A First Hand Experience and Review of a Cool Cabanas Sunshade Beach Canopy

We put the lightweight Cool Cabanas tent umbrella to the test during our East Coast vacation

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Published July 16, 2023
By Jillian Anders

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Cool Cabanas on the beach

Last summer, we saw a Cool Cabana on an east coast beach and knew right then we had to get one. We loved how it combined the best features of a beach umbrella and a canopy tent, so we chose to purchase the large 8x8 Cool Cabana 5. In this review, we highlight 4 reasons why we think it's one of the best beach tents in hopes that it might help you determine if it's the right one for you.

Sideview of the Cool Cabanas beach umbrella canopy
Ease of Use
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When compared to other beach tents on the market, the Cool Cabana stands out for its ease of setup and durability. Cool Cabanas offer a greater area of shade than a large beach umbrella while providing a more stable structure than tents like the popular Neso or Sun Ninja. Similar beach tent umbrellas like EasyGo and Qipi have some cross-over designs and features, but the Cool Cabanas is the best in class.

Short Summary

  • Provides UPF 50+ sun protection and a stylish, practical beach umbrella alternative with extended shade coverage, better stability & storage pockets.
  • Two size options & various designs to suit any beach setup for optimal comfort & sun protection.
  • Enjoy superior ease of setup, durability, and air circulation compared to other tents plus accessories such as carrying bags and lounge chairs for convenience.

What is Cool Cabanas?

The Cool Cabana is a stylish and modern alternative to a traditional beach umbrella as its practical design allows for extended shade coverage and better stability. It launched in 2014 and has quickly grown to be one of the most popular beach tents in the United States and Australia. They are currently on their 5th generation sun shelter, named the Cool Cabana 5, which has been upgraded with stronger connectors and comes in two different sizes and 10 different prints.

4 reasons to love Cool Cabanas

Our Cool Cabana checks all the boxes for beach lovers like us - it's lightweight, easy to carry, very durable, and protect us from the sun's harmful UV rays. The first thing we noticed after setting it up for the first time is that it's constructed with high-quality materials that ensure its resistance to wear and tear despite our frequent beach trips. But what we found that really sets Cool Cabana apart from other beach tents is its practicality, making it an optimal choice for beachgoers, particularly young families who need a straightforward and durable solution to shield themselves and their kids from the sun’s rays.

Fast and Easy Setup

Setting up our Cool Cabana was a breeze, and it took us approximately 3 minutes from start to finish. The assembly process involved inserting the central spike into the sand, then tapping the spike with a second pole firmly into the ground. Then we placed the top section with the canopy onto the second pole and unfolded the arms one at a time. Unfolding the arms was a little bit tricky at first because when one arm locked in another one popped out, but we were able to figure it out pretty quickly. The setup process could be completed with just one person, but having a second person to help with the umbrella arms made it much easier.

Lastly, we filled each of the four sandbags at the bottom of the legs with as much sand as we could fit. We used our hands to fill the sand pockets in each corner leg which worked just fine, but a sand scoop or small shovel would have made the process go quicker. It is important to fill the pockets to the top because they are the main anchor point for the entire shelter and they ensure the stability of the umbrella. The pockets are big enough to hold 35 lbs of sand to prevent the tent from being blown away by the wind.

Impressively compact and lightweight

One thing we love about our Cool Cabana is that it's almost as lightweight as an umbrella while providing nearly as much shade as a canopy tent. At 14 lbs. it's just a bit heavier than a typical umbrella, but it packs away nicely in the carrying tote so our 8-year-old is able to carry it over his shoulder. While a traditional beach umbrella is 6 feet and offers about 28 square feet of shade, the Cool Cabana provides 64 square feet of shade, so the slight increase in weight is well worth the tradeoff.

The carrying bag is clean with a white design and red accents, but we think it will likely get dirty over time so perhaps white is not have been the best color choice. We really like that the bag uses a velcro enclosure as opposed to a zipper, because we have used many canopy tents with zippered carrying bags at the beach and nearly all of them have broken because sand got stuck in the zipper. The bag measures just 3.5' long so it was easy to fit in the trunk of our car even with all the other luggage, something we love when traveling with our kids and all their beach toys.

Rugged enough to withstand strong winds

When correctly set up, the Cool Cabanas beach tent can take whatever nature throws at it. In our time at the beach, we had a sustained breeze of 8 mph with wind gusts up to 20 mph. Our Cool Cabanas tent had absolutely no problem handling the 20 mph gusts, even as a few nearby umbrellas were jarred loosed and needed to be adjusted to lean into the wind.

The design of the canopy consists of a central hub and four arms, somewhat like an umbrella, but these arms are made of thick PVC as opposed to the thin rods found on a typical beach umbrella. Heavy-duty plastic connectors join the arms together and with the downward pressure from the sand pockets form a stable structure that won't be blown away by the wind.

The lightweight polyester fabric on the Cool Cabana is thick enough to protect from the elements while still allowing heat to escape through the vent peak, making it ideal for hot summer days when you want to remain cool and comfortable. We could tell the fabric stitching is high-quality and not cheap like many competitors like EasyGo and Qibi, which is often a problem in stronger winds when the fabric starts fraying over time.

Excellent sun protection and ventilation

Hot days at the beach call for shade, and Cool Cabana delivers with its open-side design, providing unobstructed views and great airflow. We love that the design ensures an unimpeded view of the ocean, making it an excellent alternative to traditional half dome beach shelters and canopies. The vented peak kept the temperature cool even on our hot 90-degree day as the warm air freely escapes out of the top of the canopy. The thick polyester canvas provides shade and protection against harmful UV rays, so we didn't have to reapply the sunscreen while sitting under the shade.

A variety of fun prints and designs

We choose to go with the iconic white and navy striped canvas in the larger 8x8 size, but it is also available with 6.7'x6.7' dimensions as well as a wide range of stylish designs with vibrant patterns and floral prints allowing you to match your own personal taste. We felt the smaller size would be too cramped under the tent as it only offers 43 square feet of shade, so that's why we opted for the larger one. We can see the appeal of the smaller version for couples with no kids, as it would be the perfect sun shelter for shading two beach chairs.

Accessories and add-ons

Cool Cabana offers a few accessories and add-ons that enhance the usability of the canopy even further. We decided to purchase the grass kit because we knew we would want to use our tent at more places than just the beach, like at home and soccer games. We also decided to get the lounger because it has some really cool features not found on many beach chairs.

Grass Stakes

The grass stakes kit was a no-brainer for us because it extends the versatility beyond the sandy shores. The kit includes a large center spike (albeit smaller than the original sand one) that can be easily hammered into the ground to ensure the umbrella's stability. It comes with four smaller alloy tent pegs that anchor each corner leg into the grass. These alloy stakes are cheaply made and can bend pretty easily, but the kit is worth it solely for the center stake because you can't use the original one on grass because it's too long. If you want to use your tent more than just a couple of times, we highly recommend the grass kit.

Cool Cabana Lounge Chair

We decided to purchase the Cool Cabana Beach Lounger because it looked like a more comfortable option than many beach chairs due to its ergonomic and patented design that allows for multiple positions when opened. We prefer to keep it in the chair position, but it can be extended as a lounger to put your legs up. One of our favorite features is the adjustable headrest which can be lowered to provide a sunshade for your face.

Cleaning and maintenance

Cleaning and maintaining the Cool Cabana is pretty simple, and we always clean it after each trip to ensure it stays in good condition. The cotton-poly canvas fabric is designed to be sand-resistant, making it super easy to brush off after each use. To remove loose dirt from the cabana, you can brush it off with a soft towel, but if you need to do a more thorough cleaning you can use a solution composed of water and mild soap. We haven't had to do that yet, but if you do please be sure your tent is completely dry before packing it into the carry bag.

Comparing Cool Cabanas to other beach tents

Cool Cabana vs. Neso

Neso and Cool Cabana are both lightweight sun shelters and share many of the same sun protection benefits and portability features, but having used both of them the Cool Cabana is much easier to set up and is also more stable in windy conditions. However, Neso does provide more shade so it may be the better option on days with no wind.

Cool Cabana vs. Sun Ninja

Sun Ninja is one of the best-selling beach shade tents on the market, but its lycra/nylon blend fabric isn't as durable as the poly-cotton canvas used in the Cool Cabana, so it's more likely to tear or rip especially due to the tent's design which requires it to be continually stretched.

Cool Cabana vs. EasyGo Cabana

The EasyGo with 6x6 dimensions is smaller than Cool Cabana, and the center pole uses a round aluminum sand drill instead of a square center pole which helps prevent it from rotating in windy conditions.

Cool Cabana vs. Qibi

Qipi has a similar design to Cool Cabanas but the umbrella arms, connectors, and canvas aren't made of the same quality material and thickness. The frame is smaller at 6x6 durable and the stitching is not as high quality, and it comes with plastic stakes instead of metal ones.

Summary and final thoughts

In conclusion, we love our Cool Cabana and it has become an essential piece of beach gear that offers sun protection, durability, and ease of use. With its unique design, range of sizes, accessories, and simple setup, it provides our family with an enjoyable and comfortable beach experience. Say goodbye to flimsy beach umbrellas and hello to the perfect beach shade with Cool Cabana.