Posts may contain affiliate links. Read our full disclosure policy here.

35 Insider Tips for Half Moon Cay Bahamas: The Perfect Day at Holland America’s Private Island (2024)

Cruises, Caribbean Travel Guides

Visiting the Half Moon Cay Bahamas Private Island? If you’re on a Holland America or Carnival Caribbean cruise, it’s very likely that Half Moon Cay is one of your ports in the Bahamas. Here are 35 insider tips to help you plan the most perfect day.

I highly recommend against staying onboard during this port stop. Half Moon Cay Bahamas is absolutely beautiful with white sand beaches, crystal clear aqua water, and so much to do. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Half Moon Cay in 2024.


About Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is a private island in the Bahamas owned by Carnival Corporation. it is about 100 miles southeast of Nassau. Half Moon Cay was also known as “Little Salvador Island”. It was named Half Moon Cay after the crescent shape of the island.

Which Cruise Ships Go to Half Moon Cay?

Half Moon Cay was purchased by the Carnival Corporation in 1996. It was previously owned by Norwegian. Now only cruise ships from Holland America Line and Carnival Cruises visit the island.

Which Cruise Itineraries Go to Half Moon Cay?

You will find Half Moon Cay port stops on almost all Western Caribbean and Tropical Caribbean cruises. Especially those departing Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


1. Taking the Tender

The Half Moon Cay Bahamas port requires a tender to get to shore. Everyone always rushes off the ship, but you will be on the private island all day. Most excursions begin in the afternoon so my advice is not to rush. Take your time, enjoy a nice breakfast, and then head to the tender around 9am to avoid any lines.

The longest part of the tender, is waiting for the boats to fill up. All together, expect the entire process to take about 30 minutes. It is quicker getting back to the ship than leaving the ship. Holland America does a great job of making this process short & quick.

2. Bring Your Towel & Tote

Holland America provides 2 towels and a beach tote so make sure you bring these to Half Moon Cay when you leave the ship.

3. Other Items to Bring

Here is a list of other items you may want to consider bringing with you.

4. Drink Packages Don’t Transfer

When you’re on the island, it’s important to know that your drink packages do not carry over to the island. You pay for all drinks which will be added to your room statement. Most tropical drinks are around $12.


5. Don’t Miss The Island BBQ Lunch!

The lunch on Half Moon Cay Bahamas is delicious, but make sure you don’t miss it. Lunch is only for a few hours starting at 11:30am until 1pm. If you have an excursion planned around noon, make sure you go grab lunch before your excursion.

6. Everything Available for Lunch

Here is what you can expect from the lunch on Half Moon Cay. They have burgers and hot dogs, but also grilled chicken, Korean BBQ short ribs, and grilled fish. For sides, there is salad, fruit salad, macaroni salad, and potato salad. There is also a dessert section.

The lunch was well organized with about 4 different food stations with the same food so there were no lines. It was wonderful!


7. Lobster for Lunch

While I thought the provided lunch was fabulous, if you want to enjoy the fancy island life, you can also order Lobster from the adorable Lobster Shack located next to the bar.

8. Renting a Clam Shell

If you just want to relax on the beach, but not sunbathe, then order a clam shell for $50. You can order it under the excursions in your Navigation App.


9. The Best Bars

I found that the bars on the beach were better than the bar by the entrance and my drinks were about twice the size!

10. Should You Rent a Cabana, Villa, or Oasis?

If you are traveling with a large group, this is the best bargain and way to spend the day on the island. Especially for groups of 12 or more. I also think these rentals are great if you do not want to be in the heat and are visiting during the summer, you may want to invest in a shaded cabana. All three also come with a variety of snacks and drinks. Additionally, those who book one of these receive tender priority to shore. You can read details on each below.

I prefer to travel to the Caribbean during the winter months when it’s cooler and less humid, but if I was here during the summer, this would be a must. They are also great for large parties. Children under 2 years old are also free.

  • The Cabanas and Villas are very limited and always sell out. There is also only one Oasis available.

11. Renting a Cabana

The Cabanas are good for up to 4 people and include a refrigerator, ceiling fan, table and chairs inside, and deck chairs, and a misting shower on the private terrace. There is fresh fruit, vegetables with dip, and chips and salsa to snack on, as well as an assortment of soft drinks and bottled water to quench your thirst. Floating mats and snorkel gear are included for your use throughout the day.

Pricing is $699.95 or $175 if you split the cost with 4 people.

12. Renting the Villa

Villas are good for up to 8 people and include a five-person capacity hot tub, refrigerator, ceiling fan, dining area with table and chairs inside, misting shower, and private sun deck. You’ll also receive fresh fruit, vegetables with dip, chips & salsa, an assortment of soft drinks, and bottled water. Like the Cababa’s, Floating mats and snorkel gear are included.

Pricing is $999.95 or only $125 if you split the cost with 8 people.

Villas can hold up to 14 guests with an added fee of only $45.95.


13. You Can Add a Butler!

If you purchase a Cabana or Villa you may want to consider upgrading and adding the Butler service. This includes unlimited drinks on the island. Remember, drinks on the island cost extra so between 4-8 people this upgrade could easily pay for itself with just the drinks!

It also includes a picnic lunch consisting of appetizer, entree, and dessert. The Butler will also escort from your cabin to assist you from ship to shore will see to whatever needs you have on the island including shopping from the island shops and any Shore Excursions bookings you may like to make on Half Moon Cay. 

The Price is a $270 add-on for Cabana Rentals and $400 add-on for Villas.

14. Renting the Oasis

The Oasis is the most luxurious rental and is good for up to 12 people. The Oasis is seperated from the Villas and Cabanas and located on the other side of the island by where you enter the island.

This Private Oasis perches on a point, partially over water, so you can enjoy your private gathering in a luxurious setting with a walkway directly into the waters. The Private Oasis offers a total of 1,620 square feet and includes a large, covered deck and a comfortable sun deck with an eight-person hot tub.

Features include an indoor teak dining table seating six people, outdoor teak loungers and bar stools accommodating 12, a barbecue area, a full wet bar and refrigerator, a massage table, iPod music system, multi-colored Bahamian tapestries, men’s and women’s changing rooms, indoor and outdoor showers with heated fresh water, 100-foot walkway with misting stations and privacy gate.

The real catch is that the Private Oasis features the services of a butler, personal chef, and lifeguard, along fresh fruit, danish, chips and salsa 10am – 2pm. Beverage Package with soft drinks, bottled water, juices, domestic and imported beers, house pouring wine by the glass island cocktails, frozen tropical, and even mocktails from 10am-3pm. The island Barbecue lunch is also served in the Private Oasis from 11:30am -1pm.

Price is $1999.95 or $166 per person for 12 people.

For $4,500 you can upgrade to the Ultimate Luxury Oasis Package which includes a group photo, celebration cake, lobster, filet mignon, and linen tablesetting with fine china.


15. New* Party or Picnic Bana

The new Party Bana is an inflatable covered picnic-style table out in the water that you can rent for 4-6 people. It is a slightly cheaper option than the Cabana and Villas and great for those who like to stay in the water.

Pricing is $349.95 for the smaller size or $449.95 for the Picnic Bana that holds 6.

16. Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding is one of the most popular excursions on the island so make sure you book it early. You’ll go on a short Horseback ride on land and then also through water. Make sure you wear closed-toe shoes. I highly recommend wearing water shoes if you’ll be horseback riding.

Price is only $119


17. Stingray Adventure

The Stingray Adventure excursion is both popular and more affordable. During this excursion, you can snorkel, feed stingrays, hold starfish, see the creatures inside of conch shells, and hold sea cucumbers. It’s a great activity for those who want to do more than lay on the beach.

The Stingray Adventure is a great price at only $34.95

18. Snorkeling

If you enjoy snorkeling, you can book a snorkeling excursion or you can go on your own adventure and rent snorkeling gear.

Snorkeling by Boat is 59.95 and Snorkel rentals are

19. Bonefish Lagoon

The Island has a 700-acre protected wetland habitat with bonefish, sharks, and sea turtles. You can book a kayaking excursion to explore this unique area or take a guided hike.

The Eco Lagoon Kayak Adventure excursion is $44.95


20. Rent a Hobie Cat

a Hobie Cat is like a mini sail boat and you can rent these on the island to take out on the open seas and go exploring around Half Moon Cay.

Hobbie Cat rentals are $49.95 per hour.

21. Other Water Sports Items for Rent

In addition to snorkeling gear and Hobbie Cats, you can also rent floating mats to lay on in the water, paddle boards, and even water bikes. If you want to do more than lay on the beach, but don’t want to book an excursion, renting something at the water sports center is a great option.

22. Play Recreational Sports

If you’re active, the island hosts a Volleyball game and there is also a basketball court on the island.

23. Take a Bike Tour

If you are looking for something more active and do not want to hike, you can also take a bike tour excursion around the island where you’ll be able to see the entire island from a higher elevation.

The Guided Bike Tour excursion is $34.95


24. Playground for Children

Also located on the island is a fun playground if you’re traveling with children which is also a water park!

25. There are Ruins on the Island

You may be surprised to know that there are actual ruins of old lime huts on the island that date back to the 1700s. If you take a hike or eco tour they will take you to view these.

26. Visit the Gift Shop

I know for Holland America cruisers, we are a loyal bunch and huge fans of the cruise line. You’ll find great Half Moon Cay Bahamas memorabilia to take home and can also find some essentials like sunscreen which you’ll definitely need.

27. There’s a Free Tram

If you do not want to walk, most cruisers do not realize there is a free tram. It meets near the visitors center where many of the cruise excursions meet. It can take you to the other side of the island, which is especially useful if you have trouble walking long distances.


28. Visit the Pirate Ship

I absolutely love the Pirate Ship on the island. There is a bar inside that most visitors don’t know about and you can climb up to the second floor for some great views!

29. There’s a Church on the Island

There is a church on Half Moon Cay Bahamas you can visit and even renew your vows or get married!

30. You Can Rent Umbrellas

Want shade, but do not want to pay for a Clam Shell? For only $29 you can rent a Beach Umbrella. It even comes in a carry bag and comes with towel hooks!

31. Send Your Family a Postcard!

One cute feature I found on the island was a Post Office. You can purchase Bahamian stamps and tropical postcards. Then send them out to friends and family while on your trip. Make sure to bring your address book!


32. Take a Further Walk Down the Beach

Half Moon Cay is much larger than people realize. If you walk past the Pirate Ship, Cabanas, and Villas, you will essentially have your own private beach. You can go on a nice walk past where everyone lays out on the sand and explore further down the beach where no one goes.

33. Aqua Trax Adventure

If you’ve never been on a jet ski before, the Aqua Trax adventure is a great excursion to get your feet wet. The waters are calmer and you will have a guide with you. It’s a great way to explore the island and ride the waves all at the same time. It is tamer than just going crazy out in the open waters on your own.

The Aqua Tracks excursion is $94.95.

34. Meet the Donkey

Our cruise manager Bert let us know about the Donkey on the island which is at the horse stables. He likes to take a job around the island and go say hi to the Donkey. If you don’t want to do the excursion but want to see the horses, you can walk to the stables.

35. 95% of Half Moon Cay Bahamas is Undeveloped

An interesting fact of Half Moon Cay Bahamas island is that 95% is still undeveloped and remains protected so cruisers can enjoy all its natural beauty and wildlife.

Bonus Tip: Arriving & Leaving

One additional tip is about arriving and departing the island. Upon arrival, there is a cute sign you may want to take a photo in front of. If you pass it and enter the main arrival area, you cannot turn back around to get your picture. Once you walk into Half Moon Cay, to leave you have to walk through the security metal detectors.

Final Thoughts

If you’re headed on a Holland America or Carnival Cruise, definitely don’t miss Half Moon Cay Bahamas. It is such a fun private island with so much to do. My favorite excursions would be Horseback Riding, the Stingray Adventure, or Renting a Cabana, Villa, or Oasis for the day.

Discover More Useful Cruise Guides


About The Author

Sondra Barker is an established travel writer, photographer, and culinary enthusiast. She resides in Newport Beach, California one of the most beautiful beach towns in the country. Her favorite destinations include visiting various wine countries, cruises around the world, and fun theme parks like Disneyland.


DSC_1770 cropSondra Barker
I created this site for purveyor of exceptional eats and escapes; our team is always on a journey to find the perfect bites in the most wonderful places.

Amazon Affiliates Disclosure

Sondra Barker of Cuisine and Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to recommendations on All Products recommended are from my own opinions and experiences.

Don't be shy. Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts!x