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Nicaragua: The Corn Islands To Ometepe (Without Flying)

We left Little Corn on a Thursday morning, caught the passenger ferry to Bluefields, and made our way to Managua. From here, we went directly to Ometepe, without stopping in Rivas.

We’ve put together a simple step-by-step-guide to show you exactly how we did it, and even though we were exhausted after the 28 hour jaunt, it was yet another thrilling adventure. Besides, Ometepe was worth it.

Table of Contents

Little Corn to Big Corn :

Throughout your time on Little Corn, you will see at least two cargo ships docked, particularly from Tuesday to Thursday. If so, there is no harm asking if it’s possible to pay for a ride back to El Rama or at the very least, El Bluff. In fact the cargo ship may come in a little cheaper than the Rio Escondido. However after some research and asking the locals; this method is faster and more reliable.

Note: The Rio Escondido will depart from Big Corn Island at 9am every Thursday.

Some of you will prefer to spend the Wednesday night on Big Corn Island, for peace of mind . If you do, we recommend Hotel G&G which costs $15 per night for a private room and bathroom. As you leave the main port, take a right and walk 10 minutes until you see a small fork in the road. Take a right here. You won’t miss the large Hotel G&G painted on the hotel’s roof.

Others, as in us, we wanted one more night on Little Corn so decided to set the alarms early and begin our Thursday morning at 5am. To make sure you don’t miss Rio Escondido, it’s important to catch the first panga of the morning. If you are staying close to the port, there is no need to bring you bags with you. Leave them at your hostel and instead grab the passport, you can’t book a ticket without it. Be sure to arrive for panga 15 mins before it’s due to depart. It has been known to leave 5 minutes early.

Big Corn to Bluefields:

When you arrive at Big Corn, head towards Fishers Cave restaurant. It’s up on your right as you exit the port gate. Queue up at the restaurant’s main window, which will open at 7am. Tickets cost 255 cordobas (€8) each.

Once you’ve bought your tickets, head to Escondido and chuck your bags on a seat. Screw it. Everyone does it. We recommend the inside or down the back undercover. Although it does get very hot down the back. Just avoid the front and upper deck. You will be travelling over a day, so avoid wind burn and sea splash.

Just like school, leave your rucksack to hold your spot on the ferry, but be sure to bring all personal belongings with you. Fuel up with some breakfast and stock up on some snacks and water for the journey ahead. On the right of Fisher’s Cave restaurant there are  ’well-sized’ ginger cookies, water and coffee at the small shop beside the ticket box at the port.. Get it all to go and go back to your bags and seats on the Escondido.

Bluefields to El Rama :

The Escondido will arrive into Bluefields anytime between 2-3pm. For us it was 3pm. As you depart the ferry, some locals might tell you that the last panga has left already. Go see for yourselves. From the ferry, take the first left and walk through a small market. Follow it around to a small building. When we arrived, we were told that there were at least three more pangas leaving and hopped straight on to the next one for 250 cordobas (€8).

Worst case, you will have to stay a night on Bluefields, but we haven’t heard this happening. If so, be sure not to stay at any accommodation next to the port as the majority of these are brothels hence why they are so cheap. We were recommended Hostal Dona Vero.

Either way the panga will take 2.5 hours to El Rama. If you did get stuck in Bluefields for a night, the first panga will leave at 6am the following morning.

Nicaragua: The Corn Islands To Ometepe (Without Flying)
The Corn Islands Bus Timetable

El Rama to Managua:

Buses leave El Rama to Managua throughout the day at 9am, 12pm, 4pm, 6.30pm and 9pm (there may be more).

Since we didn’t have to spend a night in Bluefields, we arrived in El Rama between 5.30pm-5.45pm. We assume you’re reading this because you’re looking for a ‘direct-to-Ometepe-no-accommodation-needed’ route. If so, book and take the later 9pm bus. Buy your tickets and chuck your bags on the bus.

Go indulge in some amazing grilled food that you can find on any street. There are two ATMs available close-by the busses should you need it cash, as well as many corner shops to stock up on snacks. There is a comedor behind the parked buses and we highly recommend their massive portions  for 110 cordobas (€3.50) this also includes a drink. Fuel up, fuel up, fuel up! Like a buffet, pick whatever meat and sauce you want, add rice or gallo pinto, salad, plantain chips and dear God try the cacao here!

Kill some time and ramble around the number of streets close to the buses. Each to their own and all that but we felt very safe, and it was still early. To be honest, we found Rama quite cool. Way safer than Bluefields and would have loved to have spent more time there.

Enjoy the comfortable overnight bus that arrives at the Mayoreo bus terminal, in Managua.

Arriving into Managua Late At Night:

Following this step-by-step guide means you will arrive in Managua at 3.30am. Not really the city you want to be in during these late/early hours. So this is the part where you have two options.

Option 1: Stay The Night in Managua:

To be on the safe side, you could pre-book accommodation in Managua and take a taxi from the station. Don’t worry there will be plenty of people grabbing cabs from the bus terminal. But please be sure to only take official taxis that have the registration number displayed on the side and back of the car. Although you will be a little sleepy, try to have your wits about you at this hour.

It might be worth mentioning that the overnight El Rama to Managua bus will stop halfway at a restaurant. Here you will find decent Wi-Fi, food and toilets. So, if you haven’t pre-booked and decide at the last minute that you need accommodation, using the Wi-Fi here is your best bet. Don’t rely on this though.

NOTE: Add credit and use Skype to directly call a hostel/hotel, it only costs 1c per minute!

Option 2: No Accommodation in Managua:

The overnight bus arrives into Mayoreo bus terminal at 3.30am. Buses from Managua to Rivas start running from 5.30am. So we decided to save on another night’s accommodation and instead hung out at the Mayoreo bus terminal waiting for it to become bright, waiting to make our next move.

Honestly, this option may be a little risky. We cannot guarantee your safety, especially in a city such as Managua. And whatever you do, don’t do this by yourself.

We had a backup plan, should our instincts tell us that this was a bad idea. Before we left The Corn Islands, we searched and found a local hostel that we could just head straight to, using only official taxis of course! So please do the same. Safety will ALWAYS win over convenience and saving money. Go with your gut.

Speaking from our personal experience, when we pulled into Mayoreo station, we noticed just how busy the terminal was. Couples, families and unaccompanied women (always a good sign) sat and slept in the open-aired waiting room; which was surrounded by food stalls and vendors.

Squeezing our padlocked bags between our legs, we found a seat in plain sight of the security guard and got comfortable. One by one, for 5 cordobas (€0.15), we took a trip to the bathroom to freshen up. We also grabbed a coffee, or three, for 6 cordobas each.

I’m going to say it again. Go with your gut on this one. We genuinely felt safe and it got to a stage where the buzz and conversation made us forget the time, place and the fact we had a minimum 2-3 hour wait here.

We will in no way encourage you to follow suit if you don’t feel that same comfort. Suss it out and if it’s not feeling right or if it’s quiet, just go to your chosen hostel and have a safe night’s sleep. There are plenty of buses from Managua to San Jorge/Rivas running throughout the day.

NOTE: The last ferry from San Jorge to Ometepe leaves at 5.45pm.

Mayoreo Terminal to Robert Huembes Bus Station:

The good news is it gets bright from 5.30am. The city and nearby market is alive and the fear of nighttime Managua is no more.

You’re now half way there and remember you’ve made the best choice possible. It’s a good idea to ease away from a tropical island and swap it for a volcanic island in the middle of a large lake. The hardest part is over… really.

Your next move is to get a bus to Robert Huembes market where you will grab a bus to Rivas or direct to San Jorge.

Leave the Mayoreo grounds through the gate that your bus drove in. Head left towards the junction. You will notice a number of buses head up and down this road, so you won’t miss it. At the junction, cross the road and take a right, in search for the #110 bus towards Robert Huembes. If stuck, ask a vendor.

The #110 bus only accepts travel cards so approach anyone wearing ‘Mercardo Mayoreo’ t-shirts and pay 5 cordobas (€.15) to use their travel card.. This cost includes your bus fare.

Ask the driver to nudge you at the stop near the Robert Huembes market, or use your phone’s navigation. It should take around 20 minutes in total.

The bus will drop you off at another busy main road. Head left up this road and after roughly 5 minutes you will notice another junction up ahead. Just before this junction, swing a right up the small pedestrian path through market stalls and straight into the Huembes bus terminal.

Robert Huembes to San Jorge

Here you have two options to get to San Jorge, where you will board the ferry to Ometepe. You can take a bus to Rivas or catch the direct 8.30am bus to San Jorge. Busses to Rivas are more frequent but you will then have to take another bus to San Jorge.

Option 1: Managua – San Jorge (direct bus)

As far as we know, there are only two direct buses to San Jorge per day, the first one at 8.30am. They cost 50 cordobas (€1.50) more than the bus to Rivas but are a lot less hassle.

Walk through the Huembes “waiting area” (if you could call it that) towards the buses. Take a left and go to the second bus departure bay on your right. The stop is next to the buses heading for Tipitapa directly opposite this sign. The bus arrives between 8-8.20am and leaves at 8.30am.

NOTE: Before the San Jorge bus arrives, there will be a Rivas bus leaving and the driver/ayudante will tell you anything to take his bus instead. It’s all lies. Politely decline and ignore them. Once we told them we knew there was an express bus they left us alone and even joked about the fact we couldn’t be persuaded.

The express bus takes less than 2 hours and drops you at the San Jorge ferry port. It costs 75 cordobas (€2.30) per person.

Nicaragua: The Corn Islands To Ometepe (Without Flying)
The San Jorge Express Bus

Option 2: Managua – Rivas – San Jorge

The Rivas buses leave every half hour and are clearly marked. They cost 25 cordobas (€0.80) and the journey takes 2 hours.

Despite what ANYONE tells you do not get off this bus until you c the Rivas terminal. How will you know? It’s the last stop. End of the line. There are many scams in place along the Rivas route where the driver will call for Ometepe. We have heard some stories of people who get off to realise you are a long way away from both Rivas and San Jorge. This means you will have no choice but to take a taxi. Stay on the bus.

When you arrive at Rivas, across the road from the terminal are buses to San Jorge. We are unsure of the exact fare so ask a vendor. Again, ignore every taxi man and con-artist who will tell you that there are no buses running to San Jorge. Unless it’s a Sunday, this is false. They will also tell you it is cheaper to get a taxi, also false. You know the drill. Politely ignore them and hold out for the San Jorge bus.

San Jorge to Ometepe

From San Jorge port, take a lancha for 31 cordobas (€0.95) or the ferry for 50 cordobas (€1.50). Both options stop at Moyogalpa and San Juan del Sur and leave every hour.

Nicaragua: The Corn Islands To Ometepe (Without Flying)
Ferry To Ometepe 

So there you have it, over 28 hours of nonstop travelling and while your little paradise is now a distant memory a new adventure on the stunning island of Ometepe awaits.

We hope this guide helps you in some way, and please, if you need any further help or have an update on this route – let us know in the comments below.

Enjoy Ometepe!



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