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Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York, is like a seaside village that you can get to via the New York City subway.
Ever dream of riding a subway with people carrying surfboards? Cross that off your bucket list.
Day-trippers from Manhattan, the rest of Queens, all of Brooklyn and even farther afield, Staten Island and the Bronx, hang out on the beaches and the boardwalk in Rockaway.
And many locals and visitors to NYC decide to spend the night there.
You can have a two-pronged New York trip. A couple of days in Times Square seeing Broadway shows followed by a beach getaway in the Rockaways.
Just 18 miles from midtown, Rockaway Beach is part of a barrier island protecting Jamaica Bay and coastal Queens from the Atlantic Ocean.
SheBuysTravel Tip: This is where you find NYC’’s only legal surfing beaches, but also its roughest surf. Only swim in designated areas, and only when lifeguards are on duty.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Looking to make the most of your summer budget while maximizing the fun? With a wide range of deals on local activities, dining, and experiences, Groupon helps you stretch your budget by offering discounted options near you.
Read More: The Best NYC Hotels for Families
Rockaway Beach Hotels
The hotel has bungalows with kitchenettes, perfect for extended beach getaways. From the rooms overlooking the Jamaica Bay, you can see the Manhattan skyline; other rooms have ocean views.
If you just want to spend a few hours hanging by the pool, you can buy a (pricey) day pass for a morning session, 8 am-noon or 1-5 pm, Mondays to Thursdays. You can rent a cabana for an additional fee.
The Rockaway Hotel also has a full service spa onsite and a rooftop bar. The rooftop hosts concerts; tickets are open to anyone.
SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
The hotel offers daily wellness classes, free for hotel guests and $20 for anyone else. The classes are mostly yoga or Pilates. Hotel guests can also take a free class at the nearby Orange Theory.
In addition to getting food at the pool, you can eat at Margies, which has a raw bar, watermelon and feta salad and lobster rolls. You may think you are on Martha’s Vineyard, not in New York City. But the local beers on tap will remind you that you are right near the Brooklyn craft beer scene.
For the most unusual place to check-in, check out the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport. This pet friendly hotel, in the historic former TWA terminal, has an outdoor pool with an infinity edge. You can watch planes take off at JFK from the observation deck or the guest rooms, which are outfitted with extra thick glass so you won’t hear the roar of the planes.
The rooftop outdoor pool and observation deck are open year round. The pool is super heated in winter, turning it into a giant hot tub. The hotel calls it a ‘pool-cuzzi’.
SheBuysTravel Tip: In summer and fall, even hotel guests have to make a reservation for the pool and observation deck AND pay a cover charge.
The TWA Hotel Vibe
This 4 star hotel is nothing like airport hotels found near LaGuardia airport. My brothers have gone to black tie weddings here and Open House NY offers tours of the retro Eero Saarinen building. He’s the architect who designed both the TWA terminal and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Guest rooms have Eero Saarinen-designed mid-century modern furnishings. Some rooms have views of the historic TWA terminal; others offer runway views. In-room amenities include working vintage rotary phones and wifi. Kind of a Back to the Future time warp.
The hotel converted a 1958 Lockheed Constellation, also known as a “Connie” airplane, into a cocktail lounge. The plane was once displayed in Times Square and even had its own billboard. The Connie cocktail lounge is where you can bust out your beehive and sip classic drinks like a Paper Plane (Bourbon, Aperol, amaro and lemon) or a renamed martini: Vodka is My Co-Pilot.
Dine with Jean-Georges
Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has a destination restaurant, Paris Café by Jean-Georges, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect seasonal twists on dishes like burrata served with rhubarb or asparagus with avocado and truffle. I have my eye on the snow pea infused martini with green chartreuse, mint and dill.
If you ever flew Trans World Airlines from JFK (or Idlewild, the original name of JFK Airport) you might recognize the check in area. It has been reconfigured as a food hall. You can get real NYC bagels, pizza and paninis, Coney Island hot dogs, and Mister Softee ice cream at the historic Food Hall.
The hotel says its gym is the largest airport hotel gym in the world. At 10,000 square feet, it may be hard to top. There is nothing retro about this gym. It includes a yoga studio, cycling studio, TRX, and plenty of room. Keep this in mind for future travel. You can buy a day pass to get your sweat on, and shower, if you are flying through JFK and have an extended layover.
More to do: Camp TWA
The hotel sets up weekend games outdoors: ping pong, ring toss, cornhole, and life-size chess and checkers. The New-York Historical Society helped develop a free exhibit, on the history of Trans World Airlines
You don’t even have to spend the night here to enjoy the rooftop pool and retro aesthetic. You can get a day pass for up to four hours in a room, and a separate reservation for the pool. For a dream summer day, I’d bike to Rockaway Beach, get a day pass to shower and freshen up, then return to the boardwalk for dinner and the evening scene. No worries about biking home in sandy clothes.
Three Star Hotels Near Rockaway Beach
If low cost and proximity to the beach are your priorities, these Rockaway Beach Hotels with lower star ratings offer decent options. These three–star hotels are all in Queens.
This pet-friendly Hilton Garden Inn Queens has a free airport shuttle
The Hampton Inn has free wifi and free breakfast, along with a free airport shuttle.
This basic hotel also offers free wifi, free breakfast, and a free airport shuttle.
Two-Star Hotels Near Rockaway Beach
You won’t get room service at these hotels but you get clean guest rooms and a lower-cost beach getaway at these Rockaway Beach Hotels..
The Five Towns Inn in Lawrence is over the bridge from Queens on Long Island. It has a free airport shuttle that will also take you to nearby restaurants. There is also free breakfast.
This hotel, across the bay, has something even the four star boutique hotels lack: free parking. You go right through the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to go here.
Other Rockaway Beach Hotel Options
Other nearby hotels:
- Marriott New York JFK Airport
- Hilton New York JFK Airport
- Radisson Hotel JFK Airport
- Hyatt Regency JFK Airport at Resorts World New York
- Holiday Inn Express New York JfK Airport Area, an IHG Hotel
How to Get to Rockaway Beach Hotels
There are many different options for traveling to the Rockaways.
There are three different lines of the A Train, so make sure you DON’T take the one to Lefferts Boulevard. On the Far Rockaway branch, go to Broad Channel, then take the S shuttle to Rockaway Park-Beach 116 St. This is a long ride from Midtown, but it gets you there. There is also a rush hour “express,” which takes about the same amount of time, but goes to Rockaway Beach without the switch to the shuttle. And this only costs $2.75.
If you are coming from Brooklyn or other parts of Queens, you can also take a long bus ride. But it’s definitely harder, if not impossible, to bring your bicycle or surfboard on a NYC bus.
The most delightful way to travel to and from Rockaway Beach. A one way ferry trip, which takes under an hour from Pier 11 / Wall Street, costs $4. The ferry also stops at Sunset Park / Brooklyn Army Terminal in Brooklyn. A free shuttle bus takes you to Beach 135th Street and Jacob Riis Park.
Bringing along a bicycle is free, but each ferry only holds 8-10 bicycles. We have missed the ferry because the bicycle space was full.
For peak ferry times, you can reserve a ticket for $10. You can also reserve a bicycle spot this way.
If you are staying at the TWA Hotel, you can take a free AirTrain to Howard Beach and follow the A train directions, or take an Uber.
My favorite and cheapest way to get TO Rockaway Beach. Getting home? Not so much. After a day and night with all that sun and sand, the last thing I want to do is get back on a bicycle. This is where the ferry and subway come in handy.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The boardwalk has a designated bike lane but that doesn’t mean people WON’T walk in front of you while you are biking there, so be aware.
Long Island Rail Road
Take the railroad to Long Beach (on Long Island) and then bike about 9 miles to Rockaway Beach.
There is very limited free parking on the street. You have to pay a toll on the bridge. Jacob Riis Park has a large, paid parking lot, but it is a couple of miles from Rockaway Beach. We met a couple recently who told us the secret to free parking: get to the beach at 8 am.
SheBuysTravel Tip: When traveling around Rockaway Beach (and much of Queens), pay close attention to the full names of streets. There is Rockaway Blvd and Rockaway Beach Blvd and Rockaway Beach Drive, as well as 135th Ave and Beach 135th. Do not confuse them!