Half Moon Cay (aka Little San Salvador Island) – Carnival Cruise Line’s Private Island in the Bahamas – All You Need To Know

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Imagine sinking your toes into warm, powdery white sand as crystal-clear turquoise waters stretch out as far as the eye can see. Welcome to Half Moon Cay, a stunning private island in The Bahamas that is a must-visit tropical destination.

Carnival Corporation owns this little slice of paradise and it serves as the perfect getaway for travelers on Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line. With lush green landscapes, pristine beaches, and diverse wildlife, it’s no wonder it’s often regarded as the one of best private islands in the Caribbean.

When you step ashore, you’ll quickly understand, just like we did, why a cruise to Half Moon Cay has become such a favorite for vacationers. This 2,400-acre island offers a wide range of shore excursions and activities, from snorkeling and scuba diving to horseback riding and nature walks.

Welcome Sign at Half Moon Cay
Welcome to Half Moon Cay

There’s plenty to see and do during your visit, including lounging in relaxing beachside cabanas, savoring delicious island cuisine, and experiencing vibrant local culture around the island.

To make the most of your time in Half Moon Cay, it’s always best to do some planning and take advantage of the wide array of excursions and activities designed to ensure you get the best out of your trip. 

So please take a read through our guide around Half Moon Cay island and you’ll soon realize exactly why you’ll want to make it your next cruise destination, just like we have done, many times before.

History and Location of Half Moon Cay – Why Did Carnival Cruise Line Choose This Island?

The Bahamas and Its Enchanting Islands

The Bahamas and its enchanting islands need no introduction. Comprised of over 700 islands, the Bahamas form an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, and is located about 100 miles southeast of Nassau and north of Cuba.

Little San Salvador Island is the proper name for Half Moon Cay, and it if had not been picked up by Carnival Cruise Line, it no doubt would have become some mega-rich entrepreneur’s private island.

The Story of Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay was believed to be uninhabited for centuries until the 1700s or possibly the early 1800s. It is thought that the British monarch at that time (perhaps even Queen Victoria) granted the land as a reward of some sort. 

Nowadays, Half Moon Cay is privately owned by Carnival Corporation, which includes Holland America Line.

Tenders Ariving At Half Moon Cay
Tenders Ariving At Half Moon Cay

Nestled halfway between Eleuthera and Cat Island, Half Moon Cay offers visitors a serene and unspoiled haven. Imagine taking a stroll along its powdery white sandy beaches with calm blue waters gently lapping against the shore – it’s almost like stepping into a classic “Wish You Were Here” postcard.

The island is accessible only via cruise ships, making it an exclusive destination for those who choose to sail through the Bahamas with Carnival Corporation and its subsidiaries, like Holland America.

Half Moon Cay serves as a port of call for many of their Bahamas and Caribbean cruise itineraries, offering passengers a day of relaxation and fun away from the bustle of traditional tourist spots.

How to Get to Half Moon Cay and What to Expect

Arriving by Cruise Ship

Carnival Ship Docked at Half Moon Cay
Carnival Ship Docked At Half Moon Cay

It goes without saying that if you want to go to Half Moon Cay, you’ll need to pick a cruise itinerary that includes it!

Ships from Carnival and Holland America stop at this idyllic private island, but never from the two different cruise lines on the same day.

Upon arrival at Half Moon Cay, you’ll find that your cruise ship won’t dock directly at the island. Instead, tenders (small boats) will ferry you and your fellow passengers from the ship to the island.

I know you’ll probably groan when you read this as tender ports tend to mean long queues and delays.  However in our experience, Carnival certainly organizes things well and the tender ride is a fun experience in itself, offering you a closer look at the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island.

As an aside : If the prospect of a tender queue does fill you with dread, then you should perhaps consider investing in Carnival’s Faster To The Fun VIP Priority Access program.

Remember to pack your beach essentials, like sunscreen, towels, and a change of clothes, as you won’t be able to return to the ship quickly once you’re on the island.

Exploring the Welcome Center and Amenities

Pirate Play Area At Half Moon Cay
The Pirate-Themed Play Area on Half Moon Cay

Once you’ve reached the shore, you’ll be greeted by the island’s Welcome Center. Here, you can find maps and information on the various amenities that Half Moon Cay has to offer.

Some of these amenities include gift shops, food and beverage options, and even a first aid station for any unexpected bumps or bruises.

Take your time exploring the island and its pristine beaches. It really does resemble a Bahamian tropical paradise with powdery white sands and warm, turquoise waters. 

If you’re in the mood for some adventure, you can rent snorkeling gear, and kayaks, or even book an exciting horseback ride along the beach.

Half Moon Cay also offers a variety of food options, from casual BBQ buffets to more upscale restaurants with stunning ocean views. 

Excursions and Things to Do in Half Moon Cay

Kayaks and boats at Half Moon Cay
Kayaks and Catamaran Sailing Boats Are Available To Hire

Half Moon Cay offers endless opportunities to experience the best of what a tropical island has to offer. Let’s dive into the top activities and sights you should not miss during your visit.

Water Adventures and Beach Activities at Half Moon Cay Beach

At Half Moon Cay, swimming and sunbathing on the iconic white sand crescent-shaped beach is just the beginning.

Grab your snorkel gear and explore the vibrant underwater world as you swim among colorful fish and stingrays. For those seeking even more adventure, try your hand at kayaking, parasailing, or diving.

If you have kids they will be instantly drawn to the Half Moon Lagoon pirate ship themed aqua park. It’s a great location with a safe shallow water area, a climbing area, short slides, and marine-themed animal toys for the kids. 

Looking for something more unique? Check out the 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!

If you’d rather stay dry, opt for a water bike or paddle a kayak through the scenic mangroves.

Leisure and Exploration Ashore

The Beach at Half Moon Cay
The Stunning Crescent Shaped Beach at Half Moon Cay

Once you’ve had your fill of beach fun, indulge in some relaxation and exploration on your beach day. Make your way to the island’s Pegasus Ranch for an unforgettable horseback riding experience along the beach and through some stunning nature trails.

There is also a fitness trail with exercise stations if you want to burn some calories along the way.

Don’t forget to bring your camera as you’re bound to spot some beautiful birds and tropical plants along the way! 

For a truly indulgent break, treat yourself to a soothing massage in a beach villa or lay back in a clamshell to enjoy some shade. In search of retail therapy? Browse the various souvenir shops and pick up some local crafts, unique beachwear, or memorable keepsakes.

No island experience would be complete without some friendly competition, so gather your crew for a game of beach volleyball, basketball, horseshoes, or shuffleboard on Half Moon Cay’s well-maintained courts.

With so many incredible adventures and activities to choose from, your time on Half Moon Cay will undeniably be a memorable mix of excitement, relaxation, and natural wonder.

Want to know more? Here is a list of the top 25 things to do in Half Moon Cay.

You’ll Never Forget Half Moon Cay

The “I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever Bar” at Half Moon Cay

As your trip comes to an end, you can’t help but feel grateful for this incredible experience at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.

It’s no surprise that Porthole Cruise Magazine has named Half Moon Cay the “Best Private Island” for 20 consecutive years. It really does offer the perfect beach day – as the famous bar on the island states “I wish I could stay here forever”.

So what’s holding you back? Let’s get that next cruise booked!

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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!

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