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Go to for your local surf forecasts

Recently named by the Travel Channel as one of the best beaches in the country, South Padre Island offers endless expanses of beautiful sand, warm Gulf waters, bird watching, deep-sea fishing, and a wide variety of recreational activities. So whether you prefer to jump in the water and bodysurf, lounge in a beach chair and watch the surf, or stay in a luxury hotel and channel surf, South Padre Island is your ideal destination!

The only real pros on south padre island texasWhile the island itself is a 34-mile-long barrier reef, only a 5-mile stretch is developed as the official "Town of South Padre Island." The other 29 miles are unspoiled coastal wilderness, full of windswept dunes, indigenous sea grasses, and native wildlife.

Only half a mile wide at its widest point, South Padre Island offers visitors easy access to either the warm, wave-free waters of the Laguna Madre Bay to the west or the ocean surf of the Gulf of Mexico to the east. Accommodations are even categorized as bay side, Gulf side, or inner island to help you find your perfect vacation spot. Once you do, get ready to have some fun!

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If you're staying at a Gulf-side hotel, condo, or resort, it's just a short walk out to find your preferred spot of sand. There are no private beach areas, so take your pick. To get there from anywhere else, drive along Gulf Boulevard and look for the "Beach Access" signs. There you'll find free public parking and convenient wooden bridges leading you directly onto the beach.


The island has two public parks. Isla Blanca Park, at the southern end, offers RV camping sites, picnic areas, showers, rest rooms, and a snack bar. Andy Bowie Park, just four miles north of the causeway, offers picnic pavilions and a children's playground. Both parks charge a small day-use fee, but for some families the conveniences that the parks offer will be well worth it.


South Padre Area Beach CamChairs and umbrellas are a good idea, especially if you plan to spend an entire day in the sun. Both are available for rent from concessions on the beach, several of which are run by the beachfront hotels. Besides a chair and an umbrella, you'll want to bring towels, sunscreen, hats, and some snacks and refreshments. Glass containers are not allowed on the beach, and all trash must be taken with you when you leave or deposited in the trash bins provided.

As the sand can get toasty during those long, sunny days, beach shoes or sandals are a good idea as well-especially if you plan to do any beachcombing! The tides at South Padre Island bring a fresh batch of seashells up onto the sand each night, so every day can bring new discoveries. South Padre Condos


For those who prefer to make a beeline for the water, the Gulf of Mexico is ready and waiting. With water temperatures that range between 65 in the winter and 85 in the summer, South Padre offers a refreshing dip anytime.

The waves along the beach are a big draw for surfers. Those using a surfboard tend to prefer the waves at the north jetties, near Isla Blanca Park. Boogie boards are popular in the shallower waters close to shore, and bodysurfers can find good wave action almost anywhere.


Another favorite on-the-beach pastime is building sand castles.

Sand Castle Lessons on South Padre

You can create your own or take a lesson from a member of the island's own team of professional sand sculptors, the "Sons of the Beach Sand Castle Wizards." Team founders Amazing' Walter & sandy feet have built sand sculptures all over the world and have taught literally thousands of people how to have more sand castling fun on the beach. To learn more about sand castle-building lessons, visit .

If you can't get enough of that salt-kissed wind in your hair, you might want to try horseback riding on the beach. An equestrian center at the north end of town offers horses for beginners and experienced riders alike. No trail rides or predetermined routes here-just point your horse toward the beach and "giddyup."


On the Bay

Port Isabel TexasThe Gulf waters are not the only venue for water sports enthusiasts visiting South Padre Island. The Laguna Madre Bay, between the island and the Texas mainland, offers a variety of ways for visitors to enjoy the water without the big waves.

Perhaps two of the fastest-growing sports at South Padre Island over the past several years are windsurfing and Kiteboarding, and both owe their popularity to the windswept waters of the Laguna Madre.

Windsurfers head for South Padre to sail the bay because it ranges in depth from three to five feet, and wind speeds average about 18 miles per hour. Some of the more experienced windsurfers also test their skills at other South Padre locations, including the Jetties, Boca Chica, and the Ditch, site of some of the fastest windsurfing speeds achieved in North America.

Kiteboarding is a relatively new water sport in the States, and the Laguna Madre Bay at South Padre Island is widely recognized as one of the best spots in the country to learn and hone your skills. Imagine standing on a surfboard and being dragged across the water by a big parachute, and you've got the general idea. More-experienced boarders perform jumps, flips, and aerial tricks, making Kiteboarding as much fun for the observer as for the participant.

Those who want their entertainment to be somewhat less athletic need only check out the many boat charters available on the bay side. Guided boat tours leave the bay several times a day for dolphin watches, sunset cruises, glass-bottom-boat and marine ecology tours, and deep-sea fishing trips.

And Speaking of Fishing . . .


South Padre Island was recently named a Top 20 fishing destination by Field and Stream magazine! Whether you prefer toFishing on south padre cast your line from a boat, a pier, or standing out in the surf, you'll see why the island is a favorite with Texas fishing enthusiasts.

In Laguna Madre Bay, speckled trout, redfish, and flounder are daily catches. A deep-sea charter trip takes you out into the Gulf, where expert guides can help you tackle an 800-pound marlin or a record-setting Wahoo. For more information on fishing in and around South Padre Island, go to

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Discovering Coastal Wildlife

When the sun and the surf get to be a little too intense, South Padre Island offers an escape into the quiet sand dunes, marshes, and wetlands of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

A federal reserve for birds and other area wildlife, the refuge encompasses 45,000 acres that are a one-of-a-kind blend of temperate, subtropical, coastal, and desert habitats. It's a unique combination that attracts a unique array of wildlife and makes the Laguna Atascosa famous around the world for its bird watching opportunities.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the best viewing times are early mornings and late afternoons or cool, overcast days. The observant visitor can expect to see quite a show. Ocelots, Texas tortoises, green jays, and javelinas prefer the dense, thorny brush land areas of the refuge, while alligators and black-bellied whistling ducks choose the ponds and Resaca's. Desert dwellers like roadrunners and cactus wrens inhabit the scrub areas, while species like roseate spoonbills, egrets, and herons join black-necked stilts, American avocets, and piping plovers at the shore of Laguna Madre Bay.

Another opportunity to walk among the wildlife can be found at the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. This 1,500-foot boardwalk overlooks four acres of natural wetlands. Although these lands look much different today than they did when Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Piņeda arrived in 1519, visitors can study the dune systems and wildlife habitats and imagine the abundant wildlife that inhabited the area back then.

If you'd like to help preserve one of the area's currently endangered species, visit Sea Turtle, Inc. Once the lifework of Ila Loetscher, better known on the island as the "Turtle Lady," Sea Turtle, Inc., continues Ila's work, devoting its resources to aid in the protection of the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle and other marine turtle species. Kids will enjoy the daily "Meet the Turtles" program, when a volunteer tells visitors about different species of sea turtles and introduces two or three of the facility's residents for an up-close-and-personal look at this fascinating animal.

When the Sun Goes Down

Dining and entertainment options abound on the island. Many restaurants feature outdoor seating and live music, and some go so far as to offer volleyball courts, swimming pools, and bungee jumping!

The large number of hotels and resorts on South Padre means that there's always a wide choice of activities, events, shows, and celebrations planned specifically for family entertainment. Check in with the concierge at your hotel or look through one of the island's daily or weekly publications for current listings.

There are two movie theaters on the island, both featuring first-run films, and many of the shopping centers are open after dark for those late-night souvenir hunts.

Other Area Highlights

If the sunburns get a little too bright, or you're just looking for an afternoon excursion, pack the kids into the Suburban for a short drive to some of South Padre Island's neighboring attractions.

The fishing town of Port Isabel is just across the Queen Isabella Causeway and features shopping, dining, and local crafts stores. To get a good overview of the coastal area, visit the recently renovated Port Isabel Lighthouse. Built in 1853, the lighthouse guided many a fishing boat back to port. Now it affords visitors panoramic views of the coastline, the island, and the Gulf of Mexico.

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