Here's why Castaway Cay island is a must-stop for families onboard a Disney cruise in the Bahamas, plus expert (aka mom) tips for making it your family's favorite, too.

Castaway Cay beach
Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas, is a fan favorite among Disney Cruise Line regulars—and for good reason. From the pristine beach and turquoise waters to kid-friendly fun around every corner, the island escape brings Disney Cruise Line's signature attention to detail on shore to give families the ultimate day at the beach.

So what's the deal? This private island is basically an extension of your Disney Cruise ship. From the moment you step on shore, you can expect the same level of service and support you'd receive onboard. In fact, your ship's crew will make up the majority of the staff for your day on the island so you may even see some familiar faces.

If this sounds like your kind of port adventure, arm yourself with these activities, tips, and then relax: You're on island time!

Planning for the Day

What to Bring

When you disembark, it's only a short walk or convenient tram ride to any point on the island. While you could return to the ship relatively easily during the day, save the time and bring everything you'll need for a full day—don't worry, it's not much! Swimsuits, cover-ups, flip flops, sunscreen, hats, sand or water toys, sunglasses, IDs for adults, and everyone's Key to the World cards (these are your room keys, ship ID cards, and means of charging to your stateroom) are really all you'll need. Towels, beach chairs, umbrellas and life jackets are all provided on the island.

Another huge perk for parents is even if you opt to skip the tram and walk around the island on foot (totally doable), you won't need to bring a stroller with you from the ship. Strollers, wagons, and beach-friendly wheelchairs are all available for your use right there at the start of the beach.

Whatever you do: Don't forget your phone or camera! The island is full of great spots to get a family photo with the ship in the background, so make sure you bring your camera. There will also be characters in their island garb around for meet-and-greets throughout the day.

Snag a Cabana

If you love the idea of a private, uber-comfortable home base for the day, your family may consider splurging for a cabana. This private space accommodates up to 10 people with prices starting at $549 on the Family Beach and $399 at Serenity Bay in the adults-only area. Cabanas come stocked with everything you'd need for a day at the beach: towels, sand toys, snacks, water, a refrigerator, floats, a shower, and your own hammock. If this sounds appealing, be ready to book early. Cabanas sell out immediately once they are released for booking.

Plan to Eat Lunch on the Island

Unlike at other ports, no need to find a good place for lunch (or worry about whether you'll be getting food and water that's safe to eat and drink). A lunch buffet is offered on the island at no additional charge at three locations: Cookies BBQ, Cookies Too, and Serenity Bay BBQ. The offerings are typically the same at all three spots—burgers and veggie burgers, hot dogs, ribs, chicken and fish, plus sides like cole slaw, corn on the cob and baked beans, and various desserts. Soft drinks, unlimited soft-serve ice cream, and fresh fruit are all available too.

Pelican Plunge waterslide_Brooke Geiger McDonald
Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

Activities for Kids on Castaway Cay

Check into the Kids Club

No doubt, you'll want to spend quality time with your kids during the day, but you can also take a break and explore the adults-only offerings by checking kiddos in at Scuttle's Cove, the island's kids club. The secure, sandy play area is staffed by the same Youth Activities crew your kids have probably already gotten to know onboard, making drop-offs a breeze. There are plenty of sand toys, games and activities, plus water features to keep kids cool (but no swimming areas, eliminating safety concerns).

Splash the Day Away

From splash zones to monkey bars suspended above the water to thrilling water slides, the island offers water play areas for kids of all ages. Littles can build sand castles or play in the shallow, life guard–patrolled lagoon or hit up the Spring-a-Leak splash pad. Just try tearing bigger kids away from Pelican Plunge's two water slides that take off from a 2,400-square-foot floating platform and drop riders into the lagoon below. Note: Must be 38" to ride and guests under 48" will need to wear a life jacket.

Brooke Geiger McDonald
Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

Activities for Adults on Castaway Cay

Squeeze in a Fun Workout

My favorite way to start the day on the island is to run the Castaway Cay 5K. Sign up for this free race at the guest services desk when you board the ship. Start times are staggered during the first hour the ship is in port. Drop the kids at Scuttle's Cove, head to the starting line, enjoy a fun, flat course around the island, and collect an awesome souvenir medal at the finish line.

Snag a Massage at Serenity Bay

If the last thing you want to do is exercise while you're kids are at Scuttle's Cove, parents looking to kick back can head to Serenity Bay, the 18 and over part of the island, where you can enjoy a relaxing massage, a refreshing cocktail, or an adults-only lunch. No need to make your way to Serenity Bay for an adult beverage though. There are numerous bars around the family beach, and even servers who will bring you your piña colada straight to your beach chair.

Snorkeling_Brooke Geiger McDonald
Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

Family Activities on Castaway Cay

Snorkel Right From the Beach

Not need to pony up for a snorkeling excursion here. Rent snorkel equipment right on the island (or bring your own) and explore sunken treasures, sea life, and even spot a few underwater Disney friends in statue form. Bright yellow snorkel life vests are required for all snorkelers—this makes it easy for lifeguards, who are stationed throughout the snorkeling area, to easily spot you. Pro tip: The most interesting snorkel spots are quite a swim out from the shore. I'm a strong swimmer and was able to pull my 6-year-old along with me but less advanced swimmers should proceed with caution.

Take a Family Bike Ride

When you're ready for a break from the beach, head over to the bike rental spot and pick up bikes for the whole family. You can rent bikes and helmets in every size, including bikes with baby seats. Smooth paved roads, and even an old, no-longer-used airstrip, make it easy to explore the island at your leisure.

Swim With Stingrays

At Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure, guests 5 and up can touch, feed, and even snorkel among live stingrays. We love that the one-hour experience can be done right from beach and doesn't require transportation and a boat journey as most other stingray experiences do at other ports.

Brooke Geiger McDonaldBrooke Geiger McDonald
Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

Shop for Exclusive Souvenirs

There are two gift shops on the island that sell swimwear, rashguards, pool toys, and anything else you might need for a day at the beach. If you're big on souvenir merch, this is your only chance to get something that says "Castaway Cay." Pick up exclusive pins, shirts, hats, ornaments, and more.

Hit the Water 

There are all sorts of watercraft you can rent to get out on the water and see the island from a different perspective. From kayaks and paddle boats to aqua trikes and stand-up paddleboards, there's a fun option for a variety of ages and activity levels.

Just want to laze the day away in the water? Floats and tubes are available for rental and keep kids entertained for hours.

Game it Up

For yet another fun way to pass the time (and get out of the sun for a bit), head over to In Da Shade, a covered pavilion with games galore, from basketball hoops and pool tables to giant Connect Four and ping pong.

The Best Time to Visit Castaway Cay

One frequent complaint about Castaway Cay at certain times of year is the water temperature. Winter and even late-spring/early summer can bring chilly water. The best time to visit to ensure warm water for snorkeling and playing is mid- to late-summer and fall.

And if Castaway Cay sounds like your dream come true, there are even a few itineraries that do the "double dip," stopping twice at the island on a single cruise! Head over to Disney Cruise Line to explore itineraries and book your vacation.