The Volkswagen Golf is a compact car produced by the German automotive manufacturer Volkswagen since 1974, marketed worldwide across seven generations, in various body configurations and under various nameplates – such as the Volkswagen Rabbit in the United States and Canada (Mk1 and Mk5), and as the Volkswagen Caribe in Mexico (Mk1).
The original Golf Mk1 was a front-wheel drive, front-engined replacement for the air-cooled, rear-engined, rear-wheel drive Volkswagen Beetle. Historically, the Golf is Volkswagen’s best-selling model and is among the world’s top three best-selling models, with more than 30 million built by June 2013.
Initially, most Golf production was in the 3-door hatchback style. Other variants include a 5-door hatchback, station wagon (Variant, from 1993), convertible (Cabriolet and Cabrio, 1979–2002, Cabriolet, 2011–present), and a Golf-derived notchback sedan, variously called Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Vento (from 1992) or Volkswagen Bora (from 1999). The cars have filled many market segments, from being a basic, everyday car, to high-performance hot hatches.
The Volkswagen Golf has won many awards throughout its history. The Golf won the World Car of the Year in 2009, with the Volkswagen Golf Mk6 and in 2013 with the Volkswagen Golf Mk7. The VW Golf is one of only three cars, the others being the Renault Clio and Opel/Vauxhall Astra, to have been voted European Car of the Year twice, in 1992 and 2013. The Volkswagen Golf has made the annual Car and Driver 10Best list multiple times. The Golf Mk7 won the Motor Trend Car of the Year award in 2015, and the Mk1 GTI also won the award in 1985.
Volkswagen Golf Generations
In May 1974, Volkswagen presented the first-generation Golf as a modern front-wheel-drive, long-range replacement for the Volkswagen Beetle. Later Golf variations included the Golf GTI (introduced in June 1976 with a fuel-injected 1.6-litre engine capable of 180 km/h (110 mph)), a diesel-powered version (from September 1976), the Jetta notchback saloon version (from October 1979), the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet (from January 1980) and a Golf-based pickup, the Volkswagen Caddy.
The Golf Mk1 was sold as the Volkswagen Rabbit in the United States and Canada and as the Volkswagen Caribe in Mexico.
A facelifted version of the Golf Mk1 was produced in South Africa as the Citi Golf from 1984 to 2009.
Second generation (MK2/A2, Typ 19E/1G; 1983–1992)
September 1983 saw the introduction of the second-generation Golf (Mk2) that grew slightly in terms of wheelbase, exterior and interior dimensions, while retaining, in a more rounded form, the Mk1’s overall look. Although it was available on the home market and indeed most other left-hand drive markets by the end of 1983, it was not launched in the UK until March 1984.
The Mk2 GTI featured a 1.8-litre 8-valve fuel-injected engine from its launch, with a 16-valve version capable of more than 220 km/h (137 mph) being introduced in 1985.
In 1985, the first Golfs with four-wheel-drive (Golf Syncro) went on sale with the same Syncro four-wheel-drive system being employed on the supercharged G60 models, exclusively released in continental Europe in 1989 with 120 kW (161 hp; 163 PS) and anti-lock brakes (ABS).
A Mk2-based second generation Jetta was unveiled in January 1984. There was no Mk2-based cabriolet model; instead, the Mk1 Cabriolet was continued over the Mk2’s entire production run.
Third generation (MK3/A3, Typ 1H/1E/1V; 1991–1999)
The third-generation Golf (Mk3) made its home-market début in August 1991 and again grew slightly in comparison with its immediate predecessor, while its wheelbase remained unchanged.
New engines included the first Turbocharged Direct Injection (TD) diesel engine in a Golf, and a narrow-angle 2.8-litre VR6 engine. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel consumption estimates are 9.0 L/100 km (city) and 7.4 L/100 km (highway), with 420 km (261 mi) per tank (city) and 584 km (363 mi) per tank (highway). For the first time ever, a Golf estate (Golf Variant) joined the line-up in September 1993 (although most markets did not receive this model until early 1994). At the same time, a completely new Mk3-derived Cabriolet was introduced, replacing the 13-year-old Mk1-based version with one based on the Mk3 Golf platform from 1995 to early 1999. The Mk3 Golf Cabrio received a Mk4-style facelift in late 1999 and was continued until 2002.
The notchback version, called VW Vento (or Jetta in North America), was presented in January 1992.
It was European Car of the Year for 1992, ahead of the new Citroën ZX and General Motors’ new Opel Astra model.
The Mk3 continued to be sold until 1999 in the United States, Canada and parts of South America, also in Mexico as a special edition called “Mi” (basically a Golf CL 4-door with added air conditioning, special interior, original equipment (OEM) black-tinted rear brake lights, and anti-lock brakes (ABS), but without a factory-fitted radio). The “i” in “Mi” is coloured red, which designates that multi-point fuel injection was equipped and the 1.8-litre engine was upgraded to 2.0-litres.
Fourth generation (MK4/A4, Typ 1J; 1997–2003)
The Golf Mk4 was first introduced in August 1997, followed by a notchback version (VW Bora or, in North America, again VW Jetta) in August 1998 and a new Golf Variant (estate) in March 1999. There was no Mk4-derived Cabriolet, although the Mk3 Cabriolet received a facelift in late 1999 that consisted of bumpers, grill and headlights similar to those of the Mark IV models.
As with the earlier three versions of the Golf, the UK market received each version several months later than the rest of Europe. The hatchback version was launched there in the spring of 1998 and the estate some 12 months later (around the same time as the Bora).
New high-performance models included the 3.2-litre VR6-engined four-wheel-drive Golf “R32” introduced in 2002, its predecessor, the 2.8-litre VR6-engined “Golf V6 4Motion” (succeeding the 2.9-litre Mk3 “Golf VR6 Syncro”), as well as the famous 1.8T (turbo) 4-cylinder used in various Volkswagen Group models.
As of 2008, certain variants of the Golf/Bora Mk4 were still in production in Brazil, China, and Mexico. Revised versions of the Mk4 were sold in Canada marketed as the Golf City and Jetta City from 2007 to 2010. The two models were VW Canada’s entry-level offerings. They received a significant refresh for the 2008 model year, including revised headlamps, taillamps, front and rear fascias, sound systems, and wheels. Both models were offered only with the 2.0-litre, 8-valve single over-head cam (SOHC) four-cylinder gasoline engine, rated at 86 kW (115 hp; 117 PS). They were the only entry-level offerings with an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Production of the European variant of the Golf Mk4 ceased at the end of the 2003 model year. Production of the U.S. version ended in 2006.
When the Chinese market Bora received a July 2006 facelift, the Golf did too, becoming the “Bora HS” in the process.
The Mk4’s popularity and low cost has allowed it to remain in production in several countries, including Brazil and Argentina, with minor cosmetic changes.
Fifth generation (MK5/A5, Typ 1K; (2003–2008)
The Golf Mk5 was introduced in Europe in the autumn of 2003, reaching the UK market in early 2004. In North America, Volkswagen brought back the Rabbit nameplate when it introduced the vehicle in 2006. In Canada, the Golf is still the prevalent nameplate of the fifth generation (though both Rabbit and Golf have both been used historically). The North American base model is powered by a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, which produced 112 kW (150 hp; 152 PS) in 2006 and 2007, but was upped to 127 kW (170 hp; 173 PS) in the later models. A GTI version is powered by a turbocharged version of the 2.0-litre FSI engine, producing 147 kW (197 hp; 200 PS).
Volkswagen also introduced the “Fast” marketing idea for the US market, “dedicated to the ‘fast’ that lives inside every driver”. Drivers who purchased new GTI Mk5s from a dealership were shipped a model of said Fast (a plastic figurine), which employs GTI-like features. The GTI version is the only version on sale in Mexico.
The saloon/sedan version, again called Volkswagen Jetta in most markets, is assembled in Germany, South Africa, as well as Mexico. (In Mexico this car is known as Bora.) It was followed in 2004 by a new Golf Variant. The front ends of the car are the same, with the only difference being that the GLI is a sedan, while the GTI is a hatchback.
Later models of the Mk5 introduced the 1.4-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine with front-wheel drive.
In a comparison test conducted by Car and Driver Magazine, the Volkswagen Rabbit S was named the winner among eight small cars. While it was praised for its excellent driving position, fine instruments, and strong engine, it was criticized for having high levels of road noise, uncomfortable seats, and poor fuel economy. Though, the final verdict stated, “This one is all about driving pleasure, so it wins.” The Rabbit also placed first in their final comparison in December 2006.
Sixth generation (MK6/A6, Typ 5K; 2008–2012)
Volkswagen based the Golf Mk6 on the existing PQ35 platform from the Golf Mk5. This vehicle was debuted at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.
The Mk6 Golf was designed by Volkswagen’s chief designer Walter de’Silva. The design is said to be more aerodynamic, helping fuel efficiency, and is quieter than its predecessor. Following criticism of the downgraded interior trim quality of the Mk5 Golf in comparison to the Mk4, Volkswagen opted to overhaul the interior to match the quality with the Mk4 Golf, while maintaining the same user friendliness from the Mk5. The car is also cheaper to build than its predecessor; Volkswagen claims it consequently will be able to pass these savings on to the customer.
The Mk6 Jetta was released in Mexico in mid-2010, and by late 2011 it was available in all markets. Turbocharged Direct Injection diesel engines which uses common rail injection technology replaced the longstanding Pumpe Düse (PD) Unit Injector system. New on the Golf is the optional Volkswagen Adaptive Chassis Control (not available in the North American market), which allows the driver to select between ‘normal’, ‘comfort’ and ‘sports’ modes, which will vary the suspension, steering and accelerator behavior accordingly.
The Mk6 Golf is available with both 5- and 6-speed manual transmission, and 6- or 7-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG)(with Dual Clutch) transmission options. In North America, the Mk5 version was originally sold as the Rabbit from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, Volkswagen brought back the Golf nameplate with the mid-cycle refresh. With it came a 130 kW (174 hp; 177 PS), 2.5-litre inline 5-cylinder with 240 N·m (177 lb·ft) of torque and a 2.0-litre, 100 kW (134 hp; 136 PS) turbocharged inline 4-cylinder clean diesel engine that generates 320 N·m (236 lb·ft) of torque. The GTI version is equipped with a 157 kW (211 hp; 213 PS) turbocharged inline 4-cylinder TSI gasoline engine while the Golf R has a 191 kW (256 hp; 260 PS) turbocharged TFSI inline 4 engine. All three engines can be paired with a DSG dual-clutch 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmission in either a 3- or 5-door configuration.
The car was introduced for sale in the UK in January 2009, and in North America in October 2009 as the 2010 Golf, rather than Rabbit. The Mk6 also reintroduced a diesel engine option to the North American market.
The Volkswagen Golf Mk6 was a 2012 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick.
Seventh generation (MK7/MQB, Typ 5G; 2012–present)
The seventh-generation Golf had its début in September 2012 at the Paris Motor Show.
The Golf VII, Typ 5G uses the new MQB platform, shared with the third-generation Audi A3, SEAT León and Škoda Octavia. It is slightly larger than the Mk6 while managing to be approximately 100 kg lighter, depending on engine choice. The GTI will offer a 154 kW (207 hp; 209 PS) turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder with an available performance pack to raise the output to 162 kW (217 hp; 220 PS). The Golf R now has a 218 kW (292 hp; 296 PS) turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder with Haldex Traction all-wheel-drive
A version of the GTI dubbed the GTI Clubsport making 195 kW (261 hp; 265 PS) was released in 2016. A variant of the Clubsport called the Clubsport S held the record for the fastest front-wheel-drive car around the Nürburgring, until the 2017 Honda Civic Type-R took the record once again.
The Golf line is available in all the relevant drive systems: the Golf TSI, including GTI, is petrol-powered; Golf TDI diesel (Turbo Direct Injection), including GTD, is diesel-powered; the Golf TGI is powered by compressed natural gas (CNG); the e-Golf is powered by electricity; and the Golf GTE is a plug-in hybrid. The use of a modular transverse matrix assembly kit enables the manufacturing of Golf models with gasoline, diesel, natural gas, electric and hybrid drives from bumper to bumper at Volkswagen factories.
In November 2016, Volkswagen revealed a facelifted version (Golf 7.5) to the 3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback, 5-door estate, GTI and GTE, in addition to a new “R-Line” Golf. With those models, comes a new economical engine: 1.5-litre TSI EVO which produces 97 kW (130 hp; 132 PS) or 110 kW (148 hp; 150 PS) and replaces the 1.4-litre TSI. The updated GTI version now features a 230 hp as standard (220 hp previously) or 247 hp in the optional performance pack (230 hp previously). In terms of interior technology, the Golf now features a 12.3″ TFT display as an option that is similar to Audi models and known as “Virtual Cockpit”, full LED lights, animated tail indicators as an option (also used in Audi models), etc.
The most powerful Golf in the range is the Golf R. Built as a 3 or 5 door hatchback, it is powered by a newly developed version of the 1,984 cc (2.0 L; 121.1 cu in) turbocharged EA888 petrol FSI Inline-four engine used in the latest Golf GTI (and Audi S3), but in this application producing 300 PS (296 bhp; 221 kW) (206 kW (280 PS; 276 bhp) for “hot climate” markets such as Australia, South Africa, Japan, USA) from 5,500 to 6,200 rpm and 380 N.m (280 lb.ft) from 1,800 to 5,500 rpm of torque. 0-62 mph (100 km/h) takes 5.1 seconds (versus 5.7 seconds for previous Golf R), or 4.9 seconds with optional DSG gearbox. In 3rd-party testing, it has been recorded at 4.5 seconds using Launch Control. The top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph (249 km/h).
The VW Golf has had several generations made into electric CityStromer models. The first of these was in the 1970s, when VW took a standard Golf Mk1 and converted it to electric power. By the time the Golf Mk2 came into production a limited number of electric Golfs were made, using lead–acid battery packs and a custom-made motor and controller. VW continued with the production of limited numbers of CityStromer electric cars with the introduction of the Golf Mk3. The electric CityStromer Mk3 included a Siemens-based AC drive system, and lead–acid battery packs. They had a maximum speed of 97 km/h (60 mph) and a range of approximately 80 km (50 mi).
With a few exceptions, only left-hand drive Golfs were converted by VW into Citystromer models. These vehicles are still used today and have popularity in mainland Europe with only a few present in Great Britain. Only two right-hand drive Mk2 CityStromers were built for the UK market and it is believed only one remains today. It is owned by EV advocate and broadcaster Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield, host of Transport Evolved.
Golf Variant Twin Drive
As part of the “Fleet study in electric mobility” project that began in 2008, VW developed 20 Golf Variant twinDRIVE plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. These research vehicles have an all-electric range of 57 km (35 mi) and the internal combustion engine provides for a total range of 900 km (559 mi). The plug-in hybrid drive of the Golf Variant twinDRIVE is equipped with either an 11.2 kWh or a 13.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, as Volkswagen is testing packs from two vendors. Ten vehicles are equipped with batteries from the American-German manufacturer GAIA with cathode type nickel cobalt aluminium dioxide (NCA). The other ten are powered by lithium-ion batteries with nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) cathodes from the Korean-German joint venture SB LiMotive (Samsung and Bosch). These 10 vehicles have been in use since early 2011. Both battery systems offer high power and energy density. They each weigh about 150 kg. The gasoline engine is used to support the electric heating system when outdoor temperatures are low.
Using guidelines for determining the fuel consumption of plug-in hybrids, VW estimates a fuel consumption of 2.1 L/100 km (112 mpg US), which is equivalent to 49 g/km CO2. When the battery is fully charged, the Golf Variant twinDRIVE is designed to maximize the share of pure electrical energy used for driving, and only when longer distances are driven does the share of supplemental gasoline fuel increase. Top speed of the car is 170 km/h (106 mph) and it accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 12 seconds. When operated in pure electric mode, the Golf Variant twinDRIVE can reach a top speed of 120 km/h (75 mph).
The production version was expected to be based on Mk6 Golf featuring a 1.5 L turbodiesel engine and electric motor, with estimated arrival date of 2015. A SEAT León prototype with the Twin Drive system was also under development.
Golf blue-e-motion concept electric motor.
The Golf blue-e-motion concept has a range of 150 km (93 mi). Volkswagen scheduled a field testing program with 500 units to begin in 2011. The first 10 units began field testing in Wolfsburg in May 2011. A second batch of 80 test cars began testing in June 2011 in Berlin, Hannover and Wolfsburg. In February 2012, the first e-Golf, as the production version was renamed, was delivered in Belmont, California. A total of 20 e-Golfs will be allocated to the U.S. field testing program.
The Golf blue-emotion concept has a 26.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and is powered by an 85 kW electric motor which drives the front wheels through a single speed transmission. It will accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 11.8 seconds and has a top speed of 138 km/h (86 mph). Paddle shifters are used to adjust the amount of regenerative braking. The vehicle’s PRNDL stick has an additional ‘B’ mode as found on some other electric vehicles to set the regenerative braking effort to the maximum for sustained downhill travelling.
The production version of the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf was unveiled at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. According to VW the e-Golf has a practical all-electric range of 130 to 190 km (81 to 118 mi), with an official NEDC cycle of 190 km (120 mi), and the winter range is expected to be 80 to 120 km (50 to 75 mi). The 2015 e-Golf has an official EPA rated all-electric range of 134 km (83 mi), and a combined fuel economy of 116 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) for an energy consumption of 29 kW-hrs/100 mi. The EPA rating for city driving is 126 MPGe and 105 MPGe in highway. Production of vehicles destined for retail customers began in March 2014.
In February 2017, Volkswagen announced an updated version of the 2017 model year e-Golf which includes improved range, better fuel economy, and more power than the outgoing model. With a new 35.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, the upgraded car is said to achieve an EPA-estimated range of 144 to 201 km (89 to 125 mi), and have a combined 119 MPGe. The 2017 e-Golf also provides a faster charging time; SE and SEL Premium trim levels have a 7.2 kW unit that allows the battery to be fully charged in under six hours at a 240 V charging station. There is an optional (standard on SEL Premium) DC Fast Charging feature that allows the car to be charged to 80% in only an hour at a DC fast charging station. The DC fast charging function is notably limited to 2 consecutive uses, since the battery can otherwise overheat (the vehicle is designed with passive battery cooling only). This makes the vehicle unsuitable for convenient long distance highway journeys over 220 miles or so at normal highway speeds.
Markets and sales
On 14 February 2014, Volkswagen launched sales of the e-Golf in Germany, with pricing starting at €34,900 (~US$47,800). On 11 March 2014, Volkswagen opened ordering for the e-Golf in the UK, and announced pricing of GB£30,845. UK deliveries began at the end of June.
In Norway, the e-Golf became available for pre-order on 25 February 2014 for delivery in June 2014. Over 1,300 cars were ordered that same day. By 3 March 2014, nearly 2,000 cars had been pre-ordered. Prices range from 251,800 kr (~US$42,000) for the basic model to 302,000 kr (~US$50,000) with all available options, comparable to the cheapest petrol and diesel models. The basic package includes equipment which is optional in other countries, such as a DAB+ radio receiver, heated front seats and a heated windshield. The VW e-Golf was the top selling plug-in electric car in July 2014 with 391 units sold and representing 34.4% of the Golf nameplate sales (1,136), which was Norway’s top selling new car that month. The e-Golf was again the top selling electric car in August 2014 with 467 units sold, representing 43.4% of the Golf nameplate sales that month (1,075). In two months and a half a total of 925 Volkswagen e-Golf cars have been sold in Norway, surpassing initial Tesla Model S sales which delivered 805 units during its first two months in the Norwegian market. European sales totaled 3,328 units in 2014.
In April 2014, Volkswagen announced that the U.S. version of the 2015 e-Golf would not have a liquid-cooled battery pack because strict testing showed high ambient temperatures did not affect battery performance. U.S. sales were slated to start on selected markets in November 2014 at a price for the SEL Premium model starting at US$35,445 before any applicable government incentives, plus US$820 destination and delivery. However, the first delivery of an e-Golf actually happened on 31 October in California. During the month of November 2014, the first full month of sales of the vehicle, Volkswagen of America sold 119 units, and a total of 357 units were sold through December 2014. In January 2015, the e-Golf started to show up at dealerships throughout the Northeast.
Sales in Europe totaled 11,214 units in 2015. The e-Golf, with 8,943 units sold, was the best-selling plug-in electric car in Norway in 2015, representing 34.7% of the plug-in segment sales, ahead of the Tesla Model S (4,039) and the Nissan Leaf (3,189). The e-Golf variant represented 54.6% of total new VW Golf sales in Norway in 2015. As of December 2015, a total of 19,131 units have been sold worldwide, with 14,542 in Europe and 4,589 units in the U.S.
Volkswagen Golf GTE
The Golf GTE is a plug-in hybrid version of the Golf hatchback unveiled at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. The Golf GTE shares the basic powertrain hardware with the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron but the software controls are different. The Golf GTE also shares the same plug-in hybrid powertrain with the Volkswagen Passat GTE, but the Passat has a larger 9.9 kWh Li-ion battery pack.
The GTE is powered by a 1.4-litre (148 hp, 110 kW) TSI direct-injection gasoline engine combined with a 75 kW electric motor powered by a 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, enabling the plug-in hybrid to deliver an all-electric range of 50 km (31 mi) and a total range of 933 km (580 mi). The all-electric mode can be activated at the push of a button. Under the New European Driving Cycle, combined fuel economy is 1.50 L/100 km equivalent. The Golf GTE has a top speed of 217 km/h (135 mph) and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 7.6 seconds.
The GTE release to retail customers was scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2014. The first units were registered in Germany in August 2014. The Golf GTE, with 1,695 units sold, was the best-selling plug-in hybrid in France in 2015, representing 30.3% of the segment sales. With 17,300 units sold in Europe in 2015, the Golf GTE ranked as the second top selling plug-in hybrid after the Mitsubishi Outlander P-HEV (31,214). According to JATO Dynamics, a total of 18,397 units have been registered in Europe through December 2015.
In auto racing, APR Motorsport has led two MKV VW GTI’s to victory in the Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner (ST) class.
Golf TCR and Golf GTi TCR
Volkswagen Motorsport, the motorsport division of the brand, built the Golf TCR touring car in 2015 for use in various international and national competitions which use TCR regulations. In 2016 the car was updated and renamed Golf GTi TCR.
Volkswagen emissions scandal
Volkswagen Golfs are among the models included in the September 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal in which Volkswagen manufactured and installed in their diesel vehicles a software program that manipulated the cars’ vehicle emissions control during testing, thereby violating numerous countries’ regulations. The program caused the vehicles’ nitrogen oxide (NOx) output to meet US standards during regulatory testing but emit up to 40 times more NOx in real-world driving.
Admit it. There are times when you wish you could get away from it all by moving to your own private island. Well, some cruise passengers actually can at least for a day. Each of the following cruise lines below offer passengers a day of fun in the sun on their very own private island. For many cruisers, this stop is the highlight of the trip. After all, what could be better than sitting on a white-sand beach, drinking a pia colada and soaking in the rays without crowds?
“It’s a wonderful destination, we will come back next year for sure!”
All of these islands have pristine shores, swaying palm trees, aquamarine waters and lots of ocean-side adventure. There usually are fees for shore excursions and equipment rental. Every destination offers something a little different for cruise passengers.
Even at first glance, CocoCay looks like the quintessential Caribbean hideaway. There are wide stretches of beach in quiet coves, island huts in bright Caribbean pinks and blues, and a colorful straw market offering Bahamian crafts and goods.
Many of the island buildings look brand new and they are. In 2002, the company invested more than US$ 21 million to turn this 140-acre (0.5 km) slip of land into a destination their passengers would never forget. Nature trails wind through the isle, which is home to wild chickens, peacocks and occasional iguanas. Those seeking solitude will enjoy the hammocks that are hung under coconut trees in quiet locations.
Sea lovers have plenty of activities to choose from. Hop on a jet ski (US $ 95 for 50 minutes) and speed across waters so clear that you can see orange starfish 20 feet below, or don a snorkel mask and explore life under the sea up close.
For a great view of the island, try your hand at parasailing (US $ 79 per hour). You’ll soar 200-400 feet in the air and maybe even take a cooling dip in the water before returning to the boat. Children will enjoy Caylana’s Castle Cove and SeaTrek Aqua Park (US$ 15 adults, $10 children). Its floating sand castle and aquatic trampolines are just the things for those who are young at heart.
A staff of 45 people lives on CocoCay, and it’s obvious they take pride in keeping the island’s natural beauty in top condition. Their pampering service makes the island experience so pleasurable that you won’t want to leave when dusk falls all too soon.
“Disney knows children, so it’s no wonder that they feel at home on Castaway Cay”
The cruise ship docks right at the island (other cruise ships use tender boats to ferry passengers back and forth), so youngsters can head right down the ship’s ramp and out to explore Castaway Cay. There is a beach just for families, and Scuttle’s Cove is a safe and fun club for children. Parents need some time on their own, so there is Serenity Bay, a secluded beach for adults. For a little pampering, have a relaxing massage in the open-air cabanas at the seaside spa.
Game for a little exploration? Then grab a bike (child seats are available for little ones) and hit the trails (US$ 6 per hour). This is, after all, a secluded island getaway, and there are miles of empty shoreline and tropical forest to explore.
If you prefer the water, check out the Walking and Kayak Nature Adventure ($60). Participants walk with a guide through the island’s lush fauna and kayak through an ecologically sensitive mangrove environment. If paddling wears you out, just jump in for a refreshing swim in the crystal clear island waters.
Teens can get into their own adventure on The Wild Side (US$ 35), an excursion that includes snorkeling, biking and kayaking. Families who want to adventure together can try the Seahorse Catamaran Snorkel Adventure (US$ 49 adults, US$ 29 children). This easy 45-minute sail takes you out to calm waters and unspoiled coral reefs. Even younger children will enjoy floating in the turquoise Caribbean Sea with schools of colored fish.
Visitors to the tiny islet of Motu Mahana (Polynesian for sunlit island) are greeted with the sounds of Polynesia. Les Gauguines, an eight-woman song and dance troupe, perform beguiling love songs in their Polynesian tongue while guests enjoy a scrumptious feast under the shade of thatched huts. After lunch, guests can relax in the sea or wade for yards in the shallow waters while waiters wearing bathing suits offer tropical drinks to those in need of refreshment. Try out the complimentary water sports like kayaking or snorkeling. For a different experience, board a motorized outrigger canoe and head to the beautiful island lagoon of Tahaa. Tahaa is known for two things: producing vanilla and black pearls.
Guests can take a four-wheel drive tour into the hills to tour the vanilla plantations (US$ 65) or view French Polynesia’s rare jewel, the black pearl, at the Motu Pearl Farm (US$ 64). From there, head to the lagoon for some quality time with the region’s underwater fauna. There is even a small lagoonarium where rays, turtles, sharks and fish are enclosed in four different pools.