Castaway Cay: A guide to Disney Cruise Line’s private island

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A visit to Castaway Cay is a highlight of any Disney cruise to the Bahamas or Caribbean. The island is the exclusive beach-day playground for Disney Cruise Line guests, and cruisers can enjoy a fun, hassle-free day of sunbathing and water sports at the island.

Your day on Castaway Cay is idyllic because you have to make very few arrangements. You can walk off the ship and head right to the beach. Beach chairs, umbrellas, towels and a delicious lunch are all provided to you. Your biggest decisions will be if you want to book a shore excursion, which will leave from a convenient location just steps from the ship, and which beach you and your family want to check out first.

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The island is themed around a shipwreck, as if you are the castaways and your mates have used the crates and driftwood that have washed ashore to build the island’s structures. You’ll also find many of your Disney friends ashore in their best beach attire, so the cruise ship magic continues on island.

Castaway Cay, like all things Disney, focuses on family fun, but it still reserves some on-island spots for drop-off kids activities supervised by the ship’s youth staff and adults-only relaxation. Teens get their own secret hangout.

You can choose your own adventure on Castaway Cay and a visit here is never the same twice. Plan your perfect private island day in the Bahamas with our guide to Disney’s Castaway Cay.

Note: Prices for activities and rentals can vary based on sail date and whether they’re booked pre-cruise, on board or on shore.

Where is Castaway Cay?

Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay is located in the Bahamas, near Great Abaco island. It’s 225 nautical miles from Port Canaveral, home port of several Disney cruise ships. Disney leases the island from the Bahamian government.

The 1,000-acre island is roughly 3 miles long by 2 miles wide, but only 55 acres are developed. You can get a great view of the undeveloped areas of the island from the observation tower on the way to Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach.

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Related: Bahamas cruise guide: Best itineraries, planning tips and things to do

Which cruise ships go there?

Disney Dream docked at Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

All Disney Cruise Line ships except Disney Wonder will visit Castaway Cay. It’s a staple on Bahamas and Caribbean itineraries, which is where the majority of Disney ships travel.

Ships visiting Castaway Cay on upcoming cruises include:

How do you get to and around Castaway Cay?

Castaway Cay tram. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Castaway Cay was the first cruise line private island to feature a pier where ships can dock. One ship at a time can visit Castaway Cay, and passengers can walk straight off the ship and onto the island.

It’s a decent walk from the ship to the first section of beach. To accommodate all cruisers, Disney runs a tram from the end of the pier to stops by Scuttle’s Cove and Pelican Point, on either end of the main family beach, and from the Pelican Point area to Serenity Bay.

Note that the Serenity Bay tram is separate from the main tram between the ship and the main beaches. A kind driver saved me from going in circles because I thought the Serenity Bay tram would take me all the way back to the pier.

Paved paths throughout the island will take you anywhere you want to go. I walked all the way to Serenity Bay down the bike trail (which doubles as an air strip), and it’s not a short walk. You can take a detour to loop around the paved nature trail that leads to the observation tower.

Related: A guide to cruise line private islands: What they are and what you can expect

Disney also provides beach strollers and wheelchairs for passenger use.

What are the Castaway Cay beaches?

Family beach on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Castaway Cay’s main strip of beach is sheltered by a rocky breakwater, making the water calm and perfect for swimmers of all ages. The beach is divided into three sections: Boat Beach, where you’ll find water sports rentals, and two family beaches, including a beach area exclusive to cabana guests.

An adults-only beach, Serenity Bay, is on the adjacent side of the island, open to the sea, and separate from the family beach.

Castaway Cay’s three main beaches are:

Castaway Cay family beaches

Castaway cay family beach. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Castaway’s family beaches are divided by Pelican Point, a rocky breakwater, where the Heads Up Bar sits. Both beaches have loungers, low-to-the-ground upright beach chairs and beach umbrellas that are free to use. Many adults like to drag the upright chairs down to the water’s edge and hang out there, watching their kids frolic in the waves.

Both beaches have lifeguards and racks of life jackets available for guest use.

The closest family beach to the ship is near the Scuttle’s Cove kids area and tram stop. It has a swim-out floating ropes course. The farther beach is closer to the Pelican Point tram stop. Its highlight is the Pelican Plunge floating water play area, with a splash area and dump bucket, water cannons and two slides (a tube slide and an open slide).

Lines can get long for the slide, and smaller sliders need to wear life jackets. The tube slide is much faster and shorter than the open slide. Be ready to get water up your nose, as it’s a drop from the end of the slide into the water.

For the best choice of lounge space, you’ll want to get off the ship early and trek to the farther ends of the beach. It was hard to find available chairs when we moved mid-afternoon from one side of the family beach to the other to use the slides.

The farthest end of the beach is lined with cabanas and reserved for cabana guests.

Boat Beach

Boat Beach on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The first beach you come to on your way from the ship is Boat Beach. This is where you’ll find all the larger water sports gear available to rent, such as water bikes and kayaks. (A separate shack rents out snorkel gear).

No one sunbathes on Boat Beach.

Serenity Bay

Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The adults-only Serenity Bay is exclusive to cruisers ages 18+. The beach is on the other side of the island from the family beaches and a long trek (or tram ride) from the Pelican Point area.

The beach itself has the same lounge chairs, low upright chairs and umbrellas as the other Castaway Cay beaches. There are cabanas for rent here, too; they lurk behind the main beach and share the sand and sea with regular guests.

Because Serenity Bay is a long haul from the Pelican Point tram stop area, it has its own facilities: barbecue pavilion, bathrooms, bar, float rental and massage hut.

I visited Serenity Bay at lunchtime, and the beach was not crowded at all. Plenty of loungers were unclaimed — likely because the majority of Disney cruisers were spending time together as families. Also, the water was not as clear or calm on this beach because it does not have a breakwater to protect it from the waves, so some adults might prefer the family beach area for swimming.

Related: 5 reasons why Disney cruises aren’t just for kids

What are the best Castaway Cay things to do?

Pelican Plunge water slide. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Splashing and sunbathing are not nearly the only things to do at Castaway Cay. Its small developed area has a lot going on, both on land and in the lagoon.

Designated areas on both sides of the family beaches are reserved for snorkeling. The main snorkeling lagoon is between Boat Beach and the family beach, conveniently located by Gil’s Fins and Boats, which dispenses snorkel gear, as well as tubes and floats for rent. Rumor has it that you can find a shipwreck and even some hidden Mickeys, as well as interesting sea creatures.

You can also pick up snorkels, floats and tubes at Flippers and Floats (located between the two halves of the family beach) and The Windsock Hut at Serenity Bay (float rentals only). If you rent an inner tube, don’t let it out of your grasp. I saw several of these floating out past the ropes marking the end of the swimming area. The crew must have to come out on boats at the end of the day to round them all up!

The floating ropes course and Pelican Plunge water slides are also fun diversions for families and gives you something to do besides swimming that doesn’t involve spending money.

Scuttle’s Cove is the beachside extension of the shipboard Oceaneer Club. Parents and caregivers can drop off their younger children to play in the sand under youth staff supervision in order to snag some time at Serenity Bay or in the snorkel lagoon. As with the onboard kids club, the service is complimentary.

Scuttle’s Cove include the Monstro Point whale dig site (where kids can play archeologist and dig in the sand for bones), a small splash pad and an area for sand games.

In-Da-Shade Games on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Between the Scuttle’s Cove and Pelican Point tram stops, In-Da-Shade Games offers basketball, ping pong, billiards, giant checkers, foosball and table games in an open-air wooden pavilion.

Over by the Pelican Point area, a beach sports area offers tetherball, volleyball and soccer, and the Spring-A-Leak wet play area is fun for littles who want to get wet without the waves. A bike rental station rents bikes for kids and grownups; I didn’t see trail-a-bikes, but they did have adult bikes with child seats on the back. One-hour bike rentals cost $15 (for ages 3+).

The full bike path, from the rental area to Serenity Bay and around the loop to the observation tower is 1.5 miles. If you prefer to run, doing the trail out to the adult beach and back again (including a second tower loop) is 3 miles or 5K.

Disney used to host an official race called the Castaway Cay 5K. Currently, it’s not offered as a group activity, but you can do it on your own, on your honor, and pick up a medal back at the bike rental booth. If you’re not racing, the observation tower is a nice stop for views of the island.

A few water stations are set out along the race course.

Teens have their own secret hangout called The Hideout, tucked away behind the beach sports and bike rental area.

Adults can book 50-minute solo or couples’ massages at the massage cabana on the adults beach.

If you’re interested in water sports, Disney offers a selection of rentals on Boat Beach.

Rentals include:

  • AquaTrike, $30 for 30 minutes
  • Chiliboats Waterbikes, $30 for 30 minutes (ages 14+)
  • Float or tube, $15 for the day
  • Paddle boat, $20 for 30 minutes for 2-seater boats or $25 for a 4-seater
  • Sea kayak, $20 for 30 minutes on a single kayak (ages 14-plus) or $25 for a double kayak
  • Snorkel equipment, $22 (ages 5 to 9) or $38 (ages 10-plus) for the day
  • Stand-up paddle board, $20 for 30 minutes (ages 14-plus)

The shore excursions desk assured me that it’s easy to rent water sports gear on the island if you’re not sure you want to commit in advance.

If you’re an active family, consider the Castaway Cay Getaway Package. The three-in-one rental package includes snorkel equipment and a float or inner-tube for the day, plus a one-hour bicycle rental. The package is valued at $52 for little kids or $68 for anyone ages 10 and up, but costs $30 or $50, respectively, saving you $18 to $22.

The Castaway Cay Getaway Package is only available for booking online pre-cruise or aboard the ship; you cannot book it once on the island.

Related: 11 ways to save money on a Disney cruise

Can I meet Disney characters on Castaway Cay?

Donald Duck on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

A favorite Disney cruise pastime is meeting Mickey Mouse and friends, princesses, superheroes and pirates, and you have those opportunities on Castaway Cay. The island has numerous spots set up for photos, and throughout the day, various characters will make an appearance in their beachwear to pose for photos. On my cruise these included Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Captain Jack Sparrow.

Check your Navigator app to find out which character will be at which station at what time. The post office, Marge’s Barges, Mt. Rustmore and the beach across from Scuttle’s Cove are popular photo spots for the characters. If you want the beach spots, plan to line up and get your photos early before your family gets all wet and sandy.

Related: The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line

What are the excursions at Castaway Cay?

Marge’s Barges. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

If you’re looking for a little more than just a beach day, you can book a handful of Castaway Cay excursions. The available tours are predominantly guided water-based activities taking place in or around the island’s waters.

On my cruise, the following tours were available:

  • Banana boat ride, $45 for 30 minutes (ages 10-plus) or $39 (ages 8 to 9)
  • Castaway Cay Fishing Adventure, $219 for a 3-hour tour (ages 8-plus)
  • Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure, $59 for a 1-hour tour ($48 for ages 5 to 9)
  • Castaway Snorkel By Boat Adventure, $95 for a 3-hour tour ($79 for ages 6 to 9)
  • Glass Bottom Boat Scenic Voyage, $59 for a 1-hour tour ($39 for kids under age 9)
  • Parasailing, $140 for 1 hour (ages 8-plus)
  • Walking and Kayak Nature Adventure, $73 for 3.5 hours (age 10-plus)

In addition, the Extreme Getaway Package combines a one-hour stingray adventure with snorkel equipment, bicycle and float or inner-tube rentals. The cost is $95 for kids and adults ages 10 and up or $73 for kids ages 5 to 9.

Many of the boat-based excursions (such as parasailing and fishing trips) depart from the Marge’s Barges and Sea Charters dock at the end of the cruise pier. The stingray adventure meets at the Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure hut at the end of Boat Beach farthest from the ship; the protected stingray lagoon is just offshore.

Related: Shore excursions: What you need to know

Does Castaway Cay offer cabanas to rent?

Castaway Cay cabana. CHLOE RICE/DISNEY

Yes, Castaway Cay cabanas are available to rent both on the family beach and at Serenity Bay. From what I saw, the family beach cabanas could be a great way to have a more relaxing, less crowded experience on Castaway Cay. The Serenity Bay cabanas seemed less of an upgrade, given that the beach was empty and all the services are so close.

Related: Ultimate guide to cruise ship cabanas

Family Beach cabanas

Castaway Cay offers 20 cabanas on the farthest end of the family beaches, just around the corner from Serenity Bay. The cabanas line a stretch of beach that is roped off, so regular cruisers cannot go there. They are numbered 1 to 21 as there is no cabana #13.

The 325-square-foot cabanas are tucked away under the palm trees. They are outfitted with indoor seating, a ceiling fan, drinks refrigerator, safe, plush towels and cooling face cloths, magazines to read and complimentary sunscreen. Portable cribs are available on request for guests with babies.

Fresh fruit and light snacks are provided, as are unlimited soda and bottled water. Servers will come around to take alcoholic drink orders. You can press a button in your cabana to call them if you don’t see anyone and want to order a drink or get your soda, water or snacks restocked.

Outside the cabana, guests have access to lounge chairs, a hammock and a freshwater shower. The cabana rental comes with access to snorkel equipment, sand toys and floats or inner tubes, plus a one-hour bike rental.

Cabanas are identical with two exceptions. Cabana #16 is wheelchair accessible; it cannot be booked online. Cabana #21 is called the Grand Family Cabana, and it’s oversized at 650 square feet.

Cabana area on Castaway Cay’s family beach. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

On my cruise, cabanas cost $797.50 for an eight-hour rental for up to six people. You could add up to four more people, for a total of 10, for $56 additional per person. For groups larger than six people, children under 3 are not charged; however, they count toward the maximum number of people allowed on the rental.

The Grand Family Cabana cost $1,127.50 for up to 10 people and could accommodate up to 16, with each additional guest charged $56 per person.

Serenity Bay cabanas

The six Serenity Bay cabanas are only available to guests ages 18 and up. They’re numbered 22 through 27 and are located behind the adults-only beach and its rows of lounge chairs.

The cabanas are the same size and come with nearly the same inclusions as the family beach cabanas. The difference is that snorkel equipment is not provided because there is no snorkeling lagoon at Serenity Bay.

Despite being the same size, Serenity Bay cabanas are priced for just four guests at $493.90 for the day; additional guests up to 10 total will pay $56 each over the base rate.

Related: Best Disney cruise ships for everyone — even Disney adults

Is food included on  Castaway Cay?

Lunch on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Yes, multiple venues serve a complimentary barbecue lunch on Castaway Cay. The main venues are Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Too BBQ, but a small lunch buffet is also available by the Serenity Bay tram stop so adults on that beach don’t have to trek back to the Pelican Point area to eat.

All three venues serve the same food, buffet style, in open-sided pavilions with outdoor picnic tables, some shaded, for eating. Lunch is typically served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The main event is all kinds of grilled meat: burgers and hot dogs, Cajun-spiced chicken, salmon and barbecue brisket and pork. Vegetarian chili and veggie burgers are also available (the latter on request).

Sides include cole slaw, potato salad, corn and bean salad, macaroni salad, chips, corn on the cob and corn bread. Dessert options include a variety of fruit, amazing chocolate chip cookies, chocolate and strawberry-cheesecake mini cakes and soft-serve ice cream. Pro tip: Take the cookies to the soft-serve machine to create a DIY ice cream sandwich.

Self-serve soft drink machines dispense complimentary soda, water, sports drinks, iced tea and lemonade.

Lines can get long, so plan accordingly, especially if you have hot and hungry little ones in tow.

Related: TPG’s top Disney cruise tips, tricks and secrets to enhance your vacation

Are there bars on Castaway Cay?

Even this family-friendly island has plenty of bars serving extra-fee drinks and frozen concoctions. You’ll find them throughout the island. You’ll have to pay a la carte for drinks purchased at Castaway Cay’s bar because Disney Cruise Line does not offer an all-inclusive drink package.

Summertime Freeze on Castaway Cay. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

The Conched Out Bar and Sand Bar are the main beachside bars along the family beach, serving beer, cocktails and frozen drinks. The Heads Up Bar serves the same, but is located atop Pelican Point, the rocky breakwater between the two halves of the family beach. Its patio is occasionally the setting for on-island weddings.

You can also find stands selling smoothies and drinks outside the lunch pavilions. I saw many cruisers carrying drinks in souvenir coconut-shaped cups.

Right by the Pelican Point tram stop, Summertime Freeze serves up smoothies and alcoholic frozen drinks in “Frozen”-themed souvenir cups.

Out at Serenity Bay, the Castaway Air Bar, housed in what looks to be an airplane hangar, keeps adults refreshed throughout their beach day. It’s got a wooden deck with comfortable seating for anyone who wants to kick back with a drink without getting sandy.

Is there shopping on Castway Cay?

Castaway Cay shopping. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Castaway Cay has multiple shops selling everything from Castaway Cay exclusive Disney merchandise, local Bahamian crafts and souvenirs and beach items you might have forgotten (hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, sand toys, etc.).

She Sells Sea Shells and Everything Else by the Scuttle’s Cove tram stop and Buy the Seashore by Pelican Point are your go-tos for Disney merch and sundries. Midway between the two are a couple of Bahamian retail outlets grouped together.

The only accepted method of payment is your Key to the World cruise ship card, even in the Bahamian-run shops.

If you’re a Disney fan hoping to buy some swag not found anywhere else, you’ll be happy browsing the Castaway Cay shops. Prices on beach items, however, are incredibly marked up, so if you forget to bring toys or a hat, try to pick them up at an earlier port or go without.

Can I get married on Castaway Cay?

Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings department can absolutely help couples plan a wedding on Castaway Cay during cruise itineraries that visit the island. (Weddings can also be held on board the ship.) You can choose from ceremony venues on the beach or at Wedding Pointe (the deck that juts out over the water by the Heads Up Bar).

Note that most Castaway Cay weddings take place in the morning, and the reception will be held back on board. In case of inclement weather or the ship’s failure to dock at the island, your wedding might need to be rescheduled to an onboard location.

Also, Castaway Cay weddings are not legal weddings. You will need to file paperwork and get legally married in your home state. Your island ceremony will be purely symbolic.

What additional amenities will I find?

Showers and towel return. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Crew members are on hand at several stations to hand out towels as you’re leaving the ship. Towel return bins are located throughout the island, but I didn’t see anywhere by the beaches to swap out a wet towel for a dry one.

Bathrooms and beach showers are found throughout the island, as are plenty of garbage and recycling bins.

A First Aid station is located by Scuttle’s Cove. Island information kiosks are available at both Scuttle’s Cove and Pelican Point tram stop areas.

Beach wheelchairs and strollers are available to borrow.

Disney’s Wi-Fi is not available off the ship at Castaway Cay, so if you wish to use your phone, you’ll need to have a plan that works in the Bahamas.

Can you stay overnight on Castaway Cay?

Mount Rustmore. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

Some Disney employees do live on Castaway Cay to take care of the island. However, passengers do not have the opportunity to spend the night.

If you love Castaway Cay, look for “double dip” itineraries that feature two calls at Castaway Cay. Even if the visits are on consecutive days, you still must reboard the ship in the afternoon and cannot stay late on the island.

What’s the typical weather like ?

You can find great weather in the Bahamas year-round. Average high temperatures are in the low 80s in winter and low 90s in summer. The rainiest months are June, August and September. The Bahamas is subject to hurricane season, which runs June through November. The peak time for tropical storms and hurricanes is August through October.

That means it will likely be either pleasant or hot during your visit to Castaway Cay. Make use of those complimentary beach umbrellas and shaded trams when journeying out to Serenity Bay. Apply and reapply sunscreen (choose the reef-safe brands) if you’re spending the day on the beach or biking around the island. It’s easy to burn.

It’s also smart to stay hydrated during your day on island. Mix up your water intake with some of the sports drinks at the soda machines to keep your electrolytes up.

Castaway Cay has a pier, so your visit likely won’t be canceled due to wind that might make tendering unwise. However, if conditions are too dangerous for the captain to safely dock, your call might be canceled or rescheduled.

Related: Best time to cruise to Bahamas

Can I see a Castaway Cay map?

Sure! Here is a map of the island to help you plan your day.

Castaway Cay map. ERICA SILVERSTEIN/THE POINTS GUY

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