Little Corn Island is Nicaragua’s best kept secret! And one of the most exceptional places to find there. Both: Corn Island and Little Corn Island are diamonds of the Caribbean. With my adventurous way of traveling, getting to Little Corn Island was a bit of a challenge.. but the journey was undescribable and memorable. Here is everything you need to know on how to get to the Little Corn Island in Nicaragua.
Little Corn Island - best kept secret!
Yes – Little Corn Island is an absolute paradise. For few people it turned out to be a horrific experience but with this post you’ll know what to expect and how to plan accordingly – but never in this world miss the opportunity to travel to Corn Island or Little Corn Island! Getting there brought us number of unexpected situations. Patience is the key 😉
Overall, for the two of us it was one of the most extraordinary journeys. It was also a great chance to explore totally pure and unspoiled regions of Nicaragua – highly exciting and if you are not under time pressure just flow with the adventure.
Getting to Little Corn Island?
These two small paradise islands – Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island are on the east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
Did you know that some sources say that geographically there is no such a thing as Central America? 🙂 There’s South America and everything above Columbia is North America.
I searched the whole internet for information on how to get to Little Corn Island and guess what? Not a single proper piece of information I found at that time..! So many confusing information, it was so hard to figue out what is actually true. Zero informative wesbites. But we were desperate to reach the island in a possibly most adventurous way.
This post provides trustworthy information about all possible ways to get to Little Corn Island, because we have experienced it all. The journey to the island took us good few days and totally unexpected turnarounds. Of course it doesn’t have to take so long! It was just us knowing nothing about getting there and having plenty of time to wander around. It was well worth to live this adventure.
How to get to Little Corn Island in Nicaragua?
First of all you need to get to Bluefields. If you are taking bus from Managua to Bluefields, it’s a 7 hours bumpy ride in a chicken bus. The bus journeys are one of the best highlights of Nicaragua! There are few buses daily from Managua to Bluefields – my best advise is to go and ask for times at the bus station (schedules change, so to be on a safe side ask obtain the information at the bus station).
In the past there was no direct buses to Bluefields. We had to take a bus from Managua to El-Rama and from El-Rama catch a fast boat Panga (river taxi), to take us to Bluefields (2 hours river journey).
The easiest & safest way to get to Corn Island is taking a direct flight from Bluefields with Nicaragua’s regional airline – La Costena. Flight tickets for Big Corn Islands cost between 100-200$ – try booking in advance for best price.
How to get from Bluefields to Corn Island?
There are two ways to get from Bluefields to Corn Island:
- FLIGHT: The easiest & safest way to get to Corn Island is taking a direct flight from Bluefields with Nicaragua’s regional airline – La Costena. Flight tickets for Big Corn Islands cost between 100-200$ – try booking in advance for best price.
- FERRY: Rio Escondido, running only Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9am (capacity 60 people). The trip takes 5 hours to get from Bluefields to Corn Island. Remember – Ferry is not everyone’s cup of tea! We heard very bad stories, however a lot has improved in terms of this transportation.
The only way to get from Corn Island to Little Corn Island is by a fast boat Panga. They run few times a day and it’s a 30 minutes trip.
Keep in mind – boat trips are often affected by the weather and sea conditions – make sure you have an extra day secured in case the boats are cancelled (especially on your way back).
For adventure seekers - get a bus from Managua to El Rama and Panga 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 taxi boat 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 will be a lot of local people queuing. After buying a ticket you can take a short nap in the bus (seriously, the same bus lets you in to take a nap). The driver takes a nap too 😉 Yeah, they always allow travelers to do that. The second reason why you need to take first Panga to Bluefields is a limited number of tickets for the ferry running between Bluefields and Big Corn Island. Panga is scheduled for 5 am but it hardly ever leaves on time..
Panga - the fast boat (river taxi).
Panga boat cannot operate in the dark on a shallow river with crocodiles having over 20 passengers onboard. To avoid any potential accidents it leaves when it’s getting bright to have a full visibility of the river. So the boat schedule and running times is dictated by the day cycle. However it was a crazy experience.
The bus left Managua at 10 pm and we reached El-Rama for 3 am. We rushed 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, it’s not possible to miss it. The other ticket office is next to the port fencing. Our ticket had number 2 – which means we were asigned to Panga no 2. There were 7 Pangas in the harbour and all people were waiting in a long queue to go through the check point.
Fully armed soldiers 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 headed off to the ferry ticket office.
Panga boat from El-Rama to Bluefields.
Make sure you have some warm clothes with you, as it gets chilli, especially in the morning hours. It’s a nice ride but don’t expect any highlights.
Ferry from Bluefields to Big Corn Island.
At the time we reached the harbour the place looked extremely busy. We had no idea where to find the ticket office to purchase ferry tickets. And this is where it got messy! We asked a guy who told us the ticket office is not in the harbour and we should go back to Panga drop off place. After reaching the place people told us something totally oposite, so we went back to the harbour to look again for the ticket.
By the time we got to the ticket point (which turned out it was in the main harbour!) the queue was already so long that I knew there’s no chance to get the tickets. Ferry capacity is limited to 60 people. While standing in the queue we saw that local people were passing their IDs to those in the queue, so one person was buing 5-10 instead of one. Bonkers!
Ticketing queue - a joke..!
So basically after almost an hour in the queue we didn’t even move a centimeter. And a moment later we heard the ticket lady saying – no more tickets! ! From this moment NOBODY was giving us correct information. Maybe because they didn’t want to help us or maybe because nobody knew ferry timetables, or maybe because the ferries didn’t exist at that time! We were to find out ..
We knew the next ferry is in 2 days, which was a bit problematic because Bluefields is definitely the last place you want to have a stopover!! There is literally nothing! Having plenty of time and nothing to loose we started asking around and it was very difficult to get any information on other ferries/boats/ways getting to Corn Islands.
The pink lady.. discovering El Bluff island.
Few people told us that there is a ferry to Corn Island leaving from a nearby island El Bluff at 5pm. We also met a local lady in a pink dress (who we later called ‘the Pink Lady’), who was desperately looking to reach Corn Island. She also has been asking around how to get to Little Corn island and was told same thing about the ferry from El-Bluff. There was also a Candian guy – Eithan, who joined us and 4 of us decided to take panga to El Bluff to catch the ferry Big Corn Island.
After reaching El-Bluff we followed the Pink lady as she went directly to the harbour to ask for the ferry schedule. The guy in the harbour confirmed the ferry to Corn Island leaves at 5pm so we were full of hope we will eventually get there! Having few spare hours we decided to explore El Bluff island, which is completely undiscovered piece of Nicaragua. After short distance from the urban area we walked into an unreal lagoon white sand beach with abandoned bar serving local food.
Can you imagine the Pink lady was wearing high hills during all this time and of course she broke one on a stony path leading to the beach. I couldn’t watch her walking in one shoe, so I gave her my flipflops. My dearest flipflops!! 🙂
El Bluff Lagoon beach.
The see was rough and there were a lot of wooden pieces strewn around the sand. Luckily the Pink lady spoke to a bar staff, who happened to be around and filled us up with hope that we might be getting dinner. We spent few hours swimming in the see, sunbathing, chilling, drinking bear and eating delicious modest meal.. It all felt like we were in the lost paradise where time neither money existed.
We slowly started to get moving back at around 4pm toward the harbour to catch the ferry. Once we got there they guy told us that the ferry is coming at 10 pm instead of 5pm. Well that’s a big difference but all we could do was to hang around in the closest village.
El Bluff tribe village.
El Bluff island is a very strange place. There were no tourists /at least before covid/ I usually adore non-touristic places but not necessarily this time/. There was a strange atmosphere in the air, you could hear tribe music in the background and Spanglish language. I would be normally delighted to see all this but there was some uncertinity.. It felt like we were the only visitors on this island, wandering around the village disturbing the local life scene.
Going back to the harbour we heard the ferry is coming at midnight and might depart around 2 am. There was no point in looking for the room at that stage, although we were totally exhausted after being exposed to sun all day. We decided to find the nearest bench in the harbour and get some sleep. There was 4 of us, the harbour was guided, so it seemed safe. The good sign was that a lot of people gathered in the harbour at around 2 am.
Suddenly the ticket office guy came out 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 in the morning and we never saw her again?? Yes, without saying a word!
After I gave her my flip flops, after we paid for her food and drinks, she just disappeared without a notice. ;))) But that’s fine 🙂 Always give but don’t expect anything in return. Earlier we saw her talking to the guy from the harbour and we thought she might have arranged another boat for herself, but who knows 🙂 Anyway it was almost 6 am.. and there was no sign of a ferry on the horizon. After 32 hours in transit we were hopeless and had no more patience either to wait for any ferry or to believe in more lies.
We decided to go back to Bluefields taking first Panga scheduled for 6 am. The Canadian guy decided to stay in El Bluff believing the ferry will come. Our Panga left at 7 am to reach Bluefields 20 minutes later. The only thing we could do at this stage is taking a taxi to the airport and getting a plane to Big Corn Island.
Taxis in Nicaragua.
Always ask the price before taking any taxi! In Nicaragua prices for a taxi are per person and they will often try to cheat you a bit. The nice guesthouse lady 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 (for $100 each – only few hours before the flight) and chilled with bear in the nearest pub.
It’s such a tiny airport with a very small white terminal building. After few hours sitting in this pub we saw our Canadian guy approaching our direction! We asked him what happened to the ferry from El Bluff and he said there was one at 7 am but only took two children from the crowd. He did not manage to get the tickets for the plane, as they were sold out at the time he arrived. Wasn’t happy about it 🙂
La Costena avionette to Big Corn Island.
The plane was a small avionette taking 12 people on board. 12 people!! Never had a greater flight experience in my life, I was sitting just behind the two pilots, with the full cockpit view and amazing landscape through the front window. 🙂 After landing in Big Corn Island last thing we had to do is taking Panga boat to Little Corn Island, but that is very straightforward.
We booked quite expensive bungalow on the north side of the island for 3 nights (50$ a day). This was meant to be a rewarding place after this exhausting journey. I though that staying outside of the busy centre and escaping into the wild would be a good idea. The bungalows were called Dobedo – never book this terrible place!! It should cost maximum 15$ as it’s an old and neglected place, with no wifi /although stated on their website there is one/.. The only advantage is that it is located next to the most magnificent – Otto beach.
The rest of the guesthouses are located on the south side of the island near Panga port. It turned out the rooms in the port are at much greater price and value and it only takes 15 minutes to reach the north side of the island. The atmosphere in the south of the island is super. Lovely guesthouses, bungalows, free hammocks and plenty of cosy restaurants – and equally fabulous beach life.
Interesting history about Little Corn Island.
The islands were colonized by the British in 17th century. Caribbean see was a heaven for pirates. There are number of ship wrecks still remaining on the bottom of the see around the islands and are easily accessible for divers. Corn Islands were previously called Skeleton Islands. It was a home for tribe known for their cannibalism. On the island there is a lot of African people, who probably attempted to shipped to the mainland but 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 a mix of Spanish and English. This is because 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 have moved to stay in the islands.
Little Corn Island – useful information.
- There were no cash machines on Little Corn Island. You can get a cash back in two restaurants (on 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 to your place for small money. It’s a small island, it will take you up to 5 minutes to reach any of the guesthouses 🙂
Little Corn Island is car free, you can walk bare foot, the island is safe and friendly.
After grose Dobedo bungalows we moved back south to stay in a great Tree Brothers hostel, which is very close to the harbour. Lovely place! We met a nice guy from Germany who told us his story about getting to Big Corn Island by the ferry running from Bluefields.
The "lucky one".
Well, this guy 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 he has ever experienced, 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 sea transportation. The ferry was overloaded, as they sell more tickets than ferry capacity. It’s an open water cruise, and as the sea was terribly rough, the boat was swinging on a stormy sea waves!
He spent 5 hours in terrible crowd on a smelly deck along with rotten fish and oil reek. All the luggage was located in 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 passengers. He said he was recovering for two days after this traumatic journey and he is still shaking thinking of that day ..! wow..
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!!
- Pick any coconut and ask someone to open. 🙂 It’s free on the island 🙂
- interact with the locals.
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 two 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 and when boats are cancelled last minute they cannot catch the flight. Take a walk around the island, the empty paradise beaches are magnificent!
Hiking Telica Volcano is one of the greatest accents of wild Nicaragua. It’s a stellar adventure for hiking lovers.
Leon – one of my favourite destination in Nicaragua. This magnificent city is Nicaragua’s historical, cultural and religious capital.
Masaya Volcano night tour and lava watching is one of the most incredible experiences of wild Nicaragua. The highlight