The problem with most beach umbrellas is they don’t last. You might remember to buy one for, say, $30 as you pass a boardwalk store on your way to the beach, but it’ll blow away and nearly impale your neighbor, or the cheap flimsy pole will snap in half, or it’ll rust. Actually, you’ll probably be annoyed enough that you’ll just throw it out on your way home before it even gets to that point. “If an umbrella lasts more than two summers, you’re getting the most out of it,” says Eytan Benzeno, who founded one of the first online beach outlets back in 1999. “It usually doesn’t.” To help you find that unusually versatile beach umbrella, we’ve consulted avid (yet non-sun-worshiping) beachgoers and resort managers about the very best options — including a couple of more tentlike styles.
What we’re looking for
Materials: The best beach umbrellas are made with materials that last — all day, during all kinds of conditions, and ideally over the course of multiple seasons. For canopies, we’re looking for marine-grade fabric that won’t rip, rag, or stretch after a summer’s worth of salt and sand and is thick enough to block out harmful UV rays as you shelter between swims. For poles and frames, we sought out durable materials like fiberglass and wood over plastic.
Shade coverage: We looked for umbrellas with a range of shade coverage, from traditional circular canopies to umbrellas with adjustable hinges to tilt toward the sun to umbrellas that lie at a 45-degree angle and include flaps to create a mini-cabana effect. We also included a couple of expert recommendations for more tentlike beach shelters for the truly sun-averse beachgoers out there.
Anchor: A solidly constructed canopy is only one aspect of a good beach umbrella. We also considered how each of our umbrellas anchored into the sand, with the aim of identifying those that will stay up all day, even in windy conditions. The best way to dig a pole into the sand is with the use of a sand anchor, a spiral-shaped shaft that allows you to drill the umbrella further down than its pole would otherwise allow. Some umbrellas have built-in sand anchors, while others require an additional purchase. For beach tents, we considered those that anchor using sand bags as well as more traditional stakes.
Best overall beach umbrella
Marine-grade fabric, steel, and wood | 94-inch open height, non-tilt | Sand anchor sold separately
We are longtime fans of the Frankford, the go-to umbrella for shade-loving beachgoers on all the coasts. They use a version of the Frankford when at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami as well as the Delano, the Fontainebleau, and the Eden Roc. It’s also the umbrella of choice at Breakers Montauk, where Leyla Marchetto, a partner at the motel, calls it “elegant, classic, and sturdy.” The umbrella was first made for beach concessionaires after World War II then redesigned a few years ago for public use. Its 7.5-foot pole is fashioned out of flexible long-grain ash wood, the same wood used for baseball bats, so it won’t snap or rust; the skeleton is made of steel, so it won’t break off in the wind; and the nine-ounce marine-grade fabric, which comes in solid bright colors or in soothing stripes, is the same material used in most awnings, so it won’t fade. Plus it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. The umbrella comes with a carry bag because all that durability makes it a hefty 15-ish pounds.
The Frankford isn’t cheap, but we stand by it as our best overall pick because we think you’ll get your money’s worth over time — investing in one great umbrella makes more sense than buying the same cheap boardwalk one every time you hit the Rockaways. If you’re looking for the best in long-lasting beach umbrellas, this is the only one. Being the opposite of flimsy, you should be able to anchor the Frankford pretty well on your own — but for best results, the brand does recommend purchasing the sand anchor above.
Best (less expensive) beach umbrella
Polyester, fiberglass, aluminum | 94-inch open height, tilt mechanism | Sand anchor
If you just can’t bring yourself to spend that much, here’s another very good option. To be honest, nothing about this umbrella is sexy. Not only is it made by Tommy Bahama, but it’s branded with a giant Tommy Bahama logo (even if the online picture doesn’t have the logo, be warned, it will arrive with the logo). But you’ll soon get over all this when you realize this umbrella will never fly away. That’s thanks to the built-in sand anchor, which Mike Reinhardt, a co-founder of Locals Surf School at Rockaway Beach, says will ensure that the umbrella “stays in place on windy days.” There’s also a hinge in the middle of the pole so you can tilt just the top of the umbrella to meet the sun without having to dig it out and adjust the entire base. A vent at the top of the umbrella helps increase wind tolerance. Meanwhile, an aluminum undercoating helps block the dangerous rays while keeping you cool. The umbrella weighs four pounds and comes with a bag. According to Liz Gumbinner of Cool Mom Picks, everyone at Long Beach Island has one.
Best beach umbrella-tent hybrid
Polyester, alloy steel | 96-inch open height, 45-degree pole | Ground stakes and sand pockets
The two above umbrellas are traditional in both structure and function. If you’d like to invest in more futuristic beach technology, consider the Sport-Brella, which features a telescoping pole that stands at about a 45-degree angle, much like a telescope pointing toward the stars. It features two side flaps that anchor the umbrella’s UV-blocking fabric into the sand with ground stakes, creating a mini-cabana. Weighing six pounds, the Sport-Brella can comfortably fit three adults and comes with a side window, a flap for ventilation, and a pocket to hold your keys and phone. Peter Shaw, head instructor at Surfs Up NY surf school, likes that this “half-tent, half-umbrella” is “semi-private, since the back half is covered, and that’s pretty cool for hanging out with friends.” He says it stays put in 15 mph wind, the point at which many weaker umbrellas blow away. Most impressive, the Sport-Brella has over 7,000 Amazon reviews and still averages a 4.5 rating. It’s the ultimate crowd-pleaser.
Best minimalist beach tent
Waterproof stretch nylon and lycra | 66-inch height, tilted canopy | Sand pockets
A beach tent comes with two significant advantages compared with its beach umbrella cousins: lightness and increased shade. The sporty-looking Neso is recommended by avid beachgoer Bianca Buchanan, who’s been visiting local beaches from Staten Island to the Bronx weekly for the past 17 years. “It’s great in the wind, and keeps you cool underneath,” she says. Unlike an umbrella, the tent doesn’t have to be dug into the ground — simply fill the bags in each corner with sand to weigh them down. And compared to our bulky top pick, it’s much easier to tote around. Buchanan says, “When the sandbags are empty, each tent weighs just four pounds.”
Best full-coverage beach tent
Polyester and fiberglass | 47-inch height, three-wall canopy and floor | Sand pockets and stakes
And if you’re really camping out all day and wish to avoid even the slightest tan, here’s a three-walled tent with a built-in floor. It comes recommended by New York’s extremely sun-averse deputy editor Alexis Swerdloff, who was especially struck by how easy it is to pack. Weighing four pounds, the tent “can be packed up and toted around in a very manageable carry case with a shoulder strap.” As for setup, its name does not lie: “All you have to do is pull its little lever on top and it snaps into shape. Then push four yellow stakes into the ground, and for extra weight, there are several pockets into which you can deposit a few handfuls of sand.” And while the three walls (constructed from UV-blocking polyester) will protect you from the sun, you can still experience some beach ambiance courtesy of two mesh windows that’ll let in a sea breeze and whatever the group next to you is playing on their Bluetooth speaker.
• Eytan Benzeno, Florida-based realtor and former CEO of beachstore.com
• Bianca Buchanan, weekly New York City beachgoer
• Liz Gumbinner, writer and publisher, Cool Mom Picks
• Leyla Marchetto, partner, Breakers Montauk
• Mike Reinhardt, co-founder, Locals Surf School at Rockaway Beach
• Peter Shaw, head instructor, Surfs Up NY
• Alexis Swerdloff, deputy editor, New York
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