We present results from experiments and atomistic molecular dynamics simulations on the remediation of naphthalene by polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers and graphene oxide (GrO). Specifically, we investigate 3rd-6th generation (G3-G6) PAMAM dendrimers and GrO with different levels of oxidation. The work is motivated by the potential applications of these emerging nanomaterials in removing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contaminants from water. Our experimental results indicate that GrO outperforms dendrimers in removing naphthalene from water. Molecular dynamics simulations suggest that the prominent factors driving naphthalene association to these seemingly disparate materials are similar. Interestingly, we find that cooperative interactions between the naphthalene molecules play a significant role in enhancing their association to the dendrimers and GrO. Our findings highlight that while selection of appropriate materials is important, the interactions between the contaminants themselves can also be important in governing the effectiveness of a given material. The combined use of experiments and molecular dynamics simulations allows us to comment on the possible factors resulting in better performance of GrO in removing polyaromatic contaminants from water.