With their pristine turquoise clear waters, clean white sandy beaches, a variety of activities and delicious meals, visiting a cruise line’s private island is usually the highlight of a cruise. One such island is Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas or also known as Carnival’s private island resort.
The island previously known as Little San Salvador was purchased by Holland America (Carnival’s subsidiary line) in 1996 for $6 million. It is very famous among Carnival and Holland America Line cruise goers and is recognized internationally as well having been ranked as the leading private cruise island by Porthole Cruise Magazine for 16 years in a row.
The 2400 acre of beautiful tropical Caribbean island magic, features a 2 mile long stretch of a white sandy beach curved outwards on each end forming a half moon shape, hence the name. It also features extremely clear waters that allow you to see several inches deep into the water. The land is covered by green vegetation and dotted with colorful cabanas and beach villas.
So, what makes this island such a sought-after destination? Read on to find out, as we reveal firsthand information about it.
Where is Half Moon Cay?
Half Moon Cay is one of the 700 islands that make up the archipelago of the Bahamas. It is located about 160 kilometers/100 miles southeast of Nassau. It is sandwiched between Cat Island and Eleuthera island. The waters at its shores are not deep enough for docking so you have to access it through tender ships.
Things to do in Half Moon Cay
There are plenty of activities to engage in at the island such as:
1. Just Enjoy the Beach
Half Moon Cay has a 2 mile long gorgeous white sandy beach whose sand has a powdery texture and is as soft as baby powder. Lounge chairs are available in plenty, grab one and a drink from any of the 4 bars on the beach and just enjoy soaking in some sun.
Feeling a bit lazy? Become a beach bum and save your money on excursions by just relaxing on the beach, letting the ocean waves and the sea breeze calm you to peaceful oblivion. You can also rent a floating pad, and just enjoy a leisurely lazy float in the designated swimming area of the ocean.
Tips: If you are not a fan of crowded areas, walk further down the beach away from the welcome center, you will find more lounge chairs and hammocks in less crowded areas. Remember to carry lots of sunscreen if you are planning on spending a lot of time on the beach, the sun can be quite scorching.
2. Take a Hike
Half Moon Cay is a beautiful mix of green and blue scenery. Out of the 2400 acres of natural beauty, only 2% about 50 acres has been developed leaving you with at least 2350 acres of indigenous flora and fauna to explore.
There are nature trails curved out all over the island either in hard pavements or sand paths. These paths lead to some of the islands shore excursion start points like the Stingray Cove or Bonefish Lagoon and other facilities like the Pegasus ranch where they keep the horses on the uppermost side of the island.
3. Engage in Shore Excursions
If you are an eager beaver and can’t get enough of the highs derived from physical activities, try some of the cruise’s shore excursion activities. These activities include horseback riding, snorkeling, kayaking, watercraft adventures, boat rides, stingray adventures, and eco bike ride that doubles as an island tour. This plethora of activities will leave you both entertained and physically active. (More on this later in this article)
4. Get a Massage
Get a professional massage done by a professional crew in an AC conditioned cabana and experience a tropical massage. The massage team from Holland cruises offers professional massage services while on the island.
5. Let Your Little Ones Have Some Pirate-Themed Fun
Half Moon Cay has a lagoon aqua park with island-themed action fun area. Take your kids here to enjoy being sprayed with water from the pirate ship’s cannons. They can enjoy getting on the shark, dolphin, whale, and octopus-shaped water toys. There is also a playground nearby that is fully equipped. Carry small beach toys like sand bucket and shovel for the kids to make sand castles e.t.c
6. Get Married, Enjoy a Romantic Getaway
When you step of the tender ship and start your way into the welcome center area of the island, you will notice a white American style church built in Bahamian cultural designs. This is for those of you who plan on getting married on an island or want to renew your vows. You can do this at the church, take beautiful pictures and have your reception on the island. Note: If planning to do a wedding or to renew your vows on the island, book with your cruise prior to the cruise.
7. Shop at the Straw Market
Photos are not the only way to carry memories with. Souvenirs are also a great way to remember your trip by. You can get locally made oceanic ornamental jewelry at the straw market. There are clamshells farmed there and you can purchase one and have a pearl ring made right there, the pearl is extracted from the clam.
There is a small post office where you can buy beautiful Bahamian stamps and postcards. You may even go the extra mile and mail one to yourself as a memoir of your vacation. A convenience store is also found near the welcome center where you can purchase snacks, sunscreen, and quick essentials.
8. Shoreside Games
You are on a vacation to have fun and what better way to do this than to engage in some light beach games such as volleyball, shuffleboard, and football. You can rent sports gear at the sports center near the Bahamian church and enjoy beach sports with your group.
9. Braid Your Hair
They say when you go to Rome, do as the Romans do, or in this case, as the Bahamians do. Half Moon Cay is uninhabited, locals from the nearby islands of Eleuthera ferry into the island when there are ships ashore. They teach you their ways, dance culture and also braid your hair to enjoy a more local look.
If you like interacting with other cultures then enjoy the diversity of the Bahamians by engaging in some of their cultures like braiding of hair. When else and for which reasons would you do this?
There are numerous bird species on the island for the bird watching fan. There are at least 47 different species of birds sited at Half Moon Cay between 1982-2012 according to Majestic Feathers.
The most common birds are the waterfowl in variations of sooty terns, roseate terns, and noody terns. Other birds include wading birds such as egrets, ruddy ducks, herons and Caribbean coots which are found in the brackish lagoon, that has been designated as a wild bird preserve by the Bahamian National Trust.
11. Take a Sail With a Hobie Cat
If you are more of a water sports kind of a person and whatever is listed so far doesn’t fill your bill. You can take a sail on a Hobie cat, sunfish sailboat or the windsurfing sailboats. Rent any of these watercraft from any one of the 3 water sports centers available on the island. Rent water bikes as well for a fun time on the water or go paddling in the kayaks at the bonefish lagoon.
12. Enjoy a Bahamas Style Cocktail Drink and an Amazing Beach Barbeque
While it’s unfortunate that you won’t get to enjoy your cheers drinking package while on the island. Delicious thirst quenching fruity Bahamian style cocktails will be available in any of the 4 bars on the island. You can hang out at the “I wish I could stay here forever bar” or the “Rum Runner’s bar” or “Captain Morgan’s Bar” – a unique bar hosted in a ruined pirate ship kind of a structure and lastly at the quiet “Look Out Bar” that looks out to the bonefish lagoon.
At lunchtime grab a free delicious barbeque burger, hot dog, chicken, fish and a healthy salad lunch at the main island restaurant. It is delicious and there is plenty of seating area at the establishment. If you want a more customized lunch you can visit the Lobster Shack for a specialty meal.
Half Moon Cay Photos
Half Moon Cay Excursions
Carnival being an extra fun cruise line offers a variety of fun shore excursions that can help you enjoy your time at Half Moon Cay the more, and carry home some memorable experiences. These excursions include:
13. Stingray Adventure
Meet some of the sea folk like stingrays, through the stingray excursion. Once you arrive on the island proceed to Stingray Cove and get introduced to the stingray world. You will be given an informative orientation about their life by a professional guide. The guide will then take you to an area where you can interact with this amazing ocean dwellers. While at this place you will have the awesome ability to touch their sleek silky wings.
Stingray cove is a partitioned habitat for stingrays but if you want to see a wider variety of sea animals then taking the snorkeling excursion is the best way. A snorkeling expedition will take you further into the ocean where you can visit the coral reef. The reef is bright and beautiful bursting with colors. Its filled with different beautiful coral reefs all hosting a wide variety of sea creatures. A professional snorkeling guide will guide you. Have a blast exploring and discovering new sea life in their habitat.
15. Horseback Riding (Sea and Land)
One of the most unique and uncommon shore excursions at Half Moon Cay is the horseback riding excursion. This ride will help you enjoy the full scope of the island. You will be guided through a winding trail to the highest point of the island, where you will have a first class seat to the majesties of Half Moon Cay and then going down you will come into the ocean and wade through the clear sparkling blue Caribbean waters while on a horse. What a thrill right?
16. Aqua Trax Watercraft Adventure
Satisfy your wanderlust and adventurous spirit with a ride aboard your own aqua trax watercraft. You will have a more thorough exploration of the islands water life, the different coral reefs and the splash and sun is also a fun way to enjoy your day at the beach.
17. Eco Bike and Hike Tour
As mentioned earlier, you have at least 2350 acres of beautiful island to explore and what better way than to do a bike and hike combo. Get a behind the scenes view of the island while cycling to Pegasus ranch.
To get a better view of the bird population on the island hiking will be the best option. You will visit the habitats of the mockingbirds, white-crowned pigeons, and doves. While on your hike you will be able to view the bonefish lagoon and stingray park.
18. Kayaking Adventure
Take a thrilling and invigorating exercise by kayaking in the Bonefish lagoon. You will kayak through 1400 square acres of protected habitat. In this area, you will be able to see numerous species of flora from ornamental silver buttonwood tree to red mangroves. Your guide will fill you in on the history of the islands earliest inhabitants while you watch the seabirds.
19. Tram Calypso Tour
Another fun way to tour the island and an easy way to access the amenities offered throughout the island is to take the island tour via the tram. For just an hour you will be able to view the entire island, shore excursions, guest areas and even the hard to access areas.
20. Historic Nature Walk
Take the one and a half mile nature walks, to learn about the history of the island. If you are a curious mind, you will get to learn about different plants, herbs and animals like the sea grapes trees, tropical sea palm trees, bananaquit birds and the curly-tailed lizards. If you are interested in the history of pirates, the first settlers on the island or even about slavery, you will hear all about it while on this nature walk.
Half Moon Cay Cabanas
21. Relax in a Cabana, a Beach Villa or a Private Oasis
While Carnival provides plenty of lounge chairs on the beach, you might want to relax under a shelter as the 9 miles of beach area spots no palm trees that can offer you shade from the scorching sun. You can rent out the clamshell-shaped shades, but if you are looking for more room try renting the cabanas, a beach villa if you are a group or the private oasis to party in VIP style and in exclusivity.
These facilities not only provide shade from the sun, they come with other features that make your day at Half Moon Cay even more enjoyable. This includes soda, snacks, water, and access to an exclusive butler/wait staff, massage services, air condition, mist stations, hot tubs, shower and changing areas, large balconies with a nice view of the ocean and beach, access to snorkel and scuba gear.
The prices for a cabana start from $280, while for the beach villa start at $500 and the private oasis at $1500. Note there are only 15 cabanas on the island which host 4 individuals each, 5 beach villas which are double storied and host 5 people each and a private oasis that holds 11 people.
Tip: Cabanas, Beach Villa’s and Private Oasis book out fast, if you are a newbie cruiser you even stand less of a chance at this facilities, book early preferably when booking for your cruise.
This Private Cruise Line Private Island is Stunning!
Half Moon Cay is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. It has mesmerizing clear turquoise blue sparkling waters and a vast soft white sandy beach. The island’s indigenous beauty in flora and fauna has been preserved and offers a mix of fun activities to undertake.
Everyone should visit this island at least once to experience for themselves the magic of this place. Though the day spent on the island is as fleeting as Cinderella’s night at the ball, it’s worth every moment spent there.
Be prepared for your Half Moon Cay cruise adventure, follow these packing tips.
Now that you know at least 20 things about the island you are better positioned to enjoy your next cruise to the destination and don’t forget to come back and tell us about your experience. From the Cruise Hive team, Happy Cruising!!