From Checkerboard to Palm Prints, the Best Beach Canopies Put the Fun in Functional
Shelter in style.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 12:48 PM
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Now that summer is upon us, odds are you’ll want to make the most of the warm weather. From beach days to picnic sessions, our favorite outdoor activities call for a canopy or shelter—after all, the only downside to a day outside is a gnarly sunburn. There’s actually more to keep in mind when purchasing a tent than you might think, though. Do you have a large brood of little ones? Consider a canopy with built-in storage pockets and a dry line for hanging wet swimsuits. Are you prone to lobster-style sunburns? Make sure yours is made from UV-protective fabric. Whatever your sun-soaked needs are, we searched the market for the best beach canopies for any type of outdoor adventure.
- Best overall: L.L. Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter
- Best value: NXONE Sun Shade Shelter
- Best compact: Fatboy x Miasun Portable Beach Tent
- Best French Riviera: Pottery Barn St. Tropez Cabana
- Best for families: Coleman Beach Shade Shelter
- Best umbrella style: Picnic Time Brolly Beach Umbrella Tent
- Best pattern: Letter Design Chessboard Sun Shade
- Best for a crowd: Cool Cabanas 5
- Best pop-up: Oniva Manta Portable Tent
- Best new release: Food52 x Kate Roebuck Pop-Up Tent
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Types of canopies: If quick assembly is your top priority, a pop-up or umbrella-style tent is the right move—both can be erected in seconds and don’t require easy-to-lose accessories like poles and pins. If you’re foreseeing difficult terrain or exposed, windy beaches in your future, opt for a supersturdy design with sandbags to anchor it. But if sun protection and vacation vibes are your focus, a cabana-style framed tent has you covered.
UV protection: Coverage from your beach tent often isn’t enough to stop the sun’s rays from harming your skin. Many shelters are made from fabrics with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which indicates how much UV radiation a fabric allows through. A UPF-50 fabric will block 90 percent of the sun’s rays, which is what you should aim for if you want to protect your skin.
Portability: If you’ll be taking your canopy with you on a wide range of adventures, from a day at the beach to a neighborhood soccer game, opt for a design that comes with an easily transportable case or carry bag with shoulder straps. Cabana and umbrella-style tents tend to be more cumbersome because of their central pole.
Stability: Even on a perfect beach day, there’s bound to be a bit of a breeze, so making sure your tent stays grounded is super-important. Keep an eye out for options with perimeter pockets, which weigh down the structure once filled with sand or rocks, or that come with stakes to secure into the ground.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: L.L. Bean Sunbuster Folding Shelter
If you’re looking for a versatile tent to take to the beach, camping, and beyond, you can’t go wrong with L.L. Bean’s best-seller—a pop-up sun shelter that’s ready in seconds (it simply springs into place). Beyond the basics—it’s made from UPF 50-plus fabric, has exterior pockets and stakes, and comes with a handy carry case—a few thoughtful design details set it apart from the rest. The floor extension can be folded up for privacy (or to become a makeshift changing station); it has interior pouches to stash valuables; and it’s available in a chic muted color palette that won’t look anything like the other sporty enclosures on the sand.
Best Value: NXONE Sun Shade Shelter
Don’t want to break the bank on a beach accessory? You’re not alone. This under-$50 option comes in five summer-friendly hues (including our favorite, crisp mint); has three mesh roll-up windows; and even sports an extended front floor for picnics, card games, or just more lounge space. It’s also lighter and more compact than the other affordable options we considered; it packs down to under 8-by-19 inches and weighs just 4 pounds.
Best Compact: Fatboy x Miasun Portable Beach Tent
On-the-go beachcombers will love this über-portable, lightweight tent. Its aluminum poles collapse and fold into a supercompact pouch for transportation—you can easily slip it in a beach tote or backpack when not in use. Choose from a wide variety of bold prints (like stripes and zigzags) and your friends won’t have a problem finding their way back to you post–ocean dip.
Best French Riviera: Pottery Barn St. Tropez Cabana
Even if you’re staying close to home, you can still bring the vacation vibes to your sun-soaked outings. Go all out with a luxe cabana crafted from reclaimed laminated wood poles that, when set up, can fit multiple lounge chairs underneath. Just close your eyes and—voilà! The French Riviera awaits.
Best for Families: Coleman Beach Shade Shelter
Parents know better than anyone: Beach days with kids are hard. That’s why this shade shelter with integrated storage pockets, a window that unzips for ventilation, and a dry line to hang wet clothing has everything you (and the little ones) need to have fun. Domino’s executive editor, Alex Redgrave, swears by this do-it-all sunshade for “meltdown-free beach days” with her toddler.
Best Umbrella Style: Picnic Time Brolly Beach Umbrella Tent
Using the same mechanism as a classic umbrella, with just the pull of a string this portable tent is ready to go. Not only do you get shade coverage overhead, but it pops up into a half-open tent, allowing you to dive into your beach read or picnic snacks undercover. At the end of the day, just pack it up in its accompanying case and jump in the car.
Best Pattern: Letter Design Chessboard Sun Shade
Your beach tent can say just as much about your personal style as your swimsuit and shades. This checkerboard tent will not only match your favorite towel, it’s also water- and stain-resistant, making it the perfect accessory for spontaneous adventures in any type of climate. (Psst: If you like checkerboard but aren’t vibing with a red and pink pairing, choose from dozens of other palettes on the site.)
Best for a Crowd: Cool Cabanas 5
Now that social distancing restrictions are lifting, gathering your loved ones in one place is a must. If your crew is particularly large, you’ll want all 64 square feet of Cool Cabanas’s striped tent (a regular umbrella is half the size), and if some folks leave throughout the day, you can always fold it up to a smaller size. Best of both worlds.
Best Pop-Up: Oniva Manta Portable Tent
If you’ve ever wrestled with a pop-up tent at the end of a long day in the sun, you know that not all designs are created equal. This lightweight polyester shell with a fiberglass wire frame pops into place in seconds, making it a great accessory for on-the-go outings. When you’re ready to leave, simply twist the structure like origami to fold it into a flat, compact disc. Don’t worry; there’s a step-by-step video tutorial to show you exactly how it’s done.
Best New Release: Food52 x Kate Roebuck Pop-Up Tent
Food52 recently teamed up with Chattanooga, Tennessee–based artist Kate Roebuck to add a paradise-inspired leafy print to its classic beach shell. Use the included stakes when the weather’s extra-breezy and pack it up at the end of the day in a chic carrying case. The best part? The collection includes a matching inflatable pool, bamboo dinnerware, and beach towels, so you can coordinate your whole setup.
How We Vetted These Products
Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:
- They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
- They’re expert approved. In addition to our team of editors, we tap a range of designers, makers, renovators, and all-around knowledgeable people to share their intel.
- They’re endorsed by people who actually own them. We pay close attention to real reviews from both our creative community and third-party websites to know that they pass the test IRL.