Half Moon Cay – 49 things You Need To Know

Last Update:

Half Moon Cay is a private island located in the Bahamas. Both Carnival Cruise ships and Holland America visit the island.

In this article, I’ll let you know the 49 amazing things you need to know about Half Moon Cay. I’ll also give you my own view and reviews of the facilities on the Island.

I have visited the Island three times over the years. As a result, I have seen how it has developed into the wonderful private island destination that it now is.

Although the Island is relatively small, there is a lot to do. It can be very tempting to just lay on the amazing beach and chill. Only to get back on the ship and find out that something you always wanted to do, was available on another part of the island.

So let’s take a look at the Island and everything that Half Moon Cay has to offer!

49 Things To Do in Half Moon Bay!

1. First things first! Should I visit Half Moon Bay?

The short answer is YES! I’ve visited it three times now – twice on Carnival and once with Holland America line.

The Island is idyllic.

It reminds me very much of Royal Caribbean’s Cococay, before it was re-developed for “Perfect Day at Cococay”.

This is your stereotypical Island paradise!

That’s not just my opinion. It’s been voted the “Best Private Island” 20 years in a row by Porthole Magazine. That takes some beating!

2. Is it an actual Island?

Yes it is.

Its proper name is “Little San Salvador” and is part of the Bahamas.

It is just over 4 square miles in size. Much of it has been retained as a nature preserve with footpaths trailing across the length and breadth of the island.

3. Where is Half Moon Cay located?

Half Moon Cay lies around 270 miles South East of Miami and is about 100 miles South East of Nassau (which is also worth visiting!).

4. Will I need a Passport to visit Half Moon Cay?

No, you won’t need your passport. But you will need your Sail & Sign card which the cruise staff will use to log you off and on the ship. You will also use it for any purchases on the Island.

5. Is Half Moon Cay owned by Carnival?

Holland America Line, part of the Carnival Corporation, owns Half Moon Cay.

6. What’s the history of Half Moon Cay?

The Island was originally owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and they sold it to Holland America Line in 1996.

When Holland America took over the Island, they renamed it Half Moon Cay. This was due to the huge 2.5 mile crescent-shaped beach that dominates the Western side of the Island.

Like every Caribbean Island there will always be talk of Pirates and who knows what will be real history or not. I certainly didn’t find any buried treasure LOL.

There is even a claim that Christopher Columbus and his crew set foot on the Island in 1492. Hmmm….

7. How many different cruise lines visit Half Moon Cay?

Only two. Carnival and Holland America. However, the two different cruise lines never dock on the same day. Although you might often see two Carnival ships there.

Holland America only visits the Island part of the year, as they cruise the Caribbean on a seasonal basis.

8. Does anyone live on Half Moon Cay?

The island is uninhabited. When cruise ships visit, local traders come across from the neighboring island of Eleuthera. Staff from the ship also come offshore to man the bars, restaurants, and other facilities.

Half Moon Cay - Welcome Sign

9. What’s the temperature like on Half Moon Cay?

I’ve visited in the “Winter” months and in the Fall and I’ve always found the weather very pleasant.

During the early part of the year, it might be a little cooler, but typically it will be in the 70’s.

In the hotter Summer and Fall months, it can reach 90, but the sea breeze makes it feel much more comfortable.

Like anywhere in the Caribbean, you can get some occasional afternoon showers in the “rainy season”.  These tend to be short sporadic showers, but I have known it to rain all day. Yo u can never fully predict the weather, sadly.

The rainy season is from May to October.  Also, don’t forget Hurricane season which runs from June to November. Don’t worry, modern cruise ships steer well clear of Hurricanes and will adjust Itineraries accordingly.

Some people can be reluctant to book cruises during this period, but I do it all the time as the prices can be really good.

10. What Carnival Ships visit Half Moon Cay?

Based on my research, it looks like all Carnival’s current and upcoming ships will have Itineraries that will include Half Moon Cay at some point.

Obviously, check your specific sailing before booking.

  • Carnival Breeze
  • Carnival Celebration
  • Carnival Conquest
  • Carnival Dream
  • Carnival Elation
  • Carnival Firenze
  • Carnival Freedom
  • Carnival Glory
  • Carnival Horizon
  • Carnival Jubilee
  • Carnival Legend
  • Carnival Liberty
  • Carnival Luminosa
  • Carnival Magic
  • Carnival Miracle
  • Carnival Panorama
  • Carnival Paradise
  • Carnival Pride
  • Carnival Radiance
  • Carnival Spirit
  • Carnival Splendor
  • Carnival Sunrise
  • Carnival Sunshine
  • Carnival Valor
  • Carnival Venezia
  • Carnival Vista
  • Mardi Gras
Half moon cay - Carnival Ships dock almost a mile offshore from the Island

11. Does the ship dock in Half Moon Cay or do they use Tenders?

Due to the shallow waters around the Island, the ships had to drop anchor almost a mile from the Island itself.

The ship uses small boats (aka Tenders) to ferry passengers back and forth.  The boat trip lasts around 15-20 minutes. I personally find it very pleasant and a great little introduction to the Island.

You’ll spot Captain Morgan’s pirate ship bar on the way in and all the colorful beach houses and cabanas.

You will then sail into a little channel where your tender will dock at the Tender Pier. This is just opposite the archway to the Welcome Center.

Half Moon Cay Tender Pier

12. The Welcome Center – Your First Port of Call on Half Moon Cay

Once you come off the Tender you will see the archway into the Welcome Center area of the Island.

This is where you will find useful information on how to get around the island. There is also a bar, a dining area, and restrooms. The first aid station is also located here.

You might also spot an ice cream shop and a small chapel, where they actually host real weddings!

This is also where the authentic Straw Market is located.

You can take a free Tram from the Welcome Centre. This drops you off at the main dining pavilion near the center of Half Moon Beach.

13. A Bird’s Eye View of Half Moon Cay

Before we get into detail on the various locations and activities on Half Moon Cay, I thought I would share this stunning drone footage from Cubero Adventures. It really gives you a good impression of the layout of the Island.

14. Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park at Half Moon Cay

When I first heard about the construction of the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park, I thought Carnival was going to build a “Perfect Day” type structure. I was surprised to find that it was just a kid’s water park.

Our kids are long since grown up, so we just gave this a quick look on the way by.

It’s like your typical kids’ water play area that you might see in a nice hotel or resort.

It’s themed like a pirate ship and the kids can fire water from the cannons.

It has a safe shallow water area, with some short slides and the usual marine-theme animal toys. There were also climbing areas.

I’m sure the younger kids will love this area.

15. What does it cost for Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park?

Good news! It’s free!

16. What Beaches are available at Half Moon Cay?

Half Moon Beach is the main beach. This is two and a half miles long and is absolutely gorgeous. The sand is so white and soft on your feet. We loved it!

There are other small areas on the other side of the island if you are willing to travel further afield. Please however remember that much of the Island is a protected nature reserve.

If you are looking for a quieter beach area, walk as far as you can down the beach past the Cabanas.

Carnival Prepaid Gratuities - The Cabana's

The first time we visited the Island I was caught out by the lack of shade. Being Scottish, I burn very easily. I assumed there would be lots of Beach Umbrellas available.

Since then, we now plan ahead and book one of the Clamshell dual loungers. They cost $49.99 for the day. These can sell out, so be aware of that.

If you still need shade, you can pull your beach chair or lounger back in under the trees that line the beach.

Any time we have been there, lots of loungers and chairs have been available. Having said that, we’ve never been there when two Carnival ships have docked. So it might get busier then.

You’ll also spot lots of hammocks around. They do get busy though! The only time I saw any empty was when we were heading back to the tender.

Half Moon Cay - Clamshell Loungers

17. What Watersports are available on Carnival’s Half Moon Cay?

If you like watersports, then you are in luck. You are spoiled for choice on Half Moon Cay.

18. Sailing

If you like sailing, “Hobie” Catamarans that can hold up to 4 people are available for rent at $49.99 per hour

19. Paddle Boards

Everywhere I am near a beach anywhere now I see stand-up paddle boards and these are very popular. They cost $39.99 to rent for an hour.

20. Kayaking

You can rent Kayaks on the beach. Double Kayaks cost $45.99 per hour. Single Kayaks cost $29.99 per hour.

21. Waterbikes

For a less technical sail along the bay, there are “Aqua Cycle” waterbikes with huge floatation tires. They cost $39.99 to rent and seat two people.

22. Swimming

Swimming at Half Moon Beach is idyllic, with a gentle slope into the water. With it being a natural bay, the currents were not too strong either as long as you don’t go far out. Always be careful though and never swim alone! 

You can rent Floating mats for $19.99. Floating Tubes are also available at $19.99

23. Snorkeling

You can hire snorkels and floats as well as other sports equipment at the Welcome Center or Dive Shack.

Unless you go on a separate snorkeling excursion, don’t expect to see too much marine life though.  The large number of visitors tends to scare off the fish.

Snorkel gear rental costs $24.99 for an adult and $14.99 for kids aged 12 and under. This includes a snorkel, mask, fins, and a flotation vest.

24. Sports and other activities on Half Moon Cay

In the area behind the beach, you’ll find volleyball courts and basketball courts. Quite often we saw the ship’s entertainment staff organizing team games and activities.

Dotted around the main area, you will also see horseshoe throwing pits and shuffleboards.

Half Moon Cay direction signs

25. Walking and Running Trails on Half Moon Cay

If like me, you like to explore, you will find lots of walking trails crisscrossing the island.

Most of these trails are sandy paths, so take appropriate footwear.

You’ll find trails that lead to Stingray Cove where they hold the Stringray “up close” experience.

There are also trails to the stunning Bone Fish Lagoon area, and Pegasus Ranch.

There is also a walking/running trail with exercise stations at various intervals.

26. The Best Place to Eat on Half Moon Cay

The Island Barbecue food pavilions are open for lunchtime only. So don’t get caught out. This is from around 11:30 until 2pm.

To be honest, the food here was typical of most private island stops. It’s limited to the usual hot dogs, burgers, salad, coleslaw and fruit. Local favorites like Jerk Chicken were available, and my wife loved the banana rum cake.

If you want to find the best food on the island, head to the Lobster Shack.  This does cost you around an extra $20, but the locally caught lobster is delicious.  This is charged to your Sail & Sign account.

27. Is Food Free on Half Moon Cay?

Yes, but only at the Island Barbecue areas.

28. Half Moon Cay Bars

Half Moon Cay has four bars.

My favorite is the “Captain Morgan On The Rocks” Pirate ship bar.  You can’t miss this as you’ll have seen it on the way in on the tender boat ride.

Half Moon Cay - Captain Morgan's Pirate Bar

The Pirate ship bar has three levels. The view from the top level looks out onto the beach. It’s a great place to down a nice cool beer!

My wife’s favorite spot is the “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever” Bar. This is located next to the Lobster Shack restaurant.  The Bahama Mama’s that they pour here will give you quite a little buzz!

Other bars on the Island are the Bell Bar and the Rumrunners Bar which is near the Welcome Centre.

When you are on the beach you will also see bar staff walking up and down taking orders. Sometimes it can be a little bit of a wait to catch one of them, so I usually order a bucket of beers with some ice.

29. Does the Cheers drinks package include drinks on Half Moon Cay?

Okay. Make sure you are aware of this! No, it doesn’t. And this really annoys me. You have to pay for all drinks on the island.

When I questioned staff about this on the island, they told me it was due to the lack of computers. That doesn’t make sense to me.

When Holland America visit here, they get around this by offering a separate $20 island-only drinks package. I think this should be offered on Carnival as well.

30. Shopping on Half Moon Cay

The Straw Market is run by the locals, so you can’t use your Sail & Sign card here.  You’ll find typical Caribbean local crafts as well as some beachwear.

There is also a small post office where you can buy Bahamas stamps and postcards. Great for souvenirs!

There is a convenience store at the Welcome Centre. This is handy for anything you might need on the island but forgot to bring with you.  Don’t forget your sunscreen as we noticed the prices were very high!

31. Cabanas and Beach Villas for Hire

As you walk along Half Moon Beach you cannot help but spot the colorful Beach villas and Cabanas dotted along the length of the beach.

These are available for hire if you want to add a little bit of luxury to your day on Half Moon Cay.

Half Moon Bay Beach with Cabanas

Standard Cabanas are air-conditioned and are designed for four guests.

They have nice loungers and a dining area.  The refrigerators are stocked with snacks and soft drinks.

Some snorkeling equipment and floating mats are also included in the rental price which is around $600 for the day,

This has become quite a trend on private islands over the years and more and more cruise companies are doing this.

The last time we were on Half Moon Cay quite a few of the Cabanas were empty, so I am not sure how popular these are.

The Beach Villa’s are the next step up in luxury if you want your own private spot.

These are two-storey beach shacks and include a 5-person hot tub. These villas are price for up to 8 guests and start at $999 for the day. Extra guests will incur a surcharge.

Now if you want the ultimate private space on Half Moon Cay then you should be considering the exclusive Private Oasis Cabana.  You may have spotted the unusual octagonal building from the Tender.

It has its own private gate access and is 1,620 square feet of pampered luxury. You have your own butler, a personal chef, and your own steward. You even have your own lifeguard!

All drinks (including alcoholic drinks and cocktails) are included for a truly all-inclusive experience.

The cabana includes misting stations, showers, and even iPod docking stations.

The price for this starts at $1999 for up to 12 guests. This may seem expensive, but seems lower than similar offerings from other cruise lines.

32. Hair braiding on Half Moon Cay

Hair Braiding may not be as popular as it was back in 1979, when Bo Derek made the hairstyle famous in the romcom movie “10”, but you will still see plenty of local traders offering the service.

33. Half Moon Salon

Half Moon Salon provides hair salon services and manicures and pedicures. I believe these do need to be booked onboard the ship.

34. You can get married on Half Moon Cay

Now, why would a private island need a little hair and beauty salon? Well, it turns out that you can actually get married on Half Moon Cay.

This does need to be organized through the ship and booked prior to your cruise as this is a full legal ceremony. It is held in the delightful small chapel next to the Welcome Centre. 

We’ve never witnessed a wedding being held when we were on the Island, but if you have, let us know and send some pictures!

35. Wildlife on Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is largely a protected wildlife sanctuary. There are lots of opportunities to see lots of wildlife on the island.

There are well over 40 different species of birds on the island alone. Bring your binoculars!

36. Excursions Available on Half Moon Cay

37. Tropical Kayak Adventure

This is on Bonefish Lagoon. This is a protected area with mangrove forests and buttonwood trees.

The water here is crystal clear, and lots of marine wildlife should be on display. There are shallow areas of the lagoon where you can even interact with starfish and conch. Remember that some sunscreens are damaging to wildlife though!

The cost for this starts at $49.95 per person and the excursion lasts about one and a quarter hours.

38. Horseback Riding by Land and Sea

This excursion lasts one and a quarter hours. Riders will lead the horses along a trail to the highest point of the Island with views in every direction.

You’ll then head back to Pegasus Ranch for a quick refreshment break. Then the highlight of the excursion. You’ll actually get to ride the horses into the sea for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This excursion costs $114.99 per person.

39. Eco Bike and Hike Tour

This one-and-a-half-hour tour starts off with a bike ride taking in the Island’s highlights. Then it’s a guided hike to Bone Fish Lagoon and Stingray Park.

This is $37.99 per person

40. Stingray Adventure

For many of our fellow cruisers, this was the highlight of their trip to Half Moon Cay. Guests get to snorkel with stingrays in waist-deep water. They get to interact with the stingrays and even feed them. 

The stingray adventure costs $49.99 and lasts one hour. Minimum age is 6 years old.

41. Island Tram Calypso Tour

This fun 45-minute ride takes passengers passed all the main Island highlights. This includes Cannon Point, the Island’s Wedding Chapel, the Exuma Channel, Captain Morgan’s Pirate Ship Bar, Pegasus Ranch and Stingray Cove.

Price is $29.99 for adults and $21.99 for kids aged 3 to 12. Kids 2 and under are free.

42. Eco Lagoon Tour

This is a glass-bottomed boat trip along the Half Moon Cay lagoon area. A professional guide will point out the many varied marine life. They will also give you some details on the history and culture of the Island.

The boat trip costs $44.99 for adults, $34.99 for kids aged 3-12 and no charge for kids 2 and under.

43. Aqua Trax Watercraft Adventure

This is a one-hour guided Jet Ski tour of Half Moon Cay’s lagoon area.

The cost is $104.99 per person. Minimum age is 16.

44. Historic Nature Walk

This is a 1.5 mile walk through the nature trails of Half Moon Cay led by the Island’s naturalist staff. As well as learning about the island’s plant and animal life, you will also get some background on the history of the Island.

The cost is $24.99

45. Is Half Moon Cay Wheelchair Accessible?

Yes, there are wheelchairs available with large wheels to allow access to the beach.

When we saw people using them, they did look quite hard to handle and I could see they were struggling a bit. So some additional assistance would definitely be required.

46. Half Moon Cay Lockers

There are a small number of lockers available on the Island. So if you think you might need one you should reserve this in advance. The cost is $10. The lockers will hold a small backpack.

47. Is Carnival Wifi available on Half Moon Cay?

Carnival Cruise WiFi is NOT available on Half Moon Cay.  I have an international plan on my cell phone, and I was able to pick up a weak signal from Bahamas, but it did come and go.

Half Moon Cay - I Wish I could Stay Here Forever Bar

48. What’s Next at Half Moon Cay?

Carnival does have plans to construct a deep water pier on Half Moon Cay. This would avoid the queues and delays with Tender transfers. So this will be a great improvement to the Island.  Work has not started on this yet though.

Carnival is also currently building a new Bahamas port destination near Freeport.  There is no name for this development yet. It is expected to be a “destination” type experience like Royal Caribbean’s “Perfect Day at Cococay”.  It is due for completion in late 2024.

49. Life is a Beach!

There does seem to be a trend for cruise companies to build “experience-based” private island destinations like Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at Cococay, but you really cannot beat the relaxing idyllic tropical island feeling that islands like Half Moon Cay provide.

You don’t need to walk too far to feel almost on your own desert island. It’s an amazing place.

I hope you enjoyed my review of Half Moon Cay and the information I’ve provided.

There is a lot of information here. Most of it is based on my own visits to the Island. Be aware that facilities, activities, and excursions can change regularly, so if you spot any mistakes (plus any typos!), please let me know! You can leave a comment below or contact me here.

Exclusive Carnival Deals

Book Your Next Carnival Cruise Today!

Find the latest upcoming Carnival Cruises Deals: 2023/2024 Prices, Itineraries and Activities on Cruise Critic.

Cruise Critic is THE place for the freshest Carnival Cruise Line offers. Don't let these amazing Carnival Cruise deals slip through the net.

We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

How useful was this article?

How Many Stars Would You Give This Article?

As you found this article useful...

Would You Mind Giving Us A Like on One of Our Social Media Channels?

We are sorry that this article was not useful for you!

Help us improve this article!

Tell us how we can improve this article?

Related Articles

Photo of author


Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for CruiseNonstop.com you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

Leave a Comment