Your ship arrives at your next port-of-call, the sun still rising over the horizon. The sunshine gleams over the turquoise blue water surrounding the ship. In the distance, you see an island paradise with a beach that stretches into a crescent shape. Cabanas and beach chairs line the beach, waiting for the many beachgoers soon to be coming ashore. Behind the beach, the island is very green – a variety of trees fill the landscape. Buildings, including a chapel and a pirate ship themed bar dot the island. Welcome to my favorite beach in the world. Welcome to Half Moon Cay!
About the Island
Half Moon Cay is a small private island in the Bahamas, owned by Holland America Line. As a subsidiary of the Carnival Corporation, HAL’s Half Moon Cay is also frequented by Carnival Cruise Line year-round.
The island is small – about 2,400 acres in size – and its main attraction is the crescent-shaped beach for which it’s named. (Check out my 360 degree video of the beach!) Because of its topography and shallow shores, cruise ships cannot dock at Half Moon Cay. Rather, a tender system is used where small boats (tenders) carry guests and supplies ashore from the ship, which is anchored just offshore.
Activities at Half Moon Cay
Over the years, HAL and Carnival Corporation have added some amenities to the island. If the hot Bahamian sun leaves you feeling parched, stop by the bar inside the “pirate ship” for some libations (not included). The lunch pavilions further inland on the island feature a lunch barbecue buffet. Kids can play at the water park located right on the beach. If you need to cool down while ashore, misting stations are available throughout the island.
If you’d like to enhance your stay at Half Moon Cay, you can rent a private cabana for the day. Located on the beach, these cabanas offer shade and (sometimes much-needed) air-conditioning, as well as your own misting shower and deck chairs. Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are provided with your cabana. I have never rented a cabana, but I have heard good things about them! Apparently they sell out quickly too.
Most guests will typically take advantage of the beach during their day at Half Moon Cay. Do you want to see more of what the island has to offer? There are shore excursions offered at an additional cost that you can partake in. Feeling adventurous? Take a horseback ride on the beach and in the water. Swim with stingrays, go kayaking, or tour the island on foot or by bike. Despite its small size, the island of Half Moon Cay has plenty to offer.
Why I Love Half Moon Cay
Prior to my first visit to Half Moon Cay in 2014, I was not a “beach person.” In fact, I would actively avoid going to a beach whenever possible. My visit to Half Moon Cay that year changed my perspective completely. Up to that point, I had been to quite a few beaches in the Caribbean and the US and I never enjoyed myself. I never liked the coarse sand, I never liked the water, I never liked the atmosphere. When I first stepped foot onto Half Moon Cay, I expected much of the same.
After exploring the island a bit, making my way through the twisting and turning paths that traverse the inner parts of the island, I headed for the famed crescent-shaped beach. When I stepped onto the beach, I noticed the sand had a much different texture than any other beach I had been to up to that point. As another guest would aptly describe it on another visit to Half Moon Cay, the sand at Half Moon Cay closely resembles flour. The sand is extremely soft and fine, and it packs together easily under pressure. While the sand at beaches I had visited previously would irritate my skin, the sand at Half Moon Cay actually feels good to the touch! In fact, one of my favorite pastimes at Half Moon Cay is laying on a beach chair just running my hands through the sand. So peaceful!
It’s safe to say that the sand was a huge reason I grew to love Half Moon Cay so quickly. If the sand was reason #1, then the water is reason #2. The water at Half Moon Cay is a magnificent turquoise blue and crystal clear. It really helps create a tropical atmosphere on the beach. If you visit Half Moon Cay in late summer, the water should be very warm and pleasant to wade in. (N.B. I visited Half Moon Cay in April this year and the water was much cooler than I prefer, but not cold.)
Some More Observations
The tendering system can get backed up. I prefer to go ashore early and head back to the ship early when at Half Moon Cay. When I head out early, I can grab a good lounge chair and beat the heat before it gets too hot. By the time I’m ready to head back to the ship, other guests are still arriving ashore. My wait for a tender back to the ship is always short. (Can’t imagine waiting in a long tender line in the afternoon sun!)
I am usually back on the ship by lunch time. I much prefer to grab lunch on the ship than at the buffet on shore. The buffet on the island does nothing for me. The burgers are okay, but not nearly as fresh as the burgers on the ship. Ditto for the side dishes.
Do you have any tips for visiting Half Moon Cay? Do you enjoy visiting this island?
Visit my YouTube channel to see my 360 degree video exploring the island of Half Moon Cay!