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  • Writer's pictureDave Jackson

How to get to the Corn Islands, Nicaragua - no flights

Sadly, many backpackers seem to miss the Corn Islands off their Nicaragua itinerary and simply stick to the west of the county. The main reasons people give are, it's too hard or too expensive to get there. In this post, we will show you it’s very reachable on a budget and easier than you think, as many of the blogs you read are outdated, so it’s no longer necessary to go via El Rama. To see how easy it is to get to the Corn Islands (albeit, a little time-consuming) read on!

First off, I will address the point that there are flights to the Islands from Managua, but you are looking at prices in the region of $200 each way, which is well over most backpackers' budgets.

Wherever you are coming from in Nicaragua your first step will be getting to Managua, as this is the starting point of the journey to the Corn Islands. For those of you who need help getting to Managua via public transport, I will cover getting from Ometepe, Leon, Granada and Laguna de Apoyo at the bottom of this article.

The ferry from Bluefields only goes to Big Corn on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9 am. To get to Little Corn you will need to take a panga (small boat) which runs daily, so can be taken the same day you arrive, or you can enjoy Big Corn for a little while first.

Note: For leaving the Corn Islands, the ferry leaves Big Corn on Thursdays and Sundays at 9 am.

**This blog was written based on our experience travelling to the Corn Islands in June 2023, therefore the prices and schedules were correct as of that time.**


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Managua - How to get to the Corn Islands

Managua to Bluefields bus

The high-speed bus from Managua to Bluefields solely operates out of the Terminal Buses Costa Caribe, so your first step upon arriving in Managua is getting there. Or perhaps, like us, you need to stock up on supplies and cash first, as most things on the islands are more expensive and ATMs are sparse. A taxi from the UCA bus terminal area (which is probably where you will arrive in to Managua by bus from other parts of the country) takes about 15/20 minutes and costs about C$110 per person.

Bus time table Bluefields to Managua and return Managua to Bluefields
Bus time table Bluefields to Managua

The buses from Managua to Bluefields leave daily at:

6:00 am

9:15 am

11:15 am

2:30 pm

5:00 pm

8:30 pm

9:30 pm

11:00 pm

You can get any of these buses on Tuesdays and Fridays and make the ferry the next morning, apart from the 11 pm may be borderline, depending on traffic. We got the 11:15 am bus, as we decided to stay in Bluefields to break up the journey as it was only $16 (£13) for a private room. If you really want to save the maximum amount of money, jump on one of the 8:30 pm/9:30 pm buses which will get you to Bluefields in the early hours and you can just hang around the ferry ticket office to save a night’s accommodation.

The bus from Managua to Bluefields costs C$320 per person. Although it is on a Chicken Bus, there is assigned seating, but as usual, there is no air-con, just all of the windows down. When we were setting off one of the bus hawkers was selling handheld fans for C$50, a handy purchase!

Total journey time including two 10/15 minute breaks is 7 hours. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride but not too bad. As we got the 11:15 am we arrived at about 6:20 pm; and grabbed a taxi into Bluefields which cost C$40pp (fairly certain the locals were paying C$25/30). We stayed at Typical House and a private room was only C$593, meaning we were fully rested and ready for the ferry the next day.

Ferry from Bluefields to Big Corn

The ticket office in Bluefields town is now closed permanently, so you now just buy tickets as you get on the ferry. The ferry leaves twice a week from Bluefields on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9 am. The return journey from Big Corn is on Thursdays and Sundays at the same time.

Ferry to The Corn Islands from Bluefields, people queueing to board
Ferry to The Corn Islands from Bluefields

It’s advisable to get to the ferry port at about 6 am, earlier during holidays. You definitely won’t be the first person to arrive at that time but it should allow you to get a decent enough seat. You will see the queue of locals and backpackers on the pier.

The boat arrived at about 6:20 am and starts loading cargo as the passengers gradually boarded. By 7:15 am the queue had gone but people continued to arrive, filling in the gaps in the seats (people were still arriving well after 8 am). We sat downstairs as the crew said the upstairs was closed. Once downstairs was full they opened it up though. The cost of the ferry from Bluefields to Big Corn was C$255. Unfortunately, due to the wait at the port, most of the windows had been opened to let in the breeze so on the journey the downstairs cabin remained stubbornly hot.

The whole crossing couldn’t have been smoother. We had read many stories about rough seas and a poor ferry, but the ferry was actually alright and the sea was glassy! It is definitely a passenger ferry, they even serve drinks and snacks aboard. If we were upstairs you could even go as far as to stay you can feel the chill of the air-con. We were probably luckier than some in relation to sea conditions, but speaking to some of the locals it’s far from rough a lot of the time. By all means, bring travel sickness pills (and Becca swears by her pressure point wrist bands) in case, but we hardly had any movement at all.

The total journey time was 6 hours and so we arrived at 3 pm at Big Corn. We opted to stay the night on Big Corn, but you could at this point buy your tickets for the panga to Little Corn, which conveniently leaves at 4:30 pm.

From Big Corn to Little Corn by panga

Panga - boat between Big Corn and Little Corn
Panga - boat between Big Corn and Little Corn

The way to get between the Corn Islands is by Panga (skiff speed boat). The journey takes 30-45 minutes, depending on sea conditions, and the cost is C$360 ($10/£7.75) and can be paid in Córdoba or USD.

The panga from Big Corn to Little Corn leaves at 10:00 am and 4:30 pm daily.

The panga from Little Corn to Big Corn leaves at 6:30 am and 2:00 pm daily.

The times of the pangas mean if you wish to miss Big Corn altogether and head straight to Little Corn, you can hop on a panga after your ferry ride to Big Corn & return on the 6.30 am panga, enough arriving back on Big Corn earlier enough to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

How to get from Leon to Managua

Step one of your journey from Leon to Granada is to get to the Terminal de Buses in Leon (sometimes referred to as the market terminal). The Terminal de Buses is on the outskirts of Leon. It is possible to walk there, however with your backpack in tow and the heat of Leon, in all likelihood, you’ll grab a taxi. Expect to pay C$50 per person (they price taxi per person in Nicaragua, don’t ask!!) from the Parque Central de Leon or close to. Our taxi literally dropped us at the back door of the shuttle.

The shuttles from Leon to Managua leave frequently throughout the day, around every 15 minutes. The departure is when the bus is full, rather than a set time, so it’s a rough estimate. The fare is C$78 (this included large backpacks as they charge extra for luggage) and we were on our way 5 minutes later.

The journey aboard the shuttle took 2 hours to get to Managua, very comfortable as everyone had their own seat. No air-con but all the windows were down allowing you to enjoy the sense of what felt like being sat in front of a fan-assisted oven with the door open!

The journey ends at the UCA bus terminal in Managua.

How to get from Granada to Managua

The Terminal de Buses Granada is really central, it’s located on the Southwest corner of Parque Central de Granada (the central plaza). The micro buses leave about every 15 minutes and the journey takes roughly 1 hour 20 minutes, depending on traffic. The cost of the bus is C$74 which included a large backpack.

The end of the line in Managua is the same place as the Leon bus finishes, at the UCA bus terminal.

Chicken bus from Managua to Bluefields
Chicken bus from Managua to Bluefields

How to get from Laguna de Apoyo to Managua

The local bus doesn’t go to the edge of the lake, so your first step, unless you want a few kilometres early morning walk, will be to arrange a taxi. We stayed at Hostel Paradiso on the lake and they ordered a taxi for us which cost C$150 (C$75 each). The journey took 10 minutes to the main highway. From here cross over the road and flag down the next bus that passes.

The micro buses leave Granada about every 15 minutes, passing along the highway you will be stood at. The journey takes roughly 1 hour from here depending on traffic. The cost of the bus is C$74 which included a large backpack.

How to get from Ometepe to Managua

From Ometepe, if you aren’t starting in Moyogalpa, the start of your day will be a local bus. Unfortunately, the buses aren’t frequent on Ometepe, so if you’re in Balgue you are looking at a 5:30 am bus (which takes 1.5 hours & costs C$40). See our post on getting to/from Ometepe for more details on bus times.

Upon arriving in Moyogalpa it’s time to grab a ferry. There are regular ferries throughout the day from 5:30 am - 5:30 pm. The boats leave roughly every 1-1.5 hours and the crossing takes an hour.

From San Jorge, you need to get a taxi to Rivas. This should cost $1 per person in a shared taxi, if the taxi isn’t full you may find the cost is $3 for the car.

Warning: taxi drivers/ bus drivers around here will try to rip you off. You will need to barter.

The journey takes about 10 minutes.

At Rivas bus station walk along the buses until you see one with Managua on the front. If there is not one there yet, ask a local.

Tip: If you are told there isn’t one for an hour or so ask someone else. It’s likely that it’s a taxi driver trying to trick their way into business. The buses leave every 15/20 minutes.

A rule I try to use with Rivas bus station is you will probably need to ask 3 people. The first will lie, the next you will hopefully get lucky, and the 3rd person is to double check you got the right information! For some reason, this is one of the very few places in Central America where it seems everyone is trying out a good scam!

When the bus arrives it’s a good idea to ask a local what the price should be, it’s unlikely that you will get away with paying that amount but do give it a go. We paid C$85 per person but prices range from C$50-100 depending on how much the Ayudente wants to rip you off.

The bus from Rivas Bus station to Managua takes 2.5 hours by chicken bus and arrives in Managua at Terminal de Autobuses, Mercado Roberto Huembes. From here you will have to get a taxi to Terminal Buses Costa Caribe where the buses to Bluefields leave. If you have time it’s definitely a good idea to stock up on a few essentials as the Corn Islands supermarket is more expensive than Managua due to its remoteness. See our guide to Little Corn for an idea of the current costs on the island so you can compare whilst in the supermarket.

Map of how to get to the Corn Islands

What to pack for your journey to the Corn Islands

Motion sickness tablets - you may not be as lucky with the crossing as us. You can pick up motion sickness tablets from any pharmacy.

Motion sickness bands - If you do get motion sickness and you haven’t left home yet, Becca swears by these anti-sickness bands. She isn’t sure if it’s simply a placebo but she says they definitely make a difference!

Snacks & water - There are a number of breaks you can grab a meal at, but the journeys are long. Take plenty of water and snacks to get you from one stop to the next.

Entertainment - It’s a long journey, a Kindle with Kindle Unlimited or maybe download a playlist or from Amazon Prime Music. Both Kindle Unlimited & Amazon Prime Music offer a free 30-day and 90-day free trial respectively. Just follow the link to take you to the right page.

We will get something if you sign up but it will cost you no more. Win, win!!


The journey to the Corn Islands is a long one, but it was surprisingly straightforward and very reasonable on the wallet. If you do make the journey there I can guarantee you will not regret it! The islands are beautiful, reserved only for the most dedicated traveller. Enjoy!

If you do attempt the journey we would love to hear in the comments how you got on. Let us know if any of the prices change over time and we can update the information accordingly to help fellow travellers.

1 comment

1 comentário

31 de dez. de 2023

Hi, thanks so much for providing such a detailed explanation of this journey! I'm going to Nicaragua in February and this has really helped to make me more confident getting to the Corn Islands. I'll try to let you know how I get on.

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