There are several different types of cover ups to choose from that may leave you wondering what the difference is between them all. For example, what is a sarong compared to a pareo or another type of skirt? A sarong is essentially any length of fabric that’s wrapped around the waist, used for beachwear as a cover up for a sexy designer bikini or worn as a dress, skirt, or other piece of clothing. 

The origin of the sarong and pareo is the main differentiation, as both types of clothing can be worn as a wraparound skirt or encase the whole body and cover the chest as well. The sarong is typically worn and embraced in Southeast Asia. Whereas, the pareo originated in Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoan cultures. Although, the tradition of wearing this traditional garment has expanded globally.

Currently, these swimsuit cover ups are used interchangeably and come in all lengths, colors, and prints. They’re made with lightweight fabrics to feel cooling in tropical climates. And, they look beautiful on all body types as they fabric drapes with the flow of natural curves and can be cinched to highlight any and all shapes.

Though neutral colors for cover ups are ideal for complementing any swimsuit style, when it comes to sarong wraps, the more colorful the better. It adds to the beauty and distinctiveness of this warm weather fashion staple. Additionally, a sarong can be tied in several different ways, but what is a sarong wrap? 

It’s similar to gathering the ends of a sarong to tie at the front or side waist, but it has a built in tie that makes it easy to secure and wear as a midi-length or maxi-length skirt. When it comes to stylish sarongs and pareo-inspired skirts, here are a few of our top picks.

Fiore Sarong

Model wearing Fiore sarong, bright pink and red blooms pop against the blue grey background

The Fiore Sarong brings a sophisticated twist to the typical floral pattern. The bright pink and red blooms pop against the blue grey background. It’s luxe and elegant, with an easy-to-tie front to wear as a wrap, nearly floor-length skirt. 

Have fun with this striking when pairing with your favorite designer bikini. Wear with the Lollipop Scales Natalie Bandeau Bikini for a truly feminine appeal or pair with a bright white one piece for an ultra-chic style. Add a pair of metallic resort wear sandals and you have an effortlessly polished look, ideal for a beach day. This beach sarong doubles as a beach towel and can be spread out on the sand whilst serving looks as a sexy beach cover-up.

Lizard Sarong

The classic black and white color combination gets a fresh update with the Lizard Sarong. The unique pattern and neutral palette is both timeless and trendy in one piece. It ties easily at the waist to pair with a black, white, or printed bikini for a stunning look to wear to the beach or hang out by the pool. 

The Valentina Amalfi Triangle Bikini adds contrast to the lizard pattern of the sarong, while still staying in the same color scheme. Or, the Red Pepper Dune Bardot Ring Bikini breaks up the black and white with a pop of red for a striking combination. There are multiple ways to shake up neutrals and make them feel fresh. 

Malta Sarong

Model wearing malta sarong, mixing in pale green and sparkly gold with a beautiful black-and-white striped design

Take your boldness to the next level with the Malta Sarong, mixing in pale green and sparkly gold with a beautiful black-and-white striped design. Amplify the color factor by pairing with the Lime Shaye Bikini or get creative with pattern combinations by wearing with the Beatrice Camilla Bikini. Bold, broad stripes paired with beautiful earth tone florals is an unexpected and eye-catching fashion statement.

Fiorella Sarong

The striking statement of a bright red is balanced out with a sandy tone with the Fiorella Sarong. The distinctive design echoes a standard animal print but with a twist all its own. It has an exotic feel that blends in well with any tropical background. This gorgeous colorful sarong can be paired with an equally red hot bikini top. And, as with all sarongs, it sits as low or high on the hips as feels comfortable. 

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Lime Lia Short Pareo Skirt

In addition to mid-calf to maxi-length sarongs, there are also shorter styles to accentuate the legs and keep the beach look flirty and fun. The Lime Lia Short Pareo Skirt is a bright lime print that delivers a modern approach to a classic skirt shape. 

The sheer fabric feels good against the skin and pairs nicely with a lime green bikini or a printed pattern in the same or similar hue. Gather the fabric at the front or the side to adjust as needed and double knot to keep secure at the hips.

Tulip Yola Amanda Pareo Skirt

Another stylish, shorter sarong style is the Tulip Yola Amanda Pareo Skirt. The purple-dotted vertical stripes are a great color contrast against a crisp white background. The adjustable tie allows you to provide as much coverage around the midsection as you’d like and creates a hemline that helps elongate the legs. Pair with a beautiful purple one piece or bikini and neutral-toned sandals for a complete beach outfit.

Cobalt Karen Mini Skirt

Model wearing Cobalt Karen Mini Pareo Skirt

Another variation on the sarong style is the Cobalt Karen Mini Skirt and the cobalt blue bikini. Its vibrant blue is the perfect hue for a sunny day. The asymmetrical hemline and knot at the slit keeps the sarong in place without having to tie or readjust. The soft fabric and high slit on the leg keeps the look flirty and fashion-forward for a day at the beach or pool.

How to Style a Sarong

In addition to asking, what is a sarong compared to other styles, there’s also the question of how to style it? One of the best parts of wearing a sarong is how versatile it is. While they’re mostly worn low on the hips as a bathing suit cover up or skirt, you can also tie it around the neck to create a makeshift dress. When styling it this way, choose a halter tie or go for a strapless look by tying the strings right above the bustline.

You can also adjust how you wear it based on how you’d like to highlight your frame. For example, wearing a sarong lower on the hips helps to elongate the midsection. Meanwhile, a shorter version helps to accentuate the legs. Play around with lengths and how you tie it to achieve a look that complements your features.

Sun protection is also a factor for those deciding on which type of sarong to wear. Of course, the more fabric that covers the body, the better the sun protection, so you may change the way you wear yours depending on the angle of the sun and time of day. Maybe opt for a longer version when the sun is at its highest and shorten the hem when the sun begins to dip below the horizon.

Adding Accessories and Sandals

The bright, bold patterns of sarongs make it easy for them to stand alone as their own fashion statement. However, you can stylize an outfit with a few, simple accessories. A thin belly chain or necklace adds subtle sparkle to keep the look elegantly low-key. Also, an armful of beaded or fabric bracelets embody a beach-ready look, while adding some pops of color to any sarong style. 

If you’d prefer to head to the beach sans jewelry, a beach hat is the ultimate accessory to complete the beach look of a bikini and a sarong. Wear one with a wide rim to protect your face from the sun as you hang out on the sand or wade in the water. Another trendy idea is to wear a headscarf that matches your sarong and/or swimsuit. It’s a stylish way to hold strands back during hot, sunny days.

Lastly, when it comes to shoes and sarongs, the simpler the better. Casual flip flops or neutral-toned sandals work best both functionally and fashionably. They’re easy to slip on and off depending on where the day takes you and still keep the look chic for activities on or off the sand.

Dressing Up or Dressing Down

Depending on the style and fabric of your sarong, you can dress it up and wear it for an evening out, in addition to relying on it as your swimsuit cover up. When dressing it up, pick patterns that are timeless and made with fabrics that aren’t as sheer. Pair with sandals that have a slight heel and add a few jewels to add to the look when wearing it as a dress.

For shorter hemlines, you can tow the line between casual and dressy by pairing a beautifully-patterned pareo skirt with a crisp white t-shirt or a ruffled tank top. The key is to keep the fabrics lightweight and fitted on the top, while allowing the bottom to flow or slightly flare out. 

Sarongs are beachwear at its finest and can be coordinated with a variety of different options to fit in with any summer or tropical vacation activities. Whether you like to wear your sarong long or short, prefer bold colors or pretty neutrals, we have a list of the best beach cover ups for you in many styles.