Bluefields and beyond: How to reach East coast of Nicaragua

As you could read in the blog about Little Corn Island  the East coast of Nicaragua is the perfect getaway for a couple days (or weeks) of beach fun with plenty of sun, cocktails, sharks, coconuts, Rondon and snorkeling.

However, the East coast is quite hard to reach since the majority of the land is covered by jungle and mangroves.

If you have time and want to explore the East part with it’s beaches and jungle, the city of Bluefields is a good starting point. This town is situated in the middle of the coastline. It’s at the end of the Rio Escondido river, in the Bluefields Bay. From there you can arrange a panga (boat) and head to the Pearl Lagoon in the North, or take the ferry to Big Corn Island.

The Nicaraguan government decided to connect capital city Managua to Bluefields. However, even though you can see the road from the airplane, the part in between El Rama and Bluefields has not been finished yet (end of June 2017).

Therefore, you will either have to travel by bus from Managua to El Rama (6-8 hours) and from there the panga (boat) will take you from El Rama to Bluefields (in about 2 hours).
Total costs about 420 cordobas, $14.

The other option is to fly from Managua to Bluefields.
Total costs about $150 (roundway trip).

If you’re traveling from other cities in Nicaragua (or maybe Honduras, El Salvador or Costa Rica), it’s always best to head to Managua first. There are plenty of express, chicken and shuttle buses to get you there. Most of the time you can get transportation to Managua for about $1.

There’s a ferry leaving for Big Corn Island every Wednesday morning. We heard the crossing takes about 6 hours. The experiences of the people we met differed: some thought the trip was completely fine, while others hated the commute. One thing is certain: you will arrive to Big Corn pretty exhausted. So I suggest to take this option if you have at least a week to spend on the islands, you are on holiday after all 🙂

Make sure you bring enough water and food on the boat, since they don’t sell it on the ferry. Also bring a good book. Sitting on a tiny, hard bench for 6 hours can get kind of boring.

The weekly ferry returns on Thursday from the harbor of Big Corn Island. However, the men in the harbor of Little Corn mentioned there are ships leaving from Big Corn on Saturday as well. Just inform about this by one of the men working in the dock.

Since we were in Las Peñitas, all the way at the West coast, we calculated that it would take us about 35 hours to reach Little Corn Island. Even though we could save about $100 per person, we decided that we wanted to travel in ease, and so chose for the flight from Managua directly to Big Corn Island. The flight is about 1 hour 20 minutes with a 5 minute stop in Bluefields for some extra passengers. We wanted to rest and relax on the island after all, not recover from an intense journey.  (Besides, the trip from Las Peñitas to Managua already resulted us in taking 2 chicken buses and 2 taxis. Add to that a flight, taxi ride and boat trip, and you’re already traveling for a day to reach Little Corn.)

The only airline flying from Managua to Big Corn Island is La Costeña.  The airline uses flat fares. It’s best to call them to book your flight, since they offer better prices than you can find online. On top of that they will charge $18 of extra administration fee when you book online.

We booked our tickets with a challenging phonecall in Spanish. To found out later on that the employees of La Costeña speak English quite well. Make sure you have your passport and credit card ready for the call, since they need your personal information in order to prepare your ticket.

It’s possible to book an open ended ticket. That’s really useful if you don’t have a tight schedule. Believe me, the Caribbean island lifestyle is quite addictive. The best part of this ticket: the price is exactly the same as the return ticket! The only thing you need to do is to call La Costeña 2 days in advance to reserve your seat.

Even though Big Corn offers quite some nice beaches, this is nothing in comparison to the incredible beaches of Little Corn. This is where you want to go! So, how to get there?That’s really easy.
You need to get to the little dock at the West side of the island.
A taxi will take you there for 20 cordobas ($0.66), but you can also walk it. Big Corn Island isn’t that big at all and it’s therefore not hard to find your way. We decided to walk from the airport to the dock. Just wait for the plane to take off. They will then open up the gates next to the landing strip. This will offer you a memorable short cut, I bet you never crossed a landing strip before. Moreover, it will save you about 30 minutes walking with a backpack on your back.

The boat to Little Corn Island leaves 2 times a day and the schedule is adjusted to the flight schedule. The first boat leaves at 10:00 in the morning, the last boat at 4:30 in the afternoon.
If you took the plane, you will always catch your boat. The only risk is the boat to get full, but I guess they’ll find a way to get you to the island that day. The boat trip costs 150 cordobas ($5).

The boat will drop you off in the small harbor of Little Corn Island. From there you will have to walk, since there are no motorized vehicles on the island. No worries: the island is only 3 km2 in size. Just remind yourself to take it easy. You have reached the Caribbean after all!


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