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What is free on Half Moon Cay?


Nestled in the Bahamas is Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corporation's private island that boasts crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and an array of attractions. Though not as large as Perfect Day at CocoCay, spanning just 50 acres, you're sure to enjoy your day on the island, as it offers a unique charm and is known for its natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere. 

While you can certainly book one of Carnival's shore excursions, it's possible to spend a fun day ashore without spending an extra penny. From complimentary beach chairs to an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, playground, and more, there are plenty of included amenities. 

Here's a breakdown of everything that's free on Half Moon Cay

Beach loungers


When you visit Half Moon Cay, you won't have to worry about dragging any beach chairs with you. Carnival provides loungers for guests to use free of charge while they're ashore. If you want a chair closer to the beginning of the beach near the Welcome Center, you'll want to get off the ship as early as possible, as this area tends to get pretty crowded. 

There are plenty of chairs further down the shore, too, including near the Captain Morgan "On the Rocks" Bar. This pirate ship-themed bar is a great place to grab a drink while on the island, although you'll have to pay extra for your fruity drink even if you have the CHEERS! Package. Sometimes, Carnival will host complimentary activities in front of the bar, too, such as cornhole and tug-a-war competitions. 

One thing to note is that umbrellas aren't complimentary. At the time of writing, you could rent one for $35 per day. You can also choose to elevate your beach day by renting a private cabana. These will include more shade and privacy than standard lounge chairs. Plus, they come with some added amenities, such as snorkel gear, light snacks, and more. 

Read more: Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay vs Carnival's Half Moon Cay: Which should you choose?

Buffet lunch at the Food Pavillion


Rather than having to return to the ship via tender for lunch, you can enjoy a complimentary buffet on Half Moon Cay. The Food Pavillion is only open during specific hours, so be sure to check at the information hut before making your way to the beach. Since the island isn't equipped with Wi-Fi, you won't be able to utilize the cruise line's app while you are ashore. 

During both my visits to Half Moon Cay, the menu changed slightly. However, dishes like BBQ chicken, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, cole slaw, mixed greens, and potato salad were available both times. There was also a nice spread of desserts, so you could get a nice sweet treat before returning to the beach. 

The buffet has drink stations, too, so you can get complimentary water and juices. There's also a bar for those who want to pay for an alcoholic beverage. While it's natural to want to enjoy a frozen drink while on the beach, don't forget to stay hydrated! You don't want to return to the ship feeling ill because you neglected to have some water on the island. 


There's no limit as to how much food you can get, so don't be afraid to return for seconds if you're still hungry. Once the buffet closes, you won't be able to enjoy any complimentary food until you're back onboard, as the buffet is the only included dining option. The Lobster Shack, while conveniently located, costs extra. 

In fact, the Lobster Shack wasn't even open when I cruised to Half Moon Cay on Carnival Elation! My partner and I were looking forward to some delicious lobster but were disappointed when we realized it was closed. 

Water taxi from the ship to the shore 


The waters surrounding Half Moon Cay are too shallow for ships to dock, so passengers must rely on tender boats to transport them from the ship to the island. 

The night before you arrive in Half Moon Cay, you'll be left with some information as to how the ship's tender process is going to operate. When I sailed on Carnival Conquest, passengers had to select a tender group number from a station across from Java Blue, whereas during my Carnival Elation cruise, it was more of a free-for-all. 

Either way, you won't have to pay extra to get off the ship. Just make sure you know when the last boat is leaving, as you don't want to be stranded on the island

Read more: 8 mistakes I saw people make on my Carnival cruise



There's a pathway across from the "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever" Bar that will lead you to a playground. Kids can explore the various playsets that are outfitted with slides, swings, rope ladders, and more. It's a great option for those who may be a little tired of swimming. 

Like the beach, however, there's not much shade, so make sure you bring enough sunscreen to keep everyone protected throughout the day. Nobody wants to return to the boat to discover they got a gnarly sunburn. 

Though there's an aquapark listed on the map, when I visited in March 2024, it appeared to have been removed, as it could no longer be found near the Private Oasis Cabana. 

Shuttle from the Welcome Center to the Food Pavillion


Although the developed area of Half Moon Cay isn't that large, to make navigating the island a little easier, there's a complimentary tram that runs from the Welcome Center to the Food Pavillion. To catch one, all you have to do is go to one of the two pick-up spots and wait until the next tram arrives. 

Dropping you off at the Food Pavillion puts you in the middle of all the action, as you don't have to walk far to reach amenities like the bar, beach, playground, and massage cabana. 

If you rented a cabana, you should receive instructions on where to go to be transported to your rental. Note, however, that these services (i.e., those that go further than the Food Pavillion) are not available to all passengers, just those who rented a cabana. 



Situated along the primary walkway in Half Moon Cay is a Bahamian Chuch. When it's not being used for a wedding or vow renewal ceremony, guests can walk in to take a look around free of charge. 

The church itself isn't large; however, guests may find solace when visiting. The atmosphere is more relaxed than outside on the beach, providing the perfect space for those seeking a moment of prayer or simply wanting to escape the Bahamian sun for a moment. 

Sports court


Half Moon Cay has two separate courts. The first is dedicated to basketball, whereas the second is a sand court that boasts volleyball and soccer nets. 

Active teens will surely enjoy these courts, which are free to use while ashore. Shooting some hoops is a great way to work off all of the food you've been indulging in during your cruise while taking advantage of the Bahamian sunshine! 

The basketball court can be found directly next to the church, while the sand courts are tucked a little further off the main walking path. 



If you forget to bring a towel from the ship, no worries! During my Carnival Elation cruise, there was a towel station in front of the Rumrunners Bar; however, the exact location may be somewhere else in the arrivals plaza.

Make sure you return any towels you check out on the island to the same place, though. If, for example, you bring two towels from the ship and want to check out a third, you'll need to return one before heading back toward security. 

I prefer to check out towels on the island, as I don't have to worry about lugging them back onboard with me. Instead, I just have to focus on making sure I have all of my personal belongings with me; however, some people prefer to have them on their person when they disembark just in case they cannot find any on the island. 

What isn't included on Half Moon Cay?

Half Moon Cay

Though there are plenty of complimentary amenities at Half Moon Cay, there are numerous opportunities for guests to spend additional money. From souvenirs at the straw market to seafood at the Lobster Shack, shore excursions, alcoholic beverages, and more, here are some of the additional expenses you should be aware of. 

First, when you walk into the arrivals plaza, you'll notice a few souvenir stores located to the right. The actual stores will accept your Sail & Sign card as a form of payment, whereas the straw market only accepts cash. Note that the straw market tends to be the cheaper of the two, with t-shirts costing around $15 to $20. It's not uncommon to find some upwards of $42 in the gift shops. 

Before you can step foot on the powdery white sand, you'll have to pass at least one bar. While getting a tropical beverage to sip on is tempting, you'll have to pay extra for it, even if you splurged on a CHEERS! Package, as they don't work on the island. On my first visit, I spent around $20 for a frozen cocktail in a souvenir cup. When I returned a few months later, my partner and I split a bucket on White Claws. After gratuity, it ended up costing around $65. 


As mentioned earlier, you'll have to spend $35 on umbrellas. Those seeking more privacy may want to treat themselves to one of the island's private cabanas. Starting at $499.99, the beachside cabana is the cheapest option. The price includes a cabana that's outfitted with a private terrace, ceiling fan, refrigerator, table and chairs, deck lounges, floating mats, snorkel gear, light snacks, and more for up to four guests. 

For $799.99, the two-story Beach Villa is for those looking for an elevated level of luxury and privacy. It includes a hot tub, dining area, light snacks, and more for eight passengers. 

Finally, the Private Oasis is the ultimate cabana option on Half Moon Cay. While pricey at $1,849.99, this 1,620-square-foot cabana comes with an eight-person hot tub, personal chef, bartender, butler, and select alcoholic beverages. 


While there's a great complimentary buffet offered on the island, guests have the option to dine at the Lobster Shack, too. During my Carnival Conquest cruise in January 2024, oysters were $2.50/each, snow crab was $26/lb, lobster was $22/lb, tiger shrimp was $3.00/each, and peel & eat shrimp was $14/lb. 

I was a bit disappointed on my return in March, as Lobster Shack was closed the day we were visiting. When we went to speak to the information deck, they didn't seem to know anything about the venue's operating hours. 


Finally, those wanting to spend the day horseback riding, swimming with stingrays, jet skiing, etc., will have to book a shore excursion through Carnival. Since Half Moon Cay is a private island, there are no third-party vendors like you'll find in Nassau, Cozumel, and Amber Cove. 

There are some activities under $50, including the Island Bike Tour, 2-person waterbike, and Island Tram Calypso Tour. You should expect to spend over $120 for the popular horseback riding adventure, though. 

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