Here’s where we stayed the first night on Corn Island.
After an hour of peaceful traveling on the boat from Bluefields, Nicaragua to Corn Island, we docked in El Bluff for the crew to get the necessary paperwork to continue to the island. The as we were leaving the dock in El Bluff, the captain came into the air-conditioned central cabin, where my husband and I had decided to spend the five-hour voyage, safe from the sun’s glaring rays. He started passing out red plastic bags.
“What are those for?” My husband asked, in Spanish.
“Para vomitar,” the captain replied, as nonchalantly as flight attendants might ask someone to put their seat in an upright position. In English, that would be “to vomit.”
We looked at each other. Right on cue, the boat lurched. My stomach lurched, too.
Five minutes later, I abandoned all of my things – my backpack with my computer, my purse that carried out passports, our camera and most of our money – so that I could go out to the deck. My stomach calmed down a bit outside, but I still sat clutching the red plastic bag, plus half a lime that my husband insisted would help with the seasickness.
Half an hour later, my husband came outside. A few minutes after sitting down, he stood up, leaned over the side of the boat and vomited. One of the crew members sitting beside me asked me to ask my husband to lean down further, lest his vomit spray those in the back of the boat.
I didn’t have the heart to bother him. Once he was done vomiting, my husband leaned down and pulled a life jacket from below the deck. He later told me that he put in on because he was afraid he would fall overboard while vomiting over the side of the boat.
For the next hour or so, we were stable. Then my husband had to vomit again, and I offered to go into the cabin and get him some water and another lime.
As soon as I went in, the nausea became overwhelming. I quickly found the water bottle, but after rummaging around in my husband’s bag for the lime, I couldn’t handle it any more. I barely managed to zip up his backpack before rushing outside again, this time leaning over the railing to vomit myself.
We had a little water, sat down and focused on not vomiting into the crystal-clear Caribbean water.
We got to Corn Island at around 3:00, six hours after leaving Bluefields and about 5 hours after leaving El Bluff. No one stole any of our belongings, although it would have been a perfect opportunity to do so, since we were in no condition to care while on the boat.
On the way back from Corn Island, we flew. It was a small plane, but there were still around 30 seats, and one flight attendant. After take-off, the flight attendant served complimentary rum and cokes in styrofoam cups, pouring the Flor de Caña more generously than any American bartender.
We were in Managua an hour and a half after take-off, barely giving me time to finish the rum and coke. There was no vomiting.
The Rio Escondido, the boat we took from Bluefields to Corn Island, leaves at 9 am on Wednesdays. Apparently it’s fine if the sea is calm, but since we were traveling around a full moon and it was windy, it was not ideal weather. It cost 250 cordobas, which is about $10. It is supposed to take about 5 hours – in our case it took a bit longer.
There is also a cargo boat called Captain D that leaves Bluefields at 11am on Wednesdays for Corn Island. The cost is about the same as the Rio Escondido. The Captain D is a much larger, heavier boat, and I heard that it doesn’t cause as much seasickness. It also takes longer to arrive, around 10 hours.
There are also flights from Bluefields to Corn Island with La Costeña, the local airline in Nicaragua. The flights take 15 minutes and cost about $100 each.
I wanted to take the boat to Corn Island because I thought that a) it would be a fun adventure and b) I wanted to save money (about $180 for each of us). If I could do it again, I would fly. In fact, I think that taking the boat to Corn Island will go down as one of my worst travel-related decisions ever.
If you are still thinking about taking the Rio Escondido to Corn Island, don’t go into the interior cabin. The seasickness there is substantially worse, and once one person gets sick it also smells like vomit. Also, make sure that you apply sunscreen thoroughly before you depart. I only got sunburned on my lips (although I got pretty badly sunburned on my lips – It’s not like I was thinking about applying more sunscreen lip balm as I was trying to wipe vomit off my face).
The bottom line: If you go to Corn Island, spend the money to fly there.