IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

6 best beach towels for using as a cover-up, tanning bed, picnic blanket and more

The secret to finding a great beach towel is personal preference, but experts said it’s important to pay attention to factors like absorbency, fabric type and more.
Experts said the right beach towel for you largely depends on personal preference, like the size, color and fabric type you like best.
Experts said the right beach towel for you largely depends on personal preference, like the size, color and fabric type you like best. L.L. Bean ; Pottery Barn ; Brooklinen

Essentials are important to pack when heading to the beach or the pool — from sunscreen, sunglasses to bathing suits. But the real unsung hero of the pool trip will always be the beach towel. That’s why it’s so important to pick the right one. While it’s tempting to grab any towel you find lying around your home, experts said beach towels are often larger than bath towels so you can wrap them around yourself after swimming or use them as tanning beds and picnic blankets. And since beach towels are exposed to sun, sand, water and more, it’s important to pick an option made for these activities.

SKIP AHEAD Beach towels v.s. bath towels | Beach towel fabric type

To help you find the right beach towel, we spoke to experts about features you may want to consider while shopping. We also used their guidance to round up great beach towels that range in fabric type, size, style and price point from a variety of brands.

How to shop for beach towels

Beach towels range in their design, like fabric type, shape and size, as well as their style, like color and pattern. Ultimately, picking a beach towel comes down to personal preference: if you’re taller, you may opt for a larger towel, and if you’re buying for kids, you may seek out towels with bright prints.

However, there are a few factors experts recommend keeping in mind while shopping for beach towels in general. Most importantly, pay attention to a beach towel’s grams per square meter (GSM), which measures the weight of the fabric and impacts the towel’s overall feel. You can think of GSM as the thread count of towels, experts explained.

“The higher the GSM, the thicker and more plush the towel will be,” said Katie Elks, Brooklinen’s director of design and product development. “If you want something more durable, look for a 600 GSM to ensure absorbency and thickness. For a quicker drying time and more delicate look, you can opt for something in a lighter GSM, such as 400.”

Like traditional thread counts on bed sheets, a higher GSM can come with some caveats. A heavier weight can help a beach towel be more absorbent but might mean it takes longer to dry, said Amy Joost, an associate merchant, product development for The Company Store.

Additionally, if you’re shopping for beach towels with patterns, Elks said to make sure they’re yarn dyed rather than printed. Towels with yarn dyed patterns are reversible, Elks explained. She said they’re also more colorfast after sun or chlorine exposure, meaning they’re more likely to maintain their vibrancy overtime and without fading.

Best beach towels to consider

Below, we rounded up beach towels that met our experts’ guidance. We listed the dimensions of each beach towel and its GSM to help you get a feel for its size and weight. If the towels had a pattern, we made sure the product description mentioned yarn dye patterns rather than printed. We also included towels across price points, fabric type, size and shape. Some towels are available in multiple colors and patterns, which we noted as well.

Parachute Oversized Beach Towel

Parachute’s beach towel blends a beach blanket with a Turkish towel, the brand says. It’s made from 100% long-staple Turkish cotton with a 380 GSM, and has a twisted fringe detail at the bottom. Because it has a lower GSM, that means it’s quicker to dry and has a lightweight feel. The towel measures 57 inches by 70 inches and it’s the biggest towel — in both width and length — we recommend. You can choose between two striped colorways: Bone and Amber.

Brooklinen Beach Towel

Brooklinen’s Beach Towel has a 600 GSM. The beach towel is the only option here that’s made from 96% cotton. It was designed with cotton velour on the front and terry on the back, making it extra absorbent, the brand says. The towel measures 34 inches by 70 inches and has a wave pattern that’s available in four multicolored styles: Cabana, Sunset, Wave Runner and Sunrise.

Laguna Beach Textile Company Cabana Beach Towel

This beach towel from the Laguna Beach Textile Company has a 630 GSM, making it the so by GSM’s standards, it’s the thickest and plushest towel here. It measures 35 inches by 70 inches and is designed from 100% cotton. The beach towel is available in eight colors including Black Stone, Ocean Blue & Almond, Yellow & Sea Glass and more.

Pottery Barn Chambray Classic Awning Striped Beach Towel

Made with 100% organic cotton, Pottery Barn’s beach towel has a 550 GSM. It’s available in two sizes, depending on your needs: 32 inches by 64 inches and 40 inches by 72 inches (72 inches is the longest length of any towel on this list). The towel has a striped pattern that comes in six colors like red, gray, black and more.

L.L. Bean Seaside Beach Towel

L.L. Bean’s Seaside Beach Towel comes in seven colors and patterns from gators and lobsters to rainbow stripes. Towels have a 450 GSM and are made from 100% ring-spun cotton. They measure 36 inches by 68 inches.

Rumpl Everywhere Towel

With a 230 GSM, this towel is the lowest profile and most lightweight option we recommend. It’s made with a polyester microsuede material that the brand says dries quickly, and has an anti-microbial finish. The towel measures 29.5 inches by 72 inches, so it’s the narrowest option on our list — and one of the longest. (Take note if you’re around 6 feet tall and want a towel to span the length of your body when you’re on top of it.) You can purchase it in 22 styles from Psychedelic Succulents to Glacier Rays.

What is the difference between a bath towel and a beach towel?

Beach towels and bath towels are similar in their construction and the fabric that’s used to make them, Elks said. However, they differ in their size, thickness and style.

  1. “Beach towels are noticeably larger in size, making them better suited to be your softest lounging companion at the beach, pool or picnic,” she said.
  2. Beach towels need to dry quickly so you can pack them in your bag after a day in the sun, or so you can reuse them within a few hours. Because of this, they’re often less thick than bath towels, which often don’t need to be reused as quickly — the thicker a towel, the longer it takes to dry.
  3. Stylistically, the two aren’t so similar, either — bath towels are likely to be one solid shade as opposed to beach towels, which may come in more colorful prints and patterns, Joost said. This might be more about aesthetics than anything — some people prefer white towels in bathrooms, for example, because they can offer a clean, classic look.

While beach towels are traditionally bigger than bath towels, some beach towels are designed to be “oversized.” Elks recommended oversized beach towels because they give you more room to stretch out comfortably and make for a larger barrier between you and surfaces like the hot sand.

Deciding which fabric is right for your beach towel

When it comes to beach towels, Elks said you want something soft and absorbent that also dries quickly.Cotton, terryandmicrofiberare three of the most common materials beach towels are made from, and each offers its own benefits and texture.

  • Cotton is the best material when it comes to beach towels, according to our experts, who recommended towels made with 100% cotton. Elks said cotton is a versatile fabric and is known for its moisture-wicking abilities. “It absorbs well, dries quickly and is super soft,” she noted.
  • Terry can be made from only cotton or a mix of materials, experts said. Terry towels are woven with loops, and the length of the loop can dictate absorbency, said Joost. Longer loops means there is more surface area to absorb water and can feel denser and softer depending on the fiber.
  • Microfiber is made from synthetic fabrics, often meaning man-made polyester, Joost said. Microfiber towels dry fast, but the fabric “does not feel luxurious and can often have a static cling effect,” Elks said.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.