With the hot sun shining down on you, the humidity, and the salty air, a cooler is an absolute necessity for a day at the beach. It’s the perfect place to store cold bottles of water and other drinks so you do not get dehydrated from the heat. It’s also a perfect place to store delicious and healthy snacks so you can replenish your energy from all the fun you are having. Not only that, but you will be saving money by bringing your own beverages and food rather than spending a ton of money on buying food and drinks at concession stands.

There are several different types of coolers available on the market. Some are larger in size, some more compact, some pricey, some inexpensive, some fancy, and some plain. I have created a detailed guide to help you find the very best cooler for you and your personal needs. Once you have finished reading this guide you will be able to determine which cooler is the perfect fit for you.

The Different Types of Beach Coolers

Plastic Cooler

Plastic coolers are commonly referred to as ice chests. They are basic, but they do serve their purpose. They typically have an insulated lid as well as a plug at the base which allows for easy emptying of melted ice.

Advantages

  • Extremely inexpensive
  • Sturdy
  • Comes in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes
  • May come with wheels and retractable handles (makes for easier carting around)

Disadvantages

  • Lacks visual appeal
  • Needs to be refilled with new ice frequently

Fabric Cooler

Fabric coolers are known as insulated cooler bags or collapsible coolers. These are designed for carrying fewer items than a plastic cooler can carry. Think: a couple bottles of water and a Ziploc bag of snacks.

Advantages

  • Can also come in ‘backpack’ form
  • Durable canvas type of synthetic material
  • Insulated foam layers
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to clean

Disadvantages

  • Lacks space
  • Because they are not as hardy as other types of coolers, they will not keep items cold for as long.

Metal Cooler

A metal cooler is the most durable and efficient type of cooler. Many fishermen and hunters use this type of cooler because it provides durability and keeps its contents cool for extended periods of time. However, metal coolers are definitely one of the most expensive types of coolers.

Advantages

  • Very sturdy and durable
  • Several insulation layers
  • Simple to clean

Disadvantages

  • Costly
  • Heavier to carry than any other type of cooler

Styrofoam Cooler

A Styrofoam cooler is as basic as it gets. It’s a Styrofoam box that has a lid. These are perfect for storing light weight items and perfect for a couple hours at the beach. They also won’t break the bank!

Advantages

  • Very inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Great for a couple hours outdoors

Disadvantages

  • Won’t withstand the test of time because they are made with just Styrofoam
  • Difficult to clean
  • Not very durable and sturdy

Electric Cooler

An electric cooler is kind of like a portable fridge. Electric coolers need electricity to keep the interior cool and this variety of cooler tends to cost quite a bit of money.

Advantages

  • Will typically last a lifetime (usually comes with warranty)
  • No need to refill ice as the cooler will work by simply being plugged in
  • Easy to clean
  • Spacious

Disadvantages

  • Must have electrical socket nearby for it to properly work
  • Heavy to lift
  • Usually does not come with any wheels for easy transport

What to Look For When Buying a Beach Cooler

Before purchasing a new beach cooler, it is important to determine what your needs are, how you will use the cooler, and what you plan on putting into the cooler.

Size:

Coolers come in all different sizes. For example, the common plastic cooler will hold around a 14 quart capacity. If you have a big family and you all go to the beach together, it would be a smart idea to get a cooler that is larger in size. If you’re a single beach goer, a smaller cooler would make more sense. Remember that ice takes up about one quarter of an entire cooler.

Durability:

Strong handles, a sturdy base, and tough material are all things you need to consider when purchasing a cooler. Obviously, if you go to the beach once a year then durability may not be the most important feature. However, if you’re a beach bum and plan on using the cooler several times throughout the summer months, then aim for a cooler than can withstand all types of weather, different conditions, and constant use.

Practicality:

Wheeled coolers are the best type of larger sized coolers for the beach. You don’t want to be a tired, sweaty, and messy mess from simply carrying your cooler from the car to the sand. On the other hand, if you’re planning on spending just a few hours at the shore, stick with a tiny fabric cooler. Think about what is easiest and most comfortable for you.

Fancy Schmancy Stuff:

Believe it or not, some coolers are actually really awesome. If you’re a high-tech type of guy or gal, you may want to spend some big money and get yourself one of the ‘coolest’ coolers out there. Some of the higher end coolers offer USB ports, phone chargers, Blue Tooth speakers, LED lights, accessory deck’s, battery operated rechargeable blenders, cutting boards, integrated storage for forks and knives, and bottle openers.  

Just because I think these high tech coolers are so rockin’, I’ve decided to share a pic of one of them. For your viewing pleasure…

The Best Beach Coolers

With so many different types of beach coolers on the market, it may seem difficult to find the very best one for you. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular coolers around:

Best Durable, Wheeled, and Large Cooler

Colors: White

Brand: Coleman Xtreme

The Coleman 100 qt. Xtreme Wheeled Cooler with Tow Handle is the perfect beach cooler for those who are traveling to the shore with a group of people and need as much storage space as possible. The Coleman 100 qt. Xtreme Wheeled Cooler with Tow Handle is easily maneuverable, has sturdy handles, and has a great drain plug.

  • Holds 160 cans – more than six cases of soda
  • Xtreme® 5 Technology keeps ice up to 5 days in temperatures up to 90° F (32.22° C)
  • ThermOZONE(TM) Insulation contains no CFCs, HFCs or HCFCs, which deplete the ozone
  • Hinged lid with four cup holders keeps drinks close
  • Two-way handles for easy carrying
  • Rustproof, leak-resistant channel for no-tilt draining
  • Lid accommodates 24-in. (61 cm) elastic cords (not included)
  • Exterior Dimensions: 36.5 in. x 16.75 in. x 18.25 in. (92.7 cm x 42.55 cm x 46.36 cm)
  • Interior Dimensions: 23.75 in. x 11.75 in. x 13 in. (60.33 cm x 29.85 cm x 33 cm)
  • Empty weight: 18 lbs. (8.16 kg)

Small and Convenient Cooler

Colors: Blue, Red, Green and Grey

Brand: Coleman

The Coleman 16-Can Soft Cooler with Hard Liner is the perfect beach cooler for when you’re just planning on spending a few hours on the sandy shores. It’s sporty, has an adjustable shoulder strap, and is light weight which makes it perfect for comfortable carrying.

  • Holds 16 cans
  • Removable hard plastic liner for packing flexibility
  • Use ice or ice substitutes to keep treats cold
  • Adjustable shoulder strap for carrying comfort
  • Front zippered pocket and inside top mesh pockets
  • Two side mesh pockets for added storage
  • Easy-to-clean permanent, flexible, soft PEVA liner
  • Built-in antimicrobial properties in the flexible PEVA lining resist odor, mold and mildew
  • Both the hard liner and the PEVA soft liner meet FDA requirements for food contact
  • Heat-welded seams prevent flexible liner leaks

Cooler for Baby Needs

Colors: Pink and green floral, Blue and green floral

Brand: Lilly Pulitzer

The Lilly Pulitzer Insulated Beach Cooler – Hot Spot is a beautiful designer handbag cooler that can make your beach experience with baby much easier. Even if you do not have a baby, this designer cooler is fashionable, trendy, and a great investment. It features a large open pocket on the outside, a while plastic interior, and a full zipper across the top.

  • Water resistant insulated cooler with micro-fiber EVA Lining
  • Zipper closure, exterior slip-in pocket; includes Lilly Pulitzer bottle opener
  • Cotton tote has moisture-resistant easy to clean liner; Wipe clean or machine wash/air dry
  • Food-Safe, BPA-, Phthalate-, and Lead-free
  • Measures: 21″l x 15″h x 6″d

Basic Styrofoam Cooler

Colors: White

Brand: Lifoam

The Lifoam 3417 Styrofoam Cooler is as basic as it gets. If you’re not looking to break the bank, then this is the cooler to go to! The Lifoam 3417 Styrofoam Cooler is not high quality or very durable but it will do the trick for a day outing at the shore.

  • Cooler holds two 6 packs or 12 cans of soda
  • Light weight
  • Easy carry rope handle
  • 11-1/2-Inch by 8-Inch by 11-1/2-Inch

High End Beach Party Cooler

Colors: Midnight Sands

Brand: Rio Brands

The Rio Brands Entertainer Rolling Party Cooler is the choice of cooler for you if you’re planning a large get together on the beach. Not only is it easy to put together and stroll around, but it also has a 77 quart capacity. How’s that for sufficient room?

  • Unique Lift Off design. Steel legs and body. Portable steel base.
  • Injected foam unitized construction with bi-fold lid. Keeps beverages cold for up to 3 days.
  • 77 quart capacity holds 100 12oz. cans.
  • Heavy duty wheels and wheel locks.
  • Includes deluxe carry handles, drain spout, bottle opener and cap catcher

Additional Maintenance Information

Now that you’ve hopefully decided which type of cooler is best for you, you also will need to know how to maintain and care for your cooler. You want to ensure that it will get you through many beach seasons and last as long as it possibly can.

In order to clean your insulated beach cooler, you will need:

  • Soap detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Lemons
  • Dry rags
  • Sponge or scrub brush

Step One:

Drain any leftover water from the ice cooler. You can simply do this by unlatching the drain plug. Once water is removed, give the entire interior of the cooler a good wipe down with a dry rag.

Step Two:

Place a hose in the cooler and allow it to fill up about halfway. While the cooler is filling, add a couple drops of soap detergent into the cooler. Once filled halfway, use a sponge or scrub brush to swoosh around the soap detergent and scrub the interior. Use elbow grease if you’re trying to get rid of stains, mildew, or mold. Dump the dirty water and rinse out the cooler.

Step Three:

Remove any lingering smells from the cooler by dabbing some white vinegar on a clean rag and rubbing down the interior of the cooler. White vinegar does not need to be rinsed away, as the air will dissipate the smell of the vinegar.

If the smell still lingers after using white vinegar, try cutting a lemon in half and rubbing the lemon all over the interior of the cooler. Rinse and allow to air dry.

Step Four:

Use another mixture of soap water and a sponge to clean the lid and exterior of the cooler. Rinse the soapy mixture off and allow to air dry.

Eureka! Your beach cooler is now sanitized, clean, and ready for your next exciting excursion to the oceanfront!

Do you frequently use beach coolers while you’re vacationing or relaxing on the sandy shores? Which brands do you recommend? What features are most important to you when you’re looking to invest in a new beach cooler?