Things to Do In Half Moon Cay – Carnival Cruise Lines Private Island in the Bahamas

By Alan
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Filed Under: Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is a private island located in the Bahamas. Both Carnival Cruise ships and Holland America Line visit the island. The Island’s original name is Little San Salvador Island and but was renamed when purchased by Carnival Corporation. It is located about 100 miles Southeast of Nassau.

In this article, I’ll give you a list of the 25 amazing things to do in Half Moon Cay on your cruise vacation.

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 all the things you can do on Half Moon Cay. I think you’ll love what this stunning island with its white sand beaches has to offer!

1. Visit The Welcome Center – Your First Port of Call As You Step Off The Cruise Ship Tender

Welcome Sign at Half Moon Cay
The Welcome Sign As You Enter 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!

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.

2. Take the Kids to Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park at the Pirate ship

Pirate Play Area At Half Moon Cay
You Can’t Miss The Pirate Ship Play Area

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 and playground area.

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 water slides and the usual marine-theme animal toys. There were also climbing areas.

I’m sure the younger kids will love this area. The best part is that it is totally free!

3. Lounge on Half Moon Beach

The Beach at Half Moon Cay
The White Sands of Half Moon Beach

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.

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 with so many cruise passengers being on the island all at once.

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.

4. Sail a Catamaran and do a Half Moon Cay Cruise of Your Own

If you like sailing and water sports there is plenty to do on Half Moon Cay. “Hobie” Catamarans that can hold up to 4 people are available for rent at $49.99 per hour. They look like great fun and a great way to see a view of the island from a different perspective.

5. Hire a Paddle Board

Anytime I am near a beach or any body of water,  I always see stand-up paddle boards. These have become so popular with the new inflatable models coming on the market which make them much more transportable. Fortunately, you don’t need to bring a board as you can rent them out for $39.99 for an hour.

6. Go Kayaking

If you like kayaking, you can go it alone and rent Kayaks on the beach, or you can do one of the advertised kayak-based shore excursions that are available on the island. Double Kayaks cost $45.99 per hour. Single Kayaks cost $29.99 per hour.

7. Rent Waterbikes

For a less technical sail along the bay, there are “Aqua Cycle” waterbikes with huge floatation tires. Half Moon Cay is perfect for this as the water is usually very calm in the natural bay. They cost $39.99 to rent and seat two people.

8. Enjoy a Swim

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

9. Go 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 that arrive each day on the island paradise 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.

10. Follow one of the Walking and Running Trails on Half Moon Cay

Direction signs at Half Moon Cay
You Won’t Get Lost on Half Moon Cay

If like me, you like to explore, you will find lots of walking trails throughout the island and it’s a great way of seeing what the island has to offer.  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.

11. Eat At The Island Barbecue And The Lobster Shack

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.

12. Do a Tour of Half Moon Cay Bars – Bar Crawl Anyone?

Our Favorite Bar at Half Moon Cay

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.

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

Unfortunately, your Cheers drink package does not work on the island, by prices you will see on the Carnival drink menus in the bars on Half Moon Cay are similar to what the prices are like on the ship..

13. Visit Half Moon Cay Straw Market

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 also 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!

14. Live The High Life And Splurge Out on a Cabana or Beach Villa

The Stunning Two-Storey Beach Villas at Half Moon Cay
The Stunning Two-Storey Beach Villas at Half Moon Cay

As you walk along Half Moon Beach you cannot help but spot the colorful two-story 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 and have the perfect beach day.

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 even include a 5-person hot tub. These villas are priced 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.

15. Get Your Hair Braided

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.

16. Get Pampered at Half Moon Salon

Half Moon Salon provides hair salon services manicures and pedicures. I believe these do need to be booked onboard the ship before you dock at the cruise port.

17. 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!

18. Study The Wildlife on Half Moon Cay

The Pirate Ship at Half Moon Cay
The View From the Ship As You Dock

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!

19. Take a Tropical Kayak Adventure Excursion

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.

20. Go Horseback Riding in the Sea

Ever fancied horse riding on the beach? Well, you are in luck! This excursion is a very popular activity on Half Moon Cay and 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.

21. Go on an Eco Hike and Bike 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

22. Go on a 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.

22. Take The Island Tram Calypso Tour

This fun one-hour tram tour takes passengers past 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.

23. Ride a Glass-Bottomed Boat on the 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.

24. Ride a Jet-Ski on the Aqua Trax Watercraft Adventure Tour

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.

25. Take a Guided 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

That’s 25 Things To Do in Half Moon Cay Where Life Really is a Beach!

Carnival Ship Docked at Half Moon Cay
You Might Be Tempted to Try And Miss The Tender Back To The Ship LOL

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.

Passengers from Carnival And Holland America Cruise Line are so lucky to get to experience this.

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 Half Moon Cay 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.  Don’t forget to check our other cruise news and cruise tips on the site.

I do hope you enjoy your time at Half Moon Cay – you really will wish you could stay there forever!

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for 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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