Your beach bag is packed, you’ve thrown on your skimpiest bikini (or most sensible one-piece) and now there’s one thing left to bring before it’s time to head to the beach: a swimsuit cover-up. Cover-ups come in all shapes and forms, from fully opaque and cotton-based to shield you from the sun, to mesh or knit so your bathing suit peaks out from underneath.
According to Suzanne Bryant, vice president of women’s swim and resortwear at Tommy Bahama, there’s lots to keep in mind when investing in a new swimsuit cover-up. “Look for cover-ups that are effortless and comfortable,” she says. “Just like choosing a swimsuit, you want something that makes you feel relaxed and confident. Select a cover-up that offers you versatility in where you can wear it and how you can style it.”
Fabrics are also worth considering when choosing the right swimsuit cover-up. She recommends those that feel cool and comfortable against your skin, are breathable, quick-drying and that offer between 30 and 50 UPF sun protection. “That could be a weightless chiffon, a silky cool fabric, or the softest natural fiber cotton or linen,” Bryant says. For more functional swimsuit cover-ups, she adds that rash guards are also versatile and work well as a casual layer for cool evenings or for early walks on the beach and that rompers offer tons of styling options on and off the sand.
If you’re looking for the beach or pool deck to be your runway this summer, she says materials like terry cloth and gauze are particularly on-trend this season. While dresses have long been a popular swimsuit cover-up option, she says those with tiers at every length feel airy and are easy to wear.
Need some inspo? Stick around for the best swimsuit cover-ups, according to people who are always at the beach.
Swimsuit cover-up dresses
“This beach cover-up is perfect for any beach day or pool party,” says Gabby Beckford, travel influencer and founder of Packs Light. “The lace-up V-neck and crochet design make it stylish while the long sleeves add a little bit of sun protection, which I love because my arms always burn first. It's easy to throw on over your swimsuit, and the breathable material keeps you comfy all day.”
“This is my go-to to throw on and it goes with everything,” says Lila Stewart, frequent beach goer and co-founder of Hari Mari. “Plus, this piece is perfect if you need to run errands before or after a day at the beach.”
“It's my staple for a white cover-up,” says Stewart. “After a day in the sun, I appreciate the extra coverage on my arms and shoulders. This piece also allows me to show off my colorful flip flops.”
Available in solid colors as well as this fun textured polka dot, this cover-up dress is truly a steal at less than $13. It features a deep V-neck and asymmetrical trim that keeps it easy and breezy with a size range of S to 3XL.
“This is the perfect addition to any beach or poolside day with its chic crochet design and long sleeves,” says Beckford. “Not only did I get a ton of compliments, but the short dress length meant it dried super-fast too after a day on the boat.”
It's a dress... but also a skirt! Our editors love this convertible piece with smocking at the top that can either be worn as a strapless dress or a skirt. It's available in black, lavender and white.
What used to line our Juicy Couture tracksuit in the early aughts is now super on-trend for our beachwear, according to Bryant. This bright-hued terry cloth cover-up features two hip pockets, a drawcord hood and a zipper to customize your coverage.
If you're going somewhere tropical, or just want to feel like you are, we can't recommend this bright crochet number enough. Bonus points if you also have an orange or white swimsuit.
Swimsuit cover-up pants
Cute enough for Coachella yet functional enough for the beach, these mesh swimsuit cover-up pants with ruffled details and 11,000 Amazon reviews are a vacation must-have. They feature a touch of spandex for the perfect fit and come in several eye-catching colors to match your swimsuit.
Available in this gorgeous tropical print, as well as solids like black and cream, these pants feature high slits on either side and a smocked waistband for a curve-hugging fit.
"I'm a big fan of Monday Swimwear's Tahiti Pant,” says Kristyn Clark, head of brand at Shibumi, a beach shade company. “They come in a variety of neutral colors that match any bathing suit and the fabric is light and airy. Plus, they can double as a nighttime look — throw on some heels and a tank and you're good to go. Pro tip: remove the pant lining for a sheer look."
For extra coverage and some serious boho flair, opt for these swimsuit cover-up pants with over 5,000 Amazon reviews.
Show off your bikini top while still leaving much to the imagination in these best-selling crochet cover-up pants with over 2,600 Amazon reviews. The acrylic hollow crochet fabric is designed to dry quickly and provide ample ventilation in scorching temps.
With their side slit for extra glam and ventilation and the included sash for a perfect fit, this stunning pair of cover-up pants is bound to become a summer staple on and off the beach.
To guarantee a stunning match, opt for this three-piece bikini and swimsuit cover-up to turn *all* the heads this beach season. It comes in 13 unique patterns from marble to color-blocked and it’s made of a stretchy and breathable polyester/spandex blend that moves with your body whether you’re strolling on the sand or taking in the sun.
Swimsuit cover-ups for men
Kevin Williams, vice president of marketing at Discover Boating, recommends a rash guard like this one from Gill. “It offers the highest possible UV protection rating of UPF 50 plus, has four-way stretch fabric for mobility and it’s versatile for any boating activities,” he says.
Craig O’Brien, a surfer, angler and founder of Sunswell Clothing, keeps a host of options in his beach bag for before, during and after his jaunts on the water. “The California Cowboy High Water Shirt is sort of the Swiss Army knife of après-swim-and-surf shirts. It’s made of lightweight modal with a terry cloth lining and has lots of bells and whistles like a sunglass holder, dry pocket and bottle pocket,” he says.
For a unique look that delivers a whimsical edge on the water, O’Brien reaches for the Trombolo Cabana Shirt. “It’s a great departure from your summer staples [since it’s] fresh and nostalgic all at the same time,” he says.
For more active days that head into the night, O’Brien says you can’t go wrong with the Howler Bros Loggerhead Hoodie. “It’s sweat-wicking and quick-dry with just the right amount of stretch, plus it has UPF 35+ sun protection for those long days on the water,” he says.
The most popular rash guard for men on Amazon also happens to be the perfect swimsuit cover-up for men: it boasts a chafe-proof UPF 50 material for ample sun protection, comes in every color under the sun and features a moisture-wicking material that draws sweat and moisture away from the body.