Stretching down a wide coastline of warm, sandy beaches lies the city of Cocoa Beach. “Space Coast” is what it's often referred to given it's proximity to the Kennedy Space Center, but Cocoa Beach is well known for its great surfing and laid back bars and restaurants. I think Cocoa Beach is the perfect weekend escape.
Cocoa Beach is the perfect weekend escape from Orlando, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my time. You can relax on the beach, eat on a unique pier with a unique take on food, and learn about the history of space exploration at the NASA space center.
So often, people come to Orlando for a conference or to head to the theme parks, but I think part of your trip should be coming to Cocoa Beach for some rest and relaxation.
Where to stay in Cocoa Beach
I first came across Westgate while researching the best Instagram spots in NYC when we were there a few months ago. I knew this would be a great spot for our beach vacation! Located right on the beach is the Westgate Resort. Almost entirely redone, the resort provides a great place for families and couples who want beach access, full kitchens, and big rooms.
Once you check in to the resort, Westgate will actually text you to ensure your room is okay and see if there's anything you need.
Our room had a kitchen (with a full-size refrigerator), a living room, a master bedroom with a bathroom, a guest bedroom containing two beds, and an additional bathroom. So there was plenty of room! All of the rooms are two bedroom on the property.
The rooms had USB ports in the lamp to make it easy to charge your phone along with thick shades kept the room dark and cool.
There is also a lazy river, splash park, and hot tubs on the property. Our room faced the lazy river. It's a small lazy river but really enjoyable after a day in the sun. Here there are complimentary towels so you don't have to worry about bringing anything except your room key.
The resort is divided within six different buildings with parking nearby each. It's also located within walking distance of nearby restaurants and the famed Ron Jon surf shop (open 24 hours a day!).
Check the Hotel Website for rates and specials. They also offer Cocoa beach weddings!
Things to Do in Cocoa Beach
Cocoa beach really feels like an old Florida beach town. It's not too crowded (especially in November, which is a lovely time to go to the beach), but lively enough to enjoy the local nightlife. Here's what to do in the area:
I've been to a lot of beaches, and Florida's beaches still remain some of my favorites. The wide beaches make it the perfect place to stroll up and down, looking for shells and enjoying the sunset or sunrise.
One of the coolest parts about the Westgate resort is that they offer complimentary surf lessons! You can simply sign up and get an hour free with a skilled surfer. Even if you've never done it before (like us) you'll get to learn quite a lot. I know Michael really enjoyed it and even mastered getting up and riding a wave.
Cocoa beach is known as one of the best places to surf in Florida since there are often quite large waves. So this is the perfect place to give it a go.
Enjoy Westgate Resorts Amenities
In addition to surf lessons, the resort sets up your chairs, gives you complimentary beach towels, a cooler, speakers, and they even walk around periodically to provide you with sunscreen and offer to clean your glasses- brilliant.
If you want to head to the Pier, there's a complimentary trolley service that takes you to and from the resort to the pier every hour. The little touches like this really make Westgate stand out.
Hang at the Pier
Built in 1962 the large pier, 800 feet in length, is very unique for Florida's coast. Much effort was put into restoring the pier. Specifically, they wanted to improve the pier structurally, without changing it. The Riki Tiki Bar at the end to the pier was built by the Seminole Indian tribe and is a beautiful feature to the outstretched pier.
There are five restaurants on the property, offering a variety of different foods, delicious frozen cocktails and a full bar. Pelican's Bar and Grill overlooks the ocean and offers traditional beach food staples (burgers, fried fish, chicken) and some very inventive dishes that I enjoyed! The chef crafted the menu with Asian-fusion cuisine that really stands out at the beach. This is a great place to look out at the ocean or watch the sunset. Make sure to try the oysters- some of the best I've ever tasted.
Make sure to also try the popular key lime pie frozen daiquiri, made with actual key lime pie in each! I love that they use straws made out of pasta (works surprisingly well!) in all the drinks to cut down on plastic.
Cocoa Beah Pier also has shops, restaurants, and volleyball. On our last day we enjoyed getting ice cream and watching people on the beach frolic in the sand and sea. Often, the Riki Tiki Bar has live entertainment and beautiful, unique views of the cruise ships traveling to and from Port Canaveral. Don't forget to sit in the big yellow beach chair for a photo.
Kennedy Space Center
This was my favorite thing we did in Cocoa Beach! I wasn't sure what to expect, but we found it an educational and heartwarming experience. I was filled with a sense of joy learning about our country's history of space exploration and the defining moments that shaped the future of understanding the world beyond earth.
We started with a bus tour that gave us an overview of the space center and you learn about the vastness of the facility. For example, the largest doors in the world were built here, for the Apollo program.
From here, we went to different buildings to learn about the history of different missions, see space suits and learn more about exploration.
In the Apollo building you'll learn about 1960s mission of Apollo landing on the moon. You actually get to feel like you're in the room (the actual computers are set up) to get an idea of what it was like to be in the control center before the launch of Apollo 8.
It's safe to say this was an emotional experience and a good reminder of the American spirit. It’s just unfathomable unless you're there in person, I highly recommend it.
If you time your trip right, you can be there to see a space shuttle launch. We missed it by just one day!
Check Out a Local Bar
To cap off your trip, I recommend getting some local flavor by going to a nearby bar. Sandbar Sports Grill is just a half mile from Westgate Resort and offers inexpensive drinks and a lively scene. There's live music each night, drink specials, and locals on the dance floor. It's the perfect way to experience Florida.
If you have extra time….
Here are a few other things you can do at Cocoa beach if you have more time to spare.
Check out Ron Jon surf shop. Open 24 hours this shop has everything you could possibly need for a beach trip as well as great souvenirs. I was particularly impressed with the sand castle outside the shop!
Here are some additional places to eat near Cocoa Beach:
Mario and Bevy- authentic Italian, from Napoli!
A New York Pizza – highly rated, casual pizza joint.
Simply Delicious – a good spot for breakfast.
I was pleasantly surprised by my time at Cocoa Beach and definitely hope to come back for a space shuttle launch.
This post was in partnership with Westgate Resorts but all opinions are my own.