From Checkerboard to Palm Prints, the Best Beach Canopies Put the Fun in Functional

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.

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 super-sturdy 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 that 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+ fabric, has exterior pockets and stakes, and comes with a handy carry case—a few thoughtful design details that 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 of 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 just under 8-inches by 19-inches and weighs just four pounds.

Best Compact: Fatboy X Miasun Portable Beach Tent

On-the-go beachcombers will love this uber-portable, lightweight tent. Its aluminum poles collapse and fold into a super-compact 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 an 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 voila! 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. 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 also 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 bathing suit and shades. This checkerboard tent will not only match your favorite towel, but also is 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 Cabana’s striped tent (a regular umbrella is half the size) but 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’ll 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-based artist Kate Roebuck to add a paradise-inspired leafy print to their 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 set-up.

How We Vetted These Products

Every product in a Domino guide meets these criteria:

  1. They blend form and function. We believe the best-designed products reflect your personal style and are a joy to use.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The products in this story are independently selected by (obsessive) editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.