Everyone gets excited about a beach trip. We anticipate of the warmth of the sun, crisp ocean water, and a cool salty breeze. But that’s always how it starts.
At least 1 person in every family gets more sun than they bargained for and they seek out shelter. A sunburn can turn a beach trip into a peeling, uncomfortable situation.
Maybe they have to walk back to the hotel to sit in the shade, or maybe there’s a bar or restaurant nearby to find relief from the sun.
If you brought an umbrella you’re in luck! Umbrellas, however, are rarely big enough for more than 2 people and they don’t perform well in soft sand or wind.
A beach sun shade can be the perfect addition for a for a beach trip. No matter if it’s 1 day, 1 week, or a summer-long camping trip, a quality sun shade will be large enough for a family and last multiple years.
In the sections below I’ll highlight the best beach sunshades for families and friends. I’ll also share a few reasons you should consider a beach sun shade and the characteristics you should look for – after all, the heat, saltwater, wind, and sand can reek havoc on your gear.
You want something that will last a number of years. Even better if you can use a sun shade that is versatile and used away from the beach (park, sports, picnic).
Reasons You Need A Beach Sun Shelter
20 years ago people weren’t too worried about UV rays. If you were like me, you spent your summers under the sun without sunscreen. Now, your skin is paying for too much sun exposure.
UV sunlight is strongest during the hours of 10 am-4 pm. Those hours just happen to be prime time beach time. If you’re on a beach trip you’ll be in the sun within those hours so it’s important to apply sunscreen every two hours, whether you need it or not (yes, every two hours – read my article on sunscreen protection).
You’ll also want a place you can get out of the sun for a few minutes (or hours). Any type of shelter is nice (canopy, tent, shade, umbrella). There’s always shade in restaurants near the beach and in the hotel room but you want to stay on the beach.
Dehydration is another problem many people face at the beach. People drink alcohol and soda, which actually dehydrate you. People may feel hydrated because they are sweating or they’re wet from the ocean, but our skin doesn’t absorb water.
We must drink it. Dehydration occurs when we release more water than we’re taking in. If you plan ahead, drinking water before going to the beach can help you load up on fluids before you get there (check out my article about peeing in the ocean)
A beach shelter provides shade and the shade can reduce our perspiration rate.
Make sure to take plenty of water with you. I usually freeze a few water bottles so it melts and I have cool water all day. Frozen bottles can also help keep our cooler cold all day (read more of my best beach hacks).
Some people get dehydration and heat exhaustion confused. They can be related but heat exhaustion is more serious. Symptoms include throbbing headache, dizziness, lack of sweating, hot itchy skin, rapid heartbeat (among others).
Heat exhaustion occurs when working and exercising outdoors in a high-heat environment. Shade will help reduce the chance of heat exhaustion. For parents, it’s extremely important to keep an eye on young kids on hot days.
Kids are active at the beach running and playing non-stop. They are often unaware of the heat, humidity, and sweating and don’t want to stop having fun.
There’s no shade at the beach. Take it with you!
6 Best Beach Sun Shades (Perfect For The Beach)
#1 Pacific Breeze Easy Set Up Sun Shade
My number one beach sun shade resembles a tent, but it’s only half and it’s made for the beach. Don’t worry, you won’t be living in this tent.
With 1000’s of great reviews this option can’t be beaten. Most people think a “tent” is difficult to set up and take down. Pacific Breezed solved the problem and this sun shade sets up in a few seconds.
- Few seconds to open and close
- Made for the beach with extendible floor
- 50+ UPF sun protection
- Large windows for ventilation and wind resistance
- Measures 95” x 52” x 51”
- Fits 3-4 people
- Internal pockets and hooks for hanging
One of the coolest things about this beach sun shade is the flap that comes out. Sure, it’s nice to have the extra area in front of the tent, but the flap also zips up to cover to enclose the tent. So, if you want to change clothes or take a nap in privacy, you can zip up the front (check Pacific Breeze on Amazon).
Another reason this sun shade is so popular is because it is easy to use. You don’t need multiple people, you don’t need rope or sandbags, just take it out the bag activate the tent by pulling the strings. The last reason I like is it’s super lightweight and easy to carry. It weighs only 6 lbs so even a child can carry it. Straightforward and effortless.
#2 Otentik Beach Sun Shade
Can beach shades be beautiful? How about funky? This beach shade looks good and keeps things simple. I really like that the sides are open so you don’t lose the comfortable cool breeze in all directions.
- Over 20 color options
- Excellent reviews
- UPF 50
- Made with European style
- Takes a few minutes to set up
- Sandbags, poles and rope
- Adjustable to change with the sun
Getting this sun shade to the beach is easy with the lightweight bag it comes in. Once there, fill up the bags with sand, stick the poles in the sand and stretch the shade over the top.
One thing that’s great about this shade is that it’s adjustable, so the shade can move with the position of the sun – you won’t get that with tents or other options. Otentik uses a sensitive microfiber with 28% lycra so it’s stretchy (check Otentik sun shade on Amazon).
They offer a 30 day return so if you’re not happy after it’s first use, feel free to send it back. There are a few sizes to choose from small to large
Customers are using them for excursions at the beach, fishing trips, and at beach volleyball tournaments. Everyone seems to be happy with it – be prepared to get a lot of compliments at the beach.
#3 Coleman Day Tripper Sun Shade
Coleman is known for their camping gear and this half-tent is a great one for the beach. It works great for day trips at the beach and for young kids that need a safe place to rest and sleep out of the sun.
I like the color options design, and the price is hard to beat!
- Portable Pop-Up
- 50 UPF sun protection
- Extended front floor that also zips up to close tent
- Storage pockets, ventilation
- Dryline to hang wet closes
- Measures 7’6” x 4’5” (center height 4’9”)
- Sets up in 5 minutes
The Coleman sun shade takes a few minutes longer than the Pacific Breeze to set up but it uses a similar design and comes at a cheaper price. Ask yourself if a few more minutes of set up with worth saving money.
It uses stakes to remain in the sand. Using stakes on the sand hasn’t always worked great for me (similar to umbrellas), however, it will help to anchor the tent (check Coleman Day Tripper on Amazon).
This design tends to “catch” wind but the ventilation windows should allow enough air to pass through. I also like that it zips up to give privacy.
It weighs 5 lbs and comes in a handy carrying bag. It will easily break down and fit in the back of a car.
Reviews are excellent and users say it is versatile away from the beach. It can be used at sporting events, parks, and for kid’s parties. All-in-all this is a great option for the beach and made by a solid company.
#4 Neso Portable Sun Shade For The Beach
The Neso sun shade is another good option for people who like shade and that open-air feeling. Using a similar design as the Otentik sun shade, the Neso offers a top cover with two poles and sandbag anchors.
- Great designs
- 7’ x 7’
- Weighs 4 lbs
- Fits in your carry-on
- UV protection up to 98%
- Beaches, parks, stadiums, concerts
- Nylon and lycra blend
- Inspired by skin cancer survivor
The setup process is simple, yet takes a few minutes. It involves laying the material flat, filling bags with sand, arranging sandbags, extend and anchor poles, and place fabric over poles near corners (check Neso sun shade on Amazon).
That may seem like a lot of work but based on all the positive reviews people don’t mind it (a few minutes of work for a full day of shade is an okay trade-off if you ask me).
Reviews range from “best sun shade ever” to “high fashion at the beach”. 4 people can comfortably fit underneath the shade and it can be adjusted throughout the day to remain in the shade. It comes at a higher price point but it’s a quality sun shade that should last a few years or longer.
#5 Pacific Breeze Easy Set-Up XL (Sand and Surf)
This option from Pacific Breeze is slightly different than the #1 ranked sun shade but it’s still quite good. It provides a wide-open area with panels that can be attached.
It all depends on what you want but offers much more ventilation than the original.
- Easy Up Hub System (few seconds)
- 9 lbs
- 5” x 94.5” x 59”
- UPF 50+
- Polyester and water repellant
- Internal pockets
- Floor mat
This option includes a carrying case, 8 sand pockets, 2 shadows (covers) for extra shade and 4 stakes. You can’t beat the 1 year warranty (check Pacific Breeze Sand and Surf on Amazon).
I like the open air look of these beach sun shade and feel that it would hold up well under windy situations better than the #1 option. I’m not sure how much sun protection it would provide if you didn’t use the 2 included side panels.
Either way, I like the design and the brand. Both Pacific Breeze tents are simple to set up and lightweight. Customers like the look of it and say it’s perfect for the beach.
#6 Tommy Bahama Portable Beach Tent
Tommy Bahama makes fashionable beach gear including clothes and shoes. The brand has been around for decades and continues to be the leader in beach fashion (all those Hawaiian shirts).
This beach tent is similar to the Coleman option on our list and will require more time to set up than other options on the list. It is, however, made specifically for the beach and the design looks great.
- Budget priced
- Accommodates 2 beach chairs
- UPF 50+ rating
- Interior pockets and ventilation
- Carrying bag and strap
- Lightweight – 5 lbs
- Durable polyester fabric
This does have a frame that needs to be assembled (like the older style tents). The frame is coated aluminum that shouldn’t rust, yet hold up well over time (check the Tommy Bahama sun shade on Amazon).
With this sun shade, I like what you get for the price and I like the brand. Customers are also pleased and say “it’s simple to put together” and “I can actually fit 3 chairs inside” (it’s larger than it looks).
With a little TLC this beach sun shade could last a long time, making it well worth the small price tag. You can even use it in the backyard or at the parks – perfect for babies and young kids to avoid the sun.
Beach Sun Shade: Qualities You Need
Whenever you’re using gear outside it’s important the material is rugged enough to last multiple years. Thin material and cheap plastic parts are bound to rip and break at the beach.
The fabric of the beach sun shelter can vary, including reinforced nylon, breathable polyester, and microfiber, but it’s important the shade is thick enough to withstand the elements.
Metal of any kind should not be exposed to avoid rust at the beach (salt and water speeds up the rust process). The options on our list use ties, fabric, and fiberglass and avoid the use of metal.
A wind-proof design goes hand-in-hand with durability but this doesn’t only refer to the materials used. Many sun shade designs tend to catch wind, making them susceptible to being blown over.
Evidence of a weak design is the beach umbrella, which tends to fall over, even in moderate wind. Umbrellas can be anchored down but it remains tricky if there is wind.
Sun shades that don’t have walls work well because they are usually lightweight and open underneath (not tent styles). Lateral covering overhead should be viewed as a superior design compared to shades that are enclosed. They will do much better in environments with high-wind.
Remember, you’ll be carrying your beach sun shade from the car to the beach, and back. Your hands will be full with bags, towels, sunscreen, and surfboards. Sun shades that have a bag and sling make it easy to throw over a shoulder and carry.
Most shades made for the beach are lightweight and easy to carry – a big change from just a few years ago.
Style is a superficial thing, but it’s okay to look good at the beach. All the options on this list have colorful prints that go well with the beach.
Whether it’s pink, blue, green, or grey, there’s a color that can match your style. Bright colors tend to do well at the beach!
Ultra Violet Rays (Protection):
I mentioned earlier that sun-shades are important to reduce harmful sun exposure, however, we go to the beach to get sun, right? We should be smart about it.
If we’re with family, we’ll take the necessary precautions to apply sunscreen. Most people apply sunscreen 1x and don’t realize they should be doing it every 2 hours (or more with swimming).
A sun shade can help with UV rays in a few ways. First, it provides shade (duh) and any shade will help reduce the intense sunlight on our skin. It only takes 20 minutes without sunscreen before our skin begins to burn, so having some cover sporadically throughout the day to sleep and snack is helpful.
Second, is the fact that UV rays can penetrate shade. Yes, UV rays still go through the cover over your head. Usually, the thicker and darker the cover, the better protection it provides. Consider the material color and thickness when thinking about UV protection.
It’s also important to understand that UV rays reflect off the ocean and sand. If you’re sitting under the shade all day you can still get sunburned by reflection.
Easy To Set Up and Take Down:
Our last thing to consider is how easy the sun shade is to set up and take down. This piggy-backs on a sun shade being lightweight.
Some beach shades are pop-ups, others have poles and sand bags. When you arrive at the beach it’s important to enjoy your time there, not spend time fixing up and taking down your shade. Most the of the options on this list of best sun shades are simple and easy to set up.
One reason the Pacific Breeze is #1 on the list is because it can be set up by pulling 2 strings (it’s that easy). Breaking it down is just as easy and doesn’t require a team to do it.
Finding the right sun shade for the beach isn’t difficult. There are 100’s of options and in this article I compiled a few of the best beach sun shades.
There isn’t shade at the beach so it’s important you take your own. It will help with harmful UV rays, help reduce the chance of dehydration and heat exhaustion, and above all, give your family a comfortable, spot to sit to enjoy your day at the beach.
In this article I shared a few different types of sun shades, including tents and other sun shelters. Depending on the size of your family and your needs, I hope there’s one or two that catch your eye.
When considering a beach sun shade, look at the material, the size and ease of set up, its durability, weight, and wind-resistance. There always seems to be a breeze at the beach so make sure it will hold up over time.
I like the Pacific Breeze best, but larger groups might prefer the Otentik sunshade because it’s so simple and has more coverage area. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
At Beach Life Expert I aim to provide good information so people can enjoy their day at the beach. Let us know in the comments if you find a better option, and let us know how your beach trip goes. Thanks for reading!