When Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines acquired Admiral Cruise Lines in 1988, something special came with it: the lease to a private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay. If you’ve been on a Caribbean cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship in the past few decades, perhaps you visited CocoCay. Many of the Royal Caribbean ships would anchor near the island and tenders would shuttle passengers to the island for a day of relaxation.
My wife and I visited CocoCay in 2013 to experience just that. We were on a three-day cruise from Miami to Nassau and back, and one of the days was spent on CocoCay. We rented kayaks, paddled out in the ocean, and then relaxed in beach chairs and took a nap.
If we went back now, I’m not sure we’d recognize it. In a good way. Royal Caribbean has spent $200 million upgrading the island over the past few years, adding everything from a waterpark to a hot air balloon ride. Here are eight great things to do on the renovated CocoCay.
1. Relax On The Beach
We should start with this because this is why you go to the Bahamas. If you’ve visited CocoCay in the past, you know that you were able to relax on a massive beach and listen to the waves. Don’t worry -- all of the development inland hasn’t taken away the big beaches. In fact, they’ve expanded on the beach experience.
There is now a large dock attached to the island, so cruise ships no longer have to anchor offshore and transport guests to the island via tenders. Those tenders used to drop you off in the lagoon on the island, and that lagoon has been turned into another beach -- one with still waters. So if you’d prefer to swim where there are no ocean waves, you can now do that as well.
2. Go Up, Up, And Away In A Tethered Helium Balloon
If you’ve seen the television commercials for the new and improved CocoCay, you’ve seen this attraction. It’s not a hot air balloon (it’s helium, and it’s tethered to the ground), but you get the same experience. You’ll get in the passenger compartment, be lifted 450 feet in the air, and take in the spectacular 360-degree views of the entire island and the ocean on every side.
Please note that while most of the experiences on the island are included in the cost of your cruise, there is a fee for the tethered balloon ride. Check this site for current costs.
3. Swim Up To The Bar At Oasis Lagoon
In the center of the island is a massive outdoor pool. And part of this pool includes a swim-up bar for guests to stay in the water and order their drinks. And what’s more “island in the Caribbean” than a swim-up bar?
The entire pool looks like one of those poolscapes you would see at a resort in Cancun. Its curved edge seems to snake on forever, and it has many different access points, both wade-in and jump-in. Also, there are lounge chairs as far as you can see. If the ocean isn’t your thing, perhaps the pool should be your destination.
4. Have Lunch At The Chill Grill
What’s the best part of a cruise? The free food, right? Well, that doesn’t stop once you leave the ship and head out to explore the island. Because CocoCay is exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests, the majority of the places to eat on the island are just like the buffets and restaurants onboard: complimentary with the purchase of your cruise fare. If you’re hungry on the island, head over to the Chill Grill (or Skipper’s Grill, or one of the three Snack Shacks) for a bite.
5. Rent A Floating Cabana
If you’re interested in a more exclusive experience on CocoCay, check out the new Coco Beach Club, opened in January 2020. Part of the Coco Beach Club experience is the ability to rent a floating cabana that juts out over the ocean. Just like you’ve seen in the pictures, you’ll take a walkway out over the water to your own private floating cabana. There’s no more relaxing way to spend a day.
Please note that access to the Coco Beach Club (and the floating cabanas) involves an additional fee. Check the Coco Beach Club website for more information.
6. Visit The Waterpark
If you’re feeling adventurous, an additional daily fee will gain you access to a massive waterpark on the island. You won’t be able to miss it -- as you exit your ship and walk down the walkway, an enormous water slide will loom above you. The waterpark includes a wave pool, waterslides, an adventure pool, and, if you purchased the waterpark + zipline package, even a zipline experience. If you’re traveling with kids, this is a must.
7. Take A Kayak Out On The Ocean
Because we visited the island before the waterpark and other amenities were built, this is how my wife and I chose to spend the day. We rented kayaks and headed out onto the ocean to roll up and down on the waves. There are lifeguards everywhere, including some on jet skis in the water, so you feel safe and secure at all times. We’ve all seen the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean -- getting to kayak out into the waves on top of those clear waters was a treat.
8. Rent A Daybed On Chill Island
If your idea of an island day is to take a nap near the ocean (or maybe curl up with a good book), CocoCay has options for you as well. Chill Island has the option to rent a daybed (or even a full cabana) for the day. We saw many people choose the daybed option. Laying on a bed listening to the waves sounds perfect to me right now.
It’s settled -- my wife and I need to go back.
Want to experience all the luxuries of Caribbean cruising? These cruise lines have their own private islands (and Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay is just one of them).