SEA & SPACE: Cocoa Beach, Florida

The Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier is the perfect launchpad for relaxation

Give me a beach vacation anywhere and I’ll be divinely happy, sprawled on a lounge chair, a salty breeze ruffling my hair. Doing nothing replenishes the body and soul in this era of nonstop tweeting and Instagramming. That’s why I was excited to check out of civilization for a weekend at one of Florida’s newest recourses, the Westgate Cocoa Beach Resort. There, I had nothing to do beyond summoning a friendly bartender to fetch me a freshly made mojito.

Luxury Living
The resort itself has 103 spacious two-bedroom suites complete with a fully equipped kitchen and living areas that are vast for a hotel. During my stay, the property buzzed with activity, as travelers — couples, families and even pre- and post-cruise crowds — shuffled in and out on their way to the beach. Cocoa Beach itself offers six miles of stark white sand with an exceptional view of the rocket launches at nearby Cape Canaveral.

The sun and fun of the Space

Coast offered me an array of choices, adventurous deep-sea fishing, an eco-tour adventure on a kayak, an airboat ride and an up-close and personal look at Florida’s remarkable wildlife.  But let’s be real: The ocean views are the real star here.

My first pit stop after dropping off my luggage was a scenic, direct access trail to the white sand beach and the Atlantic Ocean. As I headed straight for the waves, I could see in the distance some big boats cruising along the water and people fishing off the shore. Families were laughing, couples were strolling hand-in-hand, and I was cozied up with a light and breezy beach read on a gorgeous sunny day. What more could a girl ask for?

A bonus, there was no need to lug all of my necessities, as the inclusive resort includes beach rentals. You can rent beach chairs, surfboards or bicycles.  Visitors can even stop by the nearby beach volleyball court to hit a few serves or take surf lessons at the Cocoa Beach Surf School by Flohana.

When the sun’s rays tired me out, I traveled back to the vast garden courtyard filled with tropical plants to shady nooks and picnic areas, where I spent a lazy afternoon lounging at the Aloha Tiki Bar & Cafe, my new favorite hangout spot. It features light-fare options including fresh salads, burgers, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs, wraps and flatbreads as well as tropical cocktails. I enjoyed the traditional mojito, filled to the brim with Captain Morgan White Rum, muddled mint leaves, fresh lime juice, a splash of simple syrup and club soda. On another occasion, I couldn’t resist sampling the Rum Runner, consisting of Myer’s Dark Rum, banana liqueur, blackberry brandy, orange and pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine.

Jump into Fun

Speaking of splashes, there is the Wakulla Falls Water Park in the heart of the resort. It includes amenities such as several waterslides, a pirate ship-themed playground, indoor and outdoor pools and lots of games and toys — all kid-approved. I also checked out the relaxation zone for the older crowd, complete with complimentary sunglass cleanings, towel service and Bluetooth speakers. Two more pool notes: There is a lazy river pool, and the resort streams movies at night, straight from an old-school projector in the middle of the splash park.

Space and Time

For a city that is known for its beach and surf breaks, there is also history. Cocoa Beach is a gateway to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which has rockets and abstract artifacts. I had the chance to visit the iconic center, organized into Mission Zones, where attractions and tours are categorized by historical era. With so much to explore, where could I even begin? I decided to start with the main attraction, the Heroes and Legends tour.
The tour focused on the astronauts from the dawn of space exploration to present and ongoing missions, all in a very stylish, futuristic 3D experience. Afterward, I checked out the U.S.

Astronauts Hall of Fame and saw rockets from NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. I ended my trek with a bus tour, which offered an in-depth look at space flight operations and different shuttle operating zones. These were indeed sights that were out of this world.

Pier Experience

If dining out is your thing, there are plenty of local hot spots. I started at Rikki Tiki Tavern, a traditional beachside hangout, complete with a thatched roof covering the entire deck and a stunning view 800 feet over the Atlantic Ocean. My appetizer was a delicious crab and seafood dip, served chilled with crispy tequila lime and sea salt tortilla chips.

For dinner, I enjoyed a hearty lobster club sandwich, filled with tender lobster tossed in just the right blend of spices and mayo, bacon, lettuce and tomato and served on rustic ciabatta bread. To finish off the meal, I indulged in some steamed shrimp, served cold with a tangy cocktail sauce. Paired with a cold beverage and views of bobbing boats on the Atlantic, this was my perfect kind of night.

At the Boardwalk Bar, diners can take in the beautiful beach and relax while enjoying happy hour with a wide selection of burgers, fresh Florida gator tail, salads, sandwiches and wings.

Keith’s Oyster Bar offers fresh oysters and seafood at the only open-air oyster bar on the beach. A menu favorite is the Cocoa Beach Boil consisting of a bucket of boiled shrimp, snow crab legs, smoked sausage, red-skin potatoes and mini corn on the cob. Bar offerings include the Pieradise with sweet flavors such as pineapple, orange and banana. There is also a fun twist on a traditional pina colada, the Cocoa Set Sail, which includes Puerto Rican spiced rum and blue curacao. After days of soaking up some vitamin sea, I felt stress-free and recharged. Cocoa Beach is low-key and laid-back, an ideal winter escape.

Looking for more things to do in Cocoa Beach? Click here.

About Adranisha Stephens

When Adranisha Stephens isn’t chasing down a story, she is traveling, blogging, photographing or spending time with family and friends. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Frostburg State University and a master’s degree in journalism/digital storytelling from American University.

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