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The tiny surfside town of Cocoa Beach on Florida’s east coast has made a name for itself. Though first attempts to carve out a settlement date back to 1885, Cocoa Beach was formally incorporated as a city in 1957. It had its heyday in the 1960s—after the NASA space program was launched at nearby Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach became the Silicon Valley of its era with the smartest minds in the nation living near the space center. The 1960s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” in which the title character’s husband was an astronaut, was even based there. Eventually, the rise of surfing culture solidified Cocoa Beach as one of Florida’s coolest spots. Known for small but consistent waves, this coastal destination draws surfers at every level.  

Iconic Spots

The historic Cocoa Beach Pier (401 Meade Ave., Cocoa Beach; 321.783.7549; cocoabeachpier.com) is one of the area’s most recognizable sites. It stretches 800 feet into the Atlantic and features beachy places to eat, drink and shop. The social hub of surfside Cocoa, the pier area has sand volleyball courts, lifeguards, freshwater showers and beach equipment for rent.

Cocoa’s other must-see destination is the Ron Jon Surf Shop (4151 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach; 321.799.8888; ronjonsurfshop.com). At 52,000 square feet—more than 2 acres—it bills itself as “the world’s largest surf shop.” It’s been around since 1963, selling everything from surfboards to puka shell necklaces. Don’t forget to snatch up one of the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop bumper stickers.

Surf’s Up

There’s plenty to do in Cocoa Beach without ever getting on a board, but it’s hard to resist the call of the waves. The Ron Jon Surf School (150 E. Columbia Lane, Cocoa Beach; 321.868.1980; ronjonsurfschool.com) specializes in classes for beginners, especially children. An add-on that’s worth every penny: a professional photo package to capture those first shreds. Craving more adventure? Try kiteboarding with 321 Kiteboarding and Watersports (235 W. Cocoa Beach Causeway, Cocoa Beach; 321.302.5663; 321kiteboarding.com). The outfit offers gear rental and lessons for every age and level. 

Fill the Tank

For beachside eateries, it’s hard to top Coconuts on the Beach (2 Minutemen Causeway, Cocoa Beach; 321.784.1422; coconutsonthebeach.com). Dine inside in the air conditioning or outdoors on the oceanfront patio. The menu offers familiar favorites including wings, burgers and fish tacos plus the kind of beach cocktails that go down easy. Try the frozen Peached Whale, a blend of bourbon, ginger beer and peach mixer. 

For a more upscale dining option, stop by Luna (8 Minutemen Causeway, Cocoa Beach; 321-613-5796; lunafoodandwine.com) With dishes like rack of lamb, ribeye Robespierre and macadamia-crusted mahi mahi, the restaurant is a step-up from the typical tourist spot. Don’t miss the lavender-infused Madagascar vanilla pot de creme for dessert.

Stay the Weekend

The area’s hotel offerings aren’t much to write home about, but there are some fantastic short-term rental options. Look for beachfront homes with ocean views, retro surf bungalows with outdoor showers and midcentury cottages with sparkling pools. There’s even a classic Airstream. 

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