What to Wear Over a Bathing Suit to the Beach

What to Wear Over a Bathing Suit to the Beach

If you live North America, swim season is quickly approaching. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already started counting the days you have left to get your body “beach ready.” At the time of this writing, it’s less than 40 days until Memorial Day weekend (the unofficial start to summer) and I’ve just added this workout to my to-do list.

Once I’m in my chair or in the water, I’m not too concerned with my appearance. However, getting to the beach, pool, or lake often leaves me scratching my head wondering what to wear. I want to be covered up, but it needs to be easy to put on and take off.

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So, what to wear over a bathing suit to the beach? You’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn you have lots of cover up options. In this post, I’ll cover what to wear over your bathing suit, how to wear cover ups, and even cover ups you can wear in the water.

What is a swimsuit cover up?

A cover up is simply a light layer that you wear over your bathing suit to take you from home to the pool or hotel room to the beach without feeling over exposed.

Why do I need a swimsuit cover up?

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than standing in a hotel elevator in just a bathing suit and flip flops when the people standing next to you are dressed to the nines on their way to Sunday brunch.

I’ve been in situations many times with my family where we were on our way to the pool or beach and realized someone forgot to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, water, or snacks and we need to swing by a drug store or convenience store.

You’ll feel much more comfortable if you have a light layer (aka a coverup) over your bathing suit when you have to run in to the store.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Cover Up

  1. Easy on/off is important. Go for relaxed fit garments with minimal buttons, buckles, or zippers.

  2. Fabric content. Since you’ll be out in the sun and heat opt for lightweight breathable fabrics such as cotton, silk, or rayon.

  3. Easy care. If you’re sitting in the sand all day, the last thing you want to worry about is getting dirty. Opt for machine washable garments that can go in laundry with the beach towels.

Cover Ups for Every Occasion

You have lots of options when it comes to cover ups. First begin by considering where you will be wearing your cover up. Are you going to be a neighborhood pool, a friend’s backyard pool party, a fancy resort, a casual beach, or a country club pool?

Knowing where you will be wearing the cover up will help you decide what is most appropriate for the situation.

For example, if you are hanging out at a beach or your neighborhood pool, board shorts and a tee might be appropriate. However, if you are at a country club or a resort, something more formal such as a tunic dress or caftan will be a better option.

Cover Up Ideas

Tunic Dress

Tunic dresses are one of my favorite options to wear over a swimsuit. They are usually made of lightweight cotton or rayon and come in a wide variety of patterns and colors.

Add a pair of sandals and you have a very pulled together look for every swim occasion. These dresses a relaxed fit, open neckline, and are easy to take on and off.

Fashion Tip: Take a tunic dress from day to night! Add a pair of white pants or jeans, accessories, and you have a refreshing evening look that works for dinner or drinks on the town.

Oversized Shirt

Oversized shirts are another great idea for beach cover ups. I’ve even been known to steal them from my husband’s closet! I found this light and airy oversized shirt on Amazon and it’s available in 5 colors. I like the side vents, rolled up sleeves, and collar with deep neckline - perfect for a relaxed beachy look.

Some oversized shirts have deep open neckline, others are button down. If it’s a button down cover up, just button a couple of buttons at the center so a bit of your swimsuit still peeks through.


Out of all of these beach cover ups, kimonos are the easiest to take on and off because they are very open and airy. Some are cardigan versions others are pullover. Most important, kimonos are usually made of sheer fabric and are very open and flowing - perfect for a day on the beach, at the pool, or even lounging on a boat!

Kimonos also transition easily to streetwear. Just layer them over a tank and jeans and you’ve got a very pulled together (but still comfortable) look!

I’m loving this navy and white animal print one with bright stripe neckline and tassel trim: Trina Turk Kimono.


If you are looking for a wow! factor in a beach cover up, a caftan may just be what you want to wear over your bathing suit this summer. These garments are long, flowing, and very dramatic.

The ultimate in resort wear, you can spend the entire day in a caftan.

Caftan fabrics are usually made of silk, cotton, or rayon to provide the most drape and flow. They are often available in gorgeous statement making prints as you’ll see from some of the images below.


So far, all of the cover ups shown have been tops or dresses. You can wear pants as a cover up. Select pants that are easy on/off. Think stretchy or drawstring waistband.

Maxi Dresses

Maxi dresses are also a great option for a cover up. They are easy on off and relaxed fit. A bit more fitted and not quite as drapey as a caftan, maxi dresses provide a lot of coverage while still keeping you comfortable.

I wear a lot of black swimsuits so when it comes to cover ups, I wanted to make sure black gets it’s share of the attention. Black provides an elegant and sophisticated look and gives the appearance that you are much more dressed up.

Here are three maxi dresses in my fave swimwear color - black!


A large piece of lightweight fabric also known as a pareo makes an excellent and versatile beach cover up. It can be wrapped around the waist and tied as a skirt or wrapped around the bust and tied like a dress. There are countless ways to wear them. Here are 7 easy ways to wear a sarong.


Shorts are another good swimsuit cover up option. Available in lengths to suit every body, you can choose from short shorts to board short length. As with all the other options, go for easy on/off by choosing elastic waistband or drawstring closure.