The 11 Best Beach Towels, According to Lab Testing
Spending the day at the beach always sounds like a luxurious way to unwind, but the reality of sitting on an uncomfortable towel that's too small, too thin, and covered in sand can completely ruin your plan to relax. Instead of spending your vacation time in discomfort, the best beach towel can provide plush cushioning, absorb water quickly and effectively, and won't collect sand in between the fibers, allowing you to catch some rays in comfort.
We put 34 of the best beach towels to the test in our lab in Des Moines, Iowa, testing each towel's quality, absorbency, softness, and durability after repeated washes. We also took detailed notes on how comfortable each towel was to lie on, its dimensions, and how much sand remained on the towel after being shaken out.
After two days of testing, we chose the Clowood Plush Bamboo Cotton beach towel as the all-around best beach towel because of its thick, luxurious cushioning and how easily it absorbed water.
Here are the best beach towels based on lab testing.
- Best Overall: Clowood Plush Bamboo Cotton Beach Towel
- Best Sand-Free: NovForth Oversized Beach Towel
- Best Set: Better Homes & Gardens Cabana Beach Towels, Set of Four
- Best Microfiber: Elite Trend Microfiber Beach Towel
- Best Luxury: Anthropologie Out to Sea Beach Towel
- Best for Travel: Dock & Bay Cabana Microfiber Beach Towel
- Best Thin: Venture 4th Extra-Large Microfiber Beach Towel
- Best Monogrammed: Mark & Graham Classic Stripe Beach Towel
- Best Comfortable: Laguna Beach Textile Company Striped Cabana Beach Towel
- Best Turkish: Kassatex Block Pareo Fouta Beach Towel
- Best Round: Ban.do All Around Giant Circle Towel
What We Recommend
The Bottom Line
After extensively testing some of the most popular beach towels on the market, our top pick for the best beach towel is the Clowood Plush Bamboo Cotton beach towel, which wowed us with its soft texture and superior ability to absorb water.
If you prefer a microfiber beach towel, we also recommend the Elite Trend Microfiber beach towel, which has extra-large dimensions and a convenient carrying bag for easy transport.
Our Testing Process
We spent two days putting the best beach towels to the test in our home testing lab in Des Moines, Iowa. During testing, our team of experts reviewed each towel for quality, size, absorbency, durability, and texture.
To do this, we laid out each towel on a bed of sand, sat or laid on it to see how much cushion the towel provided, then shook the towel out to test how much sand remained embedded in the fibers. Our testers also determined each towel's absorbency by placing it in a small bowl filled with 1/4 cup of water and by drying their hands on it.
Finally, we ran the towels through the wash, then went through each of the steps again to see if the towel had shrunk, unraveled, or decreased in quality in any way. Testers ranked each towel in every category on a scale from one to five, and we used these insights to compile a list of the best beach towels.
What to Know About Beach Towels Before Shopping
When it comes to buying the right beach towel, you'll want to find a towel that's absorbent, comfortable, affordable, and large enough to lie on without getting sandy. Keep the following things in mind as you're shopping for the best beach towels.
Whether you're 5 feet tall or 6 feet 5 inches, it's important to find a beach towel that's long and wide enough to fit your entire body while remaining portable enough to pack in your suitcase or beach bag. The average beach towel is around 30 inches wide by 60 inches long, though it depends on the brand you choose to purchase from. Many of the oversized beach towels we tested came with a handy carrying bag, allowing you to easily fold and store your towels on the go.
The best beach towels tend to come in two main material types: cotton and microfiber. Cotton beach towels are extremely plush, providing a cushioned barrier between you and the hard sand. Many people prefer the texture of a cotton towel over a microfiber one. However, cotton towels tend to be more expensive than microfiber ones, and since they're less tightly woven, it can be harder to shake out all of the sand before leaving the beach.
When considering what material you'd like your beach towel to be made from, you'll also need to consider the absorbency of that material. Microfiber beach towels tend to be the most absorbent, soaking up standing water in a matter of minutes and allowing you to dry off very quickly. Some shoppers might prefer the texture of a cotton towel, and during our tests we found several cotton beach towels that offered similar absorbency to a microfiber towel.
Other Beach Towels We Tested
Serena and Lily Mallorca Beach Towel
Our testers loved the absorbency and material quality of the Mallorca Turkish beach towel. During our tests, it received perfect scores when soaking up standing water and drying off moisture from our hands. The texture and softness of the towel was extremely plush, making it a great cushion against rough surfaces like sand. However, we found this towel to be a little pricey, with many less-expensive options offering similar quality and function.
Pottery Barn Classic Awning Striped Organic Beach Towel
We found the quality and durability of the Classic Awning Striped Organic beach towel to be quite impressive during our lab tests. When comparing the material, absorption, and texture of the towels before and after running it through the wash, this beach towel remained soft and just like new. Its dimensions (72 inches long and 40 inches wide) make it great for even taller users to lie on the beach without their feet hanging off. We wished the Classic Awning towel was more absorbent, as we found several other less-expensive towels that soaked up water more efficiently.
Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
The Rainleaf Microfiber beach towel was quite absorbent during our tests, removing water from our testers' hands in just one swipe and soaking up standing water with similar ease. We also found it to be quite lightweight, making it great for travel, and one tester even noted that they'd love to use it as a yoga towel, too. However, its dimensions are a little small compared to some of the other beach towels we tried, and we wish it was a bit thicker to provide added cushion on the sand.
Your Questions, Answered
What size is an oversized beach towel?
Though it depends on the manufacturer, most average beach towels are 30 inches wide by 60 inches long. However, to accommodate taller users (or provide more space for snacking, sunbathing, or drying off), you can find oversized beach towels as large as 75 inches long and 43 inches wide.
What material is best for a beach towel?
If comfort is the most important feature in choosing the best beach towel for you, you'll be able to find plenty of plush cotton towels that provide superior cushioning against the rough sand. However, you can also consider microfiber beach towels, which tend to absorb water better than cotton, though the material can be thinner and less comfortable when spread out on the beach.
Who We Are
Samantha Jones is an associate commerce home editor, writing about the best products for your home including stick vacuums, window air conditioners, indoor and outdoor hammocks, and more. To write this story, Samantha spent a week researching the best beach towels, making note of important features in a quality beach towel, and comparing this information to insights collected from our lab tests in Des Moines, Iowa.