South Padre Island is a barrier island located just off the southern tip of Texas. It’s accessible from the mainland via the Queen Isabella Causeway, the only form of road access to the town of Port Isabel. South Padre Island used to be known as the spring break destination for college students in the area. Now, it’s also a popular family vacation destination, attracting a wide range of travellers throughout the year. This island paradise on the Gulf of Mexico is full of activities for people of all ages, and the perfect getaway as a beach destination.
South Padre Island has mild temperatures all year round, so there’s no need to tailor your vacation activities by season. If you’re into wildlife, South Padre Island is home to the South Padre Island Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center as well as the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. There are horseback riding tours, dolphin and whale watching tours and eco tours across the island, in addition to trails and parks open to the general public. If you prefer to stay active, kiteboarding, waterskiing, canoeing or skydiving are options to consider. There’s the Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark or the Gravity Adventure Park for family-oriented fun. If you want to learn how to build a sand castle that will knock someone’s socks off, there’s no better place to pick up some tips and tricks than on South Padre Island, home of the Largest Outdoor Sandcastle in the USA.
Visiting South Padre Island will give you a chance to explore the southern tip of Texas. South Texas is a great area to go saltwater fishing year-round. For a day trip, charter a boat to head out into the Gulf of Mexico for an offshore fishing excursion. Or check out popular mainland destinations for fishing such as Corpus Christi Bay or Baffin Bay. If you make it up the 180-some odd miles to Corpus Christi, the second most popular tourist destination in Texas, the beaches and offshore islands are a must-see. You’ll also find the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium there as well. For day trips closer to San Padre Island, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is home to wildlife you might not find in other bird sanctuaries or parks. Port Isabel, which you would have passed through on your way to South Padre Island, is not only home to three world-class museums, but also the only townsquare with a lighthouse in the state.
Since most people staying on South Padre Island are tourists, it’s not hard to find decent accommodations along the strip. However, there are peak seasons when hotel rates double, or even triple, especially spring break season in March or snowbird season in the winter. If you want to visit South Padre Island in the spring without breaking the bank, consider visiting in late April or May. The Island has all types of accommodations, from luxury resorts with spas and beachfront cafes to affordable brand-name inns and motels. Prices vary accordingly, from around $60 for basic accommodations, to $200 plus for a luxury stay on South Padre Island.
South Padre Island is luckily small enough to explore on foot, but also offers shuttle services around town. The Wave shuttle is free and has regular trips around town and to Port Isabel. This free public bus service operates from 7 AM to 7 PM every 30 minutes, with services running the length of South Padre Island as well as into Port Isabel. The island is just two square miles in size, but if you’re getting into town from the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, there are Island Airport Shuttles that will take you to Port Isabel, from which you can take the Wave. The RioGulf Express is a shuttle service that has a route between the Brownsville Airport and Port Isabel for fares up to $2 per person. If you fly into Valley International Airport, you can catch the South Padre Shuttle to the island for about $25 per passenger for a one-way trip. Car rentals are also available at the major airports.
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