Essentials like sunscreen and sunglasses are important to pack when heading outdoors, but the real unsung hero of any pool or beach trip is a 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 say beach towels are often larger than bath towels so you can wrap them around yourself after swimming, use them to comfortably lay out or even as picnic blankets. And since beach towels are exposed to sun, sand, water and more, it’s key to pick an option designed to withstand the elements.
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.
Our top picks
- Best beach towel from Amazon: Rumpl Everywhere Towel
- Best beach towel from Target: Target Threshold Striped Oversized Beach Towel
- Best beach towel for kids: Lands’ End Kids Printed Velour Beach Towel
How we picked the best beach towels
To highlight the best beach towels, experts told us to prioritize the following:
- Size: If you’re taller or plan to use the beach towel as a picnic blanket, you may want to buy a larger option. But if you’re shopping for kids, smaller beach towels can do the trick.
- Color and design: Beach towels are available in a variety of patterns and colors, and you can even personalize some with your monogram.
- Fabric type: Fabric type impacts a towel’s texture, absorbance and drying time. Do you prefer a soft, fuzzy towel? Or one that’s smooth and quick drying? Ask yourself these questions when deciding between different fabric options.
- GSM: Grams per square meter (GSM) measures the weight of fabric and impacts a towel’s feel. When comparing the GSM of different options, a higher GSM means the towel has a heavier feel, while a lower GSM means the towel will be more lightweight.
- Care: Beach towels get dirty after being used, so you’ll want to purchase options that are easy to clean. Machine-washable towels are the most convenient.
The best beach towels to consider in 2023
With experts’ tips in mind, we rounded up beach towels from some of our favorite brands across style and price point. If available, we listed the dimensions of each beach towel and its GSM to help you get a feel for its size and weight. All the beach towels we recommend are machine-washable.
This towel is the lowest profile and most lightweight option we recommend, allowing it to dry quickly, according to the brand. It also has an anti-microbial finish, which Rumpl says can ward off bacteria and mold. You can purchase it in over 20 patterns and color ways including Psychedelic Succulents, Glacier Rays and more.
Size: 29.5x72 inches | GSM: 230 | Fabric type: Polyester microsuede material
Select writer Barbara Booth recommends this towel from Target. “I love them because they’re big like a blanket and dry quickly,” she says. You can purchase the towels in designs like blue and yellow stripes, and they have fringe detailing along the top and bottom.
Size: 72x36 inches inches | GSM: Not listed, but Booth says they’re very lightweight | Fabric type: Cotton terry
Brooklinen’s Beach Towel has the highest GSM of all the options on our list, making it the thickest and the most plush option we recommend. The towel has a wave pattern that’s available in four multicolored styles: Cabana, Sunset, Wave Runner and Pink Lemonade. Brooklinen also recently launched beach towels with seasonal designs by artists Megan Badilla, Josh Cochran and Kathy Nash, including styles like Lawn Party, Pool Party, Riptide, Beach Break and NYC Summer.
Size: 34x70 inches | GSM: 600 | Fabric type: Cotton velour and terry
This Pottery Barn beach towel is reversible, so you’ll be able to show off the stripes pattern regardless of how you’re using it. It’s also soft and highly absorbent, according to the brand. The beach towel is available in nine colors including red, gray, navy, flamingo and more. If you would like to customize this beach towel, you can add a name or monogram for an additional $15.
Size: 32x64 inches, 40x72 inches and 25x50 inches | GSM: 500 | Fabric type: Cotton
The Company Store’s beach towel is designed to be fade-resistant from sun, salt water and chlorine, according to the brand. You can purchase it with stripe patterns in colors like pink and navy, as well as herringbone patterns in blue or pink. The towel comes in fish and lighthouse designs, too. Customization options are also available — you can add a monogram, word or name to the towel for an additional $12.
Size: 39x70 inches | GSM: 500 | Fabric type: Cotton terry
L.L. Bean’s Seaside Beach Towel comes in a variety of colors and patterns like gators, lobsters, rainbow stripes and more. The towel has a soft texture and dries quickly, plus it won’t fade in the sun, according to the brand.
Size: 36x68 inches | GSM: 450 | Fabric type: 100% rung-spun cotton
If you’re looking for kids’ beach towels, Lands’ End makes options that feature fun prints designed with little ones in mind. The towels are rated UPF 50+ to offer UV protection outdoors, and once side has a pattern while the other is solid white. There’s also a loop you can use to hang dry the towel between uses. You can purchase the towel in patterns like Bright Moon Stripe Ice Cream, Green Gecko Tie Dye Sharks, Rainbow Burst Tie Dye and more.
Size: 32x64 inches | GSM: Not listed | Fabric type: Cotton
Weezie’s Beach Towel is designed with hypoallergenic, low linting fabric, according to the brand. You can purchase the towel in six patterns: royal blue stripe, pink stripe, light blue stripe, yellow stripe, coral flowers and sea foam wave (currently sold out). All towels have light blue piping around the perimeter.
Size: 38x70 inches | GSM: 540 | Fabric type: Long-staple cotton
“I was gifted this Turkish towel years ago and it’s stood the test of time,” says Select editor Chrisitna Colizza. “I’ve taken it on camping trips, beach vacations and anywhere in between that might involve water.” Colizza says the towel dries quickly, too. It’s available in colors like steel topaz and blue, as well as styles like Izmir Stripe and Marlin Stripe. All towels have fringe on the top and bottom.
Size: 39x70 inches | GSM: Not listed | Fabric type: Cotton
What to look for when buying beach towels
Beach towels range in fabric type, shape and size, as well as their style, like color and pattern. Ultimately, picking a beach towel comes down to personal preference. For example, 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. 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 design director. “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, says Susan Lazor, an associate product development merchant 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.
What’s 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.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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, Lazor says. 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.
What’s the best beach towel material?
When it comes to beach towels, Elks said you want something soft and absorbent that also dries quickly. Cotton, terry and microfiber are 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, Lazor says. 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, Lazor says. Microfiber towels dry fast, but the fabric “does not feel luxurious and can often have a static cling effect,” Elks said.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Katie Elks is Brooklinen’s design director.
- Susan Lazor is an associate product development merchant for The Company Store.
Why trust Select?
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at Select who TK. For this piece, she interviewed two experts to gather their shopping tips, and researched beach towels with their guidance in mind.