Buy Boats, Sell Boats, Review Boats

Posted by on Apr 18, 2012 in Boat Equipment, News and Events, Top Picks | 2 comments

The Best Five Sunglasses for Boaters: Costa Del Mar vs. Oakley vs. Ocean Waves vs. Onos vs. WileyX

After trying 30 pairs of sunglasses over the last decade, I've put these five on my "best" list.

If you wanted to pick out the best five sunglasses for boaters, you would have to try dozens of pairs from companies including the likes of Costa Del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX—and then try dozens of pairs from a long list of different manufacturers. It would take a lot of time, money, and effort.

Unless, that is, you’re a boating writer. In my case, sunglasses like these appear in the mailbox on a regular basis for testing and reviewing. And in the past decade I’ve tested over 30 different pairs intended for use on the water. Here are my top five picks.

These sunglasses, from Costa del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX, make the top 5 list.

These sunglasses, from Costa del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX, make the top 5 list.

1. Costa Del Mar Jose – These get a spot in the top five despite a painfully high $259 price tag, because the optics are just plain awesome. Put on a pair, and the world seems just a little more lifelike than it does to the naked eye. They’re available with either glass or plastic lenses; the plastic is lighter but more prone to damage, and to my eyeballs, the glass provides a better view in the first place.

2. Oakley Wind Jacket – The Wind Jacket model includes a snap-in gasket that turns the glasses into mini-goggles. This makes them ideal for boaters who cruise at fast speeds, since the wind can’t creep around behind them and sweep the glasses off your face. Meanwhile, they have a hydrophobic coating that prevents water streaks, Plutonite lenses with good optics, and include lenses for both bright and low light conditions. Cost is $220. Oh yes—and they look uber-cool, too.

3. Ocean Waves Boston – If I had to pick an all-time favorite, this would be it—after returning my test pair I liked them so much, I went out and bought my own. The optics are stunning, especially the blue lenses in offshore waters, and the price is reasonable. These glasses remained my favorite through 10 years of salty use and though the frames needed replacement (which Ocean Waves did under warranty) the lenses never gave out. Unfortunately, Ocean Waves stopped producing the Boston model last year—bummer—but the ($159) Kauai and ($139) Madrid are close.

4. Onos Vicious Fishing Fierce – This is a new model but Vicious Fishing makes the top five because these sunglasses offer surprisingly good optics for the low $59 price tag, are incredibly light (you’ll forget they’re on your head), and they have grippy nose-pads that keep the glasses in place but are still comfortable. But be careful with the polycarbonate lenses, they will scratch if put to the test.

5. WileyX Tactical Black Ops Slay – This is another relatively inexpensive ($75) model that makes the grade thanks to a combination of good performance and reasonable cost. They wrap around to cut peripheral glare, are extremely comfortable, and seem a bit less prone to scratching than other glasses with polycarbonate lenses.

Read more about sunglasses:
Sunglasses: How To Find the Perfect Pair
Fishing Friday: New Sunglasses for 2014
Maui Jim Sunglasses: “Pure” Forgetfulness

-Lenny Rudow


  1. Great review- I cannot find anything comparable anywhere on the web. Do you test driving glasses that are also good for the occassional beach trip, golf course, outdoor party? I am quite sure I favor the glass over polycarbonate lenses for th eclearer pictures. Do you find the silver mirrored, blue, black, amber, etc finish better for all around use as mentioned above? Does Revo fit anywhere into your good optics list?

    Thank you!

  2. Hey Ralph – I agree, glass is the best for pure optical pleasure. While any of the above will work out great for those other activities, I don’t feel that amber lenses are best for sunny days (on land or at sea) because they really don’t cut light-levels much (they are good for slightly cloudy days – almost seem to boost the light, and make things more visible – and for sight-fishing on the flats). Also, as mentioned in the article, blue is tops for use in offshore waters. As far as Revo goes, that’s one brand I actually haven’t tested, so I’m afraid I can’t make a call on that one. Enjoy!