BUY SUMMER IN BULK
It may not show from the outside, but the seasons shift consistently within the walls of Costco. We mentioned it when looking at the best buys for winter, which begins at Costco when the first Christmas wrapping paper arrives in August. There isn't nearly as big a jump on summer, though it's interesting to see the camping gear, grill sets, playground equipment, and pool toys trickle in around Easter or so. With Costco summer now fully upon us, here are just a few dozen of the items worth seeking out.
(Prices and availability are subject to change. Some items available for members only have been excluded.)
REGAL OR AMC 10-TICKET MOVIE PACKS
U.S. DIVER'S ADULT SNORKEL KIT
WILDERNESS 9-FOOT INFLATABLE PONTOON BOAT
Price: $330 | Buy it
Yes, Costco sells "boats," but this one is more for fishing on a pond, lake, or mild river than for braving the high seas. If summer plans involve a rod, reel, some beverages, and a fish cooler filled with optimism, this is the ideal vessel.
AEROBED OPTICOMFORT QUEEN WITH HEADBOARD
Price: $140 | Buy it
There's a reason this mattress sells out quickly this time of year (and is back ordered). Whether you need another place to stash guests in your summer home or share, or just something to keep you off the ground while car camping, the AeroBed is one of the few air mattresses out there that doesn't feel like a glorified bounce castle.
CORE 6-PERSON INSTANT CABIN TENT
Price: $130 | Buy it
There are a whole lot of "four-person" tents out there that should be limited to two people, tops. This water-repellent tent with six feet of headroom is large at 11 by 9 feet, with room for two queen air mattresses. It'll fit six for a music festival, or in a pinch. (The most comfortable arrangement might be four.)
AIRBEDZ TRUCK AIR MATTRESS
Price: $200 | Buy it small or large
Some folks like attaching a truck tent to their pickup's bed and using it for camping, others just like backing their truck into a drive-in and watching a movie comfortably beneath the stars. This air mattress will come in handy in for truck beds between 6 and 8 feet long.
4-DAY GO SAN DIEGO CARD
Price: $181 to $210 | Buy it
Costco offers these cards for multiple cities, but the San Diego installment provides admission to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, Legoland California, Knott's Berry Farm, the museums in Balboa Park, and other amenities. You'll be far from alone enjoying a San Diego summer, but you'll be getting a discount at just over $50 a day.
POOLMASTER CARIBBEAN POOL CHAISE LOUNGE, 2 PACK
Price: $180 | Buy it
Floating around a pool in a recliner that can hold your beer and snacks? That's the true meaning, or at least the true feeling, of freedom.
COLEMAN 100-QUART EXTREME WHEELED COOLER
Price: $75 | Buy it
Costco carries coolers that cost considerably more, but with room for 160 cans and five days' worth of chilling, this provides the most value. Besides, the cooler-top can holders make this a useful piece of portable beach or patio furniture.
LEGOLAND FLORIDA 2-DAY RESORT AND WATER PARK PASS COMBO
Price: $99 | Buy it
If you can convince your family the other theme parks in this area don't exist, this two-day pass becomes a steal. Admission to the parks typically costs $111.50, or $97.50 if booked in advance, and that's just for a day.
ZERO GRAVITY RECLINING OUTDOOR LOUNGE CHAIR, 2-PACK
Price: $80 | Buy it
These lounge chairs require some acclimation if you're used to a chaise lounge or recliner, but they are peerless in their comfort once you get the hang of them.
LIFETIME TAMARACK 10-FOOT SIT-ON-TOP KAYAK
Price: $350 | Buy it
Kayaking is a seasonal activity with a bit of a learning curve. To try it (or give guests the opportunity) without taking on more formidable waters, this is about as good a deal as you're going to find on a non-inflatable option. You won't get much farther than a calm lake or mild river, but it'll get the job done for beginners.
SEDONA CAST ALUMINUM PROPANE FIRE PIT
Price: $900 | Buy it
There are people who love outdoor fire features but aren't so enamored with the wood smoke or the smell that clings to clothes. If your summer vibe is more rooftop Vegas/Miami club and less local campsite, splurge for a pit such as this one with its own propane tank. Costlier versions hook up to the gas line in an outdoor kitchen.
LIFETIME 130-GALLON DECK BOX
Price: $160 | Buy it
Summer is a mess: Furniture cushions need shelter from the elements, pool toys and equipment need a place to live, and everything fades in the sun much more quickly than owners realize. Yes, a deck box takes up space, but it doubles as bench seating or a table and prevents you from spending even more to replace worn-out pool or patio items.
PIT BOSS CERAMIC BBQ GRILL
Price: $750 | Buy it
For charcoal-grilling enthusiasts, the Korean/Japanese kamado is one of the most pure and efficient forms of smoking and grilling. We aren't going to wade into a debate between Weber die-hards and the kamado folks, but each has qualities that make fans for life.
VALENCIA 12' X 16' ATTACHED PERGOLA
Price: $990 | Buy it
Mediterranean-inspired pergolas are a must for folks who hate direct sun. Even left undraped in cloth covers or grapevines, they can provide modest shade and make cookouts more bearable. If you've already sprung for a deck or patio, this entry-level pergola will be a modest investment by comparison.
SIGNATEUR 5-BURNER GRILL
Price: $750 | Buy it
When Costco carries gas and propane grills, they tend to be large. While there are myriad grills options for folks who'd like to build outdoor kitchens, this model with a side burner, LED lighting, and room for a rotisserie is the best available for those looking for a standalone.
CEDAR GRILLING PLANKS, 10 COUNT
Price: $30 | Buy it
If you're grilling or smoking salmon this season, some folks from Oregon are begging you to use cedar planks and cook your dishes the same way countless Pacific Northwest restaurants do. While useful for meat and vegetables as well, cedar planks work their magic best with fish.
PORTOFINO 7-PIECE CASUAL DINING SET
Price: $1,300 | Buy it
The formal dining room may be dying off, but outdoor dining areas are becoming just as costly. If you spend too much time outdoors to keep using picnic tables and want to create more ambience than resin tables and chairs provide, this is modest option compared with the rest of Costco's offerings.
LIFETIME 8-FOOT FOLDING PICNIC TABLE
SEASONS SENTRY 11-FOOT LED SOLAR ROUND OFFSET UMBRELLA
Price: $800 | Buy it
Do you want one of those angular umbrellas you've seen at resorts that look like outdoor art installations and hang above celebrities in vacation photos? Yeah, those are priced at four figures even at Costco. This is the most modestly priced version Costco offers, and comes with its own lighting.
LIFETIME PLAY CENTER PLAYSET BUNDLE
NUPLAY PLAYGROUND MULCH
Price: $400 to $600 | Buy it
Nope, dumping sand or wood chips into a play area doesn't cut it anymore. Neither does telling kids to "walk it off." In these far less draconian days of parenting, putting some recycled rubber between your kids and hard earth is the bare minimum you can do when building a play area.
MESSINA SUN SHELTERS
Price: $1,300 to $2,500 | Buy it
There's no surer sign that summer is on its way than Costco erecting one of these in their warehouse store and parking an employee beneath it to sell them. They have a certain appeal for folks who in rainier climates — or who love summer temperatures but not the sun.
BUSH'S BAKED BEANS, 8-COUNT
Price: $11 | Buy it
Again, this is one of those items shoppers look for in late September and say "Huh, where did that go?" There isn't anything inherently seasonal about the baked bean, but Costco considers them a barbecue staple and sees little reason to take up shelf space with it off season. Stock up while you can.
TOMMY BAHAMA FOLDING ADIRONDACK CHAIR
Price: $80 | Buy it
At cabins and lodges in the Adirondacks, the classic heavy, awkward lumber furniture are just left in place, not stored every season. This lighter, folding Adirondack chair is not only the solution to the Adirondack chair's weightiest issues, but it's often on sale for much less when it first appears in Costco around spring.
BLUE APRON EGIFT CARDS, 2-PACK
Price: $50 | Buy it
Here are two brands that need each other. Blue Apron is looking for a bigger audience at a time meal delivery services have saturated the market; and Costco knows it isn't immune from physical retailers' woes and wants in on a bit of online delivery's action. The result is roughly 30 percent savings for Costco shoppers.
Alcohol isn't available at every Costco (hence its absence from the store's website), but those lucky enough to have it locally have likely come across this gem in the racks. Imported from Spain via Dallas, this has all the citrus and berry flavor of an actual sangria at less than the price of the produce and Spanish rioja that would go into it. Is it wine? Perhaps, not, but it's enjoyed by those who know their wine.
DIAMONDBACK MARAVISTA HYBRID BIKE
Price: $200 | Buy it
The beach bike doesn't have to be perfect. It needs to be comfortable, it needs to provide a leisurely ride, and it needs to be fairly inexpensive to account for the salty sea air that will eventually grind it into rust. These hybrid bikes are built with beach-bike duty in mind.
TIMBER RIDGE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR, 2-PACK
Price: $60 | Buy it
There are a few problems with those ubiquitous quad chairs with the cupholders in the armrests: You tend to sink into them, making them difficult to get out of, and they require an end table for anything bigger than a standard soda can. These chairs not only provide a firmer base, but have foldaway end tables that give a barbecue dish and drink somewhere to live other than your lap.
HAMMER TONE BRONZE FINISH COCKTAIL TABLE FIRE PIT
Price: $240 | Buy it
If you only wanted something that could handle backyard fires, you could've made a circle out of old bricks and created a pit. For a cozy conversation piece that lets you burn wood and toast marshmallows without burning a hole into the lawn, this is an attractive option.
KIRKLAND ASOLO PROSECCO
Prosecco is already a low-cost gateway into sparkling wine, and this is cheap even by that standard. But the Beverage Testing Institute scored this Italian import an 84, while a name prosecco selling right beside it scored between 87 and 89. Is a five-point swing enough to warrant an extra $5? If you're only using it for a fizzy summer punch, we're inclined to say no.
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD 3-DAY VISIT ETICKET
Price: $130 | Buy it
Does this seem steep? Consider that one day's admission costs $109 to $124, while a two-day pass goes for $139 to $159.
H20GO FAMILY POOL WITH SLIDE
BODY GLOVE PERFORMER 11-INCH INFLATABLE PADDLEBOARD
Price: $400 | Buy it
Stand-up paddle boarding can be fun, but it takes a little while to get your balance. That makes this entry-level board and paddle a bit of a steal. It's aimed at beginners, but also perfect for the summer house guest who might otherwise ding up your better gear.
PROSHADE 10-FOOT LED SOLAR AUTO TILT UMBRELLA
Price: $170 | Buy it
You don't have to spend this much for an umbrella: There are less costly versions that will look just fine if you string some battery-powered LEDs beneath them. But an aluminum umbrella will last a good, long time, while LEDs with their own power source will keep you from having to replace batteries every few seasons.
MARGARITAVILLE KEY WEST FROZEN CONCOCTION MAKER
Price: $200 | Buy it
Jimmy Buffett is a leisure industry all to himself, and this blender with its own ice well and travel bag plays on the images of escape and relaxation that he's painted on easy-listening radio for decades. This may seem like a pricey margarita blender, but given Costco's preference for Vitamix and BlendTec blenders far more expensive than this one, it's somewhat of a steal.
SCOSCHE BOOMBOTTLE WIRELESS BLUETOOTH SPEAKER
Price: $70 | Buy it
Consumers shouldn't have to worry about a sound system near a pool. This speaker is not only waterproof, but has a magnetic mounting system to keep it high above the action. Oh, and it has a built-in bottle opener to keep the party going.