Castaway Cay (pronounced like “key”) is an island in the Bahamas near the Abaco Islands. It is the Disney Cruise Line’s private island. Not all cruises stop here but many do, so you’ll be able to spend an entire day basking in the beauty of white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and indigenous species of plants and animals.
Only 55 acres of Castaway Cay (formerly Gorda Cay) are developed, even though the island has around 1,000 acres. The rest is untouched, though some of the activities take advantage of this area!
Disney spent $25 million on this island for which they have a 99 year lease. There are plenty of special Disney touches like shipwrecks, Hidden Mickeys, and even a post office selling Bahamian stamps with a Castaway Cay stamp. Disney even dredged the shores to make sandbars for shallow swimming and a deep enough area for the cruise ships to dock – making this the first private island that didn’t require boats to tender farther out.
While Gorda Cay has a storied history of bootleggers, pirates (real ones), and even drug smugglers, Castaway Cay has its own Disney-created back story of three adventurers who set out with their families to find fortune. To their misfortune, they were shipwrecked on this island, which they named Castaway Cay.
Castaway Cay is very clean and welcoming, and it’s great for visitors of all ages!
Weather on the island ranges from the lower 60s from January to April, which is also the driest time, to the lower 80s in the summer months, which is the wettest period. Regardless of when you visit, the weather is likely to be good!
Since Disney owns the island and the only people who are allowed on the island are Cast Members who live and work there and guests from the cruise ships, they have total control of all of the activities on the island. Let’s take a look at what you can do on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay!
There’s a 2,400 foot runway on the island, which was built in the early 1960s when a wealthy investor was looking at the agriculture of the island. He built the airstrip for his personal travel, but it is no longer used for that purpose. Today, guests can bike on the runway with bikes rented right on the island. They have bikes in all sizes for everyone in your family including bikes with training wheels and adult bikes with seats for kids.
2. Beach Play
As I mentioned above, Castaway Cay has some amazing beaches, and it honestly looks like paradise. There are several different beaches depending on what your “relaxing” style is.
Family Beach is the largest with lots of loungers, chairs, and hammocks, but it also fills up the fastest. As soon as the ship docks, disembark and stake out a spot on the beach if this is your destination. Family Beach has a shallow-water sandbar and an area for snorkeling. You can also rent a tube and float the day away!
Serenity Bay is an adults-only beach, It’s farthest from the ship, and you have to take the tram to get there (or walk for a while), so it’s quiet and quite tranquil. This beach also has lounge chairs, hammocks, and even a massage cabana for massages on the beach. To schedule you’re massage, go to Vista Spa on board before arriving at Castaway Cay. You can even rent a private cabana for around $400 a day complete with lounge chairs, a dining table, a sitting area, a refrigerator, lockers, towels, and sunscreen (which is bring your own or buy your own). This is a beach, so you can swim or rent tubes to float. At lunchtime, head over to Serenity Bay BBQ, which is not nearly as busy as other restaurants on the island and has the same food as the busier restaurants. If you’re just looking for a drink, check out Castaway Air Bar.
Teen Beach, also known as Sport Beach, is great for active cruisers. It’s actually part of the family beach, but it has a private strip of beach just for 14 to 17 year olds. There are volleyball, tetherball, and soccer courts at this beach, and Hide Out is a teen club with a DJ and music.
3. Water Sports
This is island life, so there are plenty of water sports available for you to choose from. Hop on a jet ski or ride a Banana Boat. They also have aqua trikes and kayaks available for rental.
Every beach on the island has an area roped of and designated for snorkeling. It’s just off of the swimming beaches, and there’s lots to see in the water! If you’d like to take a guided tour, you can book snorkeling excursions in a couple different locations like on top of a submerged “shipwreck” with sea turtles, stingrays, barracudas, coral reefs, damselfish, butterflyfish, grouper, lobsters, and more. You can bring your own snorkel gear, or you can rent gear from one of the shops on the island including Gil’s Fins and boats, Flippers n Floats, and the Windsock Hut. They also have free life vests for anyone who wants or needs them.
4. Pelican Plunge
Pelican Plunge is a water park just off of family beach out in the water. There are water slides, a tipping water bucket, and lots of fun to be had on this floating castle. Much like the theme parks, Pelican Plunge gets very busy as the day wears on. Again, the solution is to get off the boat early in the morning and head here as early as possible. You’ll have a few hours of enjoyment before the crowds arrive.
5. Kids Areas
Pelican Plunge is good for the whole family, but there are some areas that are specifically for the kids. These areas are supervised, themed areas, and they’re all free. Spring a Leak is a huge water play area with fountains, sprinklers, and a variety of other water features perfect for toddlers and young children. The area has a storm-ravaged theme that beckons guests to explore. Scuttle Cove is a sand and water play area also with a variety of features and play opportunities like building sandcastles and water balloon games. Scuttle Cove allows parents to drop off their little ones for a couple hours or for the whole day while the adults enjoy the island for themselves.
6. Meet the Characters
This is a Disney-owned island, so it’s only right that Disney characters are available for meet and greets. Don’t forget to bring your autograph book and camera! While there are Character Meet and Greets on the ship, the natural lighting on the island is great. Pirate themed characters appear at the post office, Chip & Dale like to hang out at the dance party at Cookie’s BBQ, Olaf frequents the Summertime Freeze Drink Stand, and the Fab Five characters appear randomly around the island. There are also characters located on the dock as you head back onto the ship for the evening.
7. In da Shade
In da Shade is a shaded structure near family beach with a variety of “indoor” (covered really) activities like table tennis, foosball, basketball, billiards, and more. You can escape the heat or an afternoon rain shower in this area that is appropriate for all ages. There are also supervisors so tweens can hang out without their parents though young children must be with their parents.
There are several excursions available for an extra cost that allow you to see the island in a whole new way. Tours range from 30 minutes to a few hours to all day for the getaway packages. You can go fishing, fly fishing, snorkeling, parasailing, hiking, kayaking, or water skiing. You can even book a Stingray Adventure where you can feed, touch, pet, and snorkel with stingrays! Each tour includes all of the necessary gear and a tour guide, and some of the excursions include refreshments and even full meals. Prices range from just a few dollars to a couple hundred dollars depending on the activity.
The food on Castaway Cay is delicious island fare and familiar favorites. Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Too BBQ serve up hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, bratwurst, veggie burgers, fresh fruit, couscous, coleslaw, mango and mint soup, and the best potato salad you’ve ever eaten. For dessert, you’ll find all you care to enjoy soft serve ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. There’s a drink bar with unlimited soft drinks and coffee. The four bars on the island, Conched Out, Heads Up, Sand Bar, and Castaway Air Bar serve beer, frozen drinks, and cocktails all day. There are also waiters who roam the beaches with rum punch specials all day.
Lunch on the island is included in the price of your cruise, so listen for the announcement that Cookie’s is open, and head over for some great grub! The restaurants are buffet style, and there’s plenty of covered seating with picnic tables and high chairs for the little ones.
It’s also worth noting here that the onboard dining is open while the ship is docked, so if for some reason you’d rather not visit the island and want to eat on board, you can do that. It’s also a great time to take the kids back to the cabin for an afternoon nap before heading back out onto the island.
After such a fun day on the island, you’ll want to take a piece of it home with you. There are souvenirs available on Castaway Cay that aren’t even available on the ship. She Sells Sea Shells and Everything Else and Buy The Short sell Disney-themed souvenirs plus things that you might need for your day on the island like beach toys, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. Cultural Illusions sells Bahamian handcrafts. The pieces are really cool, but since no native craftsmen actually live on the island, they have to be shipped in, so you’ll likely pay more here than at any other port. If your ship has more than one port of call, save your money for another port! There’s also a fully functioning Post Office. Snail Mail takes on a whole new meaning here since the post card will arrive at your house much later than you do after the cruise, but it is cool to see the post card with Bahamian Postage and a special Castaway Cay stamp.
Have you been to Castaway Cay? What did you think?