How to Maximize Your Stay at Half Moon Cay [Photos]

Half Moon Cay

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There’s a reason why many cruises list Half Moon Cay as their all-time favorite destination.

This private destination, owned by Holland America Line (Carnival cruise ships also go there), features you could want in a tropical paradise: turquoise water, white sand, as well as colorful cocktails, and plenty of fun in the sun.

Half Moon Cay

Interested to know more about this Bahamian paradise?

If so, then read on, as this article will provide you with some tips to help you get the most out of your visit to Half Moon Cay! 

1. Book ahead if you want a cabana or clamshell

half moon cay cabana

There are plenty of free loungers on the beach, but if you’re looking for something that offers shelter from the sun or maybe some privacy, you’ll want to look at renting either a clamshell, a cabana, or even a two-story villa.

The clamshells are perfect for a couple, while cabanas are a fantastic option for small groups who want to hang out together.

Half Moon Cay villa
Photo courtesy of Carnival

The villas, meanwhile, offer the ultimate way to enjoy a day at the beach. Though its price costs $999.99 might seem expensive at first glance, you can actually split it up to eight people. But no matter which option you choose, it’s advised to make reservations in advance. On my recent visit, even the clamshells were sold out before the cruise began.

READ MORE: What’s Included in Half Moon Cay’s Cabanas and Villas?

2. Purchase a drink package half moon cay bar

Bad news if you’re sailing on a Carnival ship, as the CHEERS! Package doesn’t extend to the island, and they don’t offer a separate drink package. So for you, it will be a cash bar during your visit.

READ MORE: 15 Tips For Enjoying Half Moon Cay

But fret not, as Holland America offers the opportunity to buy a 15-drink beverage package for $25 on Half Moon Cay. This includes soda, water, and alcoholic beverages.

3. Get there early, especially if two ships are in port

half moon cay tender

Before every cruise, I swing by the website to find out what cruise ships will be in each port I visit. And yes, you can check on Half Moon Cay.

During a recent visit, I knew in advance that there were going to be two ships visiting the private destination, so I made sure to be on the first tender (sorry, water shuttle) of the day to get a great spot.

Of course, even if there’s only one ship in port, getting to Half Moon Cay gives you time to explore the island.

4. Don’t be afraid to escape the crowds

half moon cay beach

When the water shuttles arrive, most people head straight for the main beach since that’s where most loungers and clamshells can be found. But to enjoy your day, break free of the masses and wander the beach. Before long, you’ll find yourself far from the crowds and able to relax.

Bring your own towel — or lug a lounger — and enjoy the serenity. Trust me; it’ll be good for what ails you.

READ MORE: 13 Best Photos Of Half Moon Cay, Bahamas [2023]

5. Taste some barbeques half moon cay bbq plate

Hit the BBQ, and you’ll find what you’d expect: jerk chicken, ribs, burgers, fish tacos, salads, and sides. They’re all served buffet-style, and they’re free.

half moon cay bbq

But it’s worth wandering over a little bit before it opens. You will get the freshest food that way and avoid the long lines, which inevitably get pretty long as people follow the fire-grilled treats.

READ MORE: Sizzling Delights: A Comprehensive Look at Half Moon Cay’s BBQ Menu

6. Check out the Lobster Shack

half moon cay lobster shack

If you want to make your day on Half Moon Cay truly special, consider forking over a bit of money for a freshly-grilled Caribbean lobster at Lobster Shack or maybe a lobster roll. (If you’re trying to decide which of the two, go for the Caribbean lobster. The roll was okay, but it wasn’t my favorite as a fan who’s eaten more than his share of them over the years.)

If you haven’t been to Half Moon Cay in a while, this might be new, as it only opened a few years back.

half moon cay lobster roll

READ MORE: A Day at the Private Oasis On Half Moon Cay [PHOTOS]

7. Create your excursion

half moon cay beaches

There is a slew of excursions you can book before arriving at the island. But if you want to save a little money, there’s plenty to do without booking an excursion.

While you can pay to take a boat to a snorkeling spot, you won’t have a ton of reefs in the vicinity, so you’ll see nearly as much sea life just offshore as you will on one of the boat trips. And while they’ll happily let you pay them to take a walking tour of the island, you can just as easily follow the well-marked trails on your own.

READ MORE: Top 5 Reasons to Visit Half Moon Cay

8. Or you can do something unique

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photo: Holland America

Some cool shore excursions are offered here. For example, if you’ve ever wanted to recreate one of those scenes from The Bachelor where they mount horses and gallop along the beach, then this is your big chance.

READ MOREHalf Moon Cay Bahamas Review

If it’s your first visit to Half Moon Cay and want to get acquainted with all it offers, you can hop on an open-air tram for a tour that lasts about an hour costing around $29.99 (ages over 13 and over) and 21.99 (ages 3-12). 

This is also an excellent way for visitors who might have difficulty walking to see parts of Half Moon Cay they wouldn’t otherwise get to visit.

9. Take the last water shuttle back

half moon cay leaving

Want to enjoy every last minute of your time on Half Moon Cay? If yes, then grab the last tender back to the ship. Want to make sure you don’t miss it? Find one of the bartenders who work on your ship (they come ashore to serve drinks on Half Moon Cay) and enjoy your final moments at their bar. As long as the bartenders from your boat are on the island, the ship won’t go anywhere.

What’s even more exciting about heading back on the last shuttle is being about to chat with other crew members. Note, however, that if two ships are in port, you must ensure that the crew members you’re talking to are from your ship.

READ MORE: 15 Tips For Half Moon Cay

10. Avoid the madness upon returning to the ship


Once the water shuttle returns to the ship, everyone on the tender will swarm the elevator. But you can avoid that by taking the stairs up one deck (or even two, if you’re feeling particularly energetic) and then walking down the hall to a different bank of elevators.

DIG DEEPER: 26 Best Things to Do in Half Moon Cay

Tour of Half Moon Cay


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