Best beach towels in 2024, tried and tested | CNN Underscored (2024)

The best beach towels we tested

Along with a good book, a cold drink and sufficient sunscreen, a dedicated beach towel is an essential part of any beach day. Typically larger and more colorful than the average bath towel, beach towels pull double duty as a layer of protection against the hot sand and a quick way to dry off after taking a dip in the ocean or pool. Their bright colors and unique patterns also make it easy to keep an eye on your belongings when enjoying beach activities, acting as a helpful landmark when swimming or floating.

To narrow down the best, we researched and sourced 20 popular beach towels and ran them through a comprehensive testing process. After evaluating their comfort, absorbency, drying ability, sand resistance and durability, we found two that are better than the rest.

Best beach towel

With the best balance of comfort, durability and size of all the towels we tested, this eye-catching option is everything you need in a beach towel.

Best budget beach towel

Despite this towel’s rock-bottom price, its soft, fluffy texture, 5-foot length and charming striped design make it a fine alternative to our top pick.

Best beach towel: Outerknown The Beach Towel

$58 at Outerknown

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Out of all the towels I tested, Outerknown’s The Beach Towel had the most complete combination of comfort, size and durability. First off, this towel is extremely comfortable. Its cotton fabric has a nice, soft, bath towel-style feel on your skin while still thick, dense and heavy enough to provide cushioning and support on sand or a beach chair. Its sprawling 70-by-39-inch size (the very top of the size spectrum in my testing pool) also provides a spacious area to stretch out on, keep any reading materials out of the sand and wrap yourself up when it’s time to dry off. This size makes it a bit bulkier than the thinner microfiber towels I tested, but unless you’re trying to save space, I don’t consider that a deal breaker.

The towel performed well at the beach in nearly all my testing categories. It absorbed water quickly and effectively when I was drying off and any sand flipped off easily with a couple of quick shakes. However, it did rank low in overall drying time, needing roughly an hour before it was dry. Its 60-minute dry time was twice as long as the top dryers in my testing pool (such as the 25-minute Mare Veloce Beach Towel or the 30-minute Baina Roman Pool Towel), but I’m comfortable with the compromise considering its superior comfort, absorbency and sand-resistance benefits.

Best beach towels in 2024, tried and tested | CNN Underscored (4)

Outerknown’s The Beach Towel also fared well regarding durability. After two complete wash cycles — plus a full day at the beach — I didn’t notice any loose threads on the fabric or stitching, nor was there any puckering around the edges like with some models I tested. It’s available in four bright, eye-catching colors and is easy to spot on a crowded beach. The towel is made of 35% organic cotton (grown with no synthetic chemicals) and 65% Ecotec cotton (repurposed waste material from garment facilities), making it a relatively sustainable and environmentally friendly option. This focus on sustainability extends to Outerknown’s other textiles as well.

All told this is the best beach towel I tested. It’s big and soft, and durable enough to last years. If you have the budget and portability isn’t a high priority (it’s quite bulky when folded up), it’s a worthwhile investment.

Best budget beach towel: Amazon Basics Cabana Stripe Beach Towel, 2-Pack

$22 at Amazon

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Despite its low cost (just $22 for a two-pack), this Amazon Basics towel still impressed me with its comfort and real-world beach performance. It’s a bit thinner than our top pick but still has a soft, fluffy feel that’s comfortable to lie on or wrap around your shoulders after taking a dip in the pool or ocean.

Its 60-by-30-inch footprint isn’t the largest towel I tested, but it’s still about average for the classic cotton-style options in my testing pool (also, don’t forget, you get two of these). If you want an extra-large towel at a similar price, consider the $22 Venture 4th Microfiber Sand-Free Beach Towel or the $12 Decomen Microfiber Beach Towel.

At the beach, this towel handled sand just fine (a couple of shakes cleared it when it was time to go) and absorbed water just as well as higher-priced towels (but not as quickly as the Outerknown). It did take quite a bit longer to dry, though, clocking in at around 90 minutes. The one-and-a-half-hour dry time is likely due to the thinness of the fabric, which, in turn, is probably the reason why it’s so affordable. So, that’s a trade-off you’ll need to accept.

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The Amazon Basics Cabana Stripe Beach Towel softened up nicely after two complete wash cycles but also suffered from some marginal shrinkage — even after following the care instructions closely. This resulted in a slightly uneven shape (the corners flip up a bit) that wasn’t as convenient to fold as higher-end towels that stayed flat after my washing tests. This shrinkage is a fairly low-priority issue but does show the towel’s lower quality compared to our winner.

Available in four stripe colors — green, navy blue, sky blue and yellow — the Amazon Basics Cabana Stripe Beach Towel also has a classic, traditional beach towel look. Considering the rock-bottom price (again, you get two!), this towel is still a great value for those on a tight budget.

Why do I need a beach towel?

Best beach towels in 2024, tried and tested | CNN Underscored (7)

You don’t need a towel at the beach, but it’s safe to say having one makes the experience more enjoyable. By providing a protective layer against the hot sand, a beach towel lets you lie down and relax while reading, napping or tanning. They can keep your book, magazine, phone or any other item sand-free too. The larger size of a beach towel also makes it convenient for wrapping yourself up when changing or at the end of the day when the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

The thicker, softer beach towel options add more cushion if used on top of beach or pool chairs. Since they typically use bold, bright colors and patterns, a beach towel also makes a useful landmark for your stuff when taking a dip in the ocean, grabbing a treat from an ice cream truck or engaging in any other type of beach activity. I’ve found that a bright, unique color comes in handy when the beach is crowded with lots of other people.

That said, if you plan on sitting on a beach chair or inside a tent and you don’t plan on getting wet, you may not need a beach towel.

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

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Sure, you can use a bath towel as a beach towel, but it won’t be as effective for beach-centric use. Since their primary job is drying you off, bath towels are thicker than beach versions, and take longer to dry. Their thick, plushy fabric also traps sand more easily than the tighter weave of beach towels. Also, since they aren’t designed to lie down on, bath towels lack the size that makes beach towels so useful. Bath towels also typically come in lighter, muted colors, which stand out less than the bright patterns and colors used by most beach towels.

How we tested

Most beach towels look similar online and it’s hard to differentiate one from the other without real-world use. We ran each towel through a comprehensive testing process — and will continue to use our winners for long-term testing — to confidently determine the best overall and recommend others for specific use cases.


  • Feel: I first judged each towel on its overall feel and texture, and how comfortable it felt on my skin. While this evaluation is subjective, and personal preference will vary, I was still able to roughly compare each towel using physical descriptors like “soft,” “scratchy” and “fluffy” that any user can understand.
  • Size: Since a beach towel needs to be large enough to lie down on — with preferably some extra room for a book, magazine or phone — I compared each towel’s overall size. I also noted if any were available in larger sizes, making them easier to recommend to users who are comfortable paying for more space.
  • Durability: To get an initial idea of how the towels will respond to regular wear and tear, I ran each towel through two complete wash and dry cycles, according to its recommended care instructions. After completing my testing, I inspected each towel, looking for durability issues like loose threads, shrunken or puckered edges and unraveled tassels.


  • Comfort: I laid flat on each towel on the beach while reading a book and noted how comfortable it felt, as well as the cushioning and support provided. This is another subjective opinion, but I did my best to describe the results objectively and use it strictly as a comparison tool.
  • Absorbency: To compare absorbency, I submerged myself in the ocean and immediately used each towel to dry myself off. I noted how quickly and effectively the fabric soaked up water, noting if the fabric became so wet that it required me to frequently use different parts of the towel to finish the job.
  • Drying ability: I then immediately laid the towel on the sand and timed how long it took to dry completely. This isn’t the most scientific experiment (as the sun changed positions throughout the day and I was judging the dryness by feel) but I think it was a useful tool for identifying towels that dried especially quickly or slowly.


  • Size and weight: I also used each towel’s dimensions and material to determine its portability. By weighing each dry towel with a hanging luggage scale, and also folding them up in the same way to compare height and weight, I was able to compare how compact or bulky each towel would be to travel with.

Other beach towels we tested

Lands’ End School Uniform Beach Towel

$20 at Lands’ End

Although the budget-friendly price tag and its 72-by-30-inch size are attractive, durability issues with this Lands’ End towel make it hard to recommend. After two wash cycles, I noticed multiple loose and snagged threads on the surface of the fabric, and the shape of the corners had shrunk enough to make it annoying to fold properly. It is thin enough to not take up much room when folded or rolled up, though, and also dried completely in just 35 minutes, one of the fastest in my testing pool. It’s available in three basic colors — gray, navy and red — so those who want an eye-catching design should look elsewhere.

Sobel Westex Hotel Cabana Stripe Pool Towel

$45 at Sobel Westex

Very similar to our budget pick (the similarly sized Amazon Basics Cabana Stripe Beach Towel), this spun cotton towel combines a bath-towel feel with a roomy beach towel size of 60 by 30 inches. The main difference is that it didn’t suffer the slight shrinkage issue of the Amazon Basics model, and maintained its shape well after my washing tests. The loose weave is airy enough to be breezy and lightweight while absorbing water quickly and effectively. This did result in sand being trapped a little easier than tighter-knit towels, although an extra shake was all that was necessary to clear it completely. Like the Amazon option, this striped towel is available in four colors.

Tekla Organic Cotton Striped Bath Towel

$90 at Tekla

Although this towel is well-made and of high-quality material, its 55-by-28-inch footprint (the smallest of those I tested) was just too small to consider it a top pick. That being said, it’s also incredibly soft and dense, and if you’re not looking for a large option, this could be a perfect fit. It resisted sand and absorbed water quite well at the beach, although the dense material did take 40 minutes to dry (which landed about in the middle of my drying results). It’s available in 26 solid and striped color options, and a loop sewn onto the side of the towel — instead of the end — makes it convenient to hang dry.

Decomen Microfiber Beach Towel

$12 at Amazon

The low price and generous 73-by-32-inch size of this microfiber towel make it a great choice for those looking for an affordable option that still provides a decent amount of space. I found the 88% polyester and 12% nylon combination to be slightly rougher than the ultra-soft Rumpl Everywhere Towel or Ocoopa Diveblues Microfiber Beach Towel, although it dried in just 30 minutes at my real-world beach test (tied for the fastest of all the towels tested). It’s worth noting that, like the Venture 4th Microfiber Sand-Free Beach Towel, the care tag instructs you that it cannot be tumble dried, which makes cleaning a little more of a hassle.

Mark & Graham Cabana Stripe Beach Towel

$59 at Mark & Graham

I love the soft, plush feel of this cotton towel, and its bold striped pattern is practically impossible to lose sight of on a crowded beach. Close inspection after my washing tests confirmed its high-quality construction (zero loose threads or warping issues) and only proved to soften the fabric even more. Its 68-by-40-inch size is only a couple of inches shorter than our top choice, Outerknown’s The Beach Towel, and the thicker material provides a more luxurious surface on which to lie down. It absorbed water without any extra effort in my beach test, and despite the ultra-thick surface, it dried in about 40 minutes (about average for my testing pool). With shipping, the final cost was about $10 more than the Outerknown, but if that’s not an issue for you, this is a great runner-up.

Hamam Aire Bath Towel

$100 at ABC Carpet & Home

This furry towel is about as soft as they come and was noticeably more absorbent than most other options I tested. It fared well during my washing and drying tests too, the only change being that it just got softer with each wash cycle. Although the long-looped fibers that make it so comfy also cause it to retain sand more than other options, as long as you give it a few good shakes that’s not a real issue. Unfortunately, its 55-by-28-inch dimensions were tied for the smallest surface area in my testing pool, and considering the high price tag, the primary reason I omitted it from a top recommendation.

Baina Roman Pool Towel

$110 at Baina

Another high-end towel that’s built to last, this Baina towel prioritizes sturdiness and user comfort. Made with double-looped terry cloth, it has a dense, heavy feel without being too fluffy and thick, and ranked at the top of the class in both my absorbency and drying speed tests. Its 67-by-35-inch footprint provides a ton of space to stretch out, and after all my testing and two complete wash cycles, I noticed zero wear issues with the material itself or the stitching. If you can afford it, and prefer a slightly scratchier texture over a fluffy one, this is a fantastic option.

Mare Veloce Beach Towel

$120 at Mare

This massive towel has a soft, thick, luxurious feel, and if not for the high price tag, it would have been my top choice overall. The 38-inch width in particular helps provide a huge footprint, and other than the blanket-size Ocoopa Diveblues Microfiber Beach Towel, it’s tied with several other towels for the widest I tested. The fluffy surface wasn’t the most absorbent, but it got the job done without much extra effort, and dried in just 25 minutes — faster than any other towel in my testing pool. The folded edges give it a durable, heavy-duty feel as well. The pattern I tested is being discontinued soon but Mare told me the new line — and its updated patterns — will be made using the same material and construction.

Matouk Santiago Beach Towel

$124 at Matouk

Featuring a roomy 70-by-40-inch spread and two-sided fabric, this Matouk beach towel is perfect for those who want a comfortable, blanket-style towel. I found the velvety velour side ideal for repelling sand, and the soft terry cloth side perfect for quickly drying myself off after dips in the ocean. The large size and 2.3-pound weight (only the 2.8-pound Mare Veloce Beach Towel is heavier) make it slightly less convenient than others to carry and transport, so it probably wouldn’t be ideal for those who want something they can easily stash in a backpack or small tote. Although this is the most expensive towel I tested, its premium quality and high-quality construction are nice if you have the budget.

Rumpl Everywhere Towel

$50 at Rumpl

This soft microsuede towel has a shammy-like texture and does a great job of absorbing water and drying you off quickly. The ultrathin material is naturally ultra-portable, folding up or rolling into a compact size and weighing just 0.7 pounds (tied with several other towels as the lightest I tested). The Rumpl Everywhere Towel is also available in 14 design options — from geometric patterns to depictions of different national parks — making them a great choice for those who want a unique, distinctive look. Although its 72-inch length is impressive, the 29.5-inch width is narrower than most and doesn’t give you much space to maneuver when lying down.

Sand Cloud Turkish Beach Towel

$48 at Amazon

This Turkish-style towel from Sand Cloud has a soft, breathable cotton weave that I found comfortable on my skin and ultra-absorbent when drying off. The tassels and stitching held up fine to two complete wash cycles, and it dried off in just 30 minutes (just five minutes slower than the top dryer, the Mare Veloce Beach Towel). Its thin material lacks the plush and fuzzy feel of a typical terry-style towel. However, this could be a versatile option for those who value portability and prefer a lighter-weight towel to take to concerts, tailgates and picnics. If you want to go bigger than the 67-by-37-inch size, it’s also available in an extra-large 72-by-76-inch version.

Venture 4th Microfiber Sand-Free Beach Towel

$22 at Venture 4th

At 78 inches long, this towel is only 2 inches shorter than the longest option I tested (the 80-inch Ocoopa Diveblues Microfiber Beach Towel), and combined with the 35-inch width, it provides a huge area to lie down or store your supplies. The microfiber material folds up nice and neat but also has a rougher, papery feel than similar options like the supple Rumpl Everywhere Towel or velvety Ocoopa Diveblues Microfiber Beach Towel. That being said, it repels sand and absorbs water effectively, and the 40-minute drying time was about average for my testing pool.

Ocoopa Diveblues Microfiber Beach Towel

$37 $32 at Amazon

Measuring over 30 square feet, this microfiber towel was the largest option in my testing pool. Its 80% polyester, 20% polyamide blend gives it a velvety, soft feel (although I’d consider the Rumpl Everywhere Towel softer), and sand easily falls away from the fabric’s smooth surface when you lift it. Thanks to this thin material, and despite the huge size, the Ocoopa Diveblues Microfiber Beach Towel easily rolls up into a compact package, and the convenient carrying bag allows it to maintain its size when tossed into a backpack or tote. Like most microfiber towels, this one absorbs water well, although its 60-minute drying time was on the higher end of the spectrum.

Huckberry Mediterranean Turkish Towel

$45 $25 at Huckberry

This ultrathin Turkish-style towel is soft to the touch, and at just 0.7 pounds, well suited to those who prefer something a little more lightweight and breezy. The soft cotton was absorbent enough to dry me off quickly and dried completely in just 30 minutes (just a hair longer than the Mare Veloce Beach Towel’s 25 minutes, the fastest dryer of them all). My washing and drying tests didn’t result in loose threads or other issues, and the tassels stayed nice and tight. I was a little disappointed to discover that when measuring with a tape measure, Huckberry includes these tassels in the advertised 70-inch length. This isn’t a huge deal, just 2.5 inches on either end, but it’s still annoying that you get 5 fewer inches of actual towel than you thought. This is still a great budget-friendly option if you prefer a lighter, more portable towel than the Amazon Basics Cabana Stripe Beach Towel.

Olive & Linen Eversoft Turkish Towel

$34 at Olive & Linen

With a soft, blanket-style weave and a huge 70-by-40-inch footprint, this towel is versatile enough for the beach, a picnic or wrapping yourself up on a chilly night in the backyard. Despite the soft feel and delicate look, this towel withstood two complete wash cycles and a day at the beach with no wear and tear issues — even the tassels stayed intact, unlike some other lower-quality Turkish-style options. Weighing just 0.9 pounds and thin enough to fold down to a compact size, this towel is also convenient for those who don’t want to store or carry around a bulky, heavy option.

Nomadix Original Towel

$40 at Nomadix

Although the tight weave of this towel was incredibly sand-resistant during my testing, its scratchy feel wasn’t comfortable enough to recommend as best overall. I did appreciate how convenient it was to fold up and store, though, taking up minimal room despite the 71-by-29-inch dimensions. It absorbed water well during my beach testing and dried in about 45 minutes (about average for the towels I tested). It also feels solidly well-made, and I noticed zero durability issues after two complete wash cycles. This towel also offers the most variety in appearance, with over 50 patterns and designs available.

Lands’ End Turkish Cotton Beach Towel

$50 at Lands’ End

The largest cotton option in my testing pool (several microfiber towels were wider), this Lands’ End towel spans 78 by 39 inches, making it well-suited for families or those who like to spread out. Thicker than other Turkish-style options, it provides more cushioning but still folds nicely for convenient storage. Similar to the Lands’ End School Uniform Beach Towel, this one didn’t fare very well in my durability tests either and, after two wash cycles, several of the tassels had become unraveled and frayed.

Coyuchi Mediterranean Organic Towel

$68 at Nordstrom

What this Coyuchi towel lacks in size it makes up for in premium quality and a luxuriously soft feel. The lightweight cotton construction has a tight enough weave to prevent sand or debris from taking hold, and neither it nor the braided tassels suffered any durability issues after my wash-and-dry tests. While it absorbed water well, it did take about 50 minutes to dry, which was longer than most towels I tested, regardless of material. This is also the most expensive of the Turkish-style towels I tested. If this is the style you’re looking for and you want some actual room to spread out (its 54-by-27-inch measurements were the smallest in my entire testing pool), I’d recommend the Olive & Linen Eversoft Turkish Towel.

Best beach towels in 2024, tried and tested | CNN Underscored (2024)


Best beach towels in 2024, tried and tested | CNN Underscored? ›

Best beach towel: Outerknown The Beach Towel

What is the best towel for the beach? ›

The best material depends on how you intend to use your beach towel. Cotton is the most absorbent, so it is the best material for drying off. Egyptian and Turkish cotton offer a more luxurious feel, but are still great for absorbing water. Microfiber is ideal for repelling sand and lounging.

What is the best fabric for a beach towel? ›

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.

How can you tell if a towel is high quality? ›

Look for towels with a loop density of at least 500 for a soft and plush feel. Double-turned edges: Double-turned edges are a sign of quality and durability in a towel. They prevent fraying and ensure that the towel stays in good condition even after multiple washes.

Is microfiber or cotton beach towels better? ›

They also dry more quickly than cotton beach towels. However, microfiber beach towels are not as absorbent as cotton beach towels. So, if you're looking for a beach towel that will keep you dry and comfortable, cotton is the way to go.

What's so great about Turkish beach towels? ›

Turkish towels are so lightweight, they use less material, and production is much more energy-efficient than a typical terry cloth towel. They dry more quickly after use, so they don't take on a musty smell. As a result, they don't need laundering as often.

What color is best for beach towels? ›

It's summer and you should go for bright colors. Not only do really dark colors like black or gray attract heat that could make your sunbathing experience pretty uncomfortable, but they look more at home on Game of Thrones than a sunny day on the sand.

How much should good quality towels cost? ›

Although a 100 percent cotton towel is still the best buy, expect to pay a premium for those on the high end. Marini says a 100 percent cotton bath towel with a high GSM starts around $70; a medium-grade one runs about $29 to $50. But good towels should last you up to 10 years.

Are more expensive towels worth it? ›

While luxury bath towels come with a higher price tag, they're also known for their longevity. Made of high-quality materials, they're designed to maintain softness and stand up to frequent use and washing.

Should beach towels be thick or thin? ›

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.

What towels do the Kardashians use? ›

The Kardashian family has been spotted using Turkish towels and Hammam towels in public on multiple occasions.

What is the difference between a beach towel and a swimming towel? ›

The extra length and width of beach towels make them ideal for lying on the sand or using as a makeshift blanket. In contrast, pool towels are designed to dry your body quickly and efficiently, making them more suitable for drying off after a swim.

What fabric repels sand? ›

the fabric and does not stick to the towel... perfect for the beach!

Are microfiber towels better for the beach? ›

If you're looking for convenience, in particular, microfiber towels are often touted as being “sand-free” and tend to be thinner and less bulky than traditional terry cloth towels. Made from synthetics—typically a polyester-based blend—they're known for their quick-dry qualities.

What should a beach towel be made of? ›

We can confidently say that cotton is the best material and that a mid-range GSM is ideal for a beach towel. However, other factors that affect absorbency, softness, and durability are the weave and yarn-type.


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