On Big Corn Island you can take taxi colectivo or a bus, while Little Corn Island, with an area of 2,9 square kilometres, is very small and thus easily walkable. Little Corn is quite long and narrow. It means a short walk across the island, and you can walk the length of the island in less than an hour. Actually, you have no other choice than walking. There are no cars on the island and no roads on which to drive. The only wheels on the island are wheelbarrows. There is a paved sidewalk that runs the length of the village (along the west coast near the pier). This is the centre of most social activity. And you can walk most of the east side of the island along the beach, with a couple of rocks in the southern part. You'll have to do some rock climbing so you better wear comfy walking shoes than flip-flops.
There are many narrow paths through the jungle-like interior. They quickly get muddy and slippery during the rainy season. Turn right at the school (west side of the island) for the walk up to the lighthouse and the north side of the island, or follow the red muddy path from Miss Bridget's place through forests and swamps to the north beach and Derek's place. There's another muddy path just south of the dive shop, which leads across to the breezy east side of the island, the one I usually took to get from the village to Carlito's place.
We arrived on Big Corn Island around 8am. To get to Little Corn Island you have to take a panga boat. There are two departures daily from Big Corn, at 10am and 4pm. The times coincide well with La Costeña flights from Managua. The trip to Little Corn is often choppy and rough, especially when the sea is up. I heard several frightening stories so I was prepared to the worst. During the windiest months (December to April), if it gets too rough, they stop the service. And this was exactly what happened in my case. At the airport I was told that due to very strong winds there were no panga boat that day (as were not the previous day). That meant I would have to stay at least one night on Big Corn Island. So at the airport I took a taxi and the driver brought me to a hotel near the wharf. The ride was 1 US $ (December 2010).
Next morning I woke up with the good news: after two days panga was finally going to Little Corn again. It left at 10am. I had breakfast at my hotel and then went to the pier. To enter I had to pay a tax of 3 cordobas. The boat ride was 120 cordobas and I paid it on board. It was quite a small speedboat that seats about 15 people. I sat on the back which seemed to be less bumpy, but you certainly get more wet. Sit around the middle of the boat to stay dry. We wrapped our luggage in plastic bags which was essential to keep it dry, and we got life jackets. The journey began pretty smoothly. But as soon as we were on the open sea the waves were huge and a ride over choppy water at 16 knots was very bumpy. I was quite scared, and so were most of the passengers. They put out a huge sheet made of plastic to cover the passengers but it wasn't enough to keep us dry. By the time we arrived in Little Corn about 45 minutes later all the passengers were soaked to the skin. We were all relieved that we safely arrived.
On the dock there was a guy (working for Carlito) with a sign with my name waiting for me. He helped me with a luggage and led me along the path that leads to the east side of the island where I was staying.
On the return to Big Corn I took a 6:30am panga to catch the morning flight to Managua (the other leaves at 2pm). It was nice to have a company as the girl working for Carlito was taking the same boat. The ride was pretty smooth and also quicker. At the docks taxis were waiting and I took one to the airport. I had an open return ticket to Managua but there was no problem to get a seat.
I had to be at the airport at 5am to catch the 6:15am flight from Managua to Big Corn Island. I used Paxeos shuttle service on my arrival to Nicaragua (to get from Managua airport to Granada). Since I was very satisfied with their service I used them again. I arranged the transportation in their office at Parque Central next to the Catedral, one day prior my trip. It was 15 US $ (December 2010). The driver picked me up at 4am on Calle La Calzada, in front of Hospedaje Café Ruíz where I was staying.
The fastest and most convenient option to reach the Corn Islands is to take the plane. La Costeña has two daily flights from Managua to Big Corn Island, usually once in the morning and again in early to mid afternoon. The flight takes about 1,5 hours. Sometimes there is a short stop in Bluefields (in my case it was both times). You will be flying on either a 12 seat dual prop plane or the bigger plane with up to 46 seats. There is a weight limit for the plane so be careful about how much luggage you bring. They weight each passenger with their luggage before boarding.
La Costena has online booking (www.lacostena.com.ni). Alternatively, you can book in a travel agency at Parque Central in Granada. I heard about the cases that people with the ticket could not get on the plane because too many tickets were sold for the same flight. Boris from La Siesta suggested to get to the airport as soon as possible and try to purchase ticket there. Not all the passenger book in advance so in most cases there are a few places left. Just in case, a few days before my flight I also made a reservation via e-mail. The best person to contact is Julio Caballero who speaks perfect English. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Though from my experience, they did not accept such reservation. But anyway, I could arrange everything right at the airport. The cost of a round trip ticket was 164 US $ with a tax (December 2010). They accept VISA, Mastercard and US dollars. I got an open return ticket. That means I could choose the return date as long as there was room on the plane.
On my return to Managua the driver from Paxeos was waiting for me at the airport. Shuttle van to Granada was 18 US $.
There are two pangas (boats) going in each direction daily, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and the journey takes about 40 minutes. The boats are big open boats where the passengers sit in a line on narrow benches.
I went directly from the airport to the harbour. There I paid a tax of 3 cordobas (August 2009) and sat down in the restaurant nearby to drink a coca-cola (20 cordobas). Then I waited by the boat and then inside the boat. It was very hot as there was no shade in the boat. When we slowly left the harbour a young man climbed around to sell the tickets. A ticket was 110 cordobas. When the boat came out on open see it started to be a horrible journey. It was wavy and they took out a big plastic tarpaulin. First it was held on the side the waves were coming from but it was not enough so it soon covered all passengers in the boat. So there we were, ducking under the tarpaulin with water splashing hard on the tarpaulin and our heads, without being able to see what was going on on the sea. It was a long journey and it was a relief to arrive to Little Corn Island.
Going back to Big Corn Island I wanted to take the afternoon boat as I had an afternoon flight. The boat was supposed to leave at 14.00, but at that time no panga was in sight. I sat down and ate a fresh coconut bread I had bought earlier, but started to get a bit worried not to be in time for the flight. At 14.20 the boat arrived and we soon took off. Once again tickets were sold on the boat by a man climbing around among the passengers, but I heard that a few days earlier they had started to sell tickets on Big Corn Island in an office at the harbour. The sea was much calmer this day so no tarpaulin was needed and the journey was also much quicker in this direction. Arriving to Big Corn Island there was no problem finding a taxi to the airport.
I bought the ticket for the flight from a travel agent in Granada about 10 days ahead of the journey. A return ticket with La Costeña was 177 US dollars (July 2009).
4.30 in the morning I took a shuttle from the hostel in Managua to the airport. It took half an hour to the airport and as I shared it with someone else it was 10 dollars, otherwise it would have been 15 dollars. Arriving at the airport I paid a tax of 40 cordobas (2 dollars) before checking in. When checking in my big backpack they did not only weigh it, but also my hand luggage and me. The domestic hall at the airport is not very big but there are two news stands/cafeterias. I bought a newspaper (7 cordobas) and toast and coffee for breakfast (44 cordobas).
The plane was supposed to leave at 6.30 but was a little bit delayed. On the way to Corn Island we went down in Bluefields. To Big Corn Island we arrived at 8.30. From the airport I shared a taxi to the Municipal Wharf and we paid 20 cordobas each (August 2009). Also when I went the opposite way a few days later I paid 20 cordobas, even if I was alone in the taxi.
Also flying from the airport on Big Corn Island you pay an airport tax of 2 dollars (41 cordobas). Going back to Managua I took the afternoon plane. Both La Costeña and Atlantic Airways have a morning flight and an afternoon flight. The plane left at 15.55, 15 minutes after schedule, and made a short stop in Bluefields before continuing to Managua. Back in Managua I took a taxi to the hostel and paid 15 dollars.
The two ways I know of to get to Corn Island is to fly or boat it as with most islands. I flew from Managua to Corn Island with Atlantic Airlines. I payed US $152 return but the price has now gone up to US $165 return. Going there the planed stoped in Bluefields first then continued on. Coming back the flight went straight to Managua. It is a nice flight as you get to see a lot of Nicaragua's forests. The way back was a bit rought which I was not to appreciated of. The fly there and back a couple time daily so you should be able to get a ticket no problem. I was able to get mine the night before. When I bought my return ticket I was told to choose the return date on Corn Island which was nice as it gives flexibility. I don't think the website I put with this is the official website but it still gives you a schedule.
I went to Corn Island by boat. This was a really bad decision, and the worst experience on the whole trip.
First I took the bus from Managua late at night. First bad choice, because even though it was a night bus it was just like the busses running at day, and the roads where really bad. In stead of driving around the holes in the road, he tried to drive around the little pieces of asphalt still on the road. I couldn’t sleep, the ride was so bumpy. But I was so tired and every time I dozed of I hammered my head in to the person sitting next to me.
We arrived in Rama the next day. Here the road stopped, and we had to continue on a boat on the river. This boat left around noon, and it was a nice and relaxing trip. The locals brought with them huge baskets of things, and inland there were small huts and waving naked kids.
We arrived at Bluefields in the afternoon. Here I had to spend the night. I met a local guy on the boat, also going to Corn Island. He knew a hostel, where we could sleep. The hostel was very bad; the room smelled of mice, was damp and the sheets weren’t clean. The bathroom was concrete, no lock on the door, wet and damp.
The town it self was not nice, I felt insecure. The men were drunk, very black and scary to look at. I didn’t want to go out to eat so I went to bed without dinner.
The next morning we got up early, without breakfast. We went to the harbor, where we were told that the boat didn’t go that day. Instead we found a private boat that had to go to Corn Island. The boat weren’t big, and we had to hide inside on the way out of the harbor, so the authorities didn’t see us. When we hit open sea the weather was bad and windy. Everybody got seasick and some of the local women prayed for hours. Some of the locals lay on the wet deck vomiting. I didn’t get sick that much, because I had taken medicine.
The waves splashed over the boat and the cargo moved. A car on the deck even moved sideways. After 8 horrible hours we finally arrived. I was so happy when I sat my foot on land.
The Panaga boat. We had heard nightmares about the trip on a Panaga boat from Big Corn Island to Little Corn, so we were prepared for the worst. The trip there was heavenly, smooth ocean sailing, leaving us going "huh?". Then the trip back. We left on a Sunday morning and the boat was LOADED to the brim with people, mostly locals heading to Big Corn. I had no worries until the boat, which had been loaded unevenly just stopped in the middle of the ocean and when the locals start to look concerned I started to look concerned. It started again and we limped into Big Corn with the boat dipping and swaying and people gasping and screaming...but we made it and I'd do it all again just to see the beaches of Little Corn.
There are two airlines that fly into Big Corn Island from Bluefields: La Costena and Atlantic Airlines. Both airlines charge 1745 cordobas for the flight from Managua to Big Corn Island. We flew on La Costena from Managua to Bluefields to Big Corn Island. The flight from Managua to Bluefields was about 45 minutes long with excellent views of Ometepe and the Isletas. Several passengers got off at Bluefields and within 15 minutes we were back in flight in route to Big Corn Island. The flight from Bluefields to Big Corn Island was approximately 20 minutes long. Be sure to hang onto your luggage tags - you must have it in order to "claim" your luggage upon arrival at Big Corn Island. Additionally, your paid ticket doesn't necessary guarantee you a seat on the plane - be sure to arrive early so you can confirm your registration. Some people who had paid were turned away from our flight...
When we got off of the plane, we were given a map of Big Corn Island. The map was extremely helpful - it even had the names and prices & ammenities for each of the hotels and specific information about the restaurants! VERY HELPFUL! E-mail me if you need a map...
The port is a short distance (5-minute walk) from the airport to the port. It is a very easy walk, however most people do not realize this, so they hire taxis. The taxi fare to the port is only about $1US. A very friendly islander named Julio asked us if we needed assistance. We gave him $2US (not knowing the taxi fare beforehand) to carry our luggage from the airport to the port. Even though the taxi was less, we were happy that we took the walk - it was nice to take a slower pace so we could get a "feel" for the island! :-)