Note: We were provided with free access to the Thrill Waterpark on CocoCay — mentioned below — courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
At Cruzely, we’re big fans of Royal Caribbean’s private island CocoCay. We’ve visited multiple times and written extensively about the island before, including a ton of tips and advice for visiting. (If you’re a first-time visitor to the port, be sure to see our complete guide to CocoCay here.)
On our most recent visit there were a few discoveries that we made that we think are worth sharing. If you’re about to stop at Royal Caribbean’s private island, these are things worth knowing before you go.
For sure you can have a fun time without the tips (it’s hard not to have a blast on the island), but they can make your visit even better…
CocoCay Is Going to Spoil You
We visited the island years before its complete renovation, and the transformation is nothing short of breathtaking. From a sleepy — but still gorgeous — spot in the Bahamas, CocoCay is now a complete destination. From the pool to the waterpark to the beach, there’s a ton to do and enjoy.
The entire island is also exclusive for Royal Caribbean guests. So while regular ports of call may see throngs of vendors trying to sell you things, limited beach access due to resorts or even crime/safety issues, CocoCay doesn’t have those problems. It’s simply there for cruise passengers to enjoy.
That sort of catering to the ship can actually spoil you. In comparison, “regular” ports seem like more of a hassle after visiting the island.
Head to the Bridge for a Perfect Photo Opp of the Ship
As you come ashore on CocoCay, take the path that veers to the left. After just a minute you’ll come to a bridge that goes over a small inlet. This bridge is the best spot on the island to get a photo of you in front of the ship. The view to the ship is unobstructed and you get a great mix of the sky, blue water, and the ship.
While the cruise line might have a photographer stationed here to take your portrait, it’s perfectly fine just to use your own camera to snap a pic.
If You Plan to Visit the Pool, Snag a Lounger Early
Oasis Lagoon is a popular spot on CocoCay. It’s an enormous freshwater pool — among the largest in the Caribbean/Bahamas. Needless to say, it’s a popular spot to hang out during the day. (The swim-up bar is especially popular.)
Surrounding the pool are hundreds of loungers and umbrellas that are free to use during your stay. Our advice is to get to the pool early to stake out your spot. When we first went ashore early in the morning the pool was empty and there were chairs available everywhere.
By lunchtime, the pool was full of people. There were still lots of single loungers still available, but very few cases of two chairs next to each other. So if you and your partner wanted to lay out next to each other, it would be hard to find an open spot.
Yes, Thrill Waterpark Is Worth It
Most of the things to do on CocoCay are free. You can spend all day at the pool or the beach and not spend a dime. However, the big draw to the island is Thrill Waterpark.
Thrill Waterpark features a ton of different slides, a wave pool, and even a pool-centric obstacle course. It’s fenced off and charges an admission fee (around $45 per person) to enjoy. Once inside you have access to all the slides for as much as you want, as well as showers, restrooms, lockers, and more.
If you’re not sure whether or not to splurge for admission, we want to tell you that we think it’s worth it. The waterpark features the tallest slide in North America (it starts at 135-feet high and lasts about 20 second), along with Dueling Demons — a ride where the floor drops out from under you, sending you flying down the slide.
While you might not spend the entire day in the waterpark section, it’s easy to spend 3-4 hours enjoying yourself here. That makes it well worth the cost of admission in our opinion.
There Are Four Free Spots to Eat (Two Big & Two Small)
One of the great things about CocoCay is that you don’t have to worry about what to eat. Most food (except for one spot that serves a few premium items) is free.
There are two large open-air restaurants — Chill Grill and Skipper’s Grill — that serve up lunch. You get fare like burgers, tacos, salads, chicken, and desserts. It’s similar to the Windjammer Buffet on Royal Caribbean ships in that you’ll grab a plate and serve yourself.
In addition, there are also two Snack Shacks. These are like mini fast-food restaurants where you simply walk up and let them know what you want. Your options include things like chicken sandwiches and hamburgers, fries, and desserts. To be honest, we were surprised at how high the quality of the Snack Shack was during our visit. It was so good we actually went back in the afternoon for a “second lunch.”
The Helium Balloon Isn’t Guaranteed to Fly
If you have your heart set on flying in the Up, Up, and Away balloon — which takes you more than 400 feet in the air — then just be prepared. We found that due to safety reasons the balloon doesn’t fly every day.
During our visit the weather was clear and beautiful, but the winds were gusty. At about 20 miles per hour, there was a steady breeze, especially when we were higher up on the island like in the waterpark. Due to the wind the balloon wasn’t flying. Keep in mind that just because it’s a beautiful day, all the conditions need to be perfect for it to take you up.
The Island Slows Down in the Afternoon
One discovery that surprised us is how the island slows down in the afternoon. The mornings are hopping and buzzing with people going from place to place, music jamming and everyone exploring and having a good time.
By the time the afternoon rolls around, people have just eaten a big meal and have spent the entire day in the sun and water. Many stake out a place to just hang out instead of walking around CocoCay and others head back to the ship.
It all leads to a more subdued vibe in the afternoon where things are a big quieter and more easy-going.
Little Bars Are Everywhere
One of the big perks of visiting CocoCay is that the drink packages you buy on the ship work in the port. That means instead of shelling out extra on drinks on shore, you can get your money’s worth with the package.
You also don’t have to go far for a drink. While there are larger bars like the swim-up bar in the Oasis Lagoon pool, we saw lots of tiny “pop-up” bars. These spots are little more than a beach hut that’s stocked with all your favorite drinks. We thought the island vibe of these bars was fun, and since they were small and simple, it meant that Royal Caribbean could dot them around the island.
For more on visiting CocoCay, don’t miss our complete guide to the island here.