Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON

The 9 Best Beach Towels, According to Our Tests

After testing 35 towels in our Lab, our favorite is the NovForth Oversized Beach Towel because it’s extremely lightweight, absorbent, and quick to dry.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

A quality beach towel could make a big difference on your next coastal vacation. Ideally, you want a beach towel that is absorbent and quick to dry. But after that, it really depends on your needs. Plan to spend all day on the beach? Look for a towel that provides a comfortable barrier between you and the sand. Packing your suitcase for a long weekend? Look for a lightweight towel that's compact and easy to transport. 

To help you find the best beach towels, we tested 35 towels in our Lab, evaluating them based on quality, texture, absorbency, durability, and overall value. We also received expert tips on buying and using beach towels from Kelly Kasouf, chief marketing officer at Kassatex: "For a beach towel you want something that is absorbent, dries quick, and is soft, comfortable, and lightweight since you will carry it back and forth."

Our top pick, the NovForth Oversized Beach Towel, is made with a soft microfiber that's lightweight and quick to dry, yet still very absorbent. We love that it comes in an extra-large size that's big enough to cover an entire lounge chair.  

Keep reading for more of our beach towel picks, including versatile options that can also be used for camping, picnics, and more. Plus, find expert tips on how to choose the right beach towel for your needs. 

Our Top Picks

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: amazon.com

Best Overall Beach Towel: NovForth Oversized Beach Towel

View at Amazon (From $14)

Who it's for: People who want an absorbent, lightweight, and quick-drying towel for the beach or pool.  

Who it isn't for: People who prefer a thicker beach towel. 

The NovForth Beach Towel earned the top spot on our list because it costs less than half the median price of the beach towels we tested, yet its performance was among the best. During our tests, we found this microfiber beach towel to be incredibly absorbent both before and after washing: It quickly dried our testers' hands and was able to absorb one-fourth cup of water in less than a minute. The sand-repellent microfiber is easy to keep clean, and it dries faster than a standard cotton towel, so you can repeatedly use it after each dip in the pool or ocean. After one wash and one dry cycle, our testers didn't notice any shrinkage, loose threading, or bleeding. 

The beach towel is available in three different sizes, including 41 x 73 inches, which is big enough to fully cover a pool chair. It also comes in a variety of fun designs and patterns, although we wish they were visible on both sides. Compared to a cotton beach towel, this one from Novforth is relatively thin. So if you're looking for a plush, resort-style beach towel, this may not be the one for you. But this towel's lightweight construction and quick-dry material make it an excellent choice for transporting to and from the pool, beach, park, and more. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: Microfiber
  • GSM: Not listed
  • Size: 30 x 61, 36 x 71, and 41 x 73 inches 

RELATED: 7 Best Places to Buy Hotel-Quality Bath Towels Online

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: walmart.com

Best Budget Beach Towel: Better Homes & Gardens Cabana Reversible Beach Towel

View at Walmart ($45 for 4)

Who it's for: People who need multiple absorbent cotton towels for the occasional beach or pool day. 

Who it isn't for: People who use and wash beach towels on a daily basis. 

This Better Homes & Gardens cotton-blend towel is a great budget-friendly choice because it offers the feel and absorbency of cotton without the high price tag. You'd get the best value by purchasing the four-pack, but you can also buy these towels individually at an affordable price. Right off the bat, this towel was extremely absorbent and soaked up all the water almost immediately. Our testers noticed that its absorbency dwindled a little after washing, but not enough to make it ineffective. The sand was easy to shake out during testing, too. 

We appreciate that this beach towel is oversized (38 x 72 inches) and that it features a different texture on each side—one that's slightly rough and one that's softer. It even has a loop on the corner so you can easily hang it to dry on hooks and doorknobs. Plus, the towel has an IntelliFresh antimicrobial treatment that will keep it fresh and odor-free for up to 40 washes, according to the brand. 

At 400 GSM, it's not the thickest towel out there, and we have some doubts about its ability to endure repeated cycles in the washing machine without fading. But considering its price, size, absorbency, and fun striped pattern on both sides, the Better Homes & Gardens towel makes a great choice for the occasional pool or beach day. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: Cotton and polyester
  • GSM: 400
  • Size: 38 x 72 inches
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: amazon.com

Best Cotton Beach Towel: Clowood Bamboo Oversized Beach Towel

View at Amazon ($39)

Who it's for: People who want a thick cotton towel that provides substantial cushioning.  

Who it isn't for: People who need a lightweight beach towel that won't take up much room in a beach bag or suitcase.

Made from a blend of cotton and bamboo fiber, this ultra-thick beach towel from Clowood feels like it belongs at a resort—and it received high marks across the board in our tests. We were very impressed with its absorbency both before and after washing, and we found that it provides a nice amount of cushion when laying directly on the sand. At 500 GSM, this towel falls right within the optimal range for a beach towel, so it's absorbent without holding onto excess sand or water. 

Our testers didn't notice any sort of damage after running this towel through a wash cycle. The only downsides are that it's a bit heavier than other towels we tested and it's not very compact when folded, so it might be pretty bulky in your beach bag. But if you want a beach towel for regular use or if you have a beach house you're looking to stock, we are confident that this one will last for years. Plus, the classic cabana stripes (in three color options) will never go out of style. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: Cotton and bamboo
  • GSM: 500 
  • Size: 40 x 72 inches

RELATED: The 9 Best Hammocks for Lounging Outside 

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: amazon.com

Best Microfiber Beach Towel: Rainleaf Outdoor Microfiber Towel

View at Amazon (From $9)

Who it's for: People who want an ultra-thin and portable towel that can be used for multiple purposes. 

Who it isn't for: People who want the look and feel of a classic beach towel. 

This microfiber towel from Rainleaf is an excellent alternative to your standard beach towel, particularly if you're looking for something that's extremely versatile. We like that the thin microfiber material is quick to dry and extremely sand repellent. Plus, it can be used for a variety of activities, including camping, swimming, exercising, and more. 

During our absorbency testing, this towel mopped up almost all of the water in very little time, although it wasn't quite as effective after washing. It's available in 10 colors and six sizes, but only the two biggest options are comparable in size to a traditional beach towel. It also features a hanging loop so you can dry from anywhere. The largest size comes with a zip pocket for storing small items. 

We also love that the whole towel can be folded and stored neatly in the carrying pouch for easy transport. Because this towel is very thin, it's not going to provide a lot of cushion between you and the sand (or the ground). But for a quick swim or workout, it's hard to beat the portability and quick drying time of this microfiber beach towel. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: Microfiber 
  • GSM: Not listed
  • Size: From 12 x 24 to 40 x 72 inches

RELATED: The Best Microfiber Towels for Cleaning Every Surface

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: serenaandlily.com

Best Tasseled Beach Towel: Serena & Lily Mallorca Beach Towel

View at Serena and Lily ($88)

Who it's for: People who want a luxury beach towel with a chic design. 

Who it isn't for: People who don't want to spend a lot of money on a beach towel. 

Turkish beach towels, like this one from Serena & Lily, are highly sought after for their superior absorbency and faster drying time. They're usually constructed with a flat weave, which results in a thinner towel. However, the Mallorca beach towel is unique because it's made from 100 percent Turkish cotton but still has a plush, terry cotton weave. 

Our testers' first impression of this towel was that it felt well-made and soft to the touch. It was able to quickly soak up all of the water both before and after washing, and sand came off of it with ease. The tassels frayed a bit in the washing machine though, which is to be expected. 

This towel is bigger than standard beach towels, yet it's easier to fold up and carry than a standard terry cloth towel. Out of all the towels we tested, it may be the chicest thanks to its classic stripes and tasseled edges. It's also the most expensive option on our list, but it won't disappoint if you're looking for a luxury beach towel for your next vacation.

Product Details: 

  • Material: Turkish cotton
  • GSM: 500 
  • Size: 40 x 70 inches
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: amazon.com

Best Round Beach Towel: Laguna Beach Textile Company Round Beach Towel

View at Amazon ($49)

Also available at Laguna Beach Textile Company

Who it's for: Families or people who want a beach towel that's big enough to share. 

Who it isn't for: People who want a compact beach towel that will fold neatly into a beach bag. 

A round towel makes a great basecamp when you're at the beach with a group of friends or family members. Not only does the shape accommodate more people, but it's also easier to spot from a distance. Plus, it can double as a picnic blanket, a table cover, or a shawl. We love this one from Laguna Beach Textile company because it's made from 100 percent cotton and has a GSM of 600 for maximum absorption. 

The first thing our testers noticed was how heavy this beach towel is, so keep that in mind if you're trying to pack light. However, it provides ample cushioning for hours spent sitting on the sand. While testing, we found this round beach towel to be very absorbent and durable. It held up well in the washing machine—even the tassels were in good shape! 

The top of the towel is plush velour for extra comfort, while the reverse side is looped cotton for extra absorbency. It comes in two different striped designs, and both have a frayed edge that gives it a beachy look. With a 60-inch diameter, this beach towel is large enough to fit more than one person, but it's not the most convenient to pack given its shape and heft. But for families and groups of friends, it makes a great alternative to a conventional rectangular beach towel.  

Product Details: 

  • Material: Cotton
  • GSM: 600 
  • Size: 60 inches (diameter)

RELATED: 14 Beach Games That'll Make Your Summer Vacation Even More Fun

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: nordstrom.com

Best Quick-Drying Beach Towel: Kassatex Block Pareo Fouta Beach Towel

View at Nordstrom ($50)

Also available at Kassatex

Who it's for: People who want a 100-percent cotton towel that absorbs water and dries fast. 

Who it isn't for: People who want an inexpensive beach towel for occasional use only.  

We were immediately struck by how luxurious and soft the Kassatex towel felt. The minimalist block pattern is also nice, and it comes in five soft and neutral hues. But most importantly, our testers noted that this towel was extremely absorbent and sand repellent. Plus, it's super quick to dry so you don't have to take home a damp towel at the end of the day. The 100-percent cotton towel, which has a flat-woven front and a terry-loop back, also proved to be very durable in our tests. There were no visible changes after washing and drying, so we expect that it will hold up well with regular use. 

The generous 40 x 70-inch size makes this towel excellent for draping over lounge chairs, and the thin cotton material means it can even double as a stylish pareo or sarong. Plus, it features a sewn-in loop so you can hang it out to dry no matter where you are. We love how stylish and functional this towel is, and we think it would make an excellent choice for regular beachgoers and coastal homeowners who want a fast-drying towel. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: Cotton
  • GSM: 450
  • Size: 40 x 70 inches

RELATED: 10 Outdoor Canopies and Nets to Throw Some Serious Shade This Summer

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: matouk.com

Best Lightweight Beach Towel: Matouk Amado Beach Towel

View at Matouk ($75)

Who it's for: People who want a lightweight towel that's still very absorbent. 

Who it isn't for: People who want a thick towel with a lot of cushioning. 

Matouk's Amado beach towel stood out in our testing because it's lightweight but still very absorbent. It's also relatively thin, which makes it easy to fold up and carry in a beach bag. Considering the towel's thin construction, our testers were impressed with its overall absorbency: It only took one to two passes to get our hands completely dry, and it absorbed all the water in the bowl in just three minutes. There was no change in its absorbency after washing the towel, either. 

Like many of the other beach towels we recommend, this one is large enough to completely cover a standard pool or lounge chair. Its design features unique stripes that have alternating textures (it goes from a white terry loop to a colorful flat weave), and there are also frayed edges that hold up well after washing. In terms of price, this towel is on the higher end of those we tested and may cost more than some folks are willing to spend on a beach towel. But we still think its lightweight yet absorbent design makes it a great high-quality towel to take to the beach or pool. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: Cotton
  • GSM: 400
  • Size: 71 x 39 inches
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: tesalate.com

Best Beach Towel for Travel: Tesalate The Alchemist Sand-Free Beach Towel

View at Tesalate ($59)

Who it's for: People who want a thin and compact beach towel that's easy to carry around. 

Who it isn't for: People who want an oversized beach towel. 

This compact, fast-drying towel from Tesalate, an Australian-based company, was designed with frequent beach trips in mind. During our testing, this towel absorbed almost all of the water from a bowl within a minute, and after two minutes no droplets remained. It also dried our hands very quickly and thoroughly, both before and after a cycle in the washing machine. It's extremely sand repellent, too: All traces of sand fell away with a light shake. Even though the towel is very soft, our testers found it to be pretty thin—it doesn't offer much cushioning due to its lightweight design.

The brand's AbsorbLite fabric can hold up to a liter of water without dripping, and it dries in half the time that a normal beach towel does, according to the manufacturer. One tester described the towel's texture as similar to a shammy towel—a type of super-absorbent and quick-drying towel often used after swimming and for car cleaning. 

Unlike many other towels on this list, this one from Tesalate is not oversized (it measures the standard 63 x 31.5 inches), but that's expected because it's designed to fold up small enough to fit in the included pouch. It also comes with a built-in hook so it can be hung to dry. We also love its stunning design, which features a different pattern on each side. This towel is great for travel because the included pouch and compact design make it easy to take on the go—and its quick-drying and sand-free design means you don't have to worry about taking the beach home. 

Product Details: 

  • Material: AbsorbLite microfiber fabric
  • GSM: 400
  • Size: 63 x 31.5 inches
Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON

Final Verdict

The NovForth Oversized Beach Towel is our best overall pick because it's lightweight and quick to dry, yet still soft to the touch. Plus, it performed incredibly well in our absorbency testing and comes in a variety of sizes and fun patterns. 

Our Testing Process

To come up with this list, we put 35 beach towels through a series of tests in our Lab. First, testers completed a visual inspection of each towel to evaluate its quality, noting things like design, construction, size, and comfort. We then folded each towel to evaluate its portability and see how easy it would be to carry in a beach bag or suitcase. 

Next, we looked at each towel's texture and ability to repel sand by placing it on a sandy surface. We laid down on each towel to ensure it made full contact with the sand and to mimic laying out on a beach. Testers then picked up the towel and shook it three to five times, taking note of how much sand remained on the towel. 

To test each towel's absorbency, we used it to dry our hands after wetting them. Testers also laid each towel over a shallow bowl with one-fourth cup of water and measured its absorbency based on the amount of water that remained after five minutes. We repeated the same tests after washing each towel to determine if the absorbency was affected. Before washing, testers also took note of their impression of the durability of each towel and then assessed how it held up after washing. 

Finally, testers received the price of each towel so they could decide whether or not it was worth the money. 

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON

How to Shop for Beach Towels Like a Pro

Material

Cotton: Because of its absorbency and plushness, cotton is considered the gold standard for beach towels. Some towels are made with a blend of cotton and other materials (such as polyester or bamboo), which gives them a softer, more velvety texture and helps prevent shrinkage. But the tradeoff here is that they'll be less absorbent than a towel made with 100 percent cotton. 

Turkish Cotton: Many premium quality towels are made with Turkish cotton, which has superior absorbency and dry time. Turkish beach towels are typically constructed with a flatweave of long cotton fibers, as opposed to a loop weave. That's what makes Turkish towels thinner and lighter than your standard cotton towel. 

Microfiber: The least conventional of the bunch, microfiber beach towels are becoming increasingly popular. (Towels marketed as "sand-free" are often made of microfiber.) They're made from synthetic materials, typically a blend of polyamide and polyester. Microfiber towels are extremely absorbent, lightweight, and fast-drying, and they can fold up into a fraction of their original size, making them some of the best beach towels for travel. Microfiber towels can have varying degrees of thickness, but usually, they aren't as soft and plush as cotton towels. 

Weight 

It's important to remember that beach towels are not bath towels. The fluffiest, thickest towel is not necessarily the one you want to pack for your beach trip—these towels can take a long time to dry and make it hard to remove sand and other debris. Thinner towels are much easier to transport and can dry off in time for your next swim, but they don't always give you the plushness and absorbency of a thicker towel. For a beach towel, it's best to look for something in the middle. 

The weight of a towel is measured in grams per square meter (GSM). The higher the GSM, the heavier the towel. Most beach towels will fall somewhere in between 400 and 650 GSM—anything below this isn't going to be quite absorbent enough, and anything above this is going to dry too slowly and keep sand on it. 

If you prefer a more luxurious and fluffy beach towel, look for one that's closer to 650 GSM. If your priority is something quick-drying that won't hold onto sand at the beach, look for a beach towel that's closer to 400 GSM. 

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON

Portability

Keep in mind that a plush terry cotton towel will take up a lot of space in your carry-on or beach bag, while a microfiber towel with a lower GSM is going to be pretty compact and fold up nicely in your luggage. Turkish beach towels and other towels with a flat weave are also great in terms of portability thanks to their ultra-thin construction. 

Size

A standard-size beach towel is typically around 63 x 31 inches. Oversized beach towels—usually measuring 70 x 40 inches—are becoming increasingly popular because they can completely cover a pool chair and give you more space to spread out. Just keep in mind that a bigger towel means more material to store and transport. 

More Beach Towels to Consider

Laguna Beach Textile Co. Striped Cabana Beach Towel: This classic striped beach towel is very similar to our best cotton pick in terms of both design and performance, but it costs just slightly more. 

Anthropologie Out to Sea Beach Towel: We love the unique, beach-themed design of this cotton velour towel, and it performed surprisingly well in our tests. But if the colorful design doesn't speak to you, there are many comparable towels available at a lower cost. 

Tested: Beach Towel
Credit: REAL SIMPLE/DERA BURRESON

Questions You Might Ask

What's the difference between a beach towel and a bath towel? 

For starters, beach towels are generally much longer than bath towels. Beach towels are meant to accommodate the full length of your body for lounging and they can act as a barrier between you and the sand. But more importantly, beach towels tend to be thinner and less plush than bath towels so they dry more quickly and hold onto less sand: "They need to be comfortable to lie on, light to carry, and absorbent," says Kasouf. "They are also exposed to more elements so they should be more resilient and not pull easily." For those reasons, we do not recommend bringing your bath towel to the pool or beach. 

How do you wash beach towels? 

Before washing your beach towels, thoroughly shake out the sand and then wash on the cold setting to help preserve the colors and prevent shrinkage. Once they're clean, beach towels can either be hung to dry or tumble dried on low. "Avoid items like bleach, fabric softener, and dryer sheets since they can damage the cotton and make the towels less absorbent over time," says Kasouf. As always, refer to the tag for the manufacturer's specific instructions. 

And considering they come in contact with sand, water, sweat, and sunscreen, beach towels should ideally be washed after each use. If this is not possible (say, if you're on vacation without access to a washing machine), shake the sand out and hang the towels to dry in the sun. To keep the colors from fading, rinse your towels after going to the pool to remove chlorine residue. 

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Melanie Fincher, associate commerce editor for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing product reviews and lifestyle content. To compile this list, we tested 35 beach towels in our Lab and evaluated them based on their quality, texture, absorbency before and after washing, durability, and overall value. For expert tips on buying beach towels, Melanie consulted Kelly Kasouf, chief marketing officer at Kassatex.