My first requirement of a beach bag is that it must actually be usable at the beach. Backpacks and slouchy canvas totes need not apply. If it can't stand up on its own on my towel/blanket/sand, forget it.
My second is that it has be cheap enough that it can get sandy and wet without my freaking out.
The last is that it should be fun in some way. It's summer, people! Time to relax. Sweet outside pockets, cool print, great shape- all are candidates for the fun category.
This straw beach tote is $14.95 and looks fun and summery without crossing the line into geriatric resort wear.
This water resistant tote for $24 in crisp black and white is versatile enough to use at the park the rest of the year.
These printed canvas totes are $12.50 and could easily double as a shopping bag for those of you using canvas grocery totes.