Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: What to Expect, How to Prepare
Royal Caribbean International

Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas: What You'll Pay, What to Pack at Royal Caribbean's Private Island

LAST UPDATED: February 5, 2024

Cruise ships have competed for years to come up with the wildest new onboard thrills. But with the newly invigorated CocoCay, Royal Caribbean has accelerated the entertainment arms race on dry land. Private islands have become a mainstay among the mega cruise lines—keeping passengers close is a brilliant way to capture an extra day's worth of spending.

Now Royal Caribbean has poured some $250 million into its exclusive island northwest of Nassau, Bahamas, and is banging the advertising drum to get vacationers excited about the "Perfect Day at CocoCay." Even the pronunciation got a makeover. The company now says the best practice is to say Cay as "key" because that's how the Bahamians do it (although the change messed up that perfect day/CocoCay rhyme). 

We've been to CocoCay, and while it's not, as promised, the best of all possible worlds, it's still a lot of fun. Here's what you need to know ahead of time to have the most perfect-as-possible day on CocoCay.

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: What to Expect, How to Prepare: CocoCay map
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
CocoCay map

There's a lot going on. Most visitors just want to grab a free lounger on their own patch of the Bahamas' famous sandy beaches and nosh at one of the island's two free buffets. But quietly relaxing with a book might feel unlikely considering all the new temptations that have been installed.

Among the additions: the Up, Up and Away tethered balloon, which floats a passenger platform a few hundred feet in the air. There's a water park with some intense rides. There are motorized watersports, kayaks, foam floats, and snorkeling excursions. There are overwater bungalows, beach cabanas (up to $3800 for a mere seven hours; no thanks!) and an upscale restaurant at Coco Beach Club ($300 just to get in: still no thanks); a quiet area with shaded daybeds called South Beach; and DJ-attended adults-only party zone on a crescent-shaped sliver of sand, Hideaway Beach, that has its own swim-up pool bar behind it.

That's all fantastic, but you've probably already sensed the bad news: Every one of those attractions and activities will cost you extra money

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: What to Expect, How to Prepare: Thrill Waterpark
Royal Caribbean International
Thrill Waterpark

Once your kids spot the tower at Thrill Waterpark, good luck keeping them satisfied with a beach pail and shovel. Found to the right of the island as you enter from the pier, the park has 13 slides and a 135-foot-tall tower (the tallest in North America; stairs only) crowned by Daredevil's Tower, which is hands-down the most harrowing and intense water slide I've ever been on anywhere. The speeding red spiral is definitely too aggressive for some people, and the line to ride it is daunting, too; I waited for about an hour, and that was when only one ship was docked at the island. Waits can get untenable, especially when the ships in port include a 6,000-passenger Oasis-class ship.

The second, smaller slide tower, Splash Summit, has six more slides on it.

What's the extra fee for all this watery fun? Royal Caribbean reserves the right to change the price of CocoCay at whim, but we've personally seen it go as high as $240*. That's several times expensive than most dry theme parks on the mainland, let alone water slide parks. And because the ships sail by dinnertime, you won't even get to play all day. Worth it to ya?

Located outside the waterpark, the Up Up and Away helium balloon ride costs between $25 and $100 a rider, but it's often grounded when weather conditions aren't perfect, so don't count on it necessarily being a part of your day's thrills.

* Royal Caribbean's official line is that all costs at CocoCay will "vary by season and are subject to change without notice."

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: What to Expect, How to Prepare: Wave pool
Royal Caribbean International
Wave pool

Thrill Waterpark also has the largest wave pool in the Caribbean, not that there's much competition. The lockers in the water park are free, and lines for the slides tend to ease somewhat by mid-afternoon, so try to delay your adrenaline rush until then. (Ships tend to call at CocoCay from about 8am to 7pm.)

Above the slides, 1,600 feet of zip lines cost as much as an extra $140 to try, and like many activities on the island, rides are scheduled at set times and can fill up. If there's anything you have your heart set on doing, make sure to book it at least a day in advance using the Royal Caribbean app or the Shore Excursions desk on your ship.

Royal Caribbean's CocoCay: What to Expect, How to Prepare: Splashaway Bay
Royal Caribbean International
Splashaway Bay

Parents do not have to shell out for Thrill Waterpark if their kids want to horse around in fresh water. Splashaway Bay, a hyped-up kiddie pool area (five simple slides, two drench buckets), is free to use, and so is Captain Jill's Galleon, a landlocked pirate ship-themed playground with dry slides and 16 water cannons.

Chill Island

The left side of CocoCay, through the gateway marked Chill Island, is laid-back and far from the screams and splashes of the Thrill area. Okay, so it's not really a separate island, but here you'll find long stretches of magnificent oceanfront sand on normally placid waters, another stretch of beach on a protected interior lagoon (Harbor Beach), and some 6,000 lounge chairs. Alcohol and soft drinks are poured (for a charge, but if you have a drinks package on board, it will work here) at plenty of bars in sporadic beach huts.

CocoCay can also cater to nearly every kind of water activity, from Sea-Doos to kayaks (the best prices we've ever seen for those: $110 and $43 respectively), but you have to rent equipment at a steep price—snorkeling stuff is $37 per adult/$22 for kids ages 4–12, and the snorkeling environment is only of an average quality. Frommer's suggests trying to get your snorkeling done before the beach gets crowded with guests. Their splashing tends to scare the fish away. 

You're strongly advised to bring your own supplies, whether those are snorkels, wetsuits, underwater cameras, or floaty things. Sunscreen, too—you'll pay in the region of $20 for a measly 3 ounces if you don't bring your own. Even a basic foam raft costs $18 to borrow. Towels can be borrowed for free on the ship.

Oasis Lagoon

If you'd rather have a piña colada between your lips than sand between your toes, there's the 33,175-square-foot freshwater Oasis Lagoon pool, where there are 20 seats at a swim-up bar and a thumping, clubby atmosphere. This area gets crowded fast, so try to stake out your place here early in the day, especially if more than one ship is calling at the island. You're more likely to find kids around the Oasis Lagoon bar. 

royal Caribbean's CocoCay: What to Expect, How to Prepare: Hideaway Beach
Dan Renzi
Hideaway Beach

The adults-only version of Oasis Lagoon is over at Hideaway Beach, where you have to pay a cover charge (around $40 is normal). This area has its own swim-up bar, too, which faces out over the beach chairs to the ocean.

Free food

Food is taken care of. While there are a couple of smaller specialty kiosks and bars selling things like Buffalo wings at an upcharge, in two large pavilions (Chill Grill and Skipper's Grill) you can avail yourself without restraint at an ongoing free buffet where fare tends toward picnicky favorites such as hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, fries, and corn on the cob. This is the Bahamas, though—you'll also find a few giant iguanas sniffing the dropped food, seabirds loudly bickering for leftovers, and more than a few flies that are as attracted to the grub as you are. If, for that reason, you'd rather not have food that's been sitting out on a buffet, hit one of the two Snack Shacks, which are also free but which hand you food as you order it. The burgers there are surprisingly fantastic, and far superior to what's on offer at the buffets (or even on the ships). Keep in mind you can't have dinner on the island—the smorgasbord wraps up in mid-afternoon.


Guests who aren't up for walking from the ship gangway all the way down the $50 million pier can catch one of the continuous open-air shuttles traveling between the ship and the Arrivals Plaza.

From there, you can catch a second tram that stops at two zones that are free to use: Oasis Lagoon and the traditional beach at Chill Island. If you stick to those two zones, you won't have to pay extra for anything for your day on the island—and there are almost always empty lounge chairs available, especially at Chill Island.

Once you're on CocoCay, though, it's up to you to control the final bill by choosing your activities wisely. Royal Caribbean is betting you'll want to splurge. With CocoCay, the company has created a new cash cow that is extraordinary in a few ways, and soon the concept will spread to other regions worldwide where the line runs regular warm-weather itineraries. You'll always pay nothing to sit on the beach—but with all these fantastic toys, will you have the willpower to stay put?