Florida has no shortage of sandy beaches to explore, but Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are arguably the most "touristy" shorelines. Both of these East Coast beaches have loads of world-class attractions, and they're a convenient drive from Orlando.
If you're planning to visit an East Coast beach during your Florida vacation, you may feel torn between Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach. If so, you should consider our research on this topic to make your decision a little easier.
In general, Cocoa Beach is better suited for people who want a laid-back & family-friendly beach experience with superior surfing and fluffy white sand. By contrast, Daytona Beach is better for adults who don't mind hard-packed sand and are interested in thrilling NASCAR sports or nightlife.
Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach each have their charms, but both may not appeal to your travel preferences. Please keep reading to learn more about choosing between Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach.
Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach — How Do Tourists Choose The "Better Beach?"
Honestly, there's no way to objectively say whether Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach is "better." Determining which beach you should visit will depend on your travel preferences.
However, most tourists argue Cocoa Beach is the "better" option if you're traveling with the kiddos. Cocoa Beach has more kid-friendly attractions, and this area tends to have a less chaotic vibe than Daytona Beach.
As you may already know, Daytona Beach has quite a reputation with rowdy spring breakers. Indeed, some people have dubbed Daytona "Party City." Plus, since Daytona Beach is home to huge NASCAR races, it generates a lot of excitement with revelers and adrenaline junkies.
Also, you should consider what beach-going experience you want before choosing between Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach. Please remember that Daytona Beach has hard-packed sand [which is why cars are allowed to park on it!]. Cocoa Beach has more powdery white sand that's great for walking but not as great for bicycling.
What's More Family-Friendly: Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach?
As mentioned above, Cocoa Beach is the clear winner in the family-friendly category. Daytona Beach isn't "Sin City," but there's a greater chance you'll run into non-PG phenomena here versus Cocoa. Also, Cocoa Beach has more family-friendly attractions.
Most notably, Cocoa Beach is near the NASA Kennedy Space Center. You could also take the kids to Cocoa Beach's Dinosaur Store & Museum or sign up for surfing lessons at Ron Jon Surf Shop.
If you'd like more specific info on Cocoa Beach's "vibe," be sure to check out our post, "9 Awesome Things to Do in Cocoa Beach."
Cocoa Beach also tends to have a more subdued nightlife scene. You'll find plenty of restaurants in Cocoa Beach, but it doesn't have the "Party City" reputation Daytona Beach has.
Plus, chances are high you'll run into a party-hardy atmosphere if you visit Daytona Beach during events like the Daytona 500, Bike Week, or Spring Break.
Having said all this, Daytona Beach has many family-friendly attractions like the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum and the Marine Science Center. However, if you're planning to visit these attractions with the kids, it's probably best to visit early and skedaddle before sundown.
Also, don't forget that Daytona Beach is a short drive from another fantastic Florida destination: Saint Augustine. Just a 40-minute drive to the north, Saint Augustine is America's oldest city and is full of historic & family-friendly attractions.
Many people who visit the Daytona Beach area spend at least one day exploring the major attractions in Saint Augustine. You could also consider staying in Saint Augustine if you want to avoid the nightlife of Daytona Beach.
By the way, you could read more about visiting Saint Augustine in our post, "13 Awesome Things To Do In St. Augustine, Florida."
What Has Better Shopping: Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach?
There are many shopping opportunities in both Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach.
Those in the Cocoa Beach area will enjoy easy access to the quaint Cocoa Village and the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. There's also a popular shopping mall near Cocoa Beach called the Merritt Island Mall.
As for Daytona Beach, visitors could find plenty of discounted shopping at the Daytona Tanger Outlets. There's also a major Daytona Flea & Farmers Market and the Volusia Mall. Lastly, shoppers can't pass on visiting the massive store inside Daytona's new Buc-ee's gas station.
Does Cocoa Beach Or Daytona Beach Have More Things To Do?
You'll find no shortage of world-class attractions in Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. Whether you'll enjoy the attractions in these destinations depends on what you want from your Florida trip.
Without a doubt, the key attractions in Cocoa Beach are the huge Ron Jon Surf Shop and the even bigger NASA Kennedy Space Center. Cocoa Beach is also a premier destination for surfing.
Daytona Beach's main claim to fame is the Daytona International Speedway, home to many heart-pumping NASCAR races like the Daytona 500. However, Daytona Beach has other non-NASCAR attractions, including the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and the Museum of Arts & Sciences.
For more detailed info, read our previous post on the "Top 11 Things To Do In Daytona Beach."
Is Cocoa Beach Safer Than Daytona Beach?
According to recent data on traffic collisions and crime, Cocoa Beach is safer than Daytona Beach. However, that doesn't mean Daytona Beach is a "dangerous" area. It just happens that more party-goers tend to congregate in Daytona Beach, which makes its safety profile weaker by comparison.
Indeed, US News & World Report recently found that Daytona Beach's crime rate is lower than the average for other American cities of comparable size. However, the average crime rate in Daytona is about 9.9 per 1,000 residents, while Cocoa Beach's is 4.2 per 1,000.
To learn more specifics on the least safe tourist destinations in Florida, we'd recommend reading the statistics in our post "Is Florida Safe To Visit?"
Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach: What's Closer To Orlando?
Although some people travel to Florida specifically to visit Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach, most tourists stay in the Orlando metro area. Also, since Orlando is relatively close to Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach, many visitors plan "beach day" getaways to break up their theme park-packed trips.
Interestingly, it takes roughly the same time to drive from Orlando to Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach. Depending on traffic, you should reach your beach destination from Orlando in about one hour.
However, remember that I-4 is the most direct route between Orlando and Daytona Beach. This major highway is notorious for congestion early in the morning and after work. So, it may take extra long if you're planning your drive to Daytona Beach at the "wrong" time.
You could learn more about traveling to Daytona and Cocoa from Orlando in our previous post, "15 Self-Drive Day Trips From Orlando, Florida."
Does Daytona Beach Have Better Nightlife Than Cocoa Beach?
If you're most interested in electrifying nightlife, you'll probably find more opportunities to have fun in Daytona Beach. While Cocoa Beach has plenty of restaurants and bars, it doesn't attract Daytona's young party crowd. Plus, whenever there's a NASCAR race, you can expect extra excitement in Daytona Beach.
How Far Is Cocoa Beach From Daytona Beach?
If you can't choose between visiting Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach, here's good news: You can see them both on your Florida getaway! If you have the time to spare while in the Sunshine State, it's easy to travel between these beaches during your stay.
Depending on traffic, it should take about one hour to drive between Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach. Also, as we mentioned above, Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach are both about a one-hour drive from Orlando.
So, if your home base is in the Orlando Metro Area, you could easily plan two day trips: One to Cocoa and the other to Daytona. Whether you're driving a rental car or hitching a ride on an Uber, it's possible to visit both of these East Coast beaches during your stay.
Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach: Which Sandy Shore Will Make You Smile?
Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are prime Florida destinations, but they have unique attractions and features to consider. Most tourists agree Cocoa Beach is more "chill" and family-friendly, while Daytona Beach can get a bit rowdier with partiers and NASCAR fans.
When choosing where to visit, please take some time to consider the attractions and overall "vibe" of Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona Beach. The more time you spend researching Cocoa Beach vs. Daytona, the better odds you'll choose the best destination for your vacation.