Your Guide to South Padre Island, Texas
Powder-soft beaches line South Padre Island's sun-soaked shores, and gentle, shallow waves of the Gulf of Mexico tumble onto land. This postcard-perfect setting has helped South Padre gain fame as a prime year-round beach haven for families, couples and the scores of spring breakers who descend here each March. By day, most travelers opt to curl up on the beach and catch serious rays. As the sun dips below the horizon and darkness falls, South Padres nightlife springs into action, with a number of popular beach haunts rocking 'til the wee hours.
WHERE TO STAY
Pearl South Padre
Tucked into the southern tip of South Padre Island, the oceanfront Pearl South Padre not only offers guests a prime location on the beach, it also features a monstrous 6,000-square-foot swimming pool. Kids can splash around the pool's waterfall while adults swim to the pool bar for a cold drink. The 251 guestrooms feature private balconies with Gulf of Mexico views, and the hotel spa offers an array of relaxing treatments. When hunger strikes, guests can dine at the Beachside Bar and Grill or grab more casual fare at the Palapa Bar and Grill.
Schlitterbahn Beach Resort
This year-round water park and resort is perfect for families and adventure lovers. Schlitterbahn's rooms are equipped with a microwave, fridge, and coffeemaker, and offer free wifi. Schlitterbahn's real fun lies beyond the guest rooms. Guests of the resort can also enjoy the heated indoor waterpark with 70-foot slides, a wave pool and more, as well as an outdoor water park with water coasters and floating rivers. Chow down at the casual Shrimp Haus, or plan a special date night at the Sea 4 Ever Rooftop Bar & Grill.
Seabreeze Beach Resort
Many visitors to South Padre prefer to lodge in condominium rentals rather than hotels, and Seabreeze Beach Resort is one of the island's favored condo destinations. Seabreeze's 2 buildings house just 48 beachfront apartments. It's small size creates an intimate atmosphere at the complex's two pools and jacuzzi. Units sleep from 4 to 6 people and include washer and dryers. Guests can watch the Gulf's famous sunsets from their balconies before cooking dinner in fully equipped kitchens.
WHERE TO EAT
With a maximum capacity of 5,000 people, Clayton's bills itself as the largest beach bar in Texas. It's not surprising that the venue has become wildly popular among visitors looking for good times and tasty food. Listen to live music on Clayton's sprawling beach deck while sipping one of the house specials, a Turbo Pina Colada. Stop by Clayton's to watch sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, and dig into a burger or fried seafood platter. Clayton's also hosts some of the island's largest events, like the world-famous Sandcastle Days sandsculpting competition.
Gabriella’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria
Whether you've got a hankering for tasty Italian fare, or your kids are craving a pizza with the works, Gabriella's will satisfy everyone in your party. This popular island restaurant dishes up family-style meals that diners can watch being prepared in the open kitchen. House favorites include the housemade sausage and meatballs, as well as heaping plates of homemade pasta, like the clams and linguine. Save room for a hot pizza baked in the brick oven, then unwind with a housemade cannoli for dessert.
When the urge to eat fresh seafood prepared in inventive manners strikes, head straight to Ceviche Ceviche. This island newcomer offers a menu of creative ceviches, like the "Islander," with cantaloupe, cucumber, jicama and mango, or the "Peruvian," made with cilantro, habanero, red onion and tomato. Still can't decide what to order? There's a popular build-your-own option, which lets diners devise their own plate, choosing from marinated ahi poke, mahi mahi or shrimp and a variety of toppings.
WHAT TO DO
Visit the Beach
Visitors to South Padre Island will be thrilled to discover some of the best beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Soft white sands sprawl before gentle Gulf waves which lap at the shore. The water here is shallow and safe; perfect for families with small children. Travelers to South Padre can reach the beach through more than 20 access points, many with free parking.
SUP and Kayak Rentals
Explore the tranquil Gulf waters and Laguna Madre Bay that surround South Padre Island by paddling through them on a stand-up paddleboard or kayak. SUP-ing newbies can test their balance and learn techniques with a lesson at South Padre Island Watersports. Once you're comfortable on the board, you can rent one from the outfitter, which also offers an array of rentals including kayaks, kiteboards and surf boards.
Anglers will feel they've reached their mecca when they arrive at South Padre Island. The waters off the coast of this barrier island are home to ample fish, like snapper, grouper and tarpon. While many folks are content to cast their line in the Gulf of Mexico from the beach or jetties, a number of charter companies, like SPI Fish Killer, take fishermen on offshore big game fishing. On these trips, lucky visitors might hook a blue marlin, swordfish and mako shark.
Find out more about what you can things do while visiting Key Biscayne, FL, including biking in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, kite-boarding near Crandon Park, dining at Costa Med and staying at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne.