CocoCay: A Slice of Paradise
CocoCay is My Idea of Paradise
CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas, is a little slice of Paradise. Of all the places In the world that I've visited, it's one of my very favorites. Sometimes, I think it's my most favorite of all.
The climate is ideal - there's hardly any winter at all!
The turquoise water magically turns crystal clear when you're in it.
There are NO traffic lights, NO cars, NO phones, NO politicians, and hardly any rules.
The snorkeling is pretty good.
The opportunities for watersports are plentiful.
The hammocks are inviting.
The Coco Locos are smooth and yummy.
Your day on CocoCay is exactly what you care to make of it... from snorkeling to sipping coco locos to shopping in the straw market to sleeping in a hammock, and more.
Unless otherwise noted Photos in this page are copyright CruiseReady, all rights reserved
Where is Coco Cay?
CocoCay is in The Bahamas and one of the Berry Islands
Well, directions to this nearly magical little place may not help you much, because there's just ONE way to get there - aboard a RoyalCaribbean cruise ship. Yep. Royal Caribbean OWNS the island - every square inch of it. And it's a special day-long treat for passengers aboard their ships.
Now, chances are, you probably won't see the name CocoCay on a map, but it's there. Look for The Bahamas. The Berry Islands are part of the Out Islands of the The Bahamas, and Coco Cay is one of the Berry Islands. It used to be called Little Stirrup Cay, and IF you find it on a map, it will probably be under that name.
But, you don't need to know how to get there. Just board the Monarch of the Seas at Port Canaveral, or the Majesty of the Seas, out of Miami, and the Captain will take you there. Both cruise ships stop there twice a week on their regular 3 and 4 night Bahamian itineraries. Some of the line's other ships stop there as well, but these two are the most frequent visitors.
Have you been to Coco Cay... - ... And is it your FAVORITE Private Island?
Main Beach at CocoCay
Yes - the water really IS that color!
Have you been to Royal Caribbean's Coco Cay? And did you fall in love with it, like I did?
Have you been to Coco Cay, and did you Love it?
How's the Weather?
Does it rain? Sure. Do hurricanes strike? Sometimes.
Might your visit to the island be cancelled due to inclement weather? It might. But, most of the time, the weather is fine and you'll enjoy yourself..
We've been on over 20 cruises that called at CocoCay. Of those, weather or high seas interfered 4 or 5 times. One of those times was because we were cruising around the fringes of Hurricane Jeanne. (!!!)
There's no official weather reporting station in the Berry Islands. But, the weather there is spretty much the same as Nassau's. Here's a iittle chart showing the average high and low temps and percipitation by month for Nassau.
You Might Need These - I found them for you on Amazon!
The sun can really catch up with you fast there ... and you won't even notice at first... take a sun hat, sun screen, and a cover-up! If you plan to do a lot of wading, water shoes will come in handy, as some areas can be a bit rocky.
If you might want to wear your sun hat on the ship, too, be sure to get one that can be tied on so you don't lose it when the ship is underway if you are one of those who likes to stand near the railing.
Setting foot on the Island
(Yes - a Cay is an Island... a little one)
Earlier, I told you the only way to get to CocoCay was on a Royal Caribbean International cruise ship. But, the ship doesn't take you quite all the way there. It anchors in the big-ship-accomodating deep water off shore of the cay, safely out of the way of close-in coral reefs.
RIGHT: The tender CocoCutter, having just arrived at the tender harbor at CocoCay, waits for passengers to disembark before taking on return passengers.
Passengers are taken ashore in smaller boats, called tenders, two of which run back and forth almost continuously. The morning of your arrival, you'll hear a ship-wide announcement about when the first tender will be available, and when the last one will depart the island. (Pay attention to that last part!)
Hopefully, the seas will be calm, for the short trip from the ship to the island's tender harbor. If conditions are too rough, the tenders simply won't run, and you won't go. It happens occasionally, but not as often as you might imagine.
If you like to wade in the shallow water, get some water shoes. If you're like me, and your feet hardly ever touch the bottom because you're actually swimming, don't bother.
Now you're There - What is there to DO?
What is there to do on CocoCay? Here's a short list:
1- Relax in a Hammock strung between two tropical palms.
2- Swim in the crystal clear water.
3- Explore a reef and meet marine life.
4- Enjoy a barbeque luncheon
5- Catch a few rays
6- Shop at the straw market
7- Encounter an Iguana
8- Go Jet-sking, kayaking, or Parasailing
9 - Chill out with a CocoLoco and listen to the music.
10- PCheck out something new, like Stingray City Bahamas.
1- Relax in a Hammock
The first thing on the above list of things to do on CocoCay is Relax in a Hammock syrung between two tropical palms. The guy in this pic has almost hidden himself tucked in among several trees near the water. He must want a little peace and quiet ... and it looks like he's getting it!
In your hammock, you can enjoy the view.... take a quick cat nap ... have a lazy chat with your shipmates ... sip a cool adult beverage ... read a book on your Kindle ... but, whatever you do, just enjoy! It doesn't get much better than this!
The hammocks are fairly easy to find. Just head towards the main beach. It's pretty much right ahead when you get off the tender. Just behind the chairs at the main beach area, there's a pathway running parallel to the water. Turn right and follow the pathway past the watersports areas, and you'll soon see a quieter area where hammocks are semi-abundant. Go early - they're popular!
2 - Swim in the Crystal Clear Water
CocoCay is a wonderful place for enjoying swim activities. You can actually swim, wade and discover delicate shallow-water selife, float on a mat, or just laze in the water till your fingers swrivel all up. There are lots of areas with calm, shallow areas for those with limited swimming skills. But the real swimmers will also easily fiind areas where they can 'play like a fish' with their feet never touching the bottom. Whatever your skill level, the water here is a pure joy to experience!
One thing you might want to consider if you are not accustomed to swimming in the sea is a pair of swim goggles, so the sat water doesn't sting your eyes. They can be useful to take along to the pool deck onboard, too, as the ship's pools are filled with iltered sea water. It's great for your skin,,but can be a little hard on your eyes if you aren't accustomed to it. (Doesn't bother me at all - I absolutely LOVE it!) If you're cruising with little ones, you might want to consider investing in a decent pair of goggles made especially for children.
Watch Out for Jelllyfish!
They're Pretty but they STiNG!
Here's one I met one time, while snorkeling over the reef.
Sometimes I see jellyfish there, and sometimes I don't. Just depends on where they have decided to congregate that day, I guess. Sometimes, I only see one or two larger ones while snorkeling out beyond the swimming area. Occasionally, there have been droves of teeny-tiny ones all over the place. You may not see any at all while you are there. But, should you encounter one or more of these diaphanous creatures, there's no need to panic - enjoy their strange beauty. Read on for my own (non-expert) advice on dealing with them.
What to Do When You See a Jellyfish
AVOID DIRECT CONTACT WITH JELLYFISH UNLESS YOU ENJOY PAIN!
1 - If it's washed up on the beach, LEAVE IT ALONE. Do NOT play with it or touch it. Tell someone on the staff, and they'll know how to deal with it.
2 - If you're wading and see the little ones floating in the shallow water - STEP OUT OF THE WAY. Find another place to wade!
3 - You may see one or more while simming or snorkeling. They're usually beneath the surface of the water. It's clear, so you can see them, even if they are several feet down. SHOO THEM AWAY. With the flat of your hand, make a pushing motion beneath the surface, level where you see the jellyfish suspended. This doesn't need to be a lightening quick or violent motion. Your goal is simply to create motion in the water - an underwater 'wave' that will carry them away. You can then move carefully away in the opposite direction. Again - no need to rush or race.
It's that easy. The main point is to avoid direct contact with them so that they don't sting you.
If the worst should happen, and you DO get stung, go to the first aid station on the island, where they have topicals to help soothe jellyfish stings. Do it NOW, not later. The quickest way to get to the First Aid Station: Find the nearest person who works for Royal Caribbean (identifiable by their shirts) and ask them to point the way. Then, GO!
3 - Explore a Reef and Meet Marine Life
You can snorkel to your heart's content at CocoCay
Did you bring your snorkel equipment? If not, don't worry, you can rent equipment for the day from the cruise line. Just visit the excursion desk onboard to reserve it, then pick it up at the dive shack on the island. It's on your left, between the tender pier and the main beach They'll askk you to attend a quick insrtruction and safety demo, where you'll be shown propler use of snorkel gear They'll also provide verbal directions to the reef.
And yes, they'll tell you that the safety vest is required, even if you show them your gold medals from the olympics to prove your're a great swimmer. I know it's annoying, but it's their island, and their rules, so just do it.
To see lots of fish, head out near the lifeguard station. They feed them, so they'll congregate there.
To get to the reefiest area, you'll need to SWIM a while, but it's worth it. Go out towards the lifeguard stand, and hang a left. The currents can be swift some days in this area, so be sure you can handle it without the need to 'touch down' with your feet, even for a second. (Touching the coral on reefs is a REALLY BIG "No No.") You'll find some decent coral, lots of graceful sea fans, fish, and who knows what else. You may even get lucky and see an Eagle Ray. Boy, are they GEE-OH- Gorgeous!
4 Eat Lunch
What's cruising without eating? You'll do plenty of that on your cruise, and your day at CocoCay is no exception. (It's been estimated that the average cruise passenger gains about 8 pouonds on a 7 day druise.)
Lunch will be provided, buffet style while you are on Coco Cay, courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. It's a typical beach lunch - hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, ribs, fruits, potato salad, etc. This picture shows the old serving area. They've since built a new one that routes the traffic more efficiently, but, somehow, I haven't had the presence of mind to get a picture of that one. It's a good picnic lunch, though. Eat up!
Notice the melon carving in the photo? It's not uncommon to see some examples of food as art when you cruise.
5 - Catch a Few Rays
But don't forget the sunblock!
There's PLENTY of sun at CocoCay - unless, of course, it rains.
But beware! Unless you are from South Florida, you may find that you burn MUCH easier than you do in a comparable amount of time back home. So, bring sunblock, and USE IT!!!
Vive les vacances !
6 - Shop at the Straw Market
(You'll Need Cash for This)
If you're looking for a typical souvenir from The Bahamas, you can certainly find it here, from T shirts to paperweights, carvings, ash trays, sarongs, hats, sundresses, and keychains. The shops in the straw market are not run by Royal Caribbean, but rather Bahamians who boat in for the day. So, unllike most of the other places on the island (bars, watercraft rental kiosks, etc) they don't accept your Sign and Sail card for payment. You'll need cash. And yes, they gladly accpt U.S. Currency.
The straw market is one of the first things you'll see when you get off the tender. Just glance to your right, and you'll see it.
You might want to take a stroll through before heading for the beach. However, UNLESS you hanker for something you see that there's only ONE of, I'd recommend waiting until later to buy. This is simply because you don't want to haul a lot of extra 'stuff' around all day, OR leave it unattended on the beach while you are swimming or snorkeling. They usually have a pretty good stock of most items, so I usually don't even look until I'm nearly ready to leave the island. That's easy to do, because, as I said, the straw market is near the tender pier.
Oh, and if you want to get your hair braided Bahamian -style, you can do that at the staw market,too. Lots of people do. You'll see quite a few braid-dos at dinner that evening on the ship.
7 - Encounter an Iguana
Iguanas Up Close and Personal, on the Nature Trail
Want to see an iguana up close and personal? some of them are quite big, but don't worry, they're not aggressive. At least, I've never seen any signs of aggression from them. However, I've never taken the risk of taunting them, and wouldn't suggest anyone else do that, either.
To see them, either walk through the straw market, or turn right at the far side of it coming from the tender pier. You'll see a (slightly rocky) pathway ahead, running along the back arm of the tender bay. (There's a drop off! Just follow that path, and look to your right. They're there.
On one of our trips to CocoCay, we visited with them for quite a while, and DH, who is VERY good with animals FINALLY got one to come near him, after sitting very still and talking softly and soothingly to it for about 10 minutes. He was a Big one too - 4.5 to 5 feet long, and a real beauty!
Bahama Iguana Puzzle
They really are quite fascinating, and I've designed some iguana products over at Zazzle. This particular one is a jugsaw puzzle from a photo I took a while back of an on CocoCay.
The puzzles come in two sizes:
I prefer the ones that are 10" x 14", and have 252 pieces.
There is also a choice of a smaller size (8"x10") gift puzzle, with 110 pieces, that comes in a matching tin.
HOORAY! We've been to CocoCay Again!
And it's Still a Little Slice of Paradise!
We went through a ferocious storm, which produced some very rough seas after leaving port. It was so rough that everyone was confined to their cabin for much of the first evening. Some of the cabins got water damage, including ours, which was all the way up on the seventh deck!
(Singing to the tune of "Off we go into the wild blue yonder")
Off we go
Onto the wide blue ocean
to CocoCay ...
This time, I changed one word in the little song that plays in my head when we are bound for my little slice of paradise. This particular nignt, "Onto the wide blue ocean" became "Onto the WILD blue ocean." But, it was worth it.
The next morning, the sun was out, and we arrived at Coco Cay just an hour late. All was well when we tendered over and saw the welcome sign.
(Read about our Wild Ride on the Freedom of the Seas.)
8 (a) - Go Jet Skiing, Parasailing . . .
While my big brother (who is well into his 70's!) adores parasailing, I'm more of kayak type of girl. Fortunately, both are available at Coco Cay, as is a jet ski excursion.
BEST ADVICE: Book these activities early! Reservations for jet ski and parasail excursions tend to sell out well before the ship drops anchor for your day in paradise.
You can book the Wave Jet Tour (jet ski) as either a driver or a passenger, and take a 50 miniute guided, high speed tour through the waters around Coco Cay. On your tour, look for Great Stirrup Cay Lighthouse, Slaughter Harbor, Starfish Alley, and Cistern Cay, an abandoned island settlement. Drivers must meet age qualification.
Soar several hundred feet above the turquoise Bahamian waters on a Parasail filght. Although you'll be aloft only a short while, brother Bob assures me those few minutes are thrilling and memorable. (I'll take his word for it.) There is a combined maximum weight for the tamdem flight.
8 (b) . . . or Kayaking
Have fun, but Stay Upright!
The "guided, interactive" Kayak Tour is more my style, and the guides are very informative, showing you starfish, conchs, and rays as you go.
But be careful! You must coordinate your paddling in a two person kayak, or you may tip over.
That happened to us! It was then I discovered what a wuss my hubby is about water. Yes, he began to panic, and I put my lifeguard training to work. Turns out an uplside-down Kayak makes a good buoy. One person can hang on to it, while the other straps the rope around their sholder and tows the kayak and its clinger to shallow water.
I learned that day, that our definitions of "shallow water" are very different:
ME - Anything less than about 20 feet is shallow.
HIM - If it covers his knees, it is too DEEP!
9 - Chill Out with a Coco Loco and Listen to the Music
The Coco Loco is Royal Caribbean's signature drink on Coco Cay, served in special Coco Cay glasses that you get to keep. Now, I am not a connisieur of mixed drinks, nor have I tried hundreds of different ones. Maybe a couple dozen. Some were just OK, some not so great. A few I would order again.
But, Coco Locos - oh boy, I am here to tell you those things are just plain good! I have a collection of the souveir glasses to prove it, too. They have introduced a new batch of Coco Loco glasses now that are paler colored, and more opaque, but I think I like these older ones better.
usually, musicians from the ship will set up a bandstand on the island and enterain you with music off and on throughout the day. Typically, it will be Caribbean, Raggae, or feel-good music of some kind. I like the Caribbean sound the best for my day there.
If you don't want to hear the music, you can wander down and set up camp near Coconut Willie's, where it's a lot quieter.
Make a Coco Loco at Home
Recipe for a CocoLoco Drink
I've talked to several other Royal Caribbean regulars who know their mixed drinks, and searched the internet. I'm still not satisfied that I've found the recipe for Royal Caribbean's version of the Coco Loco, but many of them have most of the same ingredients in common. If you experiment with the following ingredients, I'm sure you'll find just the right combination for a tropical drink you'll love... especially on a warm summer day!
NOTE: The Grenadine was only included in about half of the recipes I found
4 oz. Rum
4 oz Coconut Rum
2 oz Cream of Coconut (some called for coconut milk instead here)
2 oz Orange Juice
2 oz Pineapple Juice
2 oz Papaya Juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
Blend all ingredients in blender with 2 cups crushed until it has the consistency of a thick slush drink.
Serve in a tall or hurricane glasses, garnished with appropriate ciitrus fruit or fresh pineapple wedges.
10 - Do Something New - Swim with Stingrays
They're always adding something new on this little piece of the Berry Islands.
One thing they've added since I was there last is a little boat ride over to Stingray City Bahamas, where you can see and feed southern stingrays, and do a little snorkeling.
Now, I've seen a handful of them while snorkeling on my own there, as well as that one gorgeous Eagle Ray. But this organized activitiy is something they didn't offer last time I was there.
So, I've signed up to do this excursion next time we are there. Happily, that's not long from now!
While a stingray swim isn't something new for me, this particular one (at this location) is. I'm anxious to see how this one stacks up against the others, and will surely report back after we return from our next visit to CocoCay.
In the meantime, if you'd like to read about some of the other places where you can do this, and how I rate each of the experiences, see my article called Swimming with Stingrays. In it, you'll find reviews of five different excursions in the Caribbean and The Bahamas that feature this activity, and how I personally rate each one. You'll also find tips, and some things to think about with regard to children and stingray encounters.
An Unexpected Encounter on the Way to CocoCay
As you can see, I really do love CocoCay... but I'm not sure I can say exactly what I love best... maybe the water. It's so beautiful there. We've been a bunch of times.
You might think I'd be bored with the place, but that hasn't happened yet.
You never know what will happen on CocoCay. Once, it was something totally unexpected, even for frequent visitors to this little island like us.
Read about how we met Santa on the way to CocoCay in I Cruised with Santa Claus!