Located on Florida’s eastern coast, Cocoa Beach is known internationally for its high waves and even higher NASA rockets. Fans of classic TV might also recognize this beautiful beach as the setting for “I Dream of Jeannie.” Although Cocoa Beach still attracts plenty of surfers and space enthusiasts, it’s mostly popular nowadays with families. Thanks to its proximity to Orlando, Cocoa Beach has become the day-tripping destination for people who want a break from all those crowded theme parks.
When you get to Cocoa Beach, you’ll find plenty of pristine parks where you could park yourself under the Florida sun. If lying on the beach isn’t your thing, don’t worry; there are also many fantastic family-friendly attractions, shops, and restaurants to check out here.
In this post, we’ll give you the lowdown on the following fantastic Cocoa Beach destinations:
- Historic Cocoa Village
- Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
- Exploration Tower
- Sidney Fischer Park
- Alan Shepard Park
- Lori Wilson Park
- Center Street Park
- Cocoa Beach Pier
- The Dinosaur Store & Museum
Below, we’ll go into greater detail on all of these attractions and share the names of a few highly reviewed Cocoa Beach hotels. Be sure to grab your space gear, because we’re about to blast off to Florida’s sensational Space Coast.
Why You Should Visit Cocoa Beach, Florida
The major feature that distinguishes Cocoa Beach from all other Florida beaches is its proximity to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. Anyone with even an inkling of interest in space travel will enjoy touring these world-class Florida attractions. Plus, if you time it just right, you might get to see an awe-inspiring space launch on your visit.
Although space travel dazzles all who visit this coastline, don’t forget about the beach! As mentioned in the intro, Cocoa Beach is highly respected for its huge waves, which are ideal for surfing enthusiasts. There’s a good reason the world’s largest surfboard shop – Ron Jon Surf Shop –set up shop by the Cocoa Beach coastline.
A more practical reason Cocoa Beach has become so popular has to do with its location near Central Florida’s top attractions. For instance, if you’re staying at Walt Disney World, then it’ll take only a one-hour drive to reach Cocoa Beach. For obvious reasons, Cocoa Beach has become a favorite day-tripping destination for families staying in the Orlando-Kissimmee area.
Just keep in mind that Cocoa Beach isn’t exactly a secluded beach getaway. Given its location near Orlando, this beach has become quite commercialized in recent years. So long as you know what you’re getting into, however, you should have a fun time on this famous stretch of sand.
9 Things To Do In Cocoa Beach, Florida
As the closest beach to Walt Disney World, you’d better believe Cocoa Beach has a strong travel infrastructure. Let’s take a closer look at nine of the top places to visit for an unforgettable Cocoa Beach experience.
1. Historic Cocoa Village
Anyone searching for the best in local shopping, dining, and entertainment should look no further than Historic Cocoa Village. This pedestrian-friendly district is made up of dozens of restaurants, shops, and cafés all in revitalized buildings dating back as far as the 1920s.
When you’re here, definitely check out what’s going on at the Cocoa Village Playhouse. First opened in 1924, this gorgeous theatre puts on some of the hottest Broadway musicals throughout the year. It’s always worthwhile checking out the Cocoa Village Playhouse’s website to see a full events calendar.
While it may seem pedantic to you, there is a difference between Cocoa and Cocoa Beach…and locals take it pretty seriously. The City of Cocoa is located just before you cross over Merritt Island into Cocoa Beach proper. So, please don’t go looking for Historic Cocoa Village in Cocoa Beach!
To find out more info on this area, be sure to visit Historic Cocoa Village’s official website.
2. Cape Canaveral Lighthouse
The distinctive black-and-white Cape Canaveral Lighthouse was first built in the 1840s and measures just over 150-feet tall. Throughout the years, this lighthouse has been through some stormy weather, but it’s looking better than ever thanks to recent renovations.
Unlike other Florida lighthouses, the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is officially owned and operated by the US Air Force. This means you must book a guided tour with the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation well in advance if you want to visit.
Tours typically last about 3.5 hours and only take guests up to the lighthouse’s 5th floor. You can find out more information on reserving a small group or private tour by checking out the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation’s website.
3. Exploration Tower
If you don’t have time to tour Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, then you might want to visit the Exploration Tower. Located not far from the lighthouse, Exploration Tower is an ultra-modern, seven-story structure offering phenomenal panoramic views of the area.
Besides gaining access to the rooftop viewing platform, guests can also watch a short film on Cape Canaveral’s history in the tower’s amphitheater. The Exploration Tower also has dozens of fun educational exhibits as well as a mini café on the ground floor.
Usually, the Exploration Tower is open every day from 10 AM – 5 PM, but it could close suddenly due to private events. Tickets generally cost $6.50 for adults and $3.75 for kids between the ages of 3 – 10.
Keep in mind: the Exploration Tower sometimes holds special events open to the public (e.g. rocket launch parties), so be sure to check their calendar if you’re interested. For more details, here’s a link to Exploration Tower’s official website.
4. Sidney Fischer Park
Privacy is hard to come by on Cocoa Beach, but most people who visit Sidney Fischer Park enjoy a fair amount of personal space. About one mile south of the Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sidney Fischer Park measures 10-acres and offers guests access to restrooms, pavilions, picnic areas, and showers.
It costs $15 dollars to park your car at Sidney Fischer and opening hours typically run from sunrise till dusk. For more info, please visit Sidney Fisher Park’s official webpage.
5. Alan Shepard Park
Alan Shepard Park is perfect for travelers who want to be in the center of the action. Only measuring 5-acres, this park is in the heart of Cocoa Beach’s touristy area and is just a short walk from major attractions like Ron Jon Surf Shop, the Dinosaur Store, and the Florida Surf Museum.
Since Alan Shepard Park is so close to the Ron Jon Surf School, it’s considered one of the best spots for beginners to learn the art of surfing. On top of that, Alan Shepard Park is a premier park for viewing rocket launches.
Like most other parks, Alan Shepard closes at dusk and doesn’t allow overnight parking. You will need to pay $15 per vehicle to park in this lot. For more details, don’t hesitate to check out Alan Shepard Park’s website.
6. Lori Wilson Park
Of all the parks listed in this post, Lori Wilson Park is arguably the most popular. The reason? Simple: parking is free.
Yes, all guests enjoy free access to Lori Wilson Park and its convenient entryway to Cocoa Beach between dawn till dusk. A few amenities you’ll find on this park’s 33-acre grassy grounds include restrooms, outdoor showers, grills, and picnic areas. There’s even a designated pet area on the property if you feel like bringing Fido along for the journey.
7. Center Street Park
Although Center Street Park is a bit off the radar, it has been gaining a reputation for manatee sightings. Yes, this park is small, but it’s well worth the drive if you’re interested in watching local birds, manatees, or the sunset from the privacy of a romantic gazebo.
From Ron Jon Surf Shop, drive two miles north on Florida State Road A1A and turn left on Center Street to find this tiny park. Official park hours are between 7 AM – 9 PM.
8. Cocoa Beach Pier
Like most famous beaches in the USA, Cocoa Beach its own historic pier all guests must take a walk on. Officially known as the “Westgate Pier,” this 800-foot wonder was built in the 1960s and is still a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.
There are many restaurants and shops all along Westgate Pier, but one establishment that stands out is the Rikki Tiki Tavern. Situated on the end of the Cocoa Beach Pier, this tropical-themed bar offers guests delicious drinks, grilled grub, and unparalleled views of the Atlantic.
Parking at the Cocoa Beach Pier’s lot will cost you about $20 before 4 PM. From 4 PM till 10 PM, however, parking is complimentary. Find out more specifics on this attraction on the Cocoa Beach Pier’s official website.
9. The Dinosaur Store & Museum
Parents traveling with children will most likely make a stop at this fascinating Cocoa Beach attraction. Created just a few years ago, the Dinosaur Store & Museum measures an impressive 20,000 square feet and houses not only dinosaur bones and fossilized treasures but also amazing artifacts from Ancient China and Egypt.
In addition to exploring the museum’s exhibits, the Dinosaur Store boasts an interactive “Adventure Zone” area well worth exploring. Folks who take a trip into the Adventure Zone can see live reptiles up-close, pan for their own fossils, and even take a raft ride down the Nile.
Please keep in mind, the Dinosaur Store is closed every Tuesday. Typical store hours are from 10 AM – 6 PM, except on Sundays when the store closes at 5 PM. Ticket prices vary depending on whether you go to the museum, the Adventure Zone, or both, so check out the Dinosaur Store’s website for specific info.
Places To Stay In Cocoa Beach, Florida
There’s no shortage of hotels on Florida’s Space Coast…which could make choosing a hotel extra confusing for first-time visitors. To help narrow down your search, here are a few of the best-reviewed hotels in Cocoa Beach.
Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront
Those who are looking for fantastic views of the Atlantic in a 4-star setting can’t ignore the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront. Not only does this Hilton offer great views of the Atlantic, but it also boasts an oceanfront pool, bar, and fire pit.
La Quinta Inn by Wyndham Cocoa Beach-Port Canaveral
Tourists interested in a more budget-friendly hotel should take a look at the La Quinta Inn at 1275 N Atlantic Ave. While this hotel doesn’t have an oceanfront view, it is centrally located and has many perks including continental breakfast, pool access, and a fitness center.