Why not read our Retirement Reviews.
On paper, this involved:
- A boat from Little Corn to Big Corn
- A ferry from Big Corn to Bluefields
- A boat up river from Bluefields to El Rama
- A bus from El Rama to Managua
- A bus from Managua to Granada
In reality, I took a short-cut and shaved about 1 hour off the journey …
LITTLE CORN TO BIG CORN BY BOAT:
The weekly ferry from Big Corn Island to Bluefields leaves at 9am each Thursday morning. The first boat from Little Corn to Big Corn leaves at 6:30am. This gets you to Big Corn by 7:00am and gives you plenty of time to buy your Bluefields ferry ticket.
You cannot buy your Little Corn boat ticket in advance. You have to turn up at the boat dock and buy your ticket on that day. The ticket office opens at 5:30am. I was there at 5:45am. There were already 20 people in front of me queuing for tickets. The ticket office opened just as I arrived.
Sure enough (and as predicted in my Little Corn Island post), just as we left Little Corn the heavens opened up and it started to rain. A large plastic sheet was sent down the boat. Everyone huddled underneath it. People sitting in the middle seats in the middle of the boat were able to stay reasonably dry. Everyone else got soaked.
STRANDED IN BIG CORN ISLAND:
We arrived in Brig Bay, Big Corn at 7:15am to find that the Wednesday ferry from Bluefields had not arrived. The next ferry to the mainland did not leave until Sunday.
Luckily, I had been on Big Corn Island before and knew my way around.
I popped in to the Fisher’s Cave Hotel next to the boat dock to enquire about room prices. I knew that they were expensive (on the internet, their rooms start at about US$40 / night) but I enquired anyway. They offered me a Single Room for US$25 / night.
As you exit the Brig Bay Boat Dock there is a sign advertising cheap rooms in an hotel to the left. Prices start at US$12 / night for single occupancy. US$15 for Double occupancy. I did not look at the rooms.
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
The detail is in my Big Corn Island Information post.
I ended up eating elsewhere.
However, it was nice to put Little Corn behind me and pay more reasonable prices for a change. Sitting on a N$25 small bottle of beer (N$60 on Little Corn) and a N$55 1 litre beer (unavailable on Little Corn) helped to compensate for being stranded on Big Corn 🙂
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY EXCHANGE:
There is 1 bank on the island and it has an ATM.
It is located along the main road. Leave the Brig Bay boat dock, turn right, and walk 500 metres. You will find it around the corner just as you pass G&Gs and hit the airstrip.
BIG CORN ISLAND TO BLUEFIELDS:
To catch the 9am ferry from Bluefields to Big Corn, you are advised to be at the ticketing office by 7am. This ensures that you get a ticket and that you get a reasonably good seat on the ferry (possibly one inside the aircon area).
I assumed that, going back in the opposite direction, I would need to do the same. So, I was up early and down at the Brig Bay Boat Dock by 7am. Only to find that the ticketing window was closed and didn’t open until 8am. The boat had been delayed until 10am … and they open ticketing 2 hours before sailing time.
As I had 1 hour free, I went into Fisher’s Cave for (yet another poor value for money) Breakfast.
Just before 8am I was outside queuing. There were about 15 people in front of me. The window opened at about 8:15am and, as usual, the locals all started pushing in at the front from the sides. If they don’t physically push in … they walk up to another local, give them their ID and money, and the other local buys their ticket. Thankfully a couple of local boys behind me were giving all of the queue jumpers a hard time … which limited queue jumper numbers.
It took me over 30 minutes to get a ticket. The cost was N$260 (N$255 for the boat ticket and N$5 for the port tax).
I was on the boat and claiming a seat by 8:50am. It’s amazing how many people are already there even though you have never seen their faces queuing for a ticket.
I managed to find a seat in the aircon area next to a young local who was pretending that the whole seat had already been claimed (I assume that he was hoping to be able to lie down and go to sleep during the voyage).
A group of 3 young backpackers squeezed in and I made room for 3 on our seat (built for 2). We made friends on the way to Bluefields. We finally left at 10:30am. We stopped in El Bluff at 2:15pm and arrived in Bluefields at 3:15pm.
The trip back to Bluefields was very different from the one from there to Big Corn. The seas were calmer, we were riding with the swell, people outside kept dry, and nobody threw up.
MY ADVICE: Play their game! The boat does not check tickets until just before it sails … you can get on before then. If you are travelling solo, partner up with someone. One of you should queue for tickets whilst the other gets on the boat and claims some good seats.
For more detail, read my post on Greytown to Bluefields.
By now, the 4 of us from the boat had partnered up and we were travelling together.
We all wanted to get out of Bluefields as fast as possible and get to El Rama. We asked several people … we could not get to Rama. The punga (river boat) would not leave unless it had at least 20 people (we plus others were only 8) and there is no local bus nor colectivo to Rama from Bluefields. We were stranded in Bluefields for 1 night.
The couple got a Double Fan Room with Private Bathroom for N$400 / night. The single guy got a Single Fan Room with Private Bathroom for N$250. I got a Double Fan Room with Private Bathroom for N$300 (Single occupancy).
We ate Dinner at my favourite little cafe: the Apple Girl. We had a BBQ Pork Rib meal for N$110 with a fresh juice N$10.
We, then, popped down to my favourite local bar for a couple of beers: N$50 for a 1 litre bottle of Victoria Classic. We were in bed early … we needed to be up early the next morning.
Have a look yourself:
BLUEFIELDS TO GRANADA:
There is a new road being built that connects Bluefields to Nueva Guinea. It is not completely finished yet, but it is good enough for buses to start running regularly between the two en route to Managua.
The bus to Managua leaves from the main Boat Dock. The first bus leaves at 6:00am. You buy your tickets from a ticketing office down a little alleyway (the same place that you buy punga tickets to go to El Rama).
The ticketing office was closed when we arrived the previous day, so (to ensure that we got a seat) we arrived at 5am at the ticketing office the next morning. The ticket costs N$300 and you get an assigned seat number on an assigned bus (2 buses left at 6am on our morning). Make sure that you get on the right bus!
Our bus left late at 6:30am. We passed through Nueva Guinea at 9am. We stopped at 9:15am for people to grab Breakfast and toilets. You could grab a decent meal for N$90. We stayed 30 minutes. We stopped again for 15 minutes at 12:15pm.
Some locals on the bus started talking to us … and they proved very friendly and helpful. One man was en route to San Juan del Sur … he told me (in Spanish) that he would show us a short cut that avoided Managua. In Managua, we would have to catch a taxi between bus terminals to connect to Granada.
At 2:30pm we followed our friend off the bus at Noel Morales. We got off opposite a petrol station at the junction to Route 11A. Another young traveller had joined our small group. We walked past the petrol station and waited on the side of the road about 20 metres down Route 11A. Within 5 minutes a microbus passed en route to Masala. We got on. The price was N$20 (but he charged me an extra N$10 for stowing my large suitcase). After 20 minutes, we got off the Microbus as we entered Masala. This was not the last stop – so, ask the bus driver to drop you off at the stop to Granada.
Here I left my friends to continue on the Microbus to the Masala Bus Terminal – they were en route to Lago Apoyo. A young backpacker and I got off to head for Granada.
We waited on the side of the road for 2 minutes and caught another Microbus to Granada. The price was N$15 (but he charged me an extra N$15 for stowing my large suitcase). We arrived in Granada at 3:35pm.
The Microbus Terminal is 800 metres from the Cathedral Square. You can catch a taxi for N$20 each if you want to. We walked.
I had been in Granada before. For more details, read my posts on Granada.
I had not pre-booked accommodation … when travelling such distances in countries like Nicaragua, there is no guarantee that you are going to get there on time / that day. I headed down to the Calzada, ordered a beer (at my favourite pub – O’Shea’s), and got online.
GRANDPAcker accommodation in Granada isn’t cheap – you can expect to pay US$30 / night. I got online and looked for last minutes ‘deals’. There were very few available.
I made a shortlist of hotels nearby and decided to ‘walk in off the street’ to see what prices I could get.
I walked around the corner from O’Shea’s into the first shortlisted hotel: Hotel Los Tejados. They offered me a Double Fan Room with Private Bathroom for US$25 / night (Single occupancy). The room was small. I offered them US$20. They took it.
Have a look yourself:
You can catch Cargo ships from the Corn Islands direct to El Rama. Just ask around. They leave when they are ready (no set days nor times). They, usually, travel overnight. You pay the captain. They can take 12-17 hours. They are basic and you, usually, have to sleep on cardboard on the floor. This is NOT a GRANDPAcker option.
GRANDPAckers are looking at a ferry from Big Corn to Bluefields.
The Big Corn to Bluefields ferry is not reliable. You may get stranded in Big Corn.
If you arrive late in Bluefields, you may miss the last punga to El Rama. You may get stranded in Bluefields. There is now a direct bus from Bluefields to Managua.
If you are going to Granada, you can bypass Managua by getting off at the junction to Route 11A. From there, you can catch 2 Microbuses to Masala and, then, Granada.
MY ADVICE: I would have preferred to spend a night in El Rama rather than Bluefields (I think that El Rama is safer, nicer and cheaper) and catch a bus from El Rama direct to Managua.
MY ADVICE: If you are heading to Granada, take the Route 11A shortcut. It is about 1 hour faster than going via Managua. It is also cheaper because you don’t get ripped off in Managua catching a taxi between bus terminals.