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Private Island Guide: Things To do At Half Moon Cay

Previously called Little San Salvador Island, the stunning destination of Half Moon Cay is a Carnival Cruise Line-owned private island that is used by Holland America Cruise Line seasonally.

Carnival cruise ships make countless stops at this idyllic private island yearly, and Half Moon Cay is one of the most renowned destinations in the Bahamas.

The private island features a plethora of fantastic shore excursions that have led many cruisers to say that Half Moon Cay was the best part of their cruise.

File:Carnival Glory, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (5728106364).jpg

James Willamor from Raleigh, NC, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

As Half Moon cay is owned by the Carnival Corporation, it is only used by cruise ships that include it in their itinerary.

Despite the strong rivalry with other islands owned by cruise lines, Half Moon Cay is often deemed the number one best private island by cruise passengers due to its white sand beach selection and everything from horseback riding to Half Moon cay snorkel adventures.

Half Moon Cay was called Little San Salvador Island before Carnival cruise Line bought it, but its original natural beauty is still in place and takes the breath of all visitors away.

Shore excursions and information about the island can be found at the Welcome Center, and Half Moon Cay boasts a food pavilion, the Half Moon Salon, a bar, an ice cream parlor, and even a charming little church that is perfect for an island wedding.

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What Does Half Moon Cay Have to Offer?

This post will guide you through all the top attractions and activities on the island of Half Moon Cay to give you a taste of the amazing adventure that awaits.

Everything from deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming to parasailing, horseback riding, and sunbathing are on offer on Half Moon Cay.

Half Moon Cay even features a straw market, where people from nearby islands sell their local produce and souvenirs. The straw market is rather small, but you’re sure to find the perfect little gift or item to commemorate your time on Half Moon Cay at either the market or the gift shop.

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12 Best Things To Do on Half Moon Cay

(1) Half Moon Beach

Many have said that Half Moon Beach is the closest thing to a true untouched Bahamas gem you will ever find. The beach is exceptionally beautiful and clean, and there are plenty of places to grab some refreshments or use the restroom.

Half Moon Beach is the first sight to greet you as your cruise ship approaches the private island. The sand is riddled with beach loungers, but you’re sure to find a nice and quiet spot as you walk further away from the crowd.

If your cruise vacation lacks some beach downtime, this is where you want to be. There will also be many Holland America Line or Carnival Cruise staff members to cater to whatever needs you may have.

If you need some shade for your beach day, you can rent a clam shell, but be sure to book in advance before they are all taken. A few trees lining the beach can also serve as an escape from the beaming sun.

There is a total of about 10 miles of shoreline around Half Moon Cay, so if Half Moon Beach doesn’t do it for you, you’re sure to find the ideal beach to spend the day.

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Jonathan Palombo, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

(2) Visit a Pirate Ship

The renowned Captain Morgan’s pirate ship will also be one of your first sights as your cruise ship approaches. The ship consists of three levels, with the bottom two housing some sections of the cool bar and the top deck making for the ideal place to take some memorable photos.

File:Pirate Coves and beach, Half Moon Cay.jpg

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

(3) Get a Private Beach Villa

Many of the coolest Bahamas cabanas are set on Half Moon Cay. However, if you seek a little extra luxury on the beach, it is definitely worth upgrading to the Beach Villas.

The Beach Villas are two-story cabins, each with a hot tub for five, a dining area, a fridge, two private balconies, and a misting shower to add to the greatest beach day ever.

Your Beach Villa will also be equipped with bottled water and soft drinks, snacks, veggies, and fresh fruit. You even receive snorkel gear and floating mats to enjoy all day when you get a Beach Villa.

Although the Beach Villas seem quite expensive, it accommodates eight people, so the charges are relatively moderate when split among the group members.

The standard Half Moon Cay cabanas are a more affordable substitute and accommodate four people for the day.

File:Half Moon Cay, Bahamas (16440240807).jpg

Jonathan Palombo, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

(4) Private Oasis Cabana

The Private Oasis is a well-kept secret on Half Moon Cay. The Private Oasis is a large private cabana with a walkway taking you directly to the pristine waters. It offers an exclusive environment for a group of 12 and is fully equipped with loungers, hammocks, a private terrace, a hot tub, a barbecue, and a wet bar. Though expensive, all the groups that have opted for this option have agreed that it is totally worth the money.

The Private Oasis package comes with a personal chef, a butler, a bartender, a lifeguard, and a Steward. You will also be treated to a wide selection of wines, beers, tropical cocktails, and fresh fruit, chips, and salsa.

(5) Take a Walk in Nature

More than 95% of the private island has never been developed, so you will have no trouble finding exquisite natural beauty to explore.

You can tour the island on your own or opt for a tour guide that will take you through miles of walking trails among the fascinating wildlife.

All the dune paths on the island are marked very clearly, and signs by the plants will provide you with some information regarding all the species and their properties. Walking trails are a great way to get some mild exercise while experiencing the beauty of Half Moon Cay.

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(6) Go On the Island Bike Tour

Get your blood pumping with a bike tour of all the top attractions on Half Moon Cay. A bike will allow you to see more of the private island than you would on foot.

The bike tour will visit the Welcome Center, Half Moon Beach, the Bahamian church, the horse stables, and the gorgeous Bone Fish Lagoon. The tour will even shed some light on how electricity is generated and water is desalinated on Half Moon Cay.

You may also be interested in the hybrid bike and hike tour if you’d like the best of both.

(7) Visit Stingray Cove

Many visitors miss the fact that Half Moon Cay has an amazing stingray adventure site called Stingray Cove. You can walk or take a tram to Stingray Cove, where you’ll receive a briefing before meeting these extraordinary animals.

After being briefed, you will receive your snorkeling gear and experience the amazing southern stingrays in their element. Other marine life is kept out of the enclosure by a net so you can have an unforgettable stingray adventure.

(8) Swim With Horses

Even for those who have never been horseback riding, this is a must-do activity on Half Moon Cay.

When you go on the horseback riding adventure, you will tour some of the greatest parts of the island before traveling to its highest point, where you can take in the panoramic views of the entire Half Moon Cay and nearby islands.

After enjoying the 360-degree views and having a drink at the lookout bar, the tour guides will start preparing the horses for their swim. They are equipped with a special saddle that consists of a unique pad and rope halter.

File:Tourists on horseback in water, Half Moon Beach, Half Moon Cay with MS Carnival Valor.jpg

Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

(9) Dine At The Lobster Shack

Although the Island Barbecue offers free burgers, a free buffet, hot dogs, chili fried rice, tit shrimp, banana rum cake, and so much more, it is only open during lunch hours.

If you feel a little snacky later in the day, the Lobster Shack is the perfect place to indulge your senses in delicious Caribbean coconut beans, grilled lobster, and salsa. The lobsters served are locally sourced, and their freshness will overwhelm you with each bite.

(10) Hit the Playground and Aqua Park

Maybe the kids need some outlet for their energy, and fortunately, the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park is within easy reach of the beach and offers loads to keep the children entertained for hours.

The Aqua Park features plenty of slides and even a pirate ship shooting water streams from the canons. The Aqua Park is completely free, so the whole family can enjoy an affordable day in the sun.

There is also a waterless playground with an abundance of swings, slides, and a peaceful picnic area where you can recuperate.

(11) Go on a Jet Ski Adventure

If you’re looking for a real thrill, the Aqua Trax Watercraft Adventure is exactly what you need. All participants must be older than 16 and possess a valid driver’s license.

You will get to experience Half Moon Cay in the most exciting way: aboard your very own watercraft. The shallow waters of Half Moon are dotted with colorful reef formations, and you will weave between them as you explore the sand pits and inlets.

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(12) Kayak Across The Lagoon

Nature enthusiasts will have a blast kayaking on Bone Fish Lagoon. The large, protected environment of the lagoon provides the perfect opportunity to observe the beautiful exotic birds and be immersed in your natural surroundings.

Along the way, you will stop to see some jellyfish, starfish, conch, and sea cucumbers. If you seek a more leisurely experience, there is also a glass-bottom boat tour available at the lagoon.

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Fun Facts About Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

  • There are no permanent residents living on Half Moon Cay.
  • Half Moon Cay covers a total of 2 400 acres.
  • A mere 2% of the private island has been developed.
  • Bone Fish Lagoon spans 1 700 acres.
  • Half Moon Cay is one of seven hundred other islands that together form the Bahamas’ archipelago.
  • Holland America Line bought Half Moon Cay for a whopping $6 million in 1996.
  • Porthole Cruise Magazine has named Half Moon Cay the “Best Private Island” for two decades in a row.