Most major airlines have service to Managua, and from there you can catch a regional flight on Los Costena Air. We stayed in Granada for two nights so we immediately caught a cab out of the airport, but if you are planning on heading to Big Corn directly after you arrive in Managua, the terminal is located to the left of Customs and Immigration. It is best to book your flight online ahead of time for roughly $169 USD per person round trip. (If you reserve by phone, you will have to request an English speaking agent if needed.) This is a smaller airline, thus smaller planes so keep in mind your luggage will be limited to 30 lbs per passenger, with overage fees of approximately $1.20 USD per lb. The first flight out of Managua to Big Corn typically leaves between 6:00 – 6:30 AM and the last flight leaves at around 2:00 PM, so if you aren’t able to make that last flight, we recommend getting a room at the Best Western located right across the street from the airport. Some of the flights will have a stop in Bluefields, but there are also direct flights to Big Corn.
If you would like to travel by boat, you also have options. Express coach buses run from the Los Costena terminal at 9:00 PM each night and travel to Rama, with one rest stop in Santo Tomas. The bus arrives at the Rama wharf at 3:00 AM and passengers who are traveling on to Bluefields via river taxi can just sleep on board the bus until daybreak. Tickets for this are C$150 for bus only, or C$350 for a guaranteed seat on the first river taxi to Bluefields. The river taxi takes about 1 1/12 hours and gets you to Bluefields by 7:00 or 8:00 AM. Local “chicken buses” are also available from Managua to Bluefields and leave a lot more frequently but also make a lot more stops along the way. The cost is roughly C$130.
When it comes time to choose a boat to Big Corn, you have 3 options; the Government operated fast cat The Rio Escondido, The Captain D, or The Island Express.
The Rio Escondido only makes the trip to Big Corn and back once a week, leaving Bluefields Wednesday at 9:00 AM and returning Thursday at 9:00 AM with one stop in El Bluff each way. The travel time is about 5 hours and costs C$210 (Reservations and schedule information: +(505) (8) 437-7209)
The Captain D is a 135’ former US Coast Guard buoy tender with sleeping bunks. It departs from nearby El Bluff, so you will need to catch one of the regularly running, 15 minute pangas from Bluefields for C$30. The boat departs from El Bluff Wednesdays at 5:00 PM and takes approximately 5 hours, arriving at 10:00 PM. It is also possible to take The Captain D from Rama to El Bluff on Wednesday at Noon and then stay on all the way to Big Corn. The price from Rama to Big Corn is C$350 one way and the cost from El Bluff is C$250 one way. The boat returns to Bluefields on Saturday at Midnight. (Reservations and schedule information: Captain Norman Downs (+505) 850-2767 email@example.com; English and Spanish speaking)
The Island Express runs from Corn Island to Bluefields on Sunday for C$200, El Bluff to Big Corn on Friday for C$250 and from Big Corn to Little Corn on Saturday for C$50. (Booking and schedule information: (+505) (2) 575-5248 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
It is important to note that all schedules are subject to change so it is important to call ahead, it is also important to arrive at the boat 1 hour before departure.
It is also possible to fly to Bluefields from Managua and then catch one of the boats to Big Corn, so it all depends on how you want to see Nicaragua. If you want to get right to the beauty of Corn Islands, airplane is probably the best option for you. If you want to see a little bit of Nicaragua along the way, perhaps a bus/river taxi/boat option would suit you best. It is your vacation, do it how you want.