Are you planning a Disney cruise vacation and looking for tips and information about Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas?
My family and I have had the opportunity to visit this amazing island on several occasions, and it is full of fun activities and amazing beaches!
In this post, I will show you some of our beautiful pictures and give you details about what activities you can experience on Castaway Cay!
(Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
- Where is Castaway Cay located?
- Castaway Cay 5k
- Day Bag
- Shops and Bars
- Things to Do with a Toddler
- Tips and Tricks
Where is Castaway Cay located?
Before we get started discussing all the fun things to do on Castaway Cay, let’s discuss its location. Castaway Cay is a private island near Great Abaco in the Bahamas.
Formerly known as Gorda Cay, the island of Castaway Cay is actually leased by Disney, so they technically do not own the land.
How is it pronounced?
The pronunciation of Castaway Cay can be tricky as most first time cruisers sailing with Disney Cruise Line have read about the island but not heard its name spoken.
When speaking the name Castaway Cay, the word Cay is actually pronounced Key. Although this may seem difficult to remember at first, you will get used to hearing the name of the island on the cruise ship.
Your stateroom host will place a map of Castaway Cay in your room the night before you arrive to the island. The map will look similar to the one below with labels for activities and dining options.
Notice in the picture that the Disney Cruise ships are able to dock at Castaway Cay, so you can easily walk right off the ship. This brings me to a point about your room location on the ship.
If you book a stateroom with a verandah, you may have a preference as to which view of Castaway Cay you will see. The Disney cruise ships USUALLY reverse in to Castaway Cay to dock.
This means that the verandahs on the starboard (aka right) side of the ship would have a view of the beaches. If your room is on the port (aka left) side of the ship, you would have a view of the dock and undeveloped side of the island.
Although I find the starboard side more appealing, the port side view is still amazing. So, it’s not a deal breaker for us if we are unable to find a starboard room.
On a side note, if you are looking for ways to remember the terms for each side of the ship, I have heard that many people remember that “port” means “left” because both words have four letters.
Another trick is to think this quote from Peter Pan:
Second STAR to the RIGHT, and straight on til morning.
In other words, STARboard means “right” side of the ship.
The weather at Castaway Cay tends to be pretty mild year round. Even though the summer months can get quite hot, you will find lots of shade and even a nice breeze on the island.
If you are visiting Castaway Cay in the winter, specifically December, January, and February, you may find the water a bit chilly. My kids never seem to mind the water temperature; though, and they get used to it rather quickly.
If you are visiting during the holiday season, you will notice Christmas decorations set up throughout the island. The picture above is from a Merrytime Cruise on the Disney Magic in December.
Castaway Cay 5k
Your cruise itinerary will state the all ashore time for Castaway Cay. This is the earliest you are permitted to get off the ship; however, those taking part in the Castaway Cay 5k follow a different schedule.
If you signed up for the 5k on the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App. you will see a meeting time and location for those participating. When my husband ran the 5k, he had to meet in the theater the morning of the race at around 7:30 AM.
A crew member will lead all the runners off the ship and to the starting line for the 5k. When the race is over, the runners can come back to the ship for breakfast, or they can go straight to an activity on the island.
Can you walk the 5k?
You are permitted to walk the 5k; however, there is a rule that strollers are NOT allowed. Also, children must be at least 10 years old to participate.
If you are not participating in the 5k, the captain of the ship will make an announcement when you are able to disembark. The captain will also remind passengers to have ID’s and Key to the World cards on hand.
We typically take a day bag off the ship with us to hold items we plan to use on the island. These are the things I typically pack in my bag:
- Key to the World Cards
- Driver’s Licenses
- sun hat
- water shoes
- beach toys
- refillable water bottles
- lip balm
Some things you DON’T need in your bag are:
- towels (more info. below)
- food (complimentary food is available on island)
I recommend eating breakfast at Cabanas or in one of the other dining venues before heading out to the island. Once you are ready to disembark, you head down to Deck 1, swipe your Key cards, and walk onto the gangway to enter Castaway Cay.
We have never been stuck in a long line to get off the ship at Castaway Cay. I think people tend to disembark at their leisure after eating breakfast. Once you finally set foot on Castaway Cay, you will see towel stands where you can grab towels for your family.
When you return to the ship at the end of the day, DCL will provide bins for you to put your used towels. There are also towel return bins in various spots throughout the island.
Disney Cruise Line provides a shuttle to take you from the ship to various parts of the island. These trams are similar to the ones at Disney World that pick you up in the parking lot to take you to the gates at the theme parks.
Even though the tram service is convenient, we enjoy walking from the ship to the beach because it’s only a 15 minute stroll AND it’s really scenic! Below, I will include a picture tour of things you will see as you walk or ride by in the tram.
The walking paths are stroller friendly, so it’s easy to walk to the beach even if you have a baby or toddler. We tend to take our stroller off of the ship to use on the island. If you would rather grab a stroller or a wagon once on the island, you can do that too.
Near the family beaches, you will see an area with wagons, strollers, and beach accessible wheelchairs. These are free to borrow as needed.
Castaway Cay Activities
As you enter the island, you will pass the Castaway Cay Post Office. If you mail a letter or postcard from the post office, it gets stamped with a special postmark.
Near the post office, you will see some of the areas where port adventures take place.
After the post office, you will pass the harbor where you’ll see some of the charter boats. Many excursions like parasailing and fishing meet in this area.
Before arriving at the first family beach, you will see another area for port adventures. This is where you will find equipment for snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, etc.
What is included?
If you prefer not to purchase a port adventure, you may be looking for things to do for free on Castaway Cay. I will provide some super fun options of activities that are included for free.
↓↓ Visit My Etsy Shop ↓↓
I have no idea what this thing is called, so I’m referring to it as the climbing feature. My husband took our six year old over to this area to play. I don’t think adults were allowed to climb, so he stood in the water while she played.
*Tip- The beach area in front of this climbing feature was never busy during our last visit. Even as the crowds started to grow, this area had tons of chairs and space available.
Safety vests are available for free in several spots on Castaway Cay, so our six year old wore one of these while climbing.
Another fun water play area that is free to use is Pelican Plunge. This huge water playground sits just off the shore and has two separate water slides. Kids must be at least 38 inches tall to slide.
Life vests are available nearby and are required for those who are under 48 inches tall. (Adults are allowed to slide as well.)
If you have a toddler who is too small to slide, there’s a little deck directly across from Pelican Plunge that is a great place to watch your family members on the water slides. My toddler loved watching her older sister slide even though she couldn’t join her.
If your kids want a break from the water activities, they can check out In-Da-Shade. This is a play area for kids that has games like basketball and ping pong.
When visiting Castaway Cay, the ultimate free activity is the beautiful beaches!
The first beach you will see after arriving from the ship sits right next to the snorkeling lagoon. You will see tons of loungers (some with umbrellas) and shorter beach chairs.
There are also hammocks in this area. We have never had a problem finding chairs at Castaway Cay. Granted my kids wake up early, so we are often off the ship by 9:00. However, we never rush to get down to the beach, and there have always been loungers, umbrellas, chairs, and hammocks available.
My husband and I usually carry the short beach chairs to the edge of the water. This is where we sit as our kids play in the sand and water.
When you walk into the water, you will notice it’s crystal clear and shallow.
There usually aren’t waves, either, so it’s a great spot even for toddlers. As it gets later in the morning, you will notice more people at the beach but we never find it to be TOO crowded.
I will warn you that there tend to be small rocks and shells present. You may want to pack some water shoes to protect your family’s feet while on the beach.
From Pelican Plunge, you can see the beach cabanas and private beach area. This section looked really neat on our last visit because there seemed to be a giant sandbar. Kids were fairly far out in the lagoon, but the water was only ankle deep.
Even though they are quite expensive to reserve, the cabanas usually sell out really quickly. Platinum cruisers and those who are booked in Concierge staterooms tend to book up all the cabanas since they are able to check in much earlier than other cruisers.
Serenity Bay is the beach area set aside for adults only. Castaway Cay provides even more cabanas on this beach, which is at the far end of the island.
If you want to experience Serenity Bay but are traveling with kids, you have the option of using Castaway Cay’s kids’ club, Scuttle’s Cove. (The clubs on the ship typically offer open house time on Castaway Cay day.)
While on Castaway Cay, you can grab lunch from a buffet at either Cookie’s BBQ or Cookie’s BBQ Too. On our last visit to the island, DCL started serving lunch at 11:30.
We arrived to Cookie’s BBQ around this time, and there were no lines or crowds. Cookie’s BBQ offered the following items at the buffet:
- hot dogs
- spicy chicken sandwiches
- baked beans
- potato salad
- corn on the cob
- and probably a couple other items I am forgetting…but you get the idea (hopefully)!
My husband has dietary restrictions and cannot have gluten or meat. Our server took his lunch order at dinner the night before. When we arrived at Cookie’s BBQ, my husband gave his name to one of the crew members at the buffet.
Then, they put his plate of food together based on his selections from the previous night.
There are covered pavilions with picnic tables near Cookie’s BBQ. Castaway Cay actually offers a lot of shaded areas, which is nice when it’s super hot!
Shops and Bars
Once you walk past Cookie’s BBQ, you will see shops selling souvenirs and beach merchandise. There are also stands set up for things like hair braiding.
We purchased goggles and a sand pail with shovel from one of the shops because we forgot ours at home. If you have kids who like to build sand castles, I recommend buying collapsible sand pails for the cruise (or for any beach trip).
These are the collapsible sand pails we like! (Amazon Affiliate Link)
This way you get more for your money, and they are easy to pack since they lay flat in your suitcase. If you are looking for packing tips and hacks, you can check out this post:
In addition to shops, you’ll see several beach shacks that serve drinks, smoothies, and snacks.
Things to Do with a Toddler
If you are cruising with a toddler, Castaway Cay has plenty of activities for little ones.
In addition to the toddler friendly beaches, my two year old loved the splash zone called Spring-A-Leak. This is a well-shaded area tucked in near the bike rentals.
You will also find Disney characters on the island with fairly short lines for meet and greets. Castaway Cay also provides lots of fun scenery for toddlers like Mount Rustmore pictured below.
I usually end up taking my toddler back to the ship early in the afternoon on Castaway Cay days. The ship is nearly empty during this time, so it gives her a chance to play in the splash pad area and kids’ club without crowds.
Tips and Tricks
If you are looking for some tips and tricks to make your day at Castaway Cay run smoothly, here are my top suggestions:
- Prepare a day bag the night before.
- Eat a large breakfast onboard.
- Apply sunscreen before you disembark.
- Don’t forget your Key Card and ID’s.
- Use a stroller.
- Grab a towel on the island.
- Walk instead of taking the tram.
- Sit by the climbing feature for less crowds.
- Pack water shoes.
- Take time to explore the island.
- Go back to the ship early for short water slide lines onboard.
- Try to relax and take it all in!
Final Review of Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay is most definitely the prettiest place I’ve ever been! It’s so clean and organized, and it offers lots of fun things to do with your family.
Not to mention the crystal clear, calm water that makes you truly feel like you’re in paradise!
What are your favorite things to do on Castaway Cay?
Comment below to let me know!