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Half Moon Cay: What you need to know about Carnival’s Private Island (2024)

Carnival Elation at Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is Carnival Corporation's private island in The Bahamas. 

It's a largely undeveloped island that provides guests with a stunning crescent-shaped beach to swim in, as well as a variety of activities to fill the day.

Named "Best Private Island” 20 years in a row by Porthole Cruise Magazine, it is clearly popular among its guests.

To make the most of your day, here’s what you need to know when visiting Half Moon Cay.

Read more: 17 Carnival Cruises Tips & Tricks (2024)


Half Moon Cay

Many cruisers are familiar with Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. About 100 miles southeast is a quiet uninhabited island, Little San Salvador, home to Carnival’s Half Moon Cay.

It has a lot of natural beauty with 2,400 acres of mostly trees and bushes, along with a 2-mile-long beach. 

As it's owned by Carnival Corporation, it's used by a few different cruise lines, including Carnival and Holland America Line. In fact, there's more HAL branding on the island than Carnival! 

What’s the weather like?

Half Moon Cay

Being one of the most northerly islands in the Caribbean, Half Moon Cay is not super hot all year long but rather has some mild fluctuations.

Winter months tend to be drier with temperatures in the high 70s for both the air and sea. A great time to explore the walking trails or to try a bike excursion.

Spring begins to warm up to the 80s, ideal weather. Summer sees heat in the 90s, with higher humidity and the occasional rain shower.

Although early fall can bring the odd storm, the weather moves back into the 80s with less rain.

Going ashore


The waters around Half Moon Cay are quite shallow preventing docking. Cruisers need to tender ashore. Carnival states the entire process, including boarding and disembarkation, takes around 45 minutes. 

You should factor this into your plans, as you simply cannot walk off whenever you'd like. If you want to spend all day on the beach, you will want to ensure that you wake up a little bit early to grab a tender ticket for one of the first few groups. 

Guests should make sure to bring everything they need for the day, including lots of sunscreen, towels, their Sail & Sign card, and anything else required for activities. There are locker rentals priced at $10 per person.


If you purchased one of Carnival's three Wi-Fi packages, you will not be able to use it ashore; however, some guests have reported being able to access cell coverage with Bahamian cell providers.

Once you have made it, what is there to do?

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



The major attraction on the island is its beautiful beach, which isn't surprising since the Bahamas has some of the best beaches in the world.  

There are free chairs and loungers on the beach but do take note, the main beach area lacks adequate shade. Umbrellas are not complimentary and cost $35 as of January 2024. 

Plus, chairs tend to fill up pretty quickly. If you have a desired location, you will want to try and catch one of the first tenders.



Although there is no pool area, Carnival provides guests with a good array of activities. Ideally, you should book ahead of time, so your desired excursion does not sell out. 

Activities under $50:

  • Island Bike Tour $24.99/person
  • Waterbike (2 persons): $44.99
  • Eco-Lagoon Tour: $44.99/adult and $34.99/child
  • Stand-up Paddleboard: $39.99/person 
  • Combo, Eco Bike & Hike Tour: $39.99/person
  • Kayak (single): $29.99
  • Kayak (double): $45.99
  • All-day snorkel gear rental: $19.99/person
  • Floating tube: $19.99/person
  • Floating mat: $19.99/person
  • Island Tram Calypso Tour: $29.99/adult and $21.99/child


  • Snorkeling by the Boat: $59.99/person
  • Horseback Riding: $124.99/person
  • Stingray Adventure: $54.99/person

Other things to do


Younger kids can play at the Half Moon Lagoon Aquapark, which has some slides and a pirate ship. There is also basketball, volleyball, shuffleboard, and a playground.

Buy some local handmade souvenirs at the straw market or the gift shop. Note that sunscreen is pretty pricey here, starting around $27 for a single bottle. 

Additionally, the straw market is cash only; however, the prices for t-shirts and other knick knacks tend to be less than the gift shops. T-shirts in the gift stores tend to be around $42+, whereas those at the straw market are typically around $15 to $20. You can charge items from the actual stores to your Sail & Sign account to be settled at the end of the cruise. 


There is even a small church for wedding ceremonies or vow renewals, a perfect backdrop for a romantic event.

Cabana Rentals

Half Moon Cay

For those who want to relax on the beach, and perhaps splurge a little, there are additional options.  

Cabana: Starting at $499.99, you can rent a beachside cabana with air-conditioning and a private terrace, featuring:

  • A ceiling fan, refrigerator, table and chairs inside, outdoor dining table and chairs, 2 deck loungers, and a misting shower
  • Water floating mats and snorkel gear are provided for use during the day
  • Light snacks such as chips & dip, fruit, along with water and soda
  • The price includes 4 guests
Half Moon Cay cabana

Beach Villa: Starting at $799.99, this vibrantly colored 2-story villa includes:

  • A private deck just steps from the beach.
  • Hot tub
  • Fridge, dining area, and misting shower
  • Guests are provided with floating mats and snorkel gear
  • Light snacks, water a soda
  • Price includes 8 guests

Private Oasis: Starting at $1,849.99, this is the ultimate in rentals:  

  • 1,620-square-foot grand cabana
  • 8-person hot tub
  • Heated indoor and outdoor showers, misting stations, and privacy gate
  • A personal chef, bartender, butler, cabana steward, and lifeguard
  • BBQ lunch, snacks such as chips, dip, and fresh fruit.
  • Domestic and imported beers, house wine by the glass, and various tropical cocktails

What’s for lunch?


A free buffet is provided for roughly two hours during your stay. 

The times may vary, so be sure to check the information hub before heading to the beach. Typically, it's either 11:00am to 1:00pm or 11:30am to 1:30pm. 

The menu features typical BBQ fare with some added Caribbean touches like Jerk Chicken and banana rum cake, along with some tasty sides like salads and coleslaw.


Guests seeking something different may be interested in the Lobster Shack, not to be confused with the New England-style Seafood Shack onboard ships, it has a different menu. 

Options tend to be market price, so they'll vary. However, when Cruise.Blog writer Elizabeth visited in late January 2024, oysters were $2.50/each, snow crab was $26/lb, peel & eat shrimp was $14/lb, lobster was $22/lb, and tiger shrimp were $3/each. 


What's unique is that the seafood is cooked right in front of you, so you know that it's fresh! If you're looking to splurge on a meal during your trip and love seafood, there's no better time than, literally, steps from breathtaking crystal-clear water. 



There are four bars on the island. Captain Morgan’s Pirate Ship has three levels featuring a bar with great views.

There is also Lookout Bar, a more tranquil spot, on the opposite side of the island from the beach.


Sadly, you can’t use Carnival’s “Cheer Package” to pay for your drinks. The cost of a frozen cocktail in a souvenir cup is roughly $20. Aside from that, the drink prices are the same as those onboard. 

Carnival's "Bottomless Bubbles" package also will not work on the island. 

What ships visit Half Moon Cay?


A number of Carnival ships stop at Half Moon Cay, on 3-8 day itineraries that include the Bahamas, eastern and southern Caribbean:  

  • Carnival Conquest
  • Carnival Dream
  • Carnival Elation
  • Carnival Freedom
  • Carnival Legend
  • Carnival Liberty
  • Carnival Magic
  • Carnival Miracle
  • Carnival Paradise
  • Carnival Pride
  • Carnival Spirit
  • Carnival Sunrise
  • Carnival Sunshine  
  • Carnival Venezia
  • Carnival Vista

Holland America Line also has ships that visit the island; however, they visit less frequently due to sailing in the Caribbean seasonally, rather than year-round:

  • MS Nieuw Statendam 
  • MS Eurodam
  • MS Nieuw Amsterdam
  • MS Rotterdam 
  • MS Volendam
  • MS Zaandam
  • MS Zuiderdam

Read more: Guide to cruise line private islands

Half Moon Cay Frequently Asked Questions

Do people live on Half Moon Cay?

Butler carrying food and giving thumbs up

Half Moon Cay is an uninhabited island. The locals who work on the island commute via ferry on days when Holland America or Carnival ships tender. 

Is the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park free?

Half Moon Cay beach

Yes, it is free of charge. Located just steps from the ocean, it gives families a saltwater-free option while still allowing them to enjoy taking in the famous turquoise water views. 

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