How to Have a Perfect Day at Castaway Cay

It’s the most loved port for any Bahamian or Caribbean journey aboard Disney Cruise Line. Disney’s very own private island is touted as Shangri La or Neverland and I have to say, I agree. A Disney Cruise is magical on its own, but a visit to Castaway Cay makes the experience truly enchanting. After over ten visits to this paradise of an island, I’ve developed my own routine and experienced many of the wonders around the island to know how to make a perfect day at Castaway Cay.

Let me start by saying up front that the perfect day at Disney’s private island is going to be a little different for each person. A family traveling with young children will have a different itinerary than a family with teens, and of course adults on their own will have a whole different agenda. But, the basic principles are the same.

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Get onto the island by 10am

With very few exceptions the all ashore time for Castaway Cay will be 9:30 AM, with those that are participating in the Castaway Cay 5K meeting at 9:15 AM. Let me be clear, this is a tropical paradise not a bustling theme park in which you’ll need to “rope drop” crammed with fellow guests waiting for the gates to open. But, getting onto the island by 10:00 AM will enable you to find an ideal spot on your desired beach. Also getting onto the island early will enable you to check the kids into the youth activities programs if you have decided to do so, or have time with the kiddies together in the morning before they head to the youth programs to give you some alone time in the afternoon. Before you go, make sure you’ve got your beach bag packed properly (check out the complete Touring Plans Castaway Cay packing list).

Use the tram

The main tram at the front of the island will have two stops. The first drops off at the start of the main family beach, the main merchandise shop, first aid, Cookies BBQ, and Conched Out Bar. This is the best stop if you want to enjoy the energy of the main part of the island and be close to the youth programs for any children that are not teens.

Our preference is to stay on the tram for the second stop. Here you’ll be close to the second family beach, the teens-only area, Pelican Point (one of my favorite spots), equipment rental, a second merchandise spot, and check-in for those that have the coin and fortune to reserve a private cabana. (One of these days I’ll be one of the fortunate few who can rent a cabana…. One of these days).

Finally, if your party consists of only adults and your preference is to spend the day at Serenity Bay (the 18 and older beach) then it is advisable that you take the tram to this second stop (Pelican Point). You will then need to disembark and wait for the dedicated Serenity Bay tram.

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Pretty sure this Bahamian gentleman has been part of the tram team since the beginning
Pretty sure this Bahamian gentleman has been part of the tram team since the beginning

 

Don’t camp out, change it up

Traditional beach behavior is to find a comfy spot, set up shop, and chill in that one spot until you’re all beached out and ready to leave. Castaway Cay is anything but a traditional beach experience. There’s jet ski rental, para-sailing, glassbottom boats, snorkeling, biking, and even sliding down a water slide into the ocean. Besides these fun activities, there are three different beaches on the island each with their own character.

On past visits my husband and I have elected to enjoy a “Port Adventure” (Disney-speak for excursion). Over the years we’ve decided we prefer to dedicate our time to doing our own thing, and maybe rent a bike once in a while. More about Castaway Cay Port Adventures in a few moments.

Our tradition, one we have perfected over the years, is to head to Pelican Point as soon as we get off the tram. We head straight down the walkway as if we are going to Head’s Up Bar (we’ll get there soon) and become chair rebels. We’ll snatch a chaise chair and a regular sit down chair each and drag them over to the last bit of beach before entering bar territory. From here we can gaze upon the ship itself and enjoy panoramic views of the main beach, plus we’re right by Pelican Plunge (water slides). I can’t resist swimming out, climbing the ladder, and waiting my turn to splash down into the tranquil Bahamian ocean.

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Our favorite spot to start the perfect Castaway Cay Day

 

After enjoying the morning either relaxing on the beach, playing in the ocean, or embarking on a Port Adventure, I suggest heading to lunch, before venturing to another part of the island. If you started at the Pelican Point beach (which has become very popular thanks to the water slides at Pelican Plunge) then head over to the main family beach. Or, go for a wonderful bike ride, explore under the sea and go snorkeling. Whatever your choice the point is to change it up and see more of the island.

Enjoy lunch time

Once my husband and I have spent about an hour or so chilling at our favorite spot, it’s time to head to Head’s Up Bar for a round of tropical drinks. Soon we’ll pack up and make our way to lunch (which is served 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM at all three locations).

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Our preference is to go to Serenity Bay for lunch, and I recommend it for the perfect Castaway Cay day if you won’t have any kids with you for lunch time. Here there is only one buffet line to go through, and it does get real busy from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Generally speaking, the service level is higher than Cookies BBQ and Cookies Too. The food is the same, plus the added bonus of lunch-style steak, all served in a much quieter setting and with more service.

If you are unable to make it to Serenity Bay then try to get to Cookies BBQ or Cookies Too right around 11:30 AM or wait until 1:00 PM. These two lunch locations get very busy and very congested during peak lunchtime. Just be patient and remember you can go back for seconds if you want. Personally, the Castaway lunch is one of my absolutely favorite meals of the cruise. I am diehard for the Mahi Mahi and roasted chicken, oh and those salads!

 

The line at Serenity Bay for lunch during peak time
The line at Serenity Bay for lunch during peak time

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After lunch time we typically go for a bike ride before settling down at Serenity Bay for a good 2 – 3 hours. The bike paths open up a whole other side of the island. You’ll see much more natural landscapes and maybe some wildlife. Be sure to take a moment to venture up the observation tower with breathtaking views of the ship and the island. This leads me to…

Port Adventures

Castaway Cay is amazing enough on its own without any Port Adventures. In my experience it is better to use your Port Adventure budget toward other ports. However, there are a few experiences that are worth mentioning and in many ways are better than a similar excursion in one of the other ports.

Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure is perfect for everyone in the family. Unlike other ports, you will not have to venture into the wide open ocean to be side by side with such intriguing creatures. The experience is much more intimate. Plus everyone gets a chance to feed a stingray.

There are a variety of adventures aboard various boats, like fishing, or the thrilling banana boats. For those that want to see under the sea without snorkel gear, the glassbottom boat is a nice option. The whole experience lasts about an hour, you’ll cast off at the front of the island, skirt around the main beaches before banking around the island and pulling into a spot out towards Serenity Bay. While snorkeling does give you a much more in-depth exploration, on this boat you will get to see coral, fish, and more as well as an opportunity to feed some fish.

Personally I think the snorkeling at Castaway Cay is a tremendous experience, especially for novice snorkelers. If my husband enjoyed it more, we’d do it every time we visit this paradise. The calmer waters make for great sight seeing under water. Plus, those clever people at Disney have sectioned off a portion of the ocean just for snorkeling so you won’t be disturbed by pesky splish splashers. And, there are life guards at stations out in the ocean if you need assistance.

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Don’t rush back to the ship

The key to having the perfect day at Castaway Cay is to pace yourself. You only get one day on this spectacular island, so make the most of it. Make sure you drink lots of water (I like to bring my own beverage container to use for water) and apply sunscreen throughout the day.

Like certain theme parks, Castaway Cay tends to empty out about an hour before “closing” (in this case the all aboard time usually 4:30 PM). On this most recent visit the weather wasn’t so great, and since we were on the Magic (a smaller ship that brings less people to the island as compared to the Dream or Fantasy) we actually had the main beach to ourselves for the last hour!

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Before we headed back to the ship we stopped at Conched Out Bar for once last round of cocktails, where we sat with a few fellow stragglers. We made our way back about 30 minutes before all aboard time, the pathways were pretty much empty. It was so blissful to have paradise to ourselves for a few moments.

Really it’s almost impossible to have a bad time at Disney’s Castaway Cay. However, if you plan ahead and pace yourself you can definitely have the best day it can be on Disney’s private island paradise.

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Cheers to a perfect day at Castaway Cay

 

 

Dani

Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani has always had a passion for tourism and hospitality. She is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. With work experience in six of Orlando's theme parks, she now works in the world of hotels. Follow her adventures on Twitter @thisfloridalife

10 thoughts on “How to Have a Perfect Day at Castaway Cay

  • February 6, 2015 at 6:49 am
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    Depending on the time of year you’re at Castaway Cay, you should be aware of sea lice, which is essentially jelly fish larvae, or baby jelly fish. Disney does post signs all over the beach warning about them, so do pay attention to the signs. Their stings, for some people, can be mild and a non issue other than minor itching. For others, it might be more serious. Many people don’t know about them or what to do if they get stung. During our last trip to Castaway Cay in late May of 2014, kids were coming out of the water, especially around Pelican Plunge covered with stings. For them, it can be pretty miserable. Adults were being stung too, but it was mostly kids that I saw with stings, including my own kiddo. You can visit first aid for advice on how to treat them (and treatment can vary wildly if you Google it) but the most that first aid will tell you is to run the stings under hot water…as hot as you can tolerate. I took my kid to the bathroom and splashed hot water on the stings per the first aid station. It relieved the stings a bit, and lucky for us, the stings were pretty much gone the next day. I have read about Safe Sea lotions as being a sea lice deterrent, but I can’t vouch for its validity as I haven’t tried it.

    Castaway Cay is paradise, and while sea lice can be a minor irritation, it’s a good idea to know about it before hand so if anyone in your travel party does get sting, it doesn’t ruin your day by feeling miserable, and unsure of what it is or how to treat it. I saw quite a few kids crying miserably from the stings, especially the younger ones, and wanting to go back to the ship hours before all aboard time.

    • February 6, 2015 at 8:32 am
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      We had a similar experience with sea lice. My son and I were feeling these electrical stings in our body from them. Scared me, and when I asked the lifeguard he told me sea lice and seemed unconcerned. We ended up heading back to the ship early. The good news was, we got out of the water quickly when we felt the stings and had no marks on our skin the next day. For us, swimming is our vacation activity of choice, and the sea lice kept us from doing that.

  • February 6, 2015 at 9:20 am
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    You’re right that snorkeling is one of the best parts of the day at Castaway Cay. While $29 sounds a bit expensive for a mask and some fins, you can use it for around 8 hours, so it’s not bad overall. Plus it’s a great workout.

  • February 6, 2015 at 10:04 am
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    I’ll be there the end of April on the Wonder. Two questions…what time of year are the sea lice around? And can you snorkle off of Serenity Bay AND the family beach? Any recommendations as to which place is best? Thank you for all the information!

    • February 9, 2015 at 5:49 pm
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      I personally have never encountered sea lice. I believe early Summer is when you might encounter them more.
      Snorkeling on the family beach will be more “structured” with the official snorkeling route being in this area, which at the family beach is the only area in which you can snorkel. Over at Serenity Bay you may not see as much, but you are free to roam anywhere in the ocean. So you won’t see as much “stuff” but it will be quieter and a more natural experience. Keep in mind, there are no lifeguards in Serenity Bay.

    • February 10, 2015 at 12:22 am
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      According to floridahealth.gov, sea lice season is from March – August. That’s not to say, however, that they’re always present during those months. They could be there one day, and not the next. Good friends of ours were at Castaway Cay the week before us in May and had no issues. The following week when we were there, people were getting stung left and right. I don’t think it’s anything you need to freak out about, but just be aware of so that IF it does happen, you know what’s going on. It seems pretty common, because Disney staff are pretty non reactive about it. They’re plenty aware of it and accustomed to it. There are signs all over the beach warning about it among other sea life.

  • February 9, 2015 at 3:18 pm
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    About the Castaway Cay 5K- can you check your children into the kids activities before the run starts? Thanks!

    • February 9, 2015 at 5:45 pm
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      Good question, Diane. I am not certain of the answer. I’ll need to do a little digging and get back to you.

    • February 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm
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      Yes. The activity leaders specifically leave time to drop kids off at Scuttle’s Cove on the way to the start.

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