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Scenes of Half Moon Cay

Fast Facts: Half Moon Cay

Half Moon Cay is Holland America's own private island in the Bahamas; when it's not being used by Holland America, Carnival's ships make port here. Despite all appearances to the contrary, the cay really is a deserted island, save for a caretaker staff of 10 to 20 Holland America workers who live here year round. The locals who sell arts, crafts, souvenirs and knickknacks in the straw market reside on nearby Eleuthera Island, and commute to Half Moon Cay whenever a ship comes into port.

For more than 12 years running, Half Moon Cay has offered cruise passengers "the best private island experience," according to the readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine. Only 50 of the island's 2,400 acres have been developed. The remaining acreage includes a 700-acre lagoon, a Wild Bird Preserve and a wildlife sanctuary.

Half Moon Cay enjoys a tropical marine climate, with year-round daytime temperatures ranging from the high 70s to the high 80s F. The dry season begins in November and lasts through April, while the rainy season commences in May and extends through October, with the heaviest rains taking place from June through September.

Half Moon Cay Map

First Impressions

©2012 Jonathan Palombo, under cc-by-sa 2.0 license

Half Moon Cay is a 2,400 acre island that sits between Eleuthera Island and Cat Island, less than 100 miles southeast from Nassau. From your ship, it's hard to miss the 2 miles of white sand beach that faces northwest along the Exuma Sound. For most of its existence, it's been known as Little San Salvador Island, but was renamed when Holland America bought the property in 1996. The marketing mavens at Holland America re-christened the island Half Moon Cay not only to refer to Henry Hudson's ship, the Half Moon, that is depicted in the Holland America logo, but also to refer to the island's beautiful crescent-shaped main swimming beach.

Your ship will lay anchor offshore Half Moon Cay, and the island's fleet of 4 ship's tenders will take you to the Half Moon Cay Tender Pier marina, which is a less than 1-minute walk to the island's Fort San Salvador Welcome Center. The double decked tenders take about 10 minutes to bring you from ship to shore.

The Fort San Salvador Welcome Center features an iconic welcoming arch that fronts the Bahamian village complex. Here you'll find a number of island facilities, including an authentic straw market, air-conditioned gift shops, an information booth, an ice cream shop, a shore excursion sales pavilion, the first aid station, a post office, restroom facilities and the Rum Runners bar.

As you proceed northwest along the beach, you'll see the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park (perfect for the little ones under your charge), one of three Water Sports Centers, the non-denominational Bahamian Chapel (where you can reaffirm your marriage vows, this time with sandy feet), the I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever Bar, a massage cabana, the Captain Morgan's Bar, the Tropics Restaurant and the Dining Pavilions. A tram is available to shuttle guests between the Welcome Center and the Tropics Restaurant. The Lookout Bar is located on a point overlooking Bonefish Lagoon. It's the quietest bar on the island.

Half Moon Cay is notable for the number of private cabanas that are offered for rent during your day on the island. They are located at 150 foot intervals as you walk northwest along the beach. The 15 cabanas, each named for a different tropical hue, come complete with a refrigerator, ceiling fan, air conditioner, table and chairs inside, and deck chairs and a misting shower on the private terrace. Designed to serve 4 guests in each cabana, the cabana rentals also feature food and drinks packages.

Five private beachfront villas are the next step up in accomodations on the island. Each of the villas are outfitted with air-conditioning, a 5-person capacity hot tub, refrigerator, ceiling fan, air conditioner, dining area with table and chairs, a misting shower and private sun deck. On the second floor you'll find chaise lounges and a dining room table and chairs. In addition, both floors feature a high top table and 2 chairs. There are unobstructed views from all locations. Villas D and E are wheelchair accessible throughout the first floor and restroom area.

If you're well heeled, and want to do Half Moon Cay in high style, you can rent the Private Oasis for the day. Designed for you and your posse of 11 friends, the Private Oasis is a bungalow that offers a total of 1,620 square feet and includes a large covered deck and comfortable sun deck with an eight-person hot tub. Features include an indoor teak dining table seating six people, outdoor teak lounges and bar stools accommodating 12, barbecue area, full wet bar and refrigerator, massage table, iPod music system, multi-colored Bahamian tapestries, men's and women's changing rooms, indoor and outdoor showers with heated fresh water, and a 100-foot walkway with misting stations and privacy gate.

In 2018, visitors will spend, on average, around 7¾ hours on the island.

What to Do in Half Moon Cay


Half Moon Cay On Your Own

If you're looking for what you can do On Your Own in Half Moon Cay--like Food, Shopping, Bars, Activities and Attractions, and even gettng married, click here for our Half Moon Cay On Your Own page.

The Top 10 Things to Do in Half Moon Cay

So it's your first time in Half Moon Cay? Or your fifth? Want to make the most of your visit? Well, click here for our list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Half Moon Cay.

Cruise Line Shore Excursions on Half Moon Cay

The number of activities available on Half Moon Cay is great for a private "Out Island" getaway. The island's Pegasus Stables house a number of horses for horseback riding outings that will take you on land and in the surf. The 700-acre Bonefish Lagoon plays host to a stingray encounter tour as well as a tropical lagoon tour, a glass bottom boat tour, personal watercraft tours and kayaking outings. And of course there's parasailing, snorkeling, Hobie Cat rentals, bicycling, hiking and even deep sea fishing.

Click on any of the tiles below to see the Shore Excursions offered by Carnival and Holland America.

Beach & Sailing Tours Bicycling tour Combo Tours
Hiking tour Horseback riding Island Cabanas
Island Extras Sightseeing Tour

Time Zone

Half Moon Cay is on Eastern Time, five hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time during Standard Time, and four hours earlier than GMT during Daylight Savings Time. Daylight savings time begins on the second Sunday of March, and ends on the first Sunday of November.

Bahamas flag Half Moon Cay Local Time


English is universally spoken in Half Moon Cay. Other languages are spoken by Carnival and Holland America staff members.

Dealing with Money on Half Moon Cay


dollar bill

While the Bahamian Dollar is the Bahamas' official currency, on Half Moon Cay you'll be buying your drinks, souvenirs and excursions, and renting equipment, on your Sign & Sail or Stateroom Key Card. And for most cruises, the functional currency is the US dollar.

Banks and ATMs

Hey, you're on a desert island in the middle of nowhere. Banks or ATMs? Fuggedaboutit!

Just remember to bring your Sign & Sail Card (Carnival) or your Stateroom Key Card (Holland America) to pay for your drinks, souvenirs, equipment rentals and last-minute excursions. And if you plan on shopping for some straw goods, bring cash.

Using US Dollars in Half Moon Cay

US dollars are widely accepted at the straw market in Half Moon Cay.


©2011 Pinus, under cc-by-sa 3.0 license

Half Moon Cay enjoys a warm, agreeable climate that varies little year-round. Cooled by the trade winds that blow almost continually throughout the islands, winter temperatures (November through April) range from lows of mid-60° F at night to afternoon highs in the low- to mid-70s° F. Summer high temperatures (May through October) average between the mid-80s to low-90s F.

It's humid in Half Moon Cay, especially in the summer months. Wind speeds are, on average, below 10 knots. In winter months, periods of a day to two of north and northeast winds of about 25 knots may occur.

Rain showers can occur any time of the year, but the rainiest months are May to October. In Half Moon Cay, rainfall averages a little more than two inches a month from November to April, and almost seven inches a month from May to October. Rainfall comes mainly in the form of heavy showers or thundershowers, which clear quickly.

Sea surface temperatures normally vary between 74° F in February to 83° F in August.

Hurricane season lasts from June through November, although most hurricanes track south and west of Half Moon Cay. The peak months for hurricanes are August and September. The Bahamas have about a one-in-five annual risk of being affected by a hurricane.

Average Temperatures

Average Precipitation

Local Holidays & Festivals

Since this is Holland America's (and Carnival's) own island, and they set the rules, there's no guarantee that any of the following holidays will be celebrated on Half Moon Cay during your visit. If they're not, you may want to personally organize a toast to the holiday and create your own festival.

Local festivals, holidays and events taking place in Half Mon Cay in 2018:

  • New Year's Day, Monday, January 1. National holiday celebrated with dances and festivals.

  • Majority Rule Day, Wednesday, January 10. A national holiday celebrating the date when the Bahamas achieved self governance through democracy in 1967.

  • Good Friday, Friday, March 30. A public holiday.

  • Easter Monday, Monday, April 2. A public holiday.

  • Whit Monday, May 21. This holiday is celebrated the day after Pentecost, a movable feast in the Christian calendar.

  • Labour Day, Friday, June 1. A public holiday that celebrates the contributions of workers, and in the Bahamas is named after Randol Fawkes.

  • Stamps
  • Independence Day, Tuesday, July 10. A national public holiday that commemorates the independence of the Bahamas from the British that took place on July 10, 1973.

  • Emancipation Day/August Monday, Monday, August 6. A national public holiday that commemorates the official abolition of slavery in 1838. Look for a Junkanoo, a traditional African street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau.

  • Discovery Day/ National Heroes Day/ Columbus Day, Monday, October 8. A national holiday that commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

  • Christmas, Tuesday, December 25. A public and religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.

  • Boxing Day, Wednesday, December 26. A public holiday.

  • Junkanoo
  • Junkanoo, Wednesday, December 26. The Bahamas' Christmas celebration, with party-goers dressed in masquerade costumes parading in the streets in celebration of their West African and slave heritage.

Cruise Port Schedules

Half Moon Cay
© Holland America Line

Half Moon Cay is a very popular port for cruise ships making 3-, 4- and 7-day cruises to the Bahamas from Florida ports as well as from Charleston, Baltimore and New York.

As a general rule, ships arrive at the island's tender anchorage between 8:00 am and 9:00 am, and depart between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm.

In 2018, visitors will spend, on average, around 7¾ hours on the island.

In 2018, Half Moon Cay is slated to host 539,300 passengers sailing on 239 ships. See our Half Moon Cay Cruise Ship Schedule - 2018 for further information.

Cruise Lines Making Port in Half Moon Cay

The following cruise lines will make port in Half Moon Cay in 2018:

Carnival icon Carnival HAL icon Holland America
Cruise Ship

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