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slow tide beach towels

The Slowtide Turkish Towel is a great, stylish beach towel. Photo: Rebecca Parsons


The Inertia

If you’re anything like us, you have a generous collection of beach towels yet simultaneously always need a new one. Towels tend to get easily worn out, stained, or covered in wax (if you’re a surfer). Plus, it’s nice to have extras on hand for when friends visit or for when your go-to starts to smell a little funky. While you could go to Costco and get the same towel as everyone else, there are plenty of other, and dare we say better, options out there. Here are our top picks. For more info on beach towels and how we chose  check out our Buyer’s Guide and Comparison Table.

What Are the Best Beach Towels of 2023?

Best Overall Beach Towel: Nomadix Original Towel
Best Turkish Towel: Slowtide Turkish Towel
Best “Classic” Beach Towel: Patagonia Organic Cotton Towel
Best Travel Beach Towel: Matador NanoDry Trek Towel
Most Comfortable Beach Towel: Pendleton Oversized Jacquard Towel


Best Overall Beach Towel

Nomadix Original Towel ($40)
nomadix beach towel

Pros: Made from recycled water bottles, dries quickly, packs down small.
Cons: Not as absorbent as cotton/terrycloth towels.

Nomadix advertises their original towel model as the only towel you’ll ever need. The Nomadix Original Towel is a high-performance travel towel, beach towel, and yoga towel wrapped into one, so it definitely serves a wide range of purposes. Made with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, the towel is available in a number of fun prints and is sand and pet-hair resistant. When laid out, the towel measures 30” x 72.5” and when packed down it’s only 3.5” x 7”, making it ideal for travel and storage. The towel dries quickly, while still remaining absorbent and is soft and comfy, making it an all around winner.

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Best Turkish Towel for the Beach

Slowtide Turkish Towel ($34)slowtide turkish towel best beach towels

Pros: Made from 100% sustainably sourced organic cotton, stylish.
Cons: Not the most absorbent.

Made from 100 percent sustainably sourced organic cotton, Slowtide’s turkish towels are equally functional and beautiful. The towel packs down fairly small but measures 38” x 73” when spread out, so it’s got plenty of room for hanging on the beach with friends. For a little added flair, the towel features a woven design that is visible on both sides as well as fringe at the ends. The towel isn’t quite as absorbent as some other options, so it’s best suited for warmer weather. But on the flip side, it dries quickly. Another thing I personally love about this style is when I’m finished at the beach, I wear it like a sarong or cover up for the trip home.

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Best “Classic” Beach Towel

Patagonia Organic Cotton Towel ($60)patagonia organic cotton towel best beach towels

Pros: Made from 100% organically grown cotton, absorbent.
Cons: Doesn’t pack down small.

Made from 100 percent organically grown cotton, Patagonia’s Organic Cotton Towel is ultra soft and absorbent. The towel features a soft velour front for sand removal and comfort and a terry backside for drying off. Available in four different color options, the towel is generously sized measuring 36” x 64” and weighing 25.5 ounces. While the large cotton towel is perfect for lounging, drying off, and local beach days it isn’t the most packable option out there, so you may opt for something different during your travels.

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Best Travel Beach Towel

Matador NanoDry Trek Towel ($35)lightweight portable towel from matador is the nanodry

Pros: Packs down super small and weighs just two ounces.
Cons: Not the comfiest towel.

The Matador travel towel is specifically designed for ultralight, compact travel with maximum absorbency. Constructed from Matador’s nanofiber towel material, the travel towel absorbs 2.3 times its weight in water and fits in the palm of your hand when packed down. Weighing in at just two ounces and measuring 47 x 24 inches, the towel is as small and light as they come, making it ideal for traveling. The towel packs down into a convenient silicone case with a carabiner, so you can clip it onto your bag or backpack for easy access.

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Most Comfortable Beach Towel

Pendleton Oversized Jacquard Towel ($60)pendleton jacquard towel harding best beach towels

Pros: Absorbent, sustainably made.
Cons: Doesn’t pack down small.

Pendleton’s Oversized Jacquard towel is a massive plush towel that is ultra absorbent and mega comfortable. Made from 100 percent cotton, the towel measures 40”x 70”, so it’s got plenty of space for relaxing on the beach or curling up in. This towel is definitely on the big side and does not pack down small, so it’s best suited for local trips. The towel is sheared on one side for maximum softness while it’s looped on the other side for superior absorption. A conscientious company, Pendleton makes its towels following eco-friendly standards under safe, responsible working conditions as certified by OEKO-TEX.

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Other Beach Towels We Love

LEUS XL Beach ECO Towel ($60)

Leus beach towel

Pros: Made from sustainably sourced cotton, absorbent.
Cons: Oversized design isn’t the most packable.

Measuring 70” x 40”, the XL Beach ECO Towel is the largest towel LEUS offers. The oversize towel is plenty big for spreading out on and is great for lounging on at the beach. The towel is made from 100% sustainably sourced cotton that is absorbent and soft to the touch. The towel features a specialized coating that helps ward off funky smells and while I didn’t notice the coating, I will say that this towel stays smelling fresh longer than some of my other towels. While the XL Beach ECO towel isn’t the most packable option, it’s a super classic design that is perfect for beach and pool adventures near home.

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Sand Cloud Turkish Beach Towel ($48)

sand cloud turkish towel

Pros: Lightweight, cute, portion of profits donated to marine conservation efforts.
Cons: Not super absorbent, pricey.

Like many others, I first heard about Sand Cloud via an ad on Instagram. The brand received early backing via a Shark Tank appearance and claimed to be quick drying, sand resistant, and to “save the fishies.” At nearly $50 a towel, I was skeptical, but I decided to give their towels a try. Something I love about Sand Cloud is the abundance of fun prints they offer; their towels are more like a work of art than a towel. The Sand Cloud Turkish Beach towel is incredibly lightweight and while I would say it’s sand resistant, it easy to shake off the sand once you’re finished at the beach. Like most Turkish towels, it’s not the most absorbent towel, but it’s perfect for tropical vacations and warm settings. I also found that the Sand Cloud towel doubles nicely as a sarong and I often wrap mine around my waist to venture into stores after the beach. 10% of profits are donated to marine conservation, which is probably what I love most about supporting Sand Cloud.

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PackTowl Personal Beach Towel ($42)

packtowel beach towels

Pros: Dries quickly, packs down small, has Polygeine odor control
Cons: Thin.

The PackTowl Personal Beach Towel, is a lightweight, packable towel that’s great option for traveling and beach days near home. The towel measures 36” x 59” when unfurled, but it packs down nice and small to easily fit in a backpack. The towel is definitely on the thin side, but the microfiber fabric is soft, absorbent, and dries quickly. The quick dry material coupled with the towel’s Polygeine odor control helps ward off funky, mildewy smells. Other thoughtful features that we appreciated were a hang loop for drying and a zippered storage pouch for packing the towel into.

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Comparison Table

Brand Model Price Notes
Nomadix Original Towel 40 Super versatile
Slowtide Turkish Towel $34-40 Stylish turkish towel
Patagonia Organic Cotton Towel $60 Velour front, terry back
Matador Nanodry $35 Ultralight, compact
Pendleton Oversized Jacquard $60 Oversize, plush
LEUS XL Beach ECO Towel $60 Oversize, plush
Sand Cloud Turkish Beach Towel $48 Stylish turkish towel
PackTowl Personal Beach Towel $42 Microfiber towel, lightweight

Slowtide’s quick dry towel was edged out by other quick-dry options on this list, but is a great alternative to their turkish towel. Photo: Rebecca Parsons

Buyer’s Guide

How We Tested

As surfers, paddlers, and outdoors enthusiasts, we’ve done our fair share of toweling off with a variety of different towel styles and options, some more effective than others. We leveraged this knowledge in selecting the best beach towels on the market to test against each other, and then we tried them all out.

We dried off with them after swimming and surfing to see how absorbent each is, and laid them out to compare drying times. We hung out on them at the beach and the campground. We rolled them up and packed them into backpacks and bags to test the portability of each, and used them as pillows and blankets on airplanes. And we asked friends and co-workers to try them out as well because multiple opinions is always better. After dozens of trips to the beach, camping, international travel and more, we came up with this list of our top eight picks for beach towels.

Ratings Table

Towel Absorbency Packability Aesthetic Dry Time Overall
Nomadix Original Towel 4 5 4 5 4.5
Slowtide Turkish Towel 3 4 5 5 4.25
Patagonia Organic Cotton Towel 5 3 5 3 4
Matador NanoDry Trek Towel 4 5 2 5 4
Pendleton Oversized Jacquard Towel 5 2 5 3 3.75
LEUS XL Beach ECO Towel 5 2 4 3 3.5
Sand Cloud Turkish Beach Towel 3 4 5 5 4.25
PackTowl Personal Beach Towel 4 5 4 5 4.5

Types of Beach Towels

While there are countless different towel options out there, the main types of beach towels are traditional terrycloth towels, turkish towels, and microfiber towels.

Terrycloth Towels

Terrycloth towels are the most common type of towel and are likely what you think of when you picture a traditional beach towel. Usually made of 100% cotton, these types of towels are free of chemicals, breathable, soft, absorbent, and durable. We’ve had some cotton towels in our closet for upwards of a decade. Cotton terrycloth towels tend to be the most absorbent option and also are usually the most affordable.

slowtide beach towel

The Slowtide turkish towel can be used as a towel or a sarong, making it perfect for traveling and beach days. Photo: Rebecca Parsons

Turkish Towels

Traditionally, turkish towels are hand woven and are made from 100% turkish cotton. The often have fringe on the outer ends and are one of the more stylish towel options. They are also lightweight, pack down fairly small, are soft, thin and are fairly absorbent (although not as absorbent as a terrycloth towel).

Microfiber

Microfiber towels are super lightweight, super absorbent, and they dry at lightning speed. Microfiber towel don’t remain moisture, which allows them to dry quickly, but they also resist odor. Microfiber towels aren’t quite as comfy as plush, cotton towels, but they pack down incredibly small and dry quickly, making them a great travel option.

slowtide turkish towel

The Slowtide turkish towel is stylish yet packable. Photo: Rebecca Parsons

What Makes a Good Beach Towel?

What makes a good towel is subjective and really comes down to what you’re looking for. Some things that we like to take into consideration are absorbency, packability, aesthetic, and how quickly it dries.

Best Overall Beach Towel
Best Overall Beach Towel

The Nomadix Original Towel is a high-performance travel towel, beach towel, and yoga towel wrapped into one. It’s soft, dries quickly, and is absorbent.

Price: ($40)

Check Price on REI

Absorbency

The whole point of a towel is to dry off, so if it’s not absorbent, then it isn’t doing its job. If you’re located somewhere that’s warm or dry, having a big, fluffy towel probably isn’t as necessary but if you’re surfing or stand-up paddleboarding somewhere chilly, then you’ll want a big, cozy towel to wrap up in. In our tests, the towels that rated the highest on absorbency were the plush terrycloth towels like the Pendleton Oversized Jacquard Towel, however these towels also tended to score lower on the packability side of things. To an extent, you have to pick your poison based on where you’re located and what purpose you want the towel to serve, but it can also be a good idea to have a couple of different types of towels so you can choose what’s best based on the occasion.

sand cloud turkish beach towel

Turkish towels like the Sand Cloud turkish towel are great, packable options. Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Packability

Between traveling and hiking to lesser-known surf spots, we like to have a towel that packs down fairly small. If we’re hanging at our local beach where parking is easy then it’s not as important, but when we’re going on a long haul trip, the smaller the better. The Matador NanoDry Trek Towel was the most packable towel on our list, followed by the Nomadix Original Towel and the PackTowl Personal Beach Towel.

Aesthetic

It doesn’t actually matter what my towel looks like but you know, it totally matters. You could get the classic striped resort towel or you could get a towel in your favorite color featuring a fun print. We’d opt for the later, even if it means shelling out a few extra bucks. In our humble opinion, the trendiest towels on our list are the Slowtide Turkish Towel and the Sand Cloud Turkish Beach Towel. For their good looks, both towels sacrificed a little when it came to packability, but they still ranked high in that category as well.

slowtide beach towel

Microfiber towels are lightweight and dry quickly. Photo: Rebecca Parsons

Dry Time

How frequently does your towel end up wadded up in the back of your car? If you’re like us, it’s often. Having a towel that dries quickly is a game changer and helps eliminate the moldy towel smell. Having a towel that dries quickly can also be extremely helpful if you’re on a trip and bouncing around from one activity to the next. It’s also nice if you’re towel dries quickly so that you can pack a dry towel into your suitcase for the return trip home instead of a damp, musty one. Of all the towels we tested, the Matador NanoDry Trek Towel dried the most quickly.

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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