The Best Beach Towels for Travel – Compact and Absorbent

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Last Updated: November 22, 2022

Here's a bunch of BIG beach towels that are also compact, absorbent, and lightweight.

If you're anything like me, images of beach towels drying in the breeze conjure up past memories of great holidays.

A good beach towel will last years, but what are the qualities that make a beach towel great?

Dock and Bay Bohemian

Click on the link below to read up on the towel that grabs your interest the most, or keep scrolling to see all of my recommendations.

How do YOU pick a good beach towel?

The qualities that will make a beach towel great for you depends on what you are looking to get out of it.

  • Are you looking for a towel that actually soaks up water and doesn't just pretend to wipe it away?
  • What about a towel that is fast drying?
  • Do you want something that is soft even after a few washes?
  • Then there's getting value for money. 

To me, a great beach towel is something that absorbs the water, is soft, and fast drying. It also has to last me more than one season. If you invest in quality, you will have it for many years.

The towels in this article all meet these requirements.

Which is the best material - Cotton, Egyptian Cotton or Microfiber?


Wildhorn Outfitters Akumal Towel with Tortuga Cooler

Microfiber is a man made product that is very absorbent. It is very soft, long lasting and durable. Many cleaning cloths including chamois that are used for drying motor cars are made of microfiber because of their ability to absorb water really well. 

As well as being extra absorbent, microfiber towels dry 3 times faster than cotton. This is a bonus for any travelling or while on holidays. You can easily wash a microfiber towel at night, hang it out and expect it to be dry and ready the next morning. I washed my microfiber towel with my cotton towel and the cotton towel was till quite damp in the morning. 

The downside? Although Microfiber towels are very soft, they do lack that full fluffiness of cotton towels.


Dock & Bay Microfiber Beach Towel

Cotton is a natural material but this will not last as long, feel as fluffy, or retain its color as well as towels made from Egyptian Cotton or microfiber. This is usually reflected in the price. Regular cotton towels can start to show signs of fraying after only a few washes.

When folded, cotton towels take up a lot more room than microfiber ones. This is why microfiber is very popular for camping, hiking, and other holiday activities where the space a towel takes up in a suitcase can be important. 

Which is the best size to go for?

Beach towels tend to serve more than one purpose. Not only do we use them to get dry after a swim, but they are great to use as a barrier between us and the sand or draped across a hot lounge chair. They also come in handy for keeping the sun off when there is no shade about. 

Just as no one likes a scratchy towel, no-one wants a small towel either. Compact yes, small no. When it comes to beach towels, the larger the dimensions the better. The size you choose of course, needs to be balanced with how small these become when folded. 

By far the best towel when traveling is a microfiber towel. These are compact when folded, and have anti-bacterial properties that help out if washing it everyday is out of the question.

Although microfiber towels don't look as fluffy as a regular towel, they are VERY soft and absorbent. They come in a good range of sizes and many are available as sets that include a face washer, hand towel, and a big beach towel. 

Microfiber vs Cotton Towel
Microfiber vs Cotton Towel

This is the size comparison of a regular cotton beach towel versus a microfiber beach towel.

The Best XL and Large Microfiber Beach Towels

Dock & Bay Collection

Dock and Bay Bohemian Design Microfiber Towel
Dock and Bay Towel

If you're looking for a nice over-sized beach towel, then the Dock & Bay Microfiber Towel Collection is hard to go past. The towels in this collection come in a big range of Cabana & Botanical colors, and a choice of 2 sizes. These are soft and absorbent, and have a hook so you can hang them easily for quick drying.

The XL Beach Towel measures 78" x 35" (200 cm x 90 cm), and the Large size measures 63" x 31" (160 cm x 80 cm). 

With all the qualities of microfiber, these are great value for money. Click the button below to see the range and price at Amazon.

New Dock and Bay Towel
New Dock and Bay Towel - Panda

Dock & Bay have now expanded on both their original designs and products. They have some really great hair wraps, swim shorts, and make up removers in their collection. 

Read our full review on the Dock & Bay XL Beach Towels made with recycled products now.

To see how good these really are, check out the video below. 

Dock & Bay Cabana Collection - Sand won't stick.

The video is 45 seconds long.

Akumal Microfiber Towels by SeaView

Microfibre Towel Akumal - Deep Sea

Wildhorn Outfitters have built a strong reputation in providing quality, lightweight outdoor equipment and products. The super absorbent Akumal microfiber beach towel is no exception.

These towels hold several times its own weight in water and they dry 3 times faster than a traditional cotton towel. Sand or grass doesn't stick to this towel, and it is very easy to shake it off after using it.

SeaView Akumal Towels
Microfibre Towel Akumal - Sunset

The Akumal microfiber beach towel is super absorbent without the bulk. It takes up to five Akumal towels to take up the space of standard one cotton beach towel. 

The Akumal Beach Towel comes in one XL size measuring 78" x 35" (or 200 cm x 90 cm). This folds down into its super portable 10” x 3.5” (25.5 cm x 9 cm) stow case. These come in 4 different colours and patterns.

Click to play

A portion of all sales of SeaView products are directed towards the preservation of coral reefs and other natural habitats with the Reef2Leaf Conservation program.

SeaView Microfiber XL Towels come in 4 designs.

You can read a full review on the SeaView XL Beach Towels here. 

Deep Sea

Best Mid-Sized Microfiber Towel

Mid sized beach towels have their place. These are great for younger children so they don't get swamped in a huge towel. They're also perfect for hiking or bike journeys, and wherever a mid-sized towel will do just as nicely when space or weight are important factors.

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel

Mid sized beach towels have their place. These are great for younger children so they don't get swamped in a huge towel.

They also have their place when at the gym, for hiking or bike journeys and wherever a mid-sized towel will do nicely and space or weight are important.

Rainleaf Microfiber Towel Mint Green
Rainleaf Microfiber Towel Green
Rainleaf Microfiber Towel Sizes

Available in a good variety of colors.

The Rainleaf Microfiber towels have all the anti-bacterial, super fast drying and absorbency qualities of microfiber towels. This is come in a range of sizes from very small, to very large.  

The mid size towels measure 20" x 40" or 24" x 48", and the Large and XL beach towels measures 30” x 60”, or 40" x 72".  

Best Hooded Towels for Babies

Take some of the stress out of holidays with babies and toddlers with these super cute hooded towels. Natemia towels are made from a mix of rayon from bamboo and microfiber. This mes them both thin (good for packing) and super soft. 

These hooded towels measure 35” x 35” (or 89 cm x 89 cm), and are the perfect size for babies and toddlers. 

Best Round Beach Towels

Just for something a little different - round microfiber beach towels.  Round beach towels started becoming popular last Summer with a lot more designs available now.

It's very easy to spot the round towels in a sea of rectangles. The round shape gives a more generous surface area than a rectangle and is ideal for sharing with friends and picnicking.

Dock & Bay Cabana 75" Round Microfiber 

These make a great gift for anyone who likes something just a little bit different.

What are Towel Clips, and do you really need them?

Now that we have the towels and their general care sorted, let's talk about towel clips.

These are reasonably priced clips that are specially designed to keep your towel in place on a sun lounge or chair, or while hanging over a balcony to dry.  

Pineapple Boca Clip

These are not essential, but boy are they are handy!

When it comes to something as lightweight as microfiber, you'll find that if you hang your damp towel over the back of a chair or balcony railing, these may tend to tend to fly off in a breeze once dry.

It can be especially annoying having a towel blown off your chair and into sand if you need to get up for any reason.

Having a few towel clips on hand will keep your towels in place. These come in a variety of colors and designs.

General Washing Care of Microfiber Towels

Travel Towels

To get the most out of microfiber towels, always wash these separately from your cotton towels. Microfiber has a tendency to pick up lint from the cotton. Not only does lint fluff over microfiber not look nice, but it an can affect the towel's water absorbency properties. 

Always wash your microfiber beach towels separately for the first few washes as the color can run. Don't use Fabric Softener when washing, only detergent. 

Wash in cold water. Hot water and heat from a clothes dryer will melt the fibers fusing them together and destroy the greatness of the towel. 

These are best left to hang dry, and avoid putting in the dryer wherever possible. If you need to put them in a clothes dryer make sure the setting is Low Heat, or No heat if available, and that the barrel of the dryer isn't hot from a previous load.

How to make beach (and bathroom) towels more absorbent

New towels can look and feel fluffy but they are often not very absorbent when it comes to water.

This will go against what you'd think, but Fabric Softener is not a friend to towels. Fabric softener puts a coating on towels that stop them from being absorbent - fluffy yes, absorbent, no.

New Dock and Bay Towel

When new towels arrive, wash them before you use them with washing powder, and with some white vinegar in the softener compartment of your washing machine.

You can try this on your bathroom towels too. It will work. The towels will not have a vinegar smell after being washed - they'll smell fresh from the washing powder detergent. 

Your towels will now be absorbent, thanks to a little vinegar.

4.5/5 - (6 votes)

About the Author

Sharon McKenzie

Sharon McKenzie is an Advanced Certified Scuba Diver who loves to explore the ocean depths. She is an advocate for marine and eco conservation, promoting sustainable products. In her free time, Sharon also enjoys paddleboarding and snorkeling. She has two upcoming diving expeditions to Bali and the Great Barrier Reef, which are destinations she has always wanted to explore.

Author Web Link

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  • perfect little nest carrying case that makes it SO easy to just roll it up and throw in a beach bag or backpack. I took it backpacking and even used it as a
    blanket to lay on the grass while drying off after a swim in the river! The fabric is perfect and so soft! Another killer product by the wildhorn outfitters! This is an excellent addition to anyone whether you just want a new beach towel or for backpacking!

  • This is a good article. I agree, microfiber beach towels made from super soft material and absorb more water than regular towels.

    These are great for traveling and I prefer them over cotton towels.

  • this brings back memories! My husband thought it would be good to wash and use fabric softener on our son’s nappies {we used cloth nappies for our firstborn – didn’t with our others!!!} and he didn’t think about what would happen.

    Yes, the cloth nappies were extra soft. No, they didn’t hold any wee’s ?? I love Beach Towels. Recently our youngest son had to replace one of our good quality Beach towels as he had left it outside and it got rust stains on it.

    He went and purchased a big round one, which I would never think to buy, and now I love using it whenever we get a chance. The best beach towel is one that looks good, feels amazing and is perfect for laying on as well as good quality for drying ??

  • A towel collection is a must for all such hangouts. I usually take an XL or XXL to the beach though. L size in the gym is perfect and after swimming as well.

  • I love my Turkish towels but agree that many of these aren’t great for the beach. I do like thick towels but even though microfiber towels aren’t thick they are still soft. Extra-large is always good. Nice post!

  • These towels look amazing! I like the bigger size of the XL towels. I also want to compliment you on your website, I love scrolling up and down over the images. ??

  • I think luxury Turkish towels are great for the bathroom but I agree with your article, microfiber is a better choice for the beach. I
    have the Dock & Bay round towel and it’s perfect for travel. So compact, and
    sand just shakes straight off it.

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