How Do I Get to Little Corn Island?
Method 1 – The Quick and Easy Way!
If you time your international flight well for arrival to Managua, you can be on Little Corn on the afternoon of the same day! Several airlines that fly to Managua have flights with arrival times that let you make the afternoon flight to Corn Island.
LaCostena Airlines has 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)
Flights Depart Managua for Corn Island at:
Flights Return to Managua from Corn Island at:
The base round trip ticket cost is $164. One-way cost $106 each way from Managua or $60 each way for either of the legs from Managua to Bluefields or Bluefields to Big Corn.
A few years back they introduced variable pricing when booking online, so double-check their website for prices….
TRAVEL TIP – Recently their fees for online bookings seem to have gone up and fares can be far more expensive than the standard prices listed above. To get around this and to get the cheapest prices you can call La Costena’s reservations office in Managua airport at (505) 2298 5360 (option 2) to get the standard fares without the online fees. The direct booking price has consistently been $164 for several years now. When you book by phone, they can email you a confirmation number and copy of your ticket.
You can also buy tickets in person at the airport and also get that lower base fare. but since flights book up in advance you need to do this several days before you plan to travel, so this might not be practical for everyone.
(Note: As of June 2019 a $20 fuel surcharge has been added to the R/T ticket price to adjust for rising fuel costs. This is the first fare increase in over 10 years, so a fairly reasonable change)
WHEN YOU ARRIVE ON BIG CORN:
From the airport, catch a taxi to the dock ($1 per person, 5-minute ride) for the boat (Panga) to Little Corn.
BETWEEN THE ISLANDS:
The regular pangas leave at the following times:
From Big Corn to Little Corn
(Panga will generally wait if the plane is delayed a little.)
From Little Corn to Big Corn:
Trips cost $5 or 150 Cordobas each way.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DEPART FROM LITTLE CORN FOR YOUR TRIP HOME?
La Costena will ask you to check in an hour and a half before the flight time, but in reality that’s not necessary and you can generally catch the morning boat at 6.30am for the morning flight, and the afternoon boat for the afternoon flight.
HOWEVER – When winds are predicted to be above about 22 knots, we suggest that you depart earlier to make sure you catch your flight. We suggest that at those times that if you are on a morning flight at 8:10am that you leave the afternoon before, and if you are on the afternoon flight then you leave that morning (while on the island, you can stop by Tranquilo Cafe for weather updates if you like).
For those of you who have read or heard scary stories about the panga ride over here, here is a great video clip showing what the crossing is usually like: “Official” Little Corn Panga Video
If you want to eliminate any worry about the slight chance of a panga weather delay, simply plan to spend a day or two on Big Corn at the later part of your visit to the islands. It’s also good advice if you were planning to stay on both islands anyway. Little Corn first, Big Corn after.
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 scheduled boat to Big Corn, taking about 6 hours and costing $12 each way. The boat leaves once a week on Wednesday morning 9am from Bluefields, returning from Big Corn at 9am on Thursday. It also runs on Saturday mornings, and returns on Sunday.
Cargo ships also may sometimes take passengers on Thursday or Friday from the mainland, but departure ports and times are not fixed and spaces may not be available.
There are a number of shuttle operators that offer 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 satisfies this requirement.
Please be aware that Little Corn is a small remote island and as such boat transport to and from the island will be dependent on weather conditions. There is no strict rule as to when boats will be allowed to run and when they will not but if winds are over 25mph then there is a chance of cancellations. The decision is made by the Navy (Capitania) based in Big Corn and unfortunately, those decisions are not always communicated in advance, even to the panga drivers themselves! We recommend that you check forecasts before and during your visit here, and also that you have adequate travel insurance to cover you for potential travel delays.