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Having a way to get out of the sun and wind is often the difference between spending an hour at the beach, and enjoying a whole day at the beach. As a parent myself, I know the best beach canopy for family trips is very different for singles or couples. You need to keep your attention on the family – not worrying about whether your shade will stay up or not.
We think the best beach canopy in 2021 is the Cool Cabanas beach shelter, but I’ve also listed 8 other models that I think are outstanding and that will suit different needs.
1. Cool Cabanas – 🎪 Our Favourite Beach Shelter
2. Ez Up Dome – 🎪 Best Beach Pop Up Canopy
3. Core Canopy – 🎪 Best For Wind
4. Leader Accessories
5. Red Suricata – 🎪 Best pole tent beach canopy
6. Lightspeed – 🎪 Easiest Setup
7. Pacific Breeze
8. Easthills Shader
9. Coleman 🎪 – Best On A Budget
Wind: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5)
Go to detailed review
Wind: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5) (with leg weights)
Go to detailed review
Wind: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)
Go to detailed review
- 1 Beach canopy purchasing tips
- 2 The best beach canopy for family – reviews
- 2.1 1. Cool Cabana beach canopy 🎪 Our favorite beach shelter
- 2.2 2. E-Z Up Dome Canopy 🎪 Best beach pop up canopy
- 2.3 3. CORE 10 x 10 instant shelter 🎪 Best for Wind
- 2.4 4. Leader Accessories pop up canopy tent
- 2.5 5. Red Suricata family beach sunshade – 🎪 Best pole tent beach canopy
- 2.6 6. Lightspeed outdoors XL Sport Shelter 🎪 Easiest Setup
- 2.7 7. Pacific Breeze sand and surf beach shelter
- 3 8. Easthills Outdoors Instant Shader (Enhanced Deluxe XL)
- 4 Portable sunshade canopy FAQ
Beach canopy purchasing tips
Types of Beach Canopy
On the beach you see family beach shelters that can be described as small tents, larger canopies, as well as other hybrid designs.
Family beach tents come in a range of sizes but typically sit 2 to 3 adults, and kinda look like a camping tent cut in half. Their low height makes them a great kids beach canopy, ideal for protecting babies or toddlers from the raging sun. Additionally they are a great option if you are short on space, or have lots of gear to get across the hot sand, as they pack down to a nice small size (sometimes small enough for air-travel carry on luggage). They are a step up from umbrella’s in terms of shade and wind resistance (you can easily weigh them down with things like sand pockets and stakes/pegs). Most can be set up with one person, especially after a little practice.
Canopies are more robust structures providing the most shade and protection from the wind. The terminology around canopies can be confusing; I think of them in terms of ‘canopy tents’ and ‘pop-up canopies’.
A family beach tent canopy can look essentially like an oversized beach tent with flexible rods that lock in place. Many are dome shaped and some are big enough to stand up in. Keep canopy tents in mind if you are looking for a lightweight option that’s a bit roomier than a tent. You can normally get away with one person constructions here, except if it’s windy (it’s like trying to stake down a kite).
The term ‘pop-up’ or ‘instant-up’ canopy refers to a canopy set on top of a rigid frame that collapses accordion-like into a neat bundle. Smaller families, or those with little gear, might find an 8 x 8 ft shaded area to be big enough. For most a 10×10 ft shaded area provides adequate room to be comfortable. It’s ideal to have at least two people to help carry and setup these styles of canopies. Be careful when evaluating straight vs slant leg canopies; the latter will have a smaller canopy top area than the area at the base. For example, a slant leg canopy might be 10’x10’ between the feet at the base, but taper to 8’x8’ at the top. A straight leg canopy has the corners of the canopy top directly over the feet, which means its base dimensions will be the same as the canopy cover at the top (base footprint reflects the shade area you will get).
New canopy designs come out all the time that combine elements from beach tents, canopies and umbrellas.
There is never a perfect solution, so you need to balance all the features that are important to you. Use these questions to refine your choice about your best beach canopy for family trips:
How portable does it need to be?
Do you have to walk a large distance to get from your car to the beach, or can you drive up pretty close? Do you have spare hands to help share the load, or are you looking into surgical interventions that could transplant extra hands to help carry the kids? There is often a tradeoff between portability and durability; for example if you choose something very light it may not be as strong.
How easy do you want the setup to be?
It’s pointless herding the family to a beautiful beach, only to begin divorce proceedings with your partner in the process of setting up. What might be easy to erect in fair weather, might become a nightmare in a small breeze. In saying that, the canopies reviewed here are all reasonably easy to set up, with maybe 5-10 min separating the fastest and slowest. Here are some ideas for how to anchor your canopy down in sand.
What size do you need?
There are two factors to consider for the best beach shade for family. Consider the number of people that need to fit underneath, and how much gear you typically take with you. Most beach tents and cabanas are designed for sitting or lying, and some allow you to stand underneath them. If you have trouble getting up and down off the ground, look for a taller product.
|Common Canopy Size||# People Recommended|
|10 x 10 ft (3 x 3 m) pop up canopy||6 (or 4 + gear)|
|12 x 12 ft (4 x 4 m) pop up canopy||8 (or 6 + gear)|
Protection from the elements
All of the recommended canopies here are advertised as UPF 50+, which will protect you from most of the harmful UV rays. Most will keep you dry in a light shower, however their ability to handle/shield from wind will vary.
The best beach canopy for family – reviews
1. Cool Cabana beach canopy 🎪 Our favorite beach shelter
Half umbrella, half canopy, these cabana’s are a great option for the beach. After seeing a heap of these on the beach I was impressed by their concept, and how good they looked. I tested one out on the beach, and my family loved it. Check out the detailed cool cabanas review. The version I reviewed is the series 5 which gives you a heap of new designs to choose from.
What looks like a small canopy with a central pole, is really just an umbrella with four hanging sand pockets which help keep the canopy top weighted down. It’s a great kids beach tent as they will love getting involved to fill the sand pockets (see how much fun my daughter is having). It only needs one person to set it up.
The Cool Cabanas gives you 8’ x 8’ of shade which is excellent considering it packs up into a shoulder bag. The max height is around 6′, however this does depend on how hard you bang the pole into the sand. I’m a little over average height for a guy, and I would have liked a few more inches to enjoy standing up underneath fully. If you’re looking for an alternative that is a little more enclosed, have a look at something like the Easthills Shader. Overall the Cool Cabanas is one of the best beach tents for families.
- The extra storage pockets on each of the four hanging drapes provide a great place to keep small items from getting sandy.
- Provides a breezy beach shelter experience while still providing sun protection
- Holds up well in the wind.
- Different designs available.
- For me personally I would have like a little more height
- Consider upgrading the tent pegs to a sand option
- Not what you want if you’re looking for sheltered sides
2. E-Z Up Dome Canopy 🎪 Best beach pop up canopy
As compact as instant up canopies can get, most are designed to only ever be carried a few feet from your car’s boot. However, the E-Z Up Dome provides a much better transporting experience and also looks great to boot. The E-Z Up range has a long history in the canopy marketplace, and this model is targeted specifically at the beach. The E-Z Up dome weighs less than 37 pounds and has an excellent carry case with some of the best wheels on the market. These wheels will allow you to conquer uneven terrain, rather than being confined to sealed surfaces. The fabric top is classified as ‘recreational grade’. An E-Z up representative told me this grade refers to 250 denier polyester – a nice balance between weight and durability.
Due to the lightweight build and human-friendly components, the E-Z up Dome is super easy to to get up. A one person setup would be very feasible here. The accessible slide pull-pin is a welcome change to those that are used to wrestling slide mechanisms with tiny stud buttons.
Due to the angled legs the canopy top is smaller (8’x8’) than at the base (10’x10’), which is part of the reason it is so light. While this means less shade area than a straight legged canopy, it should still provide enough shade for a small to medium family. There is plenty of headroom (9ft) once you’re underneath the canopy. If you’re looking for an alternative then check out the Coleman instant wide base shelter.
- Very robust canopy top material (for a recreational canopy)
- A well known brand with spare parts/support available
- The carry case has great wheels
- Unique approach to managing wind gusts with flexible carbon rods
- E-Z Up back this product with a three year warranty (most around this price range are 1 year).
- It comes with E-Z Up’s spike kit, however I would also recommend getting leg weights (E-Z Up sell these, but many other brands have leg weights that will fit).
- Not as much shade as standard 10×10 canopy
- This canopy is on the more expensive end of the recreational canopies
- No built in guy ropes
3. CORE 10 x 10 instant shelter 🎪 Best for Wind
Despite this being a steel straight leg canopy, CORE have managed to keep the weight down to around 43 pounds which makes it a great option for the beach. The frame and canopy are lightweight enough that you could feasibly put this up by yourself, and it will be superfast with two people. It packs down into a neat wheeled bag that’s 49” long, although the wheels are fairly basic and will struggle in the sand (consider bringing along a beach cart to carry it). Make sure the vent is fully open at the top for maximum airflow, and consider purchasing the additional sidewalls for more wind protection.
The straight leg 10’ x 10’ frame gives you the benefit of a full 100 sq ft of shade, which (along with the Leader Accessories canopy) makes it one of the best beach tents for large families. The 150D canopy material has had a water repelling treatment applied and the seams taped, so it will keep you dry in a short shower (but not technically ‘waterproof’). I’ve suggested this is great for wind as the extended material over the legs provides additional tension to the canopy top, compared to other brands that will generally just have Velcro or hook-loop devices at the corners (compare to the Leader canopy). You can also buy sidewalls separately which will give you shielding from the wind.
- A little more water resistant than other canopies (double stitched and taped seams)
- Extended material tensioned at legs makes for a rigid structure
- Guy lines woven into the canopy for securing to the ground
- It has vents at the top to expel the heat
- It has been tested for fire safety
- Spare parts are available if needed in future
- 1 year warranty
- Only comes in black and grey.
- Only has small rollers on carry case
- Slightly thinner canopy material (compared to that used in the E-Z Up models).
- I would consider investing in proper sand pegs and weight bags.
4. Leader Accessories pop up canopy tent
This is another great family beach tent canopy option weighing in at a reasonable 40 pounds, and it all packs down into a sharp looking wheeled bag that is only 49″ long. You could set this one up by yourself, but it is much easier with assistance (good chance to get the kids involved). Getting the corners up and down is a smooth experience as it’s driven by a push button mechanism. This 10 x 10 ft powder coated steel frame provides a full 100 sq ft of shade making it (in my opinion) one of the best tents for large families (along with the CORE). If you are looking for some additional wind protection you can get aftermarket Leader-branded sidewalls.
The slightly more expensive CORE canopy discussed previously is very similar, however it does have extra tensioning ability with the material extending down the leg. The Leader canopy also hasn’t got the taped seams like the CORE, however you do still get good value for money with the additional guy ropes and vents. However the Leader canopy material itself is made of 210D polyester, which is thicker (and therefore more robust) than the CORE. Both the CORE and Leader canopy wheeled bags are not as ready to conquer the sand as the E-Z Up range, so go easy on those wheels (tip: a beach cart is really useful to help transport your beach canopy). All things considered the Leader Accessories canopy is a really solid product for it’s price point.
- Provides great value at an entry level price
- Includes built-in guide outs, guy ropes, and dual vents at the top.
- Canopy top material is robust (by recreational standards)
- Only a 1 year warranty
- No double stitched or taped seams
- I suggest purchasing specialised sand pegs or weight bags
- Wheels are only suitable for hard surfaces
5. Red Suricata family beach sunshade – 🎪 Best pole tent beach canopy
A great little canopy tent that can be carried just about everywhere. The large version has as big a shade area as some pop up canopy varieties, but with less than half the weight. Despite the poles measure 6.6’ high the fabric drapes down, so it’s sitting room only (at least for the parents). There are two sizes available, but most families will find the large size the best option. It will take a bit of practice to perfect the construction technique, check out this video to see what’s involved before you buy. There are other more simpler family beach shelters that are easier to setup, however you also tend to increase the weight as a consequence with fancy mechanisms. On the bright side there are a heap of colors to choose from, which means you can give your beach setup a bit of personality.
This product has evolved significantly over time and every year they seem to provide more accessories and features. A few years ago they were one of the first to offer 4 poles as standard, which really increased the shade area and usability. However now the other brands (including cheap alternatives) have caught on to the 4 pole craze. The most recent additions in 2021 were the coating of the canopy with a water repelling treatment, and including some useful items like shovels and hooks. One of my favourite innovations is the corkscrew pole anchors that lock themselves into the sand. I think Red Suricata’s effort in squeezing in heaps of value sets them apart from other brands like the Otentik and Neso varieties.
- Good shade coverage, especially considering how well it packs down
- There are a heap of colours to choose from
- Attention to detail (e.g. Balls on the end of the poles to reduce tears, extra accessories)
- Very portable
- The setup is a little more finicky than instant up beach tents
- Has a large footprint on the sand with sandbags spread out
- 1 year warranty
6. Lightspeed outdoors XL Sport Shelter 🎪 Easiest Setup
As the name suggests, Lightspeed has set its sights on the land-speed record for ‘quickest setup for a canopy tent’. It has a simple and effective mechanism that can be operated by one person, that when pulled causes it to explode into its tent form. By using fiberglass poles the designers have been able to keep the weight down to around 7 pounds. This makes it an ideal family beach shelter as you can casually throw this over your shoulder and find your spot on the sand. It’s got enough height to sit underneath, but if you want a little more headroom I would consider something like the Cool Cabanas.
The company has been around since 2009 so it’s been through several iterations and expanded their range. They also have the cabana version, which might be preferable for some beach goers as it has a roll out mat for the sand. I still like the ‘sport’ as the windows at the back open right up, unlike their cabana version which has more framed windows with less coverage. The fabric is quite thin which is great for lightness, however I would only use this in the fairest of conditions (which is inline with some of the reviews online).
Setup tip: If you find the mechanism a little hard to pull at first, ensure you bring the bottom of the hub to around eye level before pulling the cord – otherwise you’ll be trying to force it open against the poles.
- Instant up mechanism
- Sandbags and guy lines.
- The backwall can be opened up to a variety of configurations to let in the breeze
- Includes sand pockets and guy lines as securing options
- Very portable, and particularly light
- It does come with sand stakes, although I would recommend getting longer ones for beaches with very loose/fine sand.
- Sitting room only
- 1 year warranty
7. Pacific Breeze sand and surf beach shelter
The Sand and Surf Shelter’s airy design allows you bask in the beach breeze but not get sizzled by the sun. It comes with a small sidewall that can attach to any of the four sides, which means you can adjust as the sun traverses, or wind changes direction on the day. There is a good amount of surface area to fit a couple of chairs plus gear underneath, but it’s only standing room for the kids.
The setup is super easy: unwrap the folded tent, lock the lower segments of each pole, pull the cord, secure to beach, and ‘ta-daa’. This shelter will appeal to those wanting the openness of a shelter like the Cool Cabanas, but with the instant mechanical mechanism of the Lightspeed Shelter. It doesn’t give you the room to move about underneath like the Cool Cabanas, however the Pacific has the floor mat (can be zipped open) which might be more important for those with small kids.
It all packs down into a light (9 pounds) and portable bag. Setup tip: If you are looking to spend a lot of time on the beach, consider investing in some higher quality sand pegs.
- Easy and simple setup – instant up mechanism
- Includes sand pockets and guy lines for secure grounding
- Internal pockets are great for keeping valuable off the sand where you can easily find them
- Very portable
- The stakes provided are a little flimsy and basic. To perform better in windy conditions I would consider upgrading these.
- No standing room
- 1 year warranty
8. Easthills Outdoors Instant Shader (Enhanced Deluxe XL)
The instant shader is one of the wider beach tents at 99” wide. As with most of the smaller beach tents there is sitting room only. It packs down into a nice shoulder bag that weighs 8 lbs with all the gear, which will easily fit in your car boot. It has three decent sized meshed windows, which is super important for moving along the hot air that builds up from being in the sun.
The Easthill’s patented mechanism is quite elegant – one stern pull of a string explodes the tent into existence, and all that is left to do is to secure it down. You have the option of filling the sandbags as well as using the provided guy lines if your shelter is looking like it might take off. This canopy has similar benefits to the Lightspeed Shelter, but some people will like the fact that you can zip up the front for privacy and also zip on a landing mat that extends out to the front.
Setup tip: A neat security hack – when heading in for a swim, use a small luggage lock on the zip to deter snoopers looking for an easy lift.
- Easy and simple, instant up mechanism
- You can zip up front, and has extendable porch
- Sandbags and guy lines included
- Storage pockets to keep valuables off the sand
- Very portable
- No standing room
- 1 year warranty
- Consider upgrading the sand pegs to longer ones
9. Coleman beach shade shelter 🎪 Best on a Budget
The advantage of having a very simple frame is that there are no heavy mechanisms to lug around (to some this also means less can go wrong). This makes the Coleman the welterweight champion of the bunch I’ve reviewed here (weighs in at a nifty 6.3 pounds). Since there are no instant-up mechanisms you’ll have to manually feed the 3 poles through the cover, but you can still be up and running within 5-10min. It has two guy lines built-in and a few small sandbags that you can attach to each corner, which will handle a light wind.
In terms of height it’s actually comparable to the Easthills Deluxe Shader, however it’s about 9″ more narrow. Like the Easthills (and unlike the Lightspeed) you can zip up the front for some privacy. Coleman as a brand has a long and rich history stretching back to the early 1900s, which should instill some confidence in it’s quality and service. There hasn’t been a lot changes in the design over the years, but I think that’s because they have nailed what a basic shelter should be.
Setup tip: ensure that you feed the poles carefully through the sleeves as it’s possible to snag and tear the material.
- Extendable front floor that can also be zipped up for privacy.
- Budget friendly.
- Sandbags (not sewn in) and two guy lines built in.
- Storage pockets and clothes line built-in.
- No frills approach (no instant up mechanism).
- Some ventilation, but not much.
- Consider upgrading the sand stakes.
- 1 year warranty.
- Not many colors to choose from (I could only find two)
Portable sunshade canopy FAQ
How do I keep my beach canopy from blowing away?
An erected beach canopy can act like a sail or kite, and unless you tether it down it will take off in the next gust of wind. You can secure a beach canopy by weighing it down with heavy bags or weights; by tying it down with ropes; or by burying the canopy legs in the ground.
Which is better straight leg or slant leg canopy?
A straight leg canopy will typically be stronger and provide more shade than a slant leg canopy of the same base dimensions. Some people prefer the look of a slant leg canopy, and they can sometimes be lighter than a straight leg frame of the same base dimensions (there is less canopy material at the top). For a full explanation check out my slant vs straight leg canopy article.
What can I use for canopy weights?
Find bags or containers that you can fill with sand and attach to the uprights of your canopy. These are a highly portable option as you can just take empty bags with you, and fill them with sand or rocks on location. If the bags have loops/handles you can also use them as anchor points to tie ropes to. So get creative and make your own DIY versions, or there are also many affordable bags available to buy.
What size canopy do I need?
Consider the number of people that need to fit underneath, and how much gear you typically take with you. Some canopies are designed for sitting or lying, and some allow you to stand underneath them. If you have trouble getting up and down off the ground, look for a taller product. Obviously there is a balance to be found between portability and size; typically your canopy will get heavier as you get bigger. Beach canopy tents are very light and easy to carry, and are for 2-3 people to sit underneath. Beach Cabanas are a little bigger (3-4 people) and just as light, and tend to be more open to the elements (less tent like). Beach pop up canopies have metal frames that and therefore allow bigger sizes, however are much more heavy. Depending on the size you could fit as few as 3-4 people, and as many as 8-9 people.