The Quick and Easy Way…
At which point I should insert a disclaimer as La Costena airlines can be subject to delays, and on occasions your bag may arrive the day after you do!
But… on the whole they make every effort to stick to schedule, and since becoming part of the TACA Group, have become more reliable, to the extent that they have been known to fly extra planes all the way from Managua to Big Corn to pick up passengers in the case of technical difficulties on the original plane.
La Costena now have a website where you can make bookings in advance (note that you need to book 2 days or more in advance if booking on-line) – click on logo to navigate to their website
Flights leave Managua at 6.20am and 2pm, returning at 7.45am and 3.40pm (note that the early morning flight now seems to be actually departing on time, so delayed morning pangas may cause problems. Note also that the airline is also advertising a high and low season schedule for the afternoon flights so they differ by about half an hour). Return flights cost $164, singles cost $106 each way from Managua or $60 each way for either of the legs from Managua to Bluefields or Bluefields to Big Corn.
From the airport you can catch a taxi to the dock for the boat to Little Corn for $1 per person, 5 minute ride.
BOATS FROM BIG CORN TO LITTLE CORN – UPDATED APRIL 2013 (again!!)
So, as of early April there are still 2 boat options to get here, but now instead of you being able to choose, they 3 boat companies (2 pangas and the ‘yacht’) are running on a rotation basis, so you just have to turn up and see which one is running that day!
They are now all costing $6 or C.145 each way and leaving Big Corn at 10am and 4.30pm. The 2 open pangas take around 30 minutes, and the bigger boat about 45 minutes.
The confusing part is when the boats leave Little Corn to go to Big Corn. Note that any of these options is fine to get you to the morning, or afternoon flights respectively. The pangas will leave at 6.30am and 1.30pm, the yacht at 6.15am and 1.15am, so you could either ask around to see which is running, or we recommend just being at the dock by 6am or 1pm to buy your ticket and make sure!!!
And for those of you who have read or heard horror stories about the panga ride over here, here is a great clip showing what the crossing is usually like……. Thanks to Brendan Lewis, Flaco and Lewis for this……
There is also an additional boat running between the islands, leaving Little Corn at 4pm and returning from Big Corn the next morning….. sometime….. when they feel like it!
The Cheaper Way…..
So the other way gets mixed reviews, depending on the weather usually!
From Managua you can get a bus to the river port of Rama, located on the Rio Escondido which is as far as you can get by road from the capital! Buses leave from the Mercado Ivan Montenegro (Costa Atlantica terminal), express buses leave at 9pm and arrive into Rama around 3am, costing $8 each way.
From Bluefields the Rio Escondido passenger ferry has a scheduled boat every Wednesday at 9am to Big Corn, taking about 6 hours and costing $12 each way.
Note – there are also supply ships that leave Rama on Thursday mornings that may also take passengers, but you need to speak to the boat captains to check on space and journey duration as they usually stop in Bluefields on the way, sometimes for a few hours.
Boats return from Big Corn Island to Bluefields/Rama on Thursday mornings at 9am, and on Sunday nights at around 11pm.
We highly recommend both of these companies for safe, clean, reliable and well priced transfers to/from Managua airport to destinations south such as Granada, San Juan del Sur and even the Costa Rica border at Penas Blancas. Their scheduled trips work out cheaper than hailing a taxi on the streets of Managua in most cases, even for one person, although their private trips are only really viable for groups. Bookings can be made online or by phone.
GETTING TO NICARAGUA
Officially you need to be able to show an exit ticket from Nicaragua in order to board an international flight destined for the country (the same is true for some other Central American countries also). This rule seems to be randomly applied and if you’re backpacking then you probably don’t have one. Note that Spirit Airlines enforce this strictly and make you buy a return ticket in order to board you, even if you don’t plan to use it! If this happens buy a refundable one and hopefully you’ll get it back, although that in itself is a process! If you search online there is a company in Costa Rica that can buy exit bus tickets on your behalf and email you the details, even at short notice, but they charge a premium for this service.
Best bet is to fake an itinerary in advance of travel just in case you need to use it. Note that the main border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica at Penas Blancas also seems strict on enforcing this rule for entry into Costa Rica, although you can buy a bus ticket at the border that satifies this requirement.