Getting to the wonderful Corn Islands you can choose between taking the convenient plane or going by bus and boat. Not only because it is cheaper, but also to explore the eastern part of Nicaragua I chose the more inconvenient way. If you plan to visit this gem of Caribbean paradise, decide yourself if the pain is worth doing it the hard way. This is my experience and you will find the summarized journey facts below.
Starting in Granada at noon we are to late to make it to El Rama, where the boat to Bluefields leaves. So we stop in Santo Tomás, where we find ourselves in some nice but dodgy hotels on the main street. But we decide to stay in one of those as of our lack of information and onrushing darkness. Despite the advertising for condoms in the bathroom and the fact that only one of the two beds in our room is prepared when we arrive, we spend a quiet and comfortable night after an evening on the spacy porch with a traditional meal consisting of a bottle of „Flor de Caña“ und some pieces of „NicPollo“, watching the local cowboys at the street on their horses or motorcycles.
Buses are leaving regularly to El Rama and it is easy to continue. Wating for our boat to take the ride to Bluefields on the Rio Escondido I again have to get used to the special appearance of the Caribbean inhabitants. With their loud and soaking voices, rather shouting than speaking, they sound aggressive to my European ears. Because nobody indicates the boat arrival, as they do at the bus terminals, we almost miss the departure! The ride turns out to be unspectacular, but the captain is a curve-lover, which makes the ride more fun as we are sitting backwards in the bow. The landscape changes from lush trees hanging into the water, banana plantations with wooden shacks here and there, to more Caribbean vegetation with cononut palms and mangrove-like trees.
Once arriving Bluefields, we cannot escape the „helpful“ dock inhabitants who want to show us around. Thus we follow one of those Caribbean voices to several hostels, starting at the harbour. It lasts a while until we can get rid of him by paying attention in form of a generous tip, and he finally leads us to the hostel of our choice. At least he tells us about the ferry and where to buy the tickets.
We find the „Rio Escondido“ office two blocks north of the harbour, right behind a school. A sign saying „Impresa Portuaria Nacional“ leads us to a miniature office, not more than 4 sqm, where two girls spend their working time together, surprisingly in harmony. They tell us that we were lucky, because the ferry has just been fixed and leaves for its first trip after weeks. Lucky and happy with our tickets in our pockets, we leave to spend another night in a hostel awaiting paradise.
When entering the boat next morning, I am still clueless, which retrospectively is a blessing! After a calm ride in the safe shore-close waters, which I expect to go on, we leave for the open sea. We are going into the waves, which makes things even worse. And this is where hell begins for me. Immediately, the boat is flung around, walking and standing becomes impossible for everyone except for the crew. I try to escape to a perceived safe place in the boat centre, which is said to be less unsteady. But it is too late, seasickness catches me within seconds. And I am not the only one… Half the passengers are lying on the seats and the floors, trying to calm down and to fall asleep. Plastic bags become rare and I am one of the first ones to use them. Just few of the tourists will be on the boat on our way back, because they prefer a plane despite the price. I guess, I look like Shrek, but less cute…
Endless 6 hours later the trip to hell is over, and… fortunately we are in heaven now! Crystal-clear water, coconut palms, coloured wooden shacks and an implication of beautiful beaches welcome us on Big Corn. Spontaneously we decide to go to Little Corn on the same day and jump in one of the smaller boats waiting for us to leave. It turns out to be a hard ride as we are seated right in the bow, tossed by the giant waves. Like in a competition we race across the sea next to another boat and I wonder how someone can stand in front of us without being knocked over, while I have problems not to fall over board while sitting. Nevertheless, the ride feels like heaven compared to the first one!
Having arrived in an island you can surround in two hours on foot, with no cars, beautiful white beaches and little coves surpassed only by its chilled and friendly inhabitants, it makes waiting for one week to board the returning ferry a real pleasure.
For me it definitely was worth the pain, although I have to admit that It took some time to recover…
- To reach Corn Islands you have to go to El Rama by bus, from Managua the ride will take you approximately 7 hours (130 Cordobas / 5 USD). You will probably find a direct night bus dropping you right in time for the next one.
In El Rama you catch a boat to Bluefields, which is a 2-hour-ride (250 Cordobas / 9 USD).
Here the ferry leaves, run by Rio Escondido, twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday (260 Cordobas ( 9 USD). The ride will take you 5 to 7 hours and be prepared for rough sea!!
Finally at Big Corn, you can either stay or make your way farther to Little Corn, going by boat for 40 more minutes (50 Cordobas / 2 USD).
Hint: Consider to spend more money for accomodation as you probably will do when staying in El Rama or Bluefields for one night in order to to be in time. In case the ferry does not leave as expected (which is likely), don´t spend time and money waiting. Consider visiting the Pearl Lagoon instead!
- Or you catch a flight, which will probably cost you 80 USD oneway. You will be comfortable and guaranteed to reach your destination in paradise…