Monday, July 22, 2013


El Salvador to Nicaragua: Cross the Gulf of Fonseca
 by boat (orange) or by road through Honduras (pink)?
Would you rather take a scenic, two-hour boat ride across a sheltered bay or suffer through a butt-numbing eight-hour bus from El Salvador to Nicaragua, passing through Honduras, the murder capital of the world

An easy choice, normally, except that our previous boat trips have gone so, so very badly that we hesitated. Briefly. 

With Todd, Kip's brother in tow, we opted for the more direct route, from El Salvador, across the Gulf of Fonseca, to Nicaragua.

Not a lot of travelers venture this way, so below we provide a "How To" guide, along with some photos from the trip. 

Shockingly, the journey concluded without incident all the way from the new port of La Union to what's left of a deserted, decrepit dock in Potosi.


The trip from La Union, El Salvador to Potosi, Nicaragua is a scenic alternative to the long bus ride through Honduras. Below are some steps and essentials to get you on your way:

What to bring: passport, water, snacks, optional seasick meds (especially if your name is Todd) though the Gulf is usually calm. 

  1. La Union: Get yourself to El Sal's major port town of La Union, home to a brand new, multi-million dollar shipping center. Bus direct from San Salvador via San Miguel (4-5 hrs, $3-$5), or from El Cuco, hire a taxi (around 45 mins, $30-$40) or take a local bus (2-4 hrs, $4-$5). If you'd prefer, you could also book the entire trip at the Hotel Tortuga Verde in El Cuco.
  2. Book a boat: Better to do this before you get here, but it may be possible to find a captain dockside in La Union. Boats leave in the morning if there are passengers. One option is Ruta del Golfo, though there were no departures when we contacted them. We went with Mario from Tours Panoramico (7282-4362, Negotiate a price beforehand. A private boat could be $200+, but much cheaper if there's already a boat going and you can hop on.
  3.  Clear Customs: You need to be at the customs office in La Union at least an hour before departure (ask anyone for "aduanas.") Yes, it takes that long. They may ask for copies of your passport. There's a store with a copy machine across the street. Good coffee shop three blocks up with wi-fi while you wait.
  4. Pick up passport, board your boat: Pretty straightforward, assuming you know where your boat's leaving from. Ask anyone. Photo below. Make sure you have life jackets on board.
  5. Enjoy the scenery: It's a scenic trip, passing by a few hilly islands, some inhabited, some not so much. Try to get the captain to pass close to Meanguera Island to see the pelicans and flocks of Great Frigate birds. 
  6. Dock at Potosi: Lower expectations. There's no functioning dock and no facilities. You'll likely get your feet wet. And then you'll need to walk a couple hundred yards to the customs office. Wake up the officer. Get stamped in. Pay your entry fee ($12 for U.S.). Walk past the soccer field and ask about the next bus to Chinandega. There may or may not be one there. We ended up going to the only hotel in town and the owner gave us a ride in his truck. Negotiate.  Or, stay the night in the hotel and hike Cosiguina volcano.
    Todd celebrating arrival in Nicaragua.
    Walking from the pier in Nicaragua, Potosi's customs office is on the left,
    soccer field dead ahead and an abandoned warehouse is on your right.


  1. Hey guys! Thanks a lot for this useful blogpost. Ended up doing the bus trip myself because was short on the money. Ended up being misguided by a local dude to a small town which in the end detoured my trip for 2 more additional buses. 7 chicken buses in total and there I was in Leon - after 12 hours of traveling. It can be a grueling trip. Possible to make it via San Miguel with 5 buses in total: 3 in the El Salvador side, direct shuttle from border to border and then one bus on the Nicaraguan side if going to Leon/Managua. =)

    I dig what you guys have done with your blog! Looking forward seeing what the new website looks like. Anyone reading this and heading to Nicaragua, should check out my helpful post for Ometepe Island here:

    Ps. really interesting comment plugin your using to avoid spam... If I can, would like to inquire what's the name of it? Info greatly appreciated =)

    Cheers guys! Keep up the good work =)


    1. Hey Karri, thanks for the feedback. Sounds like you had a helluva detour/adventure. We use Blogger, which is mediocre (wordpress much better) but at least it has good automatic spam filters and SEO. Thanks again, and safe travels.
      Liz and Kip


Thanks for reading and commenting!