For most of us, summer is long gone — barbecues, fresh seafood, and surfing are all things of the 2018 past. The scarves and boots are being rotated in…unless your travel plans include South Padre Island. It’s downright tropical here, with temperatures still hitting 70°F around December.
The water is warm, and it’s everywhere; South Padre Island is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre Bay. The Island isn’t even half a mile wide, so amazing views and delicious seafood are never more than a seaside stroll away. But even with a compact destination like this, you need to know how to navigate it — and here’s how.
Let’s start by setting up your home base. South Padre has all your tried-and-true hotel options, but you’re not on a tried-and-true vacation. Here’s a brief rundown of some alternatives:
- The resorts – Named one of the best resorts in Texas,
Isla Grand Beach Resort is definitely a place to see and be seen. Its cabana rooms and condos come with views of tropical foliage, pools, and — of course — the beach.
- The vacation rentals and homes – Vacation rentals offer the best of both worlds: island living with all the comforts of home. That’s true whether you’re looking for a modest space for two or plenty of room for a large group. Stay waterfront, just a few blocks from the shoreline, or among all the action in the heart of town. Choose a high-rise condo setting for unbeatable sunset views, or pick a beach-style bungalow for quiet mornings on the front porch. This way, your stretch of sand will totally feel like your own.
- The adult-only facilities – Places like the
Upper Deck Hotel & Bar are 18-only, gay-friendly, and have built-in nightlife that’s the good kind of loud. (Note: There are other venues around town that become 18+ or 21+ after a certain hour.)
With your lodging figured out, it’s time get out and into the wild. It’s your first night, so inaugurate your South Padre vacation by experiencing the bold, tropical flavors of the Island at one of its 40+
For après-dinner, here are three solid options:
- Dancing – Head to the
Quarterdeck Lounge, located in the Isla Grand Beach Resort, to burn off those cals. Awesome bands from across the country play here on the regular.
- Drinks – A couple spots you should check out are
Coconuts Bar & Grill for the cocktails (frozen and otherwise) and Padre Island Brewing Company (it’s the second-oldest brewpub in the state!).
- The beach by moonlight – If you can manage the walk to the other side of the Island after all those crab legs (relax, it’ll only take you 10 minutes),
the beach is right there. Being on the sand come nightfall is its own kind of buzz.
Morning + Afternoon
Any day you spend on South Padre Island is going to be a long, sunny one, which is its own kind of wonderfully tiring. Your necessary fuel can be found at the
In terms of how awesome waterparks can get,
Eventually, you’ll have to cave to your hunger; when that happens, book it to
Thus properly fueled, it’s time to get wild. SPI is a habitat for the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and
Just on the other side of the Queen Isabella Causeway, check out the
The pier is also a terrific fishing spot, if that’s your thing. You’re bound to pass an angler (or six) as you walk along, each attempting to reel in speckled trout, grouper, tarpon, sheepshead, or gaff-top catfish, most likely. Join in the action here, or book a charter —
Tip: If you’re on the hunt for perfect Instagram moments, get yourself to the Whaling Wall at the
If you’re in the mood for something upscale, hit up
After breakfast, swing by the
What you’ve been waiting for:
From here, you know the drill. Surfing, swimming, basking, the works — or you could switch it up and check out
Back on South Padre Island’s fine sand, lest we forget, is another kind of adventure: the largest outdoor sandcastle in the USA. The artists associated with it are all about teaching their craft to others (and maybe a little bit of bragging). Watching these master sand sculptors create such lavish sand architecture is incredible, but there’s nothing like doing it yourself. Sign up for a two-hour group lesson, and these guys and gals will make sure you walk away having