In Nicaragua price for the taxi is per person. So they will often try to cheat you a bit. The nice lady from a guesthouse told us that the taxi from the harbour to the airport should not cost more than 15 cordobas (half US dollar!). We got to the airport, bought flight tickets to Big Corn Island (weren’t that expensive – $100) and chilled with bear in the pub next door to the airport. It’s such a tiny airport with a very small white terminal building. After few hours we saw our Canadian guy! We asked him what happened to the ferry from El Bluff and he said there was one at 7 am but only took two children from the crowd gathered in the port! 🙂 He did not manage to get the tickets for the plane as they were sold out and had to stay an extra day in Bluefields.
It wasn’t a plane, it was small avionette taking 12 people on board. Never had greatest flying experience, sitting just after the two pilots, looking at the cockpit during all flight and admiring amazing views through the window. 😉 After landing in Big Corn Island we only had to take Panga to Little Corn Island but that was very straightforward.
We booked quite expensive bungalow on the north of the island (50$ a day) for 3 nights. This was meant to be our award for exhausting trip to the island. And I usually prefer to stay outside the busy centre and escape to nature. The bungalows are called Dobedo – never book this terrible place! It should cost maximum 15$ and it’s an old and neglected, with no wifi /although stated there is one/.. The only advantage is that it is located close to the magnificent Otto beach. The rest of the guesthouses are located on the south side of the beach, where the port is. It turned out they are at much greater price and value and it only takes 15 minutes to reach the north side of the island. There’s one of the most amazing atmospheres I have experienced. All houses are chilled, there are free hammocks on the beach and plenty of cosy restaurants.
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 Spanglish (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 (plus 10% provision). There are no cars and no roads in Little Corn Island. The most beautiful beach is located on the north of the island and it’s called Otto beach. Once Panga boat will arrive in the harbour be prepared there’s going to be a lot of local people gathering and holding a sign with your hotel name. This is because they want to carry you luggage for money. Don’t bother doing that as the island is so small that it will take you 5 minutes to reach any of the guesthouses 🙂
After gross Dobedo we moved back south to stay in a great Tree Brothers hostel, which is close to the harbour. Really nice and friendly place but don’t count for a WiFi 🙂 We met a nice guy from Germany who told us his story about getting to the island by ferry from Bluefields. Well he was the” lucky one” who manage to get ticket from Bluefields to Big Corn Island. He said that it was one of the worst and terrifying journeys in his life, which leaves him with trauma for the rest of his life!! The first thing he did after this terrifying ferry experience was getting a return flight ticket to Bluefields to avoid any see transportation. The ferry was overloaded, as they sell more tickets than the ferry capacity allows. It’s an open water so the sea was terribly rough and the boat was swinging on a stormy sea waves! He spent 5 hours in terrible crowd on smelly deck along with rotten fish and oil reek. All the luggage was located on the front of the deck and was constantly covered by waves, so it ended up totally wet. The poor guy got sea sick like at least half of the people on the boat. He said he was recovering for two days after this traumatic journey.
Things you can’t miss in Corn Islands!
Jelly cake – a coconut bread! Ask in small shops. There’s a bakery in one of the houses on Little Corn Island. Just ask anyone and they’ll show you which house it is.
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 sea might get really rough. People often miss their flights from Big Corn as they wait until last day to leave the beautiful Little Corn island.