11 Things You Didn’t Know About Disney’s Very Own Private Island

Among the many, many reasons to take a Disney cruise, a visit to Disney's island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay, is at the top of the list

Castaway cayCourtesy Matt Stroshane/Disney

There’s Disney World and Disneyland, and there are even four international Disney resorts around the world. But did you know that Disney also has a private island in the Bahamas—and the only way to get there is to embark on a Disney cruise?

Read on to discover all about Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Even if you already know the three words Disney employees can’t say, the story behind the Disney blue nametag and why the Disney cast member plaid vest uniform is a thing, there’s still plenty to discover about this exclusive tropical escape. We have all the Disney cruise tips you need too.

Does Disney have its own island?

First things first. Disney indeed has its own island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. Disney’s island is a serene tropical destination, and a port call here is considered one of the highlights of a Disney cruise. Guests embark for a day of beachy fun and can choose from lounging by the clear, blue Caribbean water, hitting the water slides, playing water sports, bike riding and more.

A second Disney Caribbean island outpost, Lighthouse Point, is in the works, also in the Bahamas (more details on it below).

Can you stay on Disney’s island?

There aren’t any hotels on the island, and guests are not allowed to stay overnight. Disney employees are another story—a reported 60 cast members (what Disney calls its employees) live on the island. Their homes are in the backstage areas that guests can’t see, much less access.

Can you fly to Disney’s island?

Even though the island is home to an airstrip dating back to the 1960s, there are no commercial flights into or out of Disney’s island. The only way to access the island is on a Disney cruise ship.

castaway adventureCourtesy Disney

11 fun facts about Disney Castaway Cay

The island is smaller than it seems

There’s so much to do on the island that many guests are surprised to learn that it is only 3.1 miles long and 2.2 miles wide, spanning 1,000 acres. Even more surprising? Only about 5% of the island is developed. Still, it can be a lot to navigate when you have kids and beach gear in tow, which is why there’s free open-air shuttle service around the island.

Castaway Cay has its own post office

Mail sent from the small turquoise-colored building is marked with a special postmark and Bahamian stamps that are unique to Castaway Cay. Just keep in mind that it’s cash only. If the post office isn’t open while you are there, you can buy Bahamian postage on the ship at guest services, and they will mail your postcard for you.

Snorkeling is free

Beginners and kids should head to Discover Trail, the beginners snorkeling area, to spy sunken ships and underwater statues of Mickey and other beloved Disney characters. More experienced swimmers can snorkel the Explorer Trail, where they can spot a wide variety of fish and sea creatures who make their home in the waters around the island.

disney magic shipCourtesy Matt Stroshane/Disney

Serenity Bay is heaven for adults

Just like on the Disney ships, there is an adults-only area on Disney island, Serenity Bay, for those seeking a little peace and quiet. Located about a mile from the main beach, this is the place to go for grown-up time, as well as beachside lounge chairs, two-person hammocks and possibly even a massage in one of the cabanas. Be sure to order a Castaway Cay Konk Kooler, a blend of rum and tropical fruit juices, at Air Bar.

There’s a kids club on the island

Wondering how you can enjoy an adults-only beach on a family vacation? Drop the kids off at Scuttle Cove, the island’s supervised kids club. Scuttle Cove offers splash pads, games and activities, but no pool or beach access.

Teens get their own space too

In addition to the adults-only areas and the kids club, you’ll find the Hideout for 14- to 17-year-olds. Here, teens can choose to simply relax and soak up the sun away from adults or younger kids, or join in organized sports and games.

ship at castaway cayCourtesy David Roark/Disney

Lunch is buffet-style

At Cookie’s BBQ and Cookie’s Too BBQ, the island’s two buffet-style restaurants, guests can indulge in classic barbecue with all the sides, along with kid-friendly options such as hot dogs and French fries. In the adults-only section, the same foods are offered at Serenity Bay BBQ. If you are vegan or have any special dietary needs, just ask the staff; they’re more than happy to oblige. Just like on the ships, food is included in your cruise fare, but you will need to pay for any alcoholic beverages.

Pelican Plunge is not for the faint of heart

Off the main family beach, you’ll spy a floating platform with two water slides that empty you into the sea. That’s Pelican Plunge. Line up single file, then once you get to the top, you can pick between the 140-foot-long slide or the enclosed corkscrew-style slide. Life jackets are readily available and required for children; the water surrounding Pelican Plunge is deep so you’ll want to supervise younger kids or anyone who isn’t a strong swimmer.

Some cruise itineraries dock at Castaway Cay twice

Can’t get enough of the fun and natural beauty of Castaway Cay? Sign up for a “double-dip cruise,” which is fan talk for the five- or seven-day cruises that visit the Disney island twice.

The Castaway Cay 5K is now on the honor system

While this is no longer a group race, thanks to the pandemic, you can still run the Castaway Cay 5K—and you’ll still receive a coveted finisher’s medal. You run the race on your own time while on the island, then log into your Disney Cruise Line Navigator app to record your time. Repeat runners will be delighted to know that the medal changes each year. And, yes, it’s still free.

Castaway Cay is eco-friendly

Disney takes the preservation of its beautiful island very seriously, and guests will notice that the island is pristine. Not only is it clear of litter, Disney Cruise Line cast members monitor and protect the endangered loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the island, and researchers are working to restore the health of the area’s coral reefs. The island runs primarily on solar power, but since the solar panels are behind-the-scenes in backstage areas, most guests won’t ever see them.

Another Disney island destination is in the works

Disney Cruise Line Lighthouse PointCourtesy Disney

Disney is developing Lighthouse Point on the southern tip of Eleuthera, a Bahamian island, as a second exclusive port of call. The island is known for its stunning pink sand beaches, and Disney is working closely with Bahamian artists and advisors to best honor the natural beauty and culture of the Bahamas.

In addition to the natural beaches, visitors to Lighthouse Point will be able to visit a water playground, recreation center and cultural pavilion, and naturally, there will be stores and restaurants as well. Disney committed to developing less than 16% of the property and is donating more than 190 acres to the Bahamian government and people. They will also be supplying 90% of Lighthouse Point’s power with solar energy and are aiming to have zero waste. Not much else is known about it, including when it will be open to visitors, because Disney employee secrets don’t leak easily!

—Additional research by Robin Raven

Anne Fritz
Anne Fritz is Deputy Editor of Reader's Digest online and a seasoned lifestyle journalist with more than 20 years of experience in content creation and planning. A former Fashion & Beauty Director at Life & Style, she has written and edited for top publications including Everyday Health, The Spruce, What to Expect, Seventeen, Woman’s Day and more. She’s the mom of two elementary-school-age kids and the owner of a pandemic pup—all three keep her on her toes. Follow her on Instagram @annelfritz.