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  • Writer's pictureMarkus Miller

How To Get From El Salvador to Nicaragua By Boat [2022]

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

Are you planning to go from El Salvador to Nicaragua?

The most popular route is from El Tunco to León. You can book a shuttle or go by chicken bus (via Honduras).

Or you can take a boat where you don't need to cross Honduras.

So first of all, why do I recommend going by boat?

Well, usually I go for the cheapest means of transport, but I’ve heard from quite a lot of backpackers that they had an exhausting and long journey crossing Honduras (either by chicken bus or shuttle). That’s just what I’ve heard, there might be people that had a hustle-free Honduras crossing, so if you want to do it, go for it! This article will help you.

Anyway, the boat trip turned out to be an easy and fast option, with the bonus of seeing some beautiful islands on the way...

Table of Contents:

1. General information about the boat trip

2. Getting to La Union

A. From Santa Ana (via San Salvador)

B. From Santa Ana (via the coast)

3. Immigration in Nicaragua & Continuing to León

1. General information about the boat trip

Duration: 2 h

Cost: 55 USD

The boat leaves from La Union every Tuesday and Friday at 7 am.

You can reserve a spot in advance by contacting Mario via WhatsApp (+50372824362).

You go on a small boat that has capacity for about 10 people. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs USD 55 per person.

Mario is a super friendly and helpful guy and he asked me to share his number here. You can also book a shuttle service with him (to get to La Union in El Salvador and afterwards to León in Nicaragua).

You might wanna spend one night in La Union, before leaving the next day at 7 am. I can recommend Hospedaje Santa Marta. It is about USD 15/night and they are really friendly and helpful there.

TIPP: In case you want to hike up Volcán de Conchagua (which is only 20 mins away) and sleep on the top, you can also rent a tent at Hospedaje Santa Marta. It was a really cool experience and the view is amazing! If you're interested, read more about it here.

2. Getting to La Union

How to get to La Union (where the boat leaves)?

I show you a list for the most popular destinations in El Salvador below. If you're interested only in the part from La Union to León (Nicaragua), you can continue reading here.

From Santa Ana, the fastest connection is via San Salvador. However, if you’re not in a rush and you wanna see El Salvador's beautiful coast and beaches on the way, skip the San Salvador part and continue reading here.

2 A. From Santa Ana to La Union (via San Salvador):

Duration: 4 - 5 h

Cost: 3 - 8 USD

NOTE: I didn't take this route by myself. I just describe it as best as the lady in my hostel in Santa Ana told me. She was from there and really helpful and knowledgeable about the routes.

1. Santa Ana to San Salvador (approx. 1 h)

Bus 201 goes directly from Santa Ana to San Salvador. It passes the Metrocentro where you can catch it.

To get to the Metrocentro, you can either walk or take a local bus which is about 0.20 USD. I recommend asking at your hostel how to get there.

2. San Salvador to San Miguel (approx. 2 - 2.5 h, 1 - 5 USD)

If you come from Santa Ana you'll probably arrive in Terminal de Occidente and want to take a cab (or public bus) to get to the terminal Plaza Nuevo Amanecer since the buses to San Miguel leave from there.

At the terminal you have two options to San Miguel: Either the regular bus (1 USD) or the super especial bus (5 USD). The regular bus (directo) leaves very frequently and takes about 2.5 h. The super especial takes about 2 h and leaves less frequently.

3. San Miguel to La Union (approx. 1 hour, 1 USD)

In San Miguel you arrive at the bus terminal where bus 324 takes you directly to La Union.

2 B. From Santa Ana to La Union (along the coast):

Duration: 10 h

Cost: 8 USD

If you choose the more scenic route and decide to take some stops along the coast (like I did), here you go:

1. Santa Ana to Sonsonate (approx. 1.5 – 2 h, 0.70 – 1.2 USD)

You can take bus 216 directly to Sonsonate (approx. 1 – 1.5 hours) which leaves at the main bus terminal.

Alternatively you can take a bus from the same terminal to Juayua (approx. 1 h, 0.50 USD), visit the area and the Ruta de las Flores, and continue then from Juayua to to Sonsonate (approx. 1 h, 0.70 USD).

2. Sonsonate to La Libertad (The coast) (approx. 2.5 hours, 1.5 USD):

At the bus terminal in Sonsonate, you can take bus 287 to La Libertad (with the option to get off at numerous beach towns including El Zonte and El Tunco).

The bus only leaves twice a day (at 5:30 am and 3:30 pm), so make sure you arrive in time in Sonsonate. I recommend taking the 11:50 am bus from Santa Ana to Juayua (or bus 216 which goes directly). From Juayua you should leave around 1:30 pm.

TIPP: If you decide to get off at a beach town and to continue further along the coast highway, it is easy to hitchhike there, a lot of surfers do it as well. Alternatively, you can wait for any bus that goes to La Libertad.

3. La Libertad to Comalapa (approx. 1 h, 0.60 USD)

In La Libertad (location) you can catch a bus that continues along the coast to “Comalapa”.

There are many buses going in this direction, just ask the driver for Comalapa. You don't actually need to get to the city of Comalapa, but get off before - when Highway 5 crosses your road (location).

Tell the driver to stop at the bridge over highway 5. It is a popular stop, so other people will probably get off here as well.

4. Comalapa to San Miguel (via Usulután) (approx. 3.5 h, 4 USD)

There you go down the bridge (I know it sounds a bit sketchy, but it isn't. Don’t worry!). When you’re down, you are directly at Highway 5. It looks like this:

Wait for a bus to “Usulután” (approx. 2 hours, 3 USD). You can get off at the bus stop to San Miguel where the bus is most certainly already waiting for you (approx. 1.5 hours, 0.90 USD).

5. San Miguel to La Union (approx. 1 hour, 1 USD)

In San Miguel you arrive at the bus terminal where bus 324 takes you directly to La Union.

3. Immigration in Nicaragua & Continuing to León


Duration: 30 mins

Cost: 13 USD

You'll arrive in Potosí, Nicaragua. It's a small village and most likely you will be the only people at the immigration office which is a small house at the harbor. The process was quite easy and we needed to wait for about 30 mins until our papers were ready. It costs a fee of 13 USD to enter Nicaragua.

Although I heard you can get new 90 days when you arrive via sea, they only extended our current CA-4-visas.

NOTE: Currently you need a PCR test for entering Nicaragua - regardless of your vaccination status. For the immigration via boat you need 3 copies of your passport and 3 copies of your PCR-test.

Continuing to León:

Duration: 3.5 h

Cost: 100 Cordobas (~ 3 USD)

First, you need to go to the city of Chinandega. From there you can continue further to León.

1. Potosí to Chinandega (approx. 2.5 h, 65 Cordobas)

The bus from Potosí to Chinandega leaves at 9:40 am and 12:40 am. We missed the earlier one, so we had to wait a good while for the second one. However we found a good restaurant and had some delicious breakfast.

In Chinandega the bus drops you at a gas station. You can either walk or take a taxi (1 - 2 USD) to get to the terminal El Bisne where the buses to León leave.

2. Chinandega to León (approx. 30 mins - 1 h, 30 - 40 Cordobas)

At the terminal there are two options... You can either take a chicken bus for 30 Cordobas (approx. 1 h) or a mini-van for 41 Cordobas (approx. 35 mins).

CONGRATS, you made it to León!

Where to stay in León?

I can recommend Poco a Poco Hostel (10 USD/night). Its has a big kitchen and its hang-out area is the perfect place to meet other travelers. A quieter and smaller hostel is The Spot Hostel León which costs 8 USD/night and comes with free breakfast.

Do you want to go straight to the beach (Las peñitas)?

Duration: 45 mins

Cost: 18 Cordobas (0.5 USD)

If you want to continue to the beach (Las peñitas) you can take a local bus from Mercadito Sutiava in León. To get there you can either walk or take a taxi for about 50 Cordobas.

The bus takes about 45 mins and costs only 18 Cordobas. The last one goes at 6 pm.

One of my best stays I had in Nicaragua was at Mano a Mano Eco Hostal in Las peñitas.

It is a laid-back surf hostel with a bar/restaurant directly at the beach. You can sleep in one of the dorms for 11 USD per night or you can get a (beautiful!) private room for 45 USD a night.

Safe travels and enjoy your journey through El Salvador and Nicaragua!!

NOTE: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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