Frights and Delights Found at Cocoa Beach, Florida

Family Visit to Cocoa Beach

So happy with my Spring Aventura Samantha Bag… it’s perfect for the beach.

Being outdoor lovers from Colorado, we never pass up an opportunity to see the ocean.  So as much as we cherish our Disney World time, a visit to the beach always gets included during trips to Florida.  Cocoa Beach is the closest – a mere 45 minutes from MCO airport, or about 1 hr 15 minutes from Walt Disney World Resort.

I think there are numerous benefits to adding an ocean stay to your Disney trip.  We’ve done so at the beginning, middle, and end of our vacation.  Middle is our favorite, as it provides a breather from the crowds and chaos of the parks.  But then you get to head back for a bit more excitement before you head home!

Cocoa Beach Beach Delights

Path leading right out to Cocoa Beach Florida

Walking Right Out to the Sand

I have one core requirement for selecting a hotel when we stay at Cocoa Beach.  I want an oceanfront property, so we can walk right out of our hotel room in our swimsuits and flip flops on to the beach.

View of Ocean from our Doubletree Cocoa Beach Oceanside room private patio

View of the ocean from our private balcony at Doubletree Cocoa Beach Oceanside. Breathtaking!

An ocean view is also nice, and recently when staying at the DoubleTree Cocoa Beach Oceanside we even had a private outdoor balcony attached to our room.  You could sit outside, enjoying the ocean breeze and drinking your morning coffee to the sounds of crashing waves.  Heaven!

Another relaxing option that is especially appealing to me during a family vacation by the ocean is a renting a vacation resort residence.  Grocery stores were easy to find in Cocoa Beach, and having a full kitchen would have allowed us the option of some more affordable meals.  When members of your family all sleep in to different times, and you don’t have a tight schedule to keep, vacation rentals can give you not only additional space, but the added privacy and quiet of having separate bedrooms.

If you are like me, and find the uncertainty of securing a potentially sketchy vacation rental on your own… check out Vacatia.  A world-wide resort marketplace for booking vacation residence rentals for all budgets, Vacatia allows you to search and book fully-vetted resort residences.

Surfing Souvenirs

Family travel ideas trip to Cocoa Beach Florida and shopping at Ron Jon Surf Shop

No visit to Cocoa Beach is complete without a visit to Ron Jon’s Surf Shop.  Stopping here is always a highlight for my family.  It’s easy to find along the main drag.  There are numerous, cheap souvenirs shops in town, but Ron Jon has more quality, authentic merchandise.

Showcased in a two story, open centered building  – this is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs, or select the perfect pair of flip flops from their vast selection.   My daughter and I love the inexpensive, tropical themed jewelry they sell.  You’ll get a funky, free Ron Jon sticker with every purchase.

There are other, cheaper surf shops in town.  But this one is the nicest, in our opinion.

Cocoa Beach Florida visit to Ron Jon Surf Shop

Fantastic New York Style Pizza

My top recommendation for Cocoa Beach family friendly restaurants is the locally owned A N.Y. Pizza House.  This one is worth seeking out, with Italian pastas and wood-fired pizzas.  The fettuccine alfredo had a thick, creamy texture along with a rich and delicious flavor.

We received excellent service at a N.Y. Pizza House late one night, when our pizza was overcooked.  They not only re-made our pizza (the second one was fantastic), but they also brought us garlic knots in the meantime, and dinner was on the house.  We actually tried to pay, as we felt they had made it right, but the manager insisted.

We will definitely be back.

Eating lunch outdoors at Discovery Beach Cafe in Cocoa Beach Florida

Food at Discovery Beach Cafe was mediocre, but eating lunch here on their outdoor patio was fun and offered a laid back atmosphere.

Low Crowds, Lots of Beaches

The town of Cocoa Beach is on a long and narrow strip, with many short access roads leading the 2-3 blocks East to the Atlantic Ocean and beach access.

There are multiple parking lots which lead to public beaches.  Most of them provide a short boardwalk to get you over the foliage and lead you out onto the sand.

The beaches aren’t quite the white, powdery sand you’d find on the Gulf Side.  But we find ourselves choosing Cocoa Beach time and again for it’s impressive, exciting waves and close proximity to Orlando.

Crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean at Cocoa Beach Florida

Most exciting wave pool EVER. Boy do Colorado kids love that surf!

We’ve always gone during lower crowd times, so I’m not sure how busy it gets in summer months.  But in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, you can always find a semi private area for your family to hang out and enjoy the surf.

Locals are friendly, and helpful in explaining to mountain-folk greenhorns like me what the various colored warning flags of the day stand for (jellyfish, strong riptides, etc.)

Cocoa Beach Frights

And that leads me to the frights.  My mom freak out moment.

Portuguese Man-of-War at Cocoa Beach Florida

Pretty. But scary.

He thought it was garbage.  Last year we had seen a beached jellyfish, so I had *just* warned my five year old son not step on anything clear that looks like a pile of jelly.   (Hey, I didn’t mention not grabbing any blue balloon-type objects.)

With lightening speed, before I realize what’s happening… his little hand reaches out and grabs this purplish-blue jellyfish on the sand.  He quickly dropped it, but not before a long tentacle became detached and wrapped around his hand and arm.

Yikes!  After posting it’s photo, we were later told it was a Portuguese Man-of-War.  Even worse.  Actually a little different than a jellyfish, the barbs on its tentacles can still sting months after it dying on a beach.

Let me tell you, this Mountain Mom had no idea what to do.  It scared me to death, but it turns out my instinct to take him to the water’s edge and rinse it off with saltwater was about the only thing we could do.   I think the sting was  minor.  Tough to tell, because he was very stoic about it.  His mom’s panic had forced him into an unsettling quiet.

So if the ocean is an unfamiliar, occasional treat like it is for us… show your kids a picture of both a beached jellyfish and a Man-of-War ahead of time, and warn them hands off!

Cartwheel on Cocoa Beach

An 11 year old girl’s dream… gymnastics on the beach.

Enjoy Cocoa Beach!

You’ll not regret a visit to Cocoa Beach, Florida.  This charming little beach town is small and authentic, and the perfect nature addition to your next Disney World vacation.  🙂

Family Vacation ideas at Cocoa Beach Florida

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Disclosure: Consideration provided by brands mentioned in this post.



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About COMtnMom

Hi, I'm Tami! Writer, Influencer, and mom of two who loves travel, the outdoors, staying active, photography, reading books, and eating desserts. We are pretty much always planning our next trip to Disney World.


  1. Nice post! Makes me ready to go back! And at this stage in our lives, instead of adding a beach stay to our Disney trip, we skip Disney and just do a full beach trip, and maybe with a side excursion over to Downtown Disney for an evening if we feel like it.

    Also, on the public beach the lifeguards can offer a little first-aid for jellyfish stings and such. Although in all honesty I just toughed it out like your son, too. 🙂

    • COMtnMom says:

      Dang! Ok, the lifeguards-will-help-with-jelly-stings tip is VERY good to know.

      And now you need to dish on your sting experience! I’m guessing you didn’t pick one up, like my 5 year old… or did you? 😉 Did it happen when you were swimming in the water? Is there any way to know/prevent that from happening?

      P.S. I hope you aren’t burned out on Disney. I totally get the peaceful allure of a beach vacation, though.

      • No, I knew not to pick one up! 🙂 I got brushed by a jellyfish while I was in the water. It happened to Laura on that trip, too, as well as several other people. I think a hurricane out over the ocean had driven lots of jellyfish inland, and all of that was keeping the lifeguards quite busy when we were there with whatever they were spraying on the stings. If the lifeguards know that jellyfish are in the area, they will probably post a warning at their stations, but they can only do that if they know there are a lot of them there. If it is just a random occurrence, there isn’t much they can do ahead of time. But we both just waited out our pain, which went away in a few hours.

        I don’t know if I am exactly burned out on Disney, but more and more I find myself wanting to do something new and different instead of the same things we have been doing for lots of years now. Time to see a little bit more of the world. 🙂

  2. hi this is our first visit to florida and we want to visit cocoa beach. Can you rent chairs and sand toys etc or what any advice would be awsome going in feb

    • Hi Molly,

      We love going to Florida in February… congrats! You’re going to have so much fun.

      We bring towels to the beach to sit on, but I did notice sometimes the oceanside hotels have a stack of plastic lounge chairs available. We’ve stayed at the DoubleTree at Cocoa Beach and they had some (I assumed for guests to use). They were chained up but I believe guests can request to use them. I’ve never seen a chair rental place.

      For sand toys, there are several cheap surf shops in town. We usually buy a set for $10, and then end up leaving it behind (since we fly, and it’s not worth trying to stuff in luggage). The kids have so much fun with them, we feel it’s definitely worth it, even it they just play with them a couple of days while we’re there.

      Ask me any other questions, and have a great trip!! 🙂


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