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Half Moon Cay On Your Own

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The 10 Top "On Your Own" Things to do in Half Moon Cay


Half Moon Cay is a deserted island paradise where, as in the Cinderella fairy tale, life is wonderful for a day, and then you have to leave.

  1. Enjoy Some Time on the Beach. It's the one "must do" excursion in Half Moon Cay--and it doesn't cost anything.

  2. Go Snorkeling. The water is clear, and the snorkeling is good.

  3. Take Your Kids to the Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park. The little ones will have a blast as they get squirted with water from the pirate ship's cannons, plus they can climb on the water toys shaped like fish.

  4. Enjoy an Adult Beverage. Half Moon Cay offers four bars where you can slake your thirst.

  5. Get Married or Renew Your Wedding Vows. And this time you can do it with sandy feet!

  6. Buy Some Postage Stamps. Send a postcard from Half Moon Cay, and make your friends and business colleagues extremely jealous.

  7. Head to the Sea on a Hobie Cat. For our money, there's nothing like sailing a Hobie Cat in paradise.

  8. Take a Hike. Let's see...the island is 2,400 acres, and only 50 have been developed. That leaves 2,350 acres for exploration.

  9. Get a massage. No other massage you'll ever get will feel as good.

  10. Rent a Cabana for the Day. They're right on the beach, and come with a host of amenities. Why, you can even order private butler service to ensure your day on Half Moon Cay is perfect!
Happy Swimmer


What You Need to Bring Ashore


Essentials

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 adjacent to the island's Fort San Salvador Welcome Center. The double decked tenders take about 10 minutes to bring you from ship to shore. Thus, it's a big hassle to return to your ship if you've forgotten something. Here's a list of the essential items you'll want to bring ashore:

  • Bring a towel from the ship.

  • Bring an ample amount of sunscreen.

  • You may want to bring some insect repellent if you plan to take a hike down the island's nature trail. It'll also help when the beach areas are periodically overrun by sand flies.

  • Bring a pail and shovel if you've got a toddler or two in tow.

  • Bring your Sign & Sail Card (Carnival) or your Stateroom Key Card (Holland America)--essential!--and cash; you'll need the cash if you are going to buy something at the Straw Market.

  • Bring a camera to memorialize your experience; a disposable water camera is also a good idea.

What to Wear

On Half Moon Cay, casual is king.

  • Wear your bathing suit and a shirt or top, and bring a coverup.

  • Wear your sunglasses and a hat.

  • Wear your flip flops, and bring walking shoes and socks so you can explore the island or walk on any of the island's rocky areas.

Orientation


Getting Around Half Moon Cay

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 adjacent to the island's Fort San Salvador Welcome Center. The double decked tenders take about 10 minutes to bring you from ship to shore.

Footprints

General Orientation. The Tender Pier, the Fort San Salvador Welcome Center and the Bahamian Village are at the lower end of the crescent-shaped beach. The Welcome Center area is paved, creating a central plaza area and nexus for your time on Half Moon Cay.

The powdery white sand beach is approximately 2 miles long, and it's dotted with 15 private cabanas.

Past the upper end of the beach is the island's Pegasus Ranch, where the horses are stabled.

A short walk from the Welcome Center along a well-marked hard-surface walkway is the 700-acre Bonefish Lagoon, where you'll find Stingray Cove (home to tame Southern stingrays), a bar and a Water Sports Center featuring AquaTrax personal watercraft and kayak rentals.

Walking around Half Moon Cay. Well-marked paths lead from the Fort San Salvador Welcome Center to the beach, nature trails, water sports centers, and food service area. Hard surface walkways connect each area.

Tram Service. A handicapped-accessible 25 passenger tram runs continuously on a separate path between the Welcome Center and the Tropics Restaurant, providing an alternative way of getting around.

Wheelchair

Wheelchair Access. Holland America and Carnival have three beach wheelchairs available for use; they are located at the First Aid Station, in the Welcome Center plaza. The beach wheelchairs, equipped with balloon tires made for use on the sand, are free to borrow, and are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Please be aware that the chairs are in different states of repair.

Half Moon Cay features a variety of excursions; however, none are wheelchair accessible.

There is one cabana on the island, the Taupe cabana, which is listed as wheelchair accessible. To book the Taupe cabana, guests must sign up (as an excursion) well in advance of the cruise to reserve it. Please note that Holland America does not give guests with disabilities priority to reserve the cabana.

The Bahamian Church is not wheelchair accessible, as there are a number of stairs which prohibit access.

The Rum Runners Bar, located in the Welcome Center, is wheelchair accessible. A ramp can be found on the right side of the bar. If your wheelchair doesn't elevate, there are tables underneath the adjacent patio cover where you can sit and enjoy a drink.

All of the restrooms are wheelchair accessible; however, they do not accommodate companions.


Shopping


Shopping on Half Moon Cay is limited. However, that doesn't mean you can't walk away without something special.

What's Special in Half Moon Cay

Stamp

Local Post Office

Believe it or not, Half Moon Cay has a post office, from which you can purchase a stamp or stamps, and mail a letter or postcard back to yourself or your jealous friends and co-workers. The stamps vary in size and denomination, and can be quite colorful. All things considered, they're a pretty good deal.

The tiny post office is located in the Bahamian Village at the Fort San Salvador Welcome Center.

pearl ring

Lustre, Jewelry From Nature

Half Moon Cay's own jewelry store is located in the Bahamian Village. The shop specializes in conch jewelry.

If you're looking for something unique, you can purchase a farmed oyster; each oyster is guaranteed to yield a lustrous cultured pearl. Then buy a ring, and they will mount the pearl on the ring on site.

Straw Market

Local Bahamian women operate a Straw Market, where you can purchase a variety of goods. The women don't live on Half Moon Cay, but instead ferry in to the island from nearby Eleuthera Island when ships are due in port.

Purchases are made in cash only--both Bahamian and U.S. dollars are accepted.



Food and Drinks


The Tropics Restaurant

Getting hungry? Then head to Half Moon Cay's Tropics Restaurant. In this large, open air BBQ area you'll find a buffet with 6 stations, each offering identical types of food. Lunch consists of hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, fish, sausages, various salads, fruit, corn on the cob, chips, brownies and cookies.

There are 15 open-air dining shelters, each seating 48 guests, adjacent to the Tropics Restaurant. In addition, along the patio there are plenty of picnic tables to sit and enjoy your lunch. The Tropics Restaurant is wheelchair and scooter accessible; however, the standard picnic tables are not wheelchair accessible.

Daqueri

Half Moon Cay Bars

Half Moon Cay offers four bars for your drinking pleasure. Here you can get an adult beverage, sodas and water. Make sure to bring your Stateroom Key Card (Holland America passengers) or your Sign & Sail Card (Carnival passengers) to pay for your drinks.

  • The Rum Runners Bar is located in the Fort San Salvador Welcome Center.

  • The "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever Bar" is located on the beach, about halfway between the Tropics Restaurant and the Welcome Center. This appropriately named facility is the biggest bar on Half Moon Cay.

  • The Bell Bar is located further up the beach, adjacent to the Tropics Restaurant.

  • The Lookout Bar is located on a point overlooking Bonefish Lagoon. It's the quietest bar on the island.

 

Amenities


Fort San Salvador Welcome Center/Bahamian Village

The Fort San Salvador Welcome Center and Bahamian Village is the focal point on the island. It is directly adjacent to the Tender Pier. The area is paved, and somewhat sterile looking. The amenities at the Bahamian Village include:

Information
  • Information Booth. Have any questions about what to do or where to go? Here's where you'll find your answers.

  • Shore Excursion Sales Office If you've been waiting to get to the island before booking a shore excursion, the Shore Excursion Sales Office is where you need to go.

  • Straw Market. The shop ladies ferry over from nearby Eleuthera Island whenever there's a ship in port. Sales are cash only.

  • Rum Runners Bar. Enjoy an adult beverage as you look out onto the 2-mile long swimming beach.

  • First Aid/Nurse Station. Stub your toe? Cut your foot on the coral while snorkeling? Here's where you go to get patched up.

  • Air-conditioned Island Shop. Forgot something? Want to buy a snack? The Island Shop has what you need.

  • Post Office. Buy some of the decorative Bahamian stamps and mail your postcards back to your friends and co-workers. Make sure to make them extra jealous!

  • Ice Cream Shop. If your sweet tooth demands immediate gratification, stop by the Ice Cream Shop for a creamy infusion.

  • Rest Rooms. All the restrooms on Half Moon Cay provide for wheelchair access.
Snorkeler

Water Sports Centers

The three Water Sports Centers on Half Moon Cay offer rentals of water sports equipment, including snorkel gear, floating mats, kayaks, Hobie Cats, Sunfish sailboats and aqua bikes. The Water Sports Centers are located:

  • On the beach, adjacent to the Welcome Center.

  • On the beach, just north of the Tropics Restaurant.

  • On Bonefish Lagoon, a short walk from the Tropics Restaurant.
Church on Half Moon Cay

Bahamian Church

The non-denominational Bahamian Church accommodates weddings and renewal of vows ceremonies. It's located a short walk up the beach from the Welcome Center. The chapel features wonderful views of the Exuma Channel from the front door through to your ship anchored offshore. The facility, constructed in an authentic Bahamian style with a trussed roof ceiling and decorated with exotic wall tapestries, seats 20 guests. A pointed steeple with a bell tower reflects the design of traditional American churches. Champagne is offered following each ceremony, and each couple is photographed with their ship in the background. Make sure to reserve your ceremony prior to your trip.

Beach

Beach Facilities

The main swimming beach on Half Moon Cay is 2 miles long, and sweeps up from the Welcome Center. The white sand beach is soft, not gritty. The closer you are to the Welcome Center, the more people you'll find. For more privacy, head up the beach, past the Private Cabanas.

  • Lounge chairs, just like on your ship, are free to use.

  • Shaded rest areas with hammocks can provide a pleasant respite from the intense Bahamian sun.

  • The main swimming area is supervised, just to make sure everyone makes it back to their ship.

  • A beginners snorkel area, located near the Welcome Center, is designated for those who are snorkeling newbies. The water is generally fairly shallow.

Clamshell Rentals

You can rent one of the many clamshells available on Half Moon Cay; while they're not as nice as the Private Cabanas, they do get you out of the sometimes searing Bahamian sun.

Private Cabanas

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.

Private Oasis

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.

Misting Stations

Half Moon Cay provides three misting stations for your comfort. They are located on the main swimming beach, between the Welcome Center and the "I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever" Bar.

Restroom

Restrooms

Each of the five restroom areas on the island are wheelchair accessible. They can be found at:

  • The Fort San Salvador Welcome Center/Bahamian Village.

  • Just behind Cabana #2, and just up the beach from the Bahamian Church.

  • Between Cabanas #9 and #10, up the beach from the Water Sports Center and the Dining Pavilion.

  • Adjacent to the Bell Bar, near the Tropics Restaurant.

  • At the Lookout Bar on Bonefish Lagoon.

Half Moon Cay Activities & Attractions


Happy Swimmer

Half Moon Lagoon Aqua Park. The Half Moon Lagoon aqua park is conveniently located at the southern end of Half Moon Cay's main beach, near the Fort San Salvador Welcome Center and the Bahamian Village. The aqua park provides island-themed action and adventure in the sun for guests of all ages. Kids will have fun climbing on the numerous large water toys that are fashioned in the shapes of whales, octopi, sharks and dolphins. A pirate ship in the aqua park sprays water from its cannons to the delight of children and adults alike. A fully-equipped children's playground is nearby.

Hobie Cat

Watercraft Rentals. If just lying on the beach or snorkeling don't fill your bill, Half Moon Cay offers a variety of watercraft for rent.

Take a sail on one of their Hobie Cats; they're easy to sail, fun and a great way to spend a few hours under the Bahamian sun. Other watercraft rentals include Sunfish sailboats and windsurfing sailboards.

If you're energetic, take a paddle on Bonefish Lagoon in one of their kayaks. And for a fun time for two, rent one of the aqua bikes.

Watercraft rentals are available at the three Water Sports Centers located on the beach and at Bonefish Lagoon.

Snorkelers

Snorkeling. The overall quality of the snorkeling on Half Moon Cay is pretty good. Along the main swimming beach, the water is fairly shallow.

A beginners snorkel area, located near the Welcome Center, is designated for those who are snorkeling newbies.

If you're looking for deeper water along with some coral, head to the end of the beach opposite the Welcome Center. Proceed out about 75 to 100 feet, and you'll come across the reef. A word of warning, however: if you get into trouble here, there's no one to help you. Only experienced swimmers and snorkelers should attempt this snorkel.

If you plan on swimming or snorkeling, make sure to bring a towel from the ship, as there are no towels available on the island.

Snorkeling gear can be rented at any one of the three Water Sports Centers.

Walking/Hiking. A network of nature trails with interpretive signs are easily accessible from the Fort San Sebastian Welcome Center and the Bahamian Village. Hard-surfaced and sand pathways connect the various venues.

A fitness trail takes you on a one-mile loop, beginning across from the dining pavilions, and taking you to the Lookout Bar on Bonefish Lagoon, along the lagoon to the Water Sports Center and then back to the dining pavilions. Along the way you'll see a number of exercise stations.

Hiking trails can take you to the Pegasus Ranch and to the seaplane landing area; many of these trails feature remnants of settlements that were constructed on Half Moon Cay in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Massage. "Massage on the Beach" services are provided by Steiner of London, operator of the salons and spas on board Holland America's ships. At Half Moon Bay, these professional massage therapists--attired in white shorts and T-shirts--offer massage services in two air conditioned cabanas on the beach, equipped with ceiling fans and massage tables. Shower facilities are also available.

Birding. Half Moon Cay is a nesting ground for a number of bird species, including sooty terns, noddy terns, roseate terns, shearwaters and Bahamian pintails. The brackish interior Bonefish Lagoon has been designated as an important wetland by the Bahamas National Trust.

To see some of the avian wildlife, your best bet would be to head to Bonefish Lagoon and take one of the nature trails.

Hair Braiding. Want to keep cool and look cool? Have your hair braided, Bahamian style, by one of the local people on the island. The hair braiding services can be found in the Bahamian Village.

Floating Pads. Floating pads offer a relaxing way to enjoy the sun. They're available for rent at the Water Sports Centers.

Shoreside Games. If you're looking for activities that don't include the water, you can participate in volleyball, basketball, shuffleboard and horseshoes activities on Half Moon Cay. Pick up your gear at the Sports Center, located a short distance from the Bahamian Church. Games can be played at a number of the rest shelter areas.


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