Everything to Know about Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s Private Island in the Bahamas

There's plenty to do on Disney's private island, and most of it is free.
Family cruises aboard Disney Dream visit Castaway Cay (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Castaway Cay (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
  • I’ve sailed with Disney Cruise Line nearly 10 times and Castaway Cay is my favorite port of call.
  • The best part about Castaway Cay is that everything you need for the day is available on the island so you won’t have to go back to the ship for anything.
  • Here are the best things to do on Castaway Cay along with what is and isn’t included when you visit Disney’s private island.  

Storytelling takes center stage on Disney Cruise Line (DCL), and not just onboard its cruise ships. Disney’s original private island in the Bahamas, called Castaway Cay, is part of the enchantment as well. On most Disney cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean, including the three- and four-night sailings of its newest ship, the Disney Wish, you’ll stop for a day at Castaway Cay. And on super special sailings throughout the year, you can spend two days at Castaway Cay during an itinerary.

Whether you’re traveling with kids or without, there’s plenty to do on Castaway Cay, including snorkeling in crystal clear water, swimming with stingrays, zipping down water slides, sipping cocktails on the beach, enjoying a lively BBQ, and even running a 5K. Here’s what is (and isn’t) included when you visit Castaway Cay on a family cruise with Disney Cruise Line, plus ideas about which activities are best for everyone in your group. 

Editor’s note: In June 2024, Disney began sailing to a second private island destination, called Disney Lookout Cay at Lighthouse Point on the island of Eleuthera. Read all about Lookout Cay here.

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Arriving at Castaway Cay, Disney’s Private Island

Castaway Cay's paved walkways and circulating tram make it fully accessible for travelers in wheelchairs (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Castaway Cay’ has both paved paths and a tram, which makes it easy for everyone in the family to enjoy all that the island has to offer (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

While Disney Cruise Line has five ships (and two more on the way), only one ship docks at Castaway Cay per day, so the small island is never overcrowded. Once the ship’s captain makes the all-ashore announcement, guests are permitted to disembark and head straight for Castaway Cay’s white sandy beaches. I try to be ready to get off the ship around 9:00 a.m., just after eating breakfast so I can grab a good spot on the beach with a chair that’s next to a colorful shady umbrella.

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Guests who are registered for a specific excursion or who plan to run the Castaway Cay 5K (a free 5K in which participants receive a bib and a medal, just like all other runDisney races) are typically permitted to leave the ship first, starting at around 8:30 am. Otherwise, guests can get on and off the ship throughout the day at their leisure. I’ve participated in the Castaway Cay 5K multiple times, and it’s something I always look forward to, especially on cooler island days since most of the race course isn’t shaded.

What to Bring to Castaway Cay 

While Disney will provide most of what you need at Castaway Cay—including beach towels and lounge chairs—I always bring a few things with me off the ship. The two most important items to carry with you when you disembark are your photo ID or passport, and your cabin key card.

You’ll also want to bring beach essentials like sunscreen, a beach bag, sunglasses, a hat, and a coverup. Fresh towels are provided on the gangway just after you set foot on the island, and there are towel returns all around the island so you don’t have to carry wet, sandy towels back to the ship with you.

Getting around Castaway Cay

Just beyond the pier is a complimentary tram that will take you to the family beach area. From there, I like to hop on the second tram that takes those 18 and over to the adults-only beach, Serenity Bay. You can also choose to walk to any of the destinations. The way is well marked, and Serenity Bay is about 20 minutes from the ship on foot. If you chose to rent bikes at Castaway Cay, you can check them out and ride around the island from beach to beach before checking them back in.

Pelican Plunge water slides and play area at Castaway Cay (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Pelican Plunge water park and play area is a popular spot for families at Castaway Cay (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

What’s Included at Castaway Cay

Every guest at Castaway Cay has complimentary access to the tram, towels, lounge chairs, hammocks, beachside BBQ, unlimited ice cream, and multiple beaches. The Pelican Plunge water park and Spring-a-Leak splash pad areas are also free to use. If you bring your own snorkel gear you can also enjoy the snorkeling lagoon off the family beach for free; otherwise, you’ll need to rent snorkels on the island to enjoy the lagoon. My favorite thing to do at Castaway Cay is get a bowl of soft serve ice cream and take it down to the beach with me to enjoy while watching the waves crash against the sand.

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What’s Not Included at Castaway Cay

While your BBQ lunch, unlimited ice cream, and the optional Castaway 5K are all included with your visit to Castaway Cay, many of the extra activities cost an additional fee. For example, if you want to rent tubes, floats, banana boats, Aqua Trikes, or snorkel gear, or are looking for bicycle rentals, it will cost extra and can be charged to your cruise cabin.

All alcoholic drinks are also an additional cost because Disney does not offer a drink program like most other cruise lines. Adults looking to get pampered at the beach can rent a cabana at Serenity Bay or have a massage overlooking the ocean for an additional fee. Just note that cabanas do book up quickly, so your best bet to actually secure one is to stay in a concierge-level room or be fairly high up in Disney Cruise Line’s loyalty program called Castaway Club. Port adventures such as fishing, parasailing, and sea kayaking cost extra as well.

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While there’s no wrong way to do Castaway Cay, it’s best to arrive at the island with a plan. Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App to see the schedule of activities, meals, and characters greetings on the island well before you arrive. I love seeing Mickey and his pals in their beach outfits, and every once in a while Captain Jack Sparrow can be spotted walking around the island.

Snorkeling with stingrays is one of many port adventures offered at Castaway Cay (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Castaway Cay activities include adventures like snorkeling with stingrays (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

Family Areas at Castaway Cay

Castaway Family Beach and Snorkel Lagoon

Castaway Cay’s Family Beach is the best spot on the island for families with kids—and by “kids” I mean every age of child from toddlers to teenagers. There are plenty of lounge chairs spread out over two distinct parts of the sandy beach, most of which is shaded by colorful beach umbrellas. Arrive to the island early if you want your pick of the best beach chairs in an ideal location for your family.

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Because the waves are small and gentle, Castaway Cay’s Family Beach is a good spot for those who aren’t strong swimmers. This beach is also where families can snorkel together to spot colorful sea creatures and a few well-placed “sunken treasures” that should delight Disney fans.

Pelican Plunge Water Park and Water Slides for Big Kids

Pelican Plunge is a fun play area located just off the beach. There are two water slides that can only be reached by wading into the sea to reach the platform, and both slides zip you back out into the ocean, so participants should be relatively strong swimmers. Pelican Plunge also has a giant dump bucket and water cannons to play with. Throughout the day, kids can be found in large groups playing here, but parents don’t need to worry because there are always lifeguards on duty in case anyone needs help.

Spring-a-Leak Splash Pad for Toddlers and Little Kids

Toddlers have their own splash pad at Castaway Cay. Called Spring-a-Leak, it’s a fun spot for little kids who don’t know how to swim yet to splash and play in an area that’s brimming with dripping pipes and water misters. 

Snap a Photo with Disney Characters 

There are opportunities to see (and snap a photo with) many of your favorite Disney characters all throughout Castaway Cay. Mickey and the gang can be spotted regularly, and oftentimes Captain Jack Sparrow will make an appearance at the adults-only beach area, Serenity Bay. If you time your return the ship just right, you may even catch a few costumed characters on the dock. 

I always check the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App before getting off the ship to know who, when, and where characters are going to be meeting. If I do decide to see Mickey or his friends at the beach, I try to line up about 10 to 15 minutes before the set time so I’m near the front of the line.

Is There a Kids Club on Castaway Cay?

Adults looking to spend some time at Serenity Bay will be happy to know there is a children’s activity area on the island. Scuttle’s Cove is overseen by the same kids club counselors that staff your cruise ship. You do not need to make reservations for your children to visit Scuttle’s Cove, but your kids will need to already be registered at one of the youth clubs on the ship to participate.

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The kids club on Castaway Cay is geared to kids ages three to 12. Teens who want to spend time with their new friends can go to Teen Hideout on Castaway Cay, which is exclusively for teens up to age 17. Teenagers can also sign up for a half-day Castaway Cay shore excursion called the Wild Side Teen Adventure, a snorkel-cycle-speedboat adventure led by adult counselors.

There are surprises around every bend in Castaway Cay's Snorkel Lagoon (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Castaway Cay’s Snorkel Lagoon has well-placed surprises sure to delight DIsney fans (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)

Adult-Only Areas at Castaway Cay

The adults-only beach at Castaway Cay is called Serenity Bay, and it’s my favorite place to hang out on the island. To reach it, take the free tram from the pier to the Family Beach, then switch to a second tram to complete the trip. You can also walk to Serenity Bay beach on a well-marked paved path. It’s about five minutes by tram or 20 minutes on foot. The beach has chairs, hammocks, loungers, and umbrellas for you to pick from to sit and enjoy the view.

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There’s an adults-only bar with a large deck that overlooks the glittering waters at Serenity Bay. Here adult libations are strong and tropical, enhancing the beach’s laidback island vibe. 

Dining Options at Castaway Cay

There are multiple dining options for families and adults at Castaway Cay, so there’s no need to go back to the ship for lunch. 

Cookies BBQ and Cookies Too BBQ at the Family Beach

Just off the Family Beach at Castaway Cay is Cookies BBQ. A short distance away is Cookies Too BBQ. Here groups can dine together on everything from hot dogs and burgers to chicken and ribs. These two quick-service BBQ restaurants also serve cold sides like pasta, potato salad, and fresh fruit. These two eateries are for everyone on the island to enjoy.

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Both locations serve the same menu, but are located a short walk away from each other to cover the two large swaths of the Family Beach. Free unlimited soft serve ice cream stands are nearby and make for a perfect post-lunch snack.

Serenity BBQ in the Adults-Only Area

The adults-only beach also has its own lunch spot, Serenity BBQ. The menu is basically the same as at Cookies and Cookies Too, with ribs, chicken, and burgers. However, Serenity BBQ also serves up ribeye steaks, which is exclusive to the adults-only area of Castaway Cay. I prefer to eat here because its just steps from the beach, and it’s not overrun with kids.

No matter which beach BBQ you eat at, you’ll likely spot your dining room service team working there. Be sure to say hi, because the crew from the ship usually have great suggestions for things to do on Castaway Cay.

Bars at Castaway Cay

There are four bars located around the island, each of which has a similar menu. Three are located near the Family Beach area and one is situated in the adults-only area. The signature drink of Castaway Cay is the Konk Cooler, which is a mix of rum and tropical juices. Most of the drinks on the signature menus include rum, but if you prefer another spirit, you’re in luck because each bar is fully stocked. Just let the bartender know what you like. 

How to Plan Your Day at Castaway Cay

While there’s no wrong way to do Castaway Cay, it’s best to arrive at the island with a plan. With the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App you’ll be able to see the schedule of activities, meals, and character greetings on the island well before you arrive. 

If visiting Castaway Cay is a priority for you, be sure your cruise will visit there before you complete your booking. While most Disney Cruise Line vacations do make stops at Castaway Cay, some do not, and you don’t want to be disappointed after you’ve already booked your cruise. 

After stepping foot onto the island numerous times, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed by booking a cruise that makes a stop at Castaway Cay. Not only is the island beautiful, it’s got so much to do that you’ll need to make a return visit or two to be able to to do it all.

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Megan duBois
Megan duBois is the Senior Theme Park Editor for FamilyVacationist. She's also a freelance journalist who covers theme parks, cruising, family travel, and wine tourism for outlets like Conde Nast Traveler, Business Insider, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, The Points Guy, and National Geographic. You can reach her via email at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com.