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Dos & Don’ts of Disney’s Castaway Cay

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While Disney's Castaway Cay in The Bahamas is a wee isle, 3.1 miles long and 2.2 miles wide, it's packed with so much to do, you might have a hard time deciding how to spend your time. There's sunbathing, waterslides, bike trails, open-air massages, two water play areas, parasailing, fishing, a stingray interaction adventure and more. Caribbean cruisers aboard Disney's Fantasy and Dream ships typically make one (or two) stops at this private island. To make the most of your visit, here are some Castaway Cay tips.

Dos and Dont's of Disney's Castaway Cay

(Photo credit: David Roark, photographer)

Don't forget your stateroom key.

You will not be able to disembark or reboard the ship without your stateroom key. 

Do take the tram on Disney's Castaway Cay!

The Castaway Cay tram is convenient for cruisers (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Do take the tram.

It's a long walk from the ship to the beach but you can hop aboard a handy (and complimentary) shuttle to get around the island.

Borrow a stroller or wagon on Castaway Cay

Stroller rentals are free on Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Don't bring a stroller.

There are free strollers, wagons and joggers available on site. There are even special wheelchairs made specifically for use on the sand for physically challenged cruisers.

Pelican Plunge on Castaway Cay

Water activities abound on Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Do rent an inner tube.

If cruising with kids, I highly recommend renting an inner tube while on Castaway Cay. It provides oodles of fun for children for just a few bucks. Then you can sit back and watch the kids play while you dip your toes in the waves.

Rent an inner tube on Castaway Cay

(Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Don't let go of your beer.

The plastic beach-friendly bottles may look cool but they tip easily, spilling precious beer all over the sand.

Do eat on Castaway Cay!

Food is plentiful and free for cruisers on Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Do eat on Castaway Cay.

There's no sense wasting beach-time eating on the ship when the food is tasty and free on Castaway Cay. There are three places to eat: Cookie's BBQ, Cookie's Too BBQ and a “secret” BBQ near Serenity Bay (the adult-only beach). The restaurant at Serenity Bay is solely for grown-ups and offers bonus entrees not available at the other two — like deliciously seasoned grilled steak. If you'd like to eat lunch on Castaway Cay, though, don't wait till too late. The restaurants typically shut down for the day at 2 pm.

Fountain play area for kids on Castaway Cay

There are activities for all ages on Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Don't pay for bottled water.

There are plenty of coolers situated throughout the island where you can get a cup of cold filtered water for free.

Rent a bike on Castaway Cay!

Rent a bicycle to explore Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Do work off your vacation calories.

Take a yoga class on the beach. Swim or snorkel off your lunch. Play volleyball or tetherball at Sports Beach. Rent a paddleboat, kayak or aquabike from Gil's Fins and Boats. Play ping-pong, basketball and other games at one of two Game Pavilions. Explore the 1.5 miles of bike trails aboard a beach cruiser — child seats, kids' bikes, and bicycles are available for rental.

Be sure to buy Castaway Cay souvenirs on shore - they aren't available on the Disney Cruise Line ships.

Souvenir shops feature Castaway Cay items available for purchase only on the island (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Don't wait to buy Castaway Cay souvenirs back on the boat.

You can only purchase Castaway Cay gear and memorabilia on the island.

Private cabanas are available to rent on Castaway Cay ~ Dos and Don'ts of Disney's Castaway Cay

Private cabanas are available to rent on Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Disney)

Do relax on Castaway Cay.

You could get Castaway Cay fever trying to squeeze too many activities into one day. Instead, pick a couple of must-dos that will please everyone in the family. The point here is to unwind, island-style.

You might see some of your favorite Disney pals on Castaway Cay ~ Dos and Don'ts of Disney's Castaway Cay

You might see some of your favorite Disney pals on Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Kent Phillips, courtesy of Disney)

Don't wait to plan your Disney Cruise.

Research shows that travelers may actually enjoy planning their vacation more than the actual trip. So, start planning! Buy a guidebook like The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line or my favorite, PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line and Its Ports of Call. Boost your happiness by booking those excursions and deciding ahead of time how to maximize the fun factor on your cruise.

Disney Fantasy docked at Castaway Cay, a private island owned by Disney in the Bahamas

Disney Fantasy at Castaway Cay (Photo credit: Disney)

Do book your Disney Cruise early.

Book your Disney Cruise early! Typically, the farther in advance you book your cruise, the better price you will pay. Read more about Disney Cruise Line on CruiseDirect.com or book your Disney Cruise now!

Booking.com


Have you been to Castaway Cay? What are your thoughts about the island? Let us know in the comments!

A note from the Travel Mama: Thank you to Disney Cruise Line for inviting me to sail on Fantasy in 2012 and Dream in 2011! This story was originally posted in 2012 and was updated in 2016. This story includes affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help to keep TravelMamas.com a free resource for readers like you.

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About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. Nikki Vaughan says:

    Hi, great tips! Thanks for sharing! We will be going to Castaway Cay for the first time in February. Just hubby and I as we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Our anniversary actually is on the 13th and we will be at CC on that day..so excited! My question is since this our first time we do want to explore a bit but mainly stay on the adult beach. We plan on snorkeling there and in the snorkel area for a bit, have lunch, visit shoos, post office, etc. We are thinking of doing a fishing excursion as we both love to fish and thought it would cool to fish in the Bahamas…but I’m worried we will not have enough time to enjoy the island. Any suggestions? Thank you! :).

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Nikki – I suppose it depends on how long the fishing excursion is. Castaway Cay is a small island and easily explored but if you really want to relax and enjoy the isle, you might want to skip fishing because you can fish elsewhere but there is only one private Disney island. It really is about how you want to spend your day!

  2. Frances M. says:

    How warm is it at Castaway in Feb? How warm/cool will the water be?

  3. December in Bahamas – I’m considering a Christmas cruise to the Bahamas but I’m concerned about water temps. Is it too cold to swim there at this time of the year? I’ve been to the USVI in Feb and water was warm enough to swim in and also in the summer months – I’m used to the temps being like bath water (around 85 F I’d say?).

    Has anyone been in December that can tell me what it’s like there – as well as on the ship. Is it just too cold to swim on t he ship pools / waterslides and /or the cay beaches in December?? If so, I think I’ll go during summer instead – thanks!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Lesli – Here’s a chart of water temperatures in the Bahamas to help you make your decision: http://www.bahamas.com/water-temp-chart. The ship pools are heated when the temps drop below 75 degrees. Hope that helps!

    • We were there Jan 16, 2016. I was worried about the water temp. While ocean was cold when we first got in; my kids and I spent a lot of time in the water. In and out of the water at the family area and riding the slides at Pelican Point. My wife on the other hand felt it was too cold but her goal was to relax on the beach and get some sun so everyone was happy. Definitely not bath water temp. Recommend the bike ride regardless of when you go.

  4. Hello, we are doing a 4night cruise in the Bahamas. How much tips/gratuities should I expect to give? Btw your blog was very helpful.

  5. Michelle says:

    We just got back from there! We bought some
    cool drink holders beforehand that spike into the sand so your drinks don’t spill. They were a lifesaver. We got them from http://www.drinkspike.com. Loved all your tips!

  6. Leanne LaLonde says:

    We are also going on our first DC in April. Was wondering if we did the Extreme Getaway Package (Bike rentals, Snorkel rents, float rentals & Stingray adventure) if we would still have enough time to see the island, relax, have lunch and play at the beach? Or should we just not do the Stingray Adventure? How is the experience? It would be nice to relax but don’t want to miss anything.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Leanne – I think it really depends on what kind of a day you want to have. Do you want to stay active and experience as much of the island as possible? Or do you want to have a more relaxing lazy beach day? You will definitely have time to do the bicycle ride, snorkeling and floats…and the stingray experience looks to take about an hour so you could do that as well for sure. You could also play it more by ear. I didn’t rent my bicycle until I got on the island. You can also easily rent the snorkeling gear and floats once on Castaway Cay, assuming they don’t run out but they seemed to have plenty to go around. Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a great time! Enjoy!

  7. I was just at Castaway Cay last week. We had a great time! We disembarked early and did the 5K…afterwards, we went back to the ship gathered our kids, gear and had breakfast before heading back to the island. We enjoyed some beach time, parasailing and snorkeling. The snorkeling is better the further you go out (in protected area)…I was cold and turned back early because we were not seeing anything but churned up sand. My boys and husband continued on and said it was really good. Guess I need a wetsuit:) Parasailing was wonderful too…very calm and peaceful up in the sky.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Renae – Sounds like a wonderful day on Castaway Cay! (Well, besides the chilly water!) Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Renae-this will be our first disney cruise and we’re thinking of doing the 5k too. We thought it was better to take the kids with us & drop at the kid place on Castaway while we run so we didn’t have to go back to the boat afterwards but you feel like it was better to go back to the ship? Any input would be great-Thanks!

  8. We’ve been considering a Disney Cruise. I’ll have to keep you beer tip in mind!

  9. Been there twice. Dirty, polluted and very crowded. It’s a tiny island and becomes uncomfortably crowded with all the passengers on it at once. It’s the only port I’ve ever hated. My Bf got sick (food poison) from the food and had to be wheeled back to the ship. Of all the private islands ive been to on the many cruise vacations I’ve taken, this is absolutely the worst!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Oh my, Nilda! I’m sorry to hear you had such a tough time!

    • I am surprised to hear this. We have been to Castaway Key 10 times and never had a bad experience. The island is beautiful and well cared for. There are plenty of lounges and umbrellas (free, by the way). We usually walk out to Serenity Bay (helps to walk off some of the calories we consume onboard) as soon as we are allowed to disembark, spend a couple of hours there enjoying the water and sun, and eat lunch there. The food is plentiful and tasty. Then depending on our energy levels either walk back to the family beach or ride the tram back. We spend a few more hours there. My hubby loves to do the snorkeling path and visit all the cool artifacts. I spend that time, reading, sunning and cooling off in the water. We stay on the island until about 4PM when we reluctantly head back to the ship to get ready for that evening’s show and dinner.

    • You don’t get sick that quick from food poisoning?! I’ve been to CC over 12 times and it was never dirty or polluted.

    • Momma Joe Jr says:

      Are you sure you are talking about the right island? I found the exact opposite to be true of the other ports. Disney’s island was immaculate and there are plenty of secluded spots to get away from the crowds. Also, I am very susceptible to food borne bacteria and this was the only cruise I never got sick on. How odd.

    • Whatchalookin'at says:

      The island is neither dirty, polluted nor crowded. Maybe your bf was just sick of you complaining.

  10. We were just there June 22 2016
    You will not have as much time as you think.
    We ate breakfast on the ship, got off immediately afterward. Took tram to Island oceaneers club and left our 2 boys there (5 and 9) for 2 hours while BH and I hoofed it to Pelican plunge to get our area saved for later. Met our group of 8 for lunch at Cookies 1 and then got kids out of club. Walked back to pelican plunge area, rode slide once, swam as a family for maybe an hour and then people were telling us to start heading to the trams. I’m from PA and used to cold pool water, water did take a little getting used to.

  11. Stacey Stezoski says:

    Are towels provided for the beach?
    Any info or tips for doing the 5K?

  12. My family will be returning for the 4th time on Disney cruise! my two daughters one 20 and the other 17 three months shy of 18 can we all still go to the adult side of the island or will they give us a hard time?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Sue – There isn’t anyone checking IDs that I know of, so you should be fine. I think Disney just wants to provide a quiet, mellow place for people to escape little ones. Enjoy!

  13. PhotoDan9999 says:

    The Bike Rental is a must!
    I also did the 5K! It’s all flat so it was easy. And knowing if be doing the 5k at the end of the cruise forced me to not “over-eat” all week.
    I recommend doing the beach first and then excursions/bike ride, and then chill out at the beach last.
    Bring a couple freezer ZipLoc bags with you for your phone/camera and other valuables u opt to bring. You can also put fruit or ice in them for the beach. Double ZipLoc them! Get one of those lanyard waterproof zip cases to wear around your neck.
    If you don’t have kids with you, stick to the adult beach as the main beach is a zoo!
    Oh, and we “ended” our day with a Couple’s Massage, which was amazing! (We have kids but had pre-planned Grandma/Grandpa to babysit). BTW…we highly recommend bringing grandparents as you’ll feel lass guilty spending time away from your kids and the grandparents love it! Oh…and they surprised us by picking up the tabs at the end of the cruise!

  14. Can you bring things like plastic gold coins that you can bury in the sand for others to find?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Ooh…I have no idea. Let me check with my Disney Cruise Line contact & see what they say!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi CAS –

      This is what Disney said, “Guests are welcome to bring their sand toys and there are some available for purchase on the island, but we like to say that it’s better to leave your footprints in the sand and takeaway great memories.”

      Personally, I would think that plastic gold coins left in the sand might be a bad idea for the environment or could pose a choking hazard to young beach goers.

      Hope that helps!

  15. What activities are free on Castaway Cay (water slides) ?
    Have a toddler any good activies for them?
    Thanks

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Liz – Lots of things are free on Castaway Cay! There’s no charge for food (besides alcohol), swimming, waterslides, splash fountains, tram, or stroller rentals. The splash fountains are super fun for toddlers. I also recommend renting (or buying) an inner tube for your little one (for a small fee). You need to watch your kiddo the whole time, of course, but that inner tube provided so much fun for my little guy to play with in the shallow water while I relaxed on the beach. Have fun!

      • I hear the word “free” a lot on many Disney blogs. Nothing is “free” at Disney. Also, it seems that every cruise blog I read talks about how to dump your kids off at the kids’ clubs so you can have “adult” time. Your on a family vacation. Spend time with your kids. And for heavens sake, if you only have to go up or down one deck, take the stairs!!!!

        • Wow. Judgemental much? Every family does vacations their way. No harm, no foul if everyone is enjoying themselves.

        • *you’re* on a family vacation….. If you are going to take the time to spew a comment judging others on how they choose to spend their family vacation, do take the extra 5 seconds to check your grammar.

  16. We are going on a Disney cruise in January with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who is 5 years old. Is snorkeling and parasailing for 5 year olds permitted. This trip is all about him. He is a very mature 5 year old

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Doris – According to the Disney Cruise Line website kids must be age 8+ to parasail on Castaway Cay, but only age 5+ to go snorkeling. Have a fantastic time!

  17. Trish Ferguson says:

    We have a 13 daughter. Are there activities for this age group? What do you recommend?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Trish – There is an excursion just for teens on Castaway Cay that your daughter might like: https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/port-adventures/castaway-cay-the-wild-side-teen-adventure/ but only if she’ll be 14 by the time you cruise. It includes bicycling, a high-speed boat ride and snorkeling. If she won’t have a birthday before you go, you could always go snorkeling with her and rent bicycles as a family. There were definitely some teens on the waterslides at Pelican Plunge as well. There’s also a teen club right at Castaway Cay, the Teen Hideout, for kids aged 13-18. If your daughter likes playing sports, she might appreciate a visit to Sports Beach for volleyball and tetherball. Or you could rent a fishing boat, a glass-bottom boat or catamaran. If she’s adventurous, encourage her to try out parasailing! Have a fab time!

  18. I just came back from a cruise on the Disney Magic that went to Castaway Cay this past weekend. My family had an amazing time. We hung out by the beach, ate at Cookie’s BBQ and enjoyed the bike ride around the island. It wasn’t too packed or nor was it too hot. We can’t wait to go again.

  19. Brooklynn says:

    We are leaving in 7 days to hop aboard the Disney dream, we want to go snorkeling at castaway cay, but we are worried about it being a little chilly. Would you recommend a wetsuit? We have our own wetsuits but if anyone has been in january I’d love some tips!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Brooklyn – According to Weather.com, it looks like temps will reach highs in the mid 70’s over the next 10 days. Personally, I’d pack the wetsuits! Have fun!

  20. You have given some great tips for Castaway Cay! It is one of the highlights of a Disney cruise. It is a great idea to take the tram as it can be a long walk, particularly in the heat if you have young children.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thanks for your comment! With a name like EverythingMouse, I’m sure you know all about Disney Cruises! 🙂

  21. hello there travel mama
    we are going to be at Castaway Cay this next week, the Serenity adults only area is appealing to my husband and I however, I wanted to ask where is there good shade but still can enjoy partial sun for sunbathing and view??
    Please advise
    Thank you

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Heidi – There are plenty of umbrellas and beach chairs available if you want shade. I’d plan to get off the boat early-ish in order to be sure to nab one. Alternatively, you could rent a cabana but those are pretty expensive. Enjoy Castaway Cay!

  22. Are you allowed to swim in the water off the adult beach, Serenity Bay? Are there Lifeguards present? We’re renting a Cabana at Serenity Bay, but REALLY want to go snorkeling too! I know about the designated snorkel area at the Family Beach, but we’d really like to AVOID free-range kid areas at all cost!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Katie – Yes, you are more than welcome to swim at the adult beach. I can’t remember if there were lifeguards present, but knowing Disney, there probably were. I understand your desire to snorkel away from the children but keep in mind that you’ll find the most fish near rocks or other features. You may want to do a quick dive at Disney’s sunken boat manmade snorkel area if you don’t see a lot of sea life at Serenity Bay. Enjoy!

  23. Castaway Cay is the highlight of a Disney Cruise. This is a great collection of tips so that you make the most of your time on the island. If you are lucky you can book one of the “Double Dip” cruises so that you get two visits to Castaway Cay on one cruise

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Alison – Thank you for your comment! A “Double Dip” DCL cruise sounds fantastic!

  24. We are leaving in 2 weeks heading to Castaway Cay. Just curious…I was told that we can bring our own snorkels, & floating devices. I was also told to definitely bring our small child’s life jacket, due to the deep water. Any advice on this?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Ces – I am sure you can bring your own snorkel and floating devices since they sell them at stores in addition to renting them. Life jackets are provided on Castaway Cay and on the ship. (See the pic of my son floating in the inner-tube sporting a life vest above at the beach by Pelican Plunge.) There was not a huge drop off at any of the beaches, that I remember anyway. Here’s what Disney says on their website:

      Flotation vests are available for children and adults at the Pelican Plunge water-play area on Castaway Cay. However, these vests are for use only at this site and may not be used at the beaches.

      Hope that helps! Enjoy your cruise!

      • Thank you! I called and they said we can bring everything, but the floating device. I watch a video where a man stated that coming off of the slides is very deep (can’t touch the bottom)…so not sure. Thanks again!

  25. We are thinking two days at Castaway (2stops) or one day is enough?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Maui- That’s really a personal preference. For me, one day at Castaway Cay per trip would be enough. But, if you happen to get one dreary weather day you may be wishing for another day to make up for it. Some people are absolute Castaway Cay fanatics and would tell you to go for two. Up to you!

  26. Also curious if I should bring puddle jumpers or arm band floats for my 5-year-old if we are on the beach?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Jen – I don’t think your own floatation devices are allowed on Castaway Cay but they have plenty of life vests in all sorts of sizes available at no charge for visitors. Enjoy your Disney Cruise!

  27. I’ve been to Castaway Cay 3 times, and always enjoyed it. Rented kayaks last time, and went quite far out by myself. I realized no one was watching from shore and felt uneasy about this. I know that the family beach is protected from sharks, but I doubt the kayaking area is. Does anyone have any info on this? Planning to go soon.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Carolyn – I don’t have a definitive answer for you but I assume that any time I am in the ocean, there is a chance of coming across wildlife including sharks. That being said, I’d steer clear of any gatherings of seals or sea lions while kayaking since that’s what sharks love to eat.

  28. gisela c wrobel says:

    Planning our first ever Disney cruise for February 2018 and hopefully, it will be the first of many.

    Question: will the snorkeling activity be free, as in, there is a designated snorkeling area and we go there on our own, or is this an organized activity? The reason I ask is because on the DCL website, there are listed activities we can avail of at Castaway Cay but are operated by a non Disney party. Some of those include the snorkeling, stingray and dolphin adventures. So when I read about reviews and they talk about “snorkeling” , is this a paid snorkeling activity or there is plenty of sealife to be seen where we dont have to rent a boat?

    Thank you.

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