Last Updated on March 31, 2024

Choosing which Florida city to visit for your beach vacation can be tough. 

When looking at Daytona Beach vs Cocoa Beach, there are a few things to consider.

Both of these destinations are found on the Atlantic Coast of Florida and each has plenty of great activities and attractions to check out. 

I’ve visited both the Daytona Beach Pier and the Cocoa Beach Pier and they are great places to grab a drink and look out at the beautiful Atlantic waves. 

While each is similar, thanks to having some of the best beaches in Florida and being popular for spring break, they both also have some differences.

In this post, we’ll go over the differences and similarities between these two locations to help you decide which will be best for your next vacation to Florida beaches!



St petersburg and Tampa City skyline

Daytona Beach vs Cocoa Beach: Which Is Better?

If you’re trying to decide which of these Floridian cities to visit, the choice can be really hard, since they’re both so great.

Both Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach are known for their beaches and coastline.  But they both also have their own unique attractions that are worth checking out.

For example, Daytona Beach is known for its racing and for hosting the Daytona 500, while Cocoa Beach is known for surfing and relaxing on the beach.

If you have a few extra days, you could even plan to visit both since they’re just over an hour away from each other.

Ultimately, both destinations are great, but which you’ll prefer more will come down to what types of things you enjoy doing on your vacations.



Photo credit – Unsplash by Tim Trad

racing cars in Daytona 500

Best Things To Do In Daytona Beach


Daytona International Speedway

This legendary venue has a racing history dating back to the 1950s and is the home of the famous Daytona 500.

It’s one of the top racing venues to watch a NASCAR race, and being home to the Daytona 500, which is often called the Super Bowl of racing, it’s no wonder why so many race fans dream of attending an event here.

Throughout the year, you can check out several events at the Daytona International Speedway to get your adrenaline pumping.

Lighthouse Point Park

This stunning park is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and is home to lots of coastal wildlife, white sandy beaches, and dozens of nature trails.

Wandering around the park will allow you to escape some of the crowds found at other beaches and enjoy the natural beauty of Daytona.

Also in nearby New Smyrna Beach is the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, which you can check out when you’re near Lighthouse Point Park.

Jackie Robinson Ballpark

Jackie Robinson was a professional baseball player who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers for many years.

He was the first African American player in Major League Baseball, creating history for the sport.

Today, you can visit the Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona and watch the Daytona Tortugas play a game of baseball in the park honoring this baseball legend.

Daytona Beach Boardwalk

The Daytona Beach Boardwalk runs along the Atlantic coastline.

This entertainment area is packed with all sorts of fun things to do from wandering through the Ocean Walk Shoppes to eating at the delicious restaurants.

There’s also a spot for live music at the Daytona Beach Bandshell and the Joyland Amusement Center which has rides and games.

Nearby you’ll find places to take a kayak tour, go deep-sea fishing, and visit more area attractions.



beautiful view of Daytona Beach and pier

Free Things To Do In Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach

Head on over to the namesake beach and spend some time relaxing there. It’s nicknamed the World’s Most Famous Beach for a reason!

Daytona Beach has a large, sandy area to lay a towel out on and relax near the picnic areas. Or, hit the water and enjoy soaking in the Sunshine State!

Daytona Beach Pier

Another fun and free thing to do in Daytona Beach is to visit the Main Street Pier, which has been a fun landmark since the early 1900s.

Here you’ll find a large 1,000-foot fishing pier that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The entire pier is free to walk, and you’ll often see people fishing off of it when conditions allow.



Photo credit – Unsplash by Annie Spratt

surfer running towards the waves in Cocoa Beach

Best Things To Do In Cocoa Beach


Go Surfing

Cocoa Beach is well-known for its surfing, and whether you’re a pro or are brand new, you can give the sport a try!

It’s often called the East Coast Surf Capital of the United States, so you’ll know that the waves are worth catching!

A few of the best places to catch waves include near the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier or head down to 2nd Light Beach for fewer crowds.

Check Out The Surf Shops

Since Cocoa Beach is so well-known for surfing, you’ll also find many surf shops that line the coast, including the world’s largest surf shop, Ron Jon Surf Shop.

In these shops, you’ll find everything that you need to get up and catch some gnarly waves.

Visit Historic Cocoa Village

This charming Downtown area of Cocoa Beach offers visitors a place to shop and eat.

It’s one of the most popular places to visit on what’s known as Florida’s Space Coast, and here you’ll find a historic area that lines the Indian River.

Throughout the year, you’ll find events that take place like live music or arts and crafts festivals.

And during the rest of the year, there are plenty of great spots to shop.



A man biking on a beautiful sunrise in Cocoa Beach

Free Things To Do In Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach Pier

Similar to Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach has its own pier that you can visit to better enjoy the beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Coast.

This iconic and historic pier has all sorts of things to do, but one of the best ways to do it for free is just by walking onto the pier itself.

You can walk for a portion of the way for free, and then it’s just $2 per person to get to the end.

Relax On The Beaches

Another free thing to do in the Cocoa Beach area is to just relax on the beach.

Pack a beach blanket and lay it out to relax on the white sand beaches or head into the water to splash in the waves.

There are also several other fun activities nearby like beach volleyball, live music, and plenty of opportunities to learn to surf.

The best beaches with lifeguard stations are Alan Shepard Park, Lori Wilson Park, and near the Cocoa Beach Pier.



Photo credit – Unsplash by NASA

The Space Shuttle Challenger launching from Complex 39 in Kennedy Space Center near Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach

Things To Do Nearby Daytona Beach And Cocoa Beach

Because these two destinations are so close to each other, there are many things that you can do between the two for fun!

Here are some of the best things to do near Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is a hub for learning about all things space.

This location has had many rocket launches including for famous space missions like the Apollo Missions and the Space Shuttle Program.

Today, you can visit many different attractions at the center and learn all about NASA’s missions to explore space.

From exhibits to interactive experiences, there’s always something to learn here.

See The Cruise Ships At Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral is a unique destination in Florida since it’s one of the most common launching points for cruise ships in the United States.

Here you’ll find cruise ports for major cruise lines like Disney, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean.

Even if you aren’t embarking on a cruise, it can be really cool to see just how huge they are in real life!

Manatee Sanctuary Park

The Manatee Sanctuary Park is located on the barrier island of Cape Canaveral, just about 20 minutes from Cocoa Beach and an hour from Daytona Beach.

Here, you can enjoy over 10 acres of land that surrounds the Banana River and protected manatee habitat.

You’ll have the chance to spot this fascinating marine life in their natural habitats as they mosey through the warm waters and feed on the seagrass.


The Orlando area is only about an hour from either Daytona Beach or Cocoa Beach and makes for a great day trip from them.

Here you’ll find plenty of family-friendly attractions like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.

Plus, there’s a large Downtown area and plenty of great gift shops and restaurants.



Family enjoying the beach and sunrise at Cocoa Beach Florida<br />

Which Is Better For Families?

Both Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are great choices to bring young kids and make great vacation spots for families.

While they both are great, it’s typically said that Cocoa Beach is a bit better for families and has a more laid-back feel.

Cocoa Beach has a lot of great places for little ones like the beach and the pier, and they can even take a surf lesson.

Plus, Cocoa Beach is very close to places like Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center for day trips for families.

Is Daytona Beach Or Cocoa Beach Better For Couples?

If you’re looking for a romantic beach getaway for a honeymoon, anniversary, or just an escape, then head to Daytona Beach.

This lively destination is typically better for couples because it has a vibrant nightlife and great activities for adults. 

From the relaxing beaches to the thrilling NASCAR races or the many great bars and restaurants, Daytona Beach makes a great escape for couples.

Which Has Better Events Throughout The Year?

While both cities have events scattered throughout the year so you’ll never be bored, Daytona Beach tends to be the winner in this category.

Being home to the Daytona International Speedway makes it easy to plan all sorts of events centered around racing.

You’ll find things like automobile and motorcycle racing, as well as the famous Daytona 500.  And don’t forget about the annual Bike Week events every March!  

You’ll also find all sorts of other events to participate in like music festivals and concerts, live music on the beach, and sporting events at the venues nearby.



Sunset above Daytona Beach Main Street pier with Joes's Crab Shack Restaurant

Which City Has Better Food?

The food in both cities is similar since they’re located close to one another and are found on the coast.

Seafood and coastal dishes are popular in both. It’s tough to choose which is better, but here are some great places to eat in each.

Best Restaurants In Daytona Beach

There are a lot of great restaurants in Daytona Beach, but the Ocean Deck Restaurant is one of the best.

It’s found right on the ocean and features an open-air deck where you can enjoy fresh-caught fish and beachside drinks.

Or head to Sloppy Joe’s which serves beach-themed foods and delicious drinks with live music. 

My personal favorite restaurant in Daytona Beach is The Oyster Pub, which is just a short walk, a couple of blocks from the beach. 

Best Restaurants In Cocoa Beach

In Cocoa Beach, the best place to eat is Nosh Restaurant & Bar, where you’ll find Asian-inspired dishes.

For other bites to eat, head to Coconuts on the Beach for delicious oceanside dishes like sandwiches, wraps, and of course, fresh fish.



Which City Is Cheaper?

The cost of a visit to either Daytona Beach or Cocoa Beach is an important factor, so which is cheaper?

When we look at hotels, food, activities, and more, the cost to visit Daytona Beach is typically cheaper than Cocoa Beach.

This is because Cocoa Beach has become more of a resort-like place to visit and everything has become more expensive.

So to save some money, head to Daytona Beach.

Photo credit – Unsplash by Florian Schneider

Morning view of the beach and birds along the pier in Cocoa Beach

Does Cocoa Beach Or Daytona Beach Have Better Beaches?

When looking at Daytona Beach vs Cocoa Beach for their actual beaches, it can be a really tough question to answer.

Both have a really great white sand beach to walk along or relax at, but what you plan to do there will dictate which is best for you.

At Cocoa Beach, you can try surfing since it’s a world-renowned surf destination. Or walk the pier and check out the surf shops.

At Daytona Beach, you can drive on the hard-packed sand on the beach or spend time exploring the boardwalk and pier which have an amusement park, shops, and more.

Each has a great beach, it just depends on what you enjoy most.







Daytona Beach vs Cocoa Beach – FAQs

Is Cocoa Beach Or Daytona Beach Better?

Both Cocoa Beach and Daytona Beach are fantastic, and which is better depends on your preferences.

For a laid-back vibe with fun activities, visit Cocoa Beach. For an upbeat nightlife and lots to do, head to Daytona Beach.

What is the Nicest Beach Near Orlando?

One of the most popular and nicest beaches near Orlando is Cocoa Beach, which is just 1 hour away.

Why Is Cocoa Beach So Popular?

Cocoa Beach is popular because of its close proximity to Orlando and its famous surfing locations.

Is Cocoa Beach Water Clear?

Yes, the water at Cocoa Beach is very clear and blue, which is one of the many reasons people love it!



So if you're stuck on which to visit and wonder which is better, Cocoa Beach vs Daytona Beach, now you know a few things to consider.

Wrap-Up: Daytona Beach vs Cocoa Beach

So if you’re stuck on which to visit and wonder which is better, Cocoa Beach vs Daytona Beach, now you know a few things to consider.

From the sandy beaches and perfect waves for surfing in Cocoa Beach to the racing fun of Daytona Beach, each offers its own fun activities.

Whichever you visit, you’ll have a blast!



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Booking a last-minute trip to Daytona Beach or Cocoa Beach?  

If so, we have you covered.  Here are some top recommended tours and experiences!

Top Tours in Daytona Beach

Polynesian Fire & Dinner Show Ticket (Join The Hottest Dinner Show In Daytona Beach)

Dolphin & Manatee Stand-Up Paddleboard Tour (Fun Way to Explore Daytona Beach’s Coast)

Small-Group Sailing Tour Daytona Beach (Ride on the Halifax River In a Sailing Catamaran)

Top Tours in Cocoa Beach

Thousand Island Tour w/ Kayaking (Cocoa Beach’s Thousand Island Guided Tour)

Dolphin Tours On The Banana River (See Dolphins And Manatees!)

Manatee And Dolphin Kayak Tour (Cocoa Beach Guided Kayak Tour)

Top Hotels In Daytona Beach

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Daytona Beach (High-Rated Hotel Near Airport)

Hardrock Hotel Daytona Beach – (Top Rated Beach Nearby Hotel)

Top Hotels In Cocoa Beach

Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach(Perfect For Solo Travelers & Couples)

Hilton Garden Inn Cocoa Beach-Oceanfront – (Beachfront And Poolside View)

 Looking To Get Around In Daytona Beach or Cocoa Beach

Check out rental car rates here! 🚗



Travel Resources


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