South Padre Island Travel Guide

USA  #3 in Best Beaches in Texas
Credit

Courtesy of DavieJones13/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why Go To South Padre Island

Every March, like clockwork, students cram into cars and head to South Padre Island for spring break fun in the sun and 24-hour beach bashes. While the island is still home to spring breakers for just over a month, the area has seen a rebirth of sorts as a popular family vacation destination. That's because South Padre, or SPI, delivers with wide sandy beaches, sparkling blue water and a mixture of fun activities for kids of all ages.

But there’s more to SPI than beach revelry. Kiteboarding is a favorite pastime and several sports outfitters offer deep-sea fishing trips and dolphin-watching excursions. The consistently warm weather also seduces northern Texans seeking refuge from the cold. And it's understandable: Just a day's drive from major Texas cities like Houston and Dallas, this seaside paradise is right in the state's own backyard.

READ MORE 

Find Flight and Hotel Deals

FLIGHTS
HOTELS

Press the down arrow key to interact with the calendar and select a date. Press the question mark key to get the keyboard shortcuts for changing dates.

Press the down arrow key to interact with the calendar and select a date. Press the question mark key to get the keyboard shortcuts for changing dates.

Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Best of South Padre Island

South Padre Island Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit South Padre Island is from September to February. Unless you are planning to join in on the spring break fun – rowdy partying at all hours of the day – you'll find this tiny town rather unbearable in March. However, during the other 11 months out of the year, SPI exudes a relaxed aura perfect for sun-seekers and families. Plus hotel rates are reasonably low compared to other beach destinations. Just be advised that if you're planning a summer trip, there's a slight chance you'll encounter some unfriendly hurricane weather.

Weather in South Padre Island

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
68
52
71
55
76
60
80
67
85
73
89
76
90
77
91
77
88
74
84
69
78
62
70
53
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
0.07
0.07
0.06
0.06
0.09
0.09
0.07
0.07
0.25
0.16
0.09
0.06
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
See details for When to Visit South Padre Island

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Spring break is still big For six weeks out of the year, South Padre overflows with rowdy 20-somethings, which can ruin your family-friendly getaway.
  • Safety first If you're in town for spring break, remember that the bright sunshine can maximize the effects of alcohol. Don't forget to eat regularly, drink plenty of water and keep your friends close by.
  • Know which way the storm is headed If you're visiting between June and November, make sure to pay close attention to the weather. South Padre is sometimes prone to hurricanes.

How to Save Money in South Padre Island

  • Reserve in advance Although it's not hard to find a decent room, consider booking at least a few weeks in advance, especially during the winter when SPI welcomes an influx of snowbirds.
  • Leave the car behind Don't waste money on a rental car. South Padre is small enough to explore on foot and the free Island Metro offers regular transportation around town and across Laguna Madre to Port Isabel.
  • Avoid spring break rates As March approaches, hotel rates are known to triple. If you want to go in the spring, aim for late April or May.

What to Eat

One of the perks of vacationing at a beach destination is the fresh seafood, and SPI is no different. Enjoy a plate of fresh oysters while watching the dolphins play in the Gulf, or you can sample one of the many types of fish that can be found in Laguna Madre, including marlin, red snapper, kingfish and flounder. Cafe on the Beach at the Palms resort and Beachside Bar & Grill at the Pearl South Padre Island Resort are beloved spots offering ocean views, outdoor seating and a wide array of excellent seafood dishes. 

Thanks to the large influx of tourism, the South Padre restaurant scene has diversified and you can now find establishments serving everything from Polynesian to Italian fare. Barry's International South Padre Island has everything from Tex-Mex to Italian to seafood dishes. The island is also home to numerous burger joints – Padre Island Brewing Company is a popular spot where typical American fare is served and the local brews are abundant. For something sweet, reviewers say you can't go wrong with the pancakes at Yummies Bistro.

READ MORE 
Explore restaurants

Safety

South Padre Island is a popular spring break destination; unless you're looking to join the party, avoid this area in March. Other times of the year, however, South Padre is generally a safe and quiet vacation destination.

Getting Around South Padre Island

The best way to get around South Padre Island is on foot, especially since the area clocks in at 2 square miles in size (much of which is shoreline). There is also a free public shuttle, Island Metro, which runs the length of the town and across Laguna Madre to Port Isabel. However, if you're interested in visiting some of the other outlying communities, you may want to rent a car. Getting into town from the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport (BRO) – located about 25 miles southwest – can seem daunting, but you can make the trip without having to worry about overspending. Island Airport Shuttles pick up at the airport and can take you as far as Port Isabel where you can catch the Island Metro. Visitors can also fly into Valley International Airport (VIA) in Harlingen – about 40 miles west of South Padre – and catch the South Padre Shuttle to the island (one-way fares cost $35 per passenger). Car rentals are also available. 

Learn about Neighborhoods in South Padre Island

Photos

South Padre Island1 of 26
South Padre Island2 of 26

White sand beaches and crystal waters welcome many sea-loving tourists.

Robert Hinojosa / EyeEm/Getty Images

Explore More of South Padre Island

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended

The Best Travel Backpacks for 2020

U.S. News rated the best travel backpacks using recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerNovember 25, 2019

30 Top Wellness Retreats

Rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit at one of these relaxation-focused properties.

Kyle McCarthyNovember 21, 2019

30 Fun All-Inclusive Family Vacations

Book one of these all-inclusive trips that cover food, accommodations and activities galore.

Holly JohnsonNovember 14, 2019

5 Ways Cruise Lines Are Becoming More Environmentally Friendly

Industry considers impact as it looks to the future.

Gwen PratesiNovember 12, 2019

11 Unique and Quirky Cruise Destinations

Venture off the beaten path for an authentic cruising experience.

Christine SmithNovember 12, 2019

The 2020 Best Cruise Lines for Families

Gather up the gang and head out to sea with one of these six kid-friendly cruise lines.

Nicola WoodNovember 12, 2019

The Top Pyramids in Mexico to Visit

Add these ancient marvels to your Mexico vacation itinerary.

Lyn MettlerOctober 28, 2019

30 Top Babymoon Destinations, Trips and Ideas

From romantic beach getaways to big city adventures to glamping in the forest, these locales will inspire your babymoon planning.

Gwen PratesiOctober 15, 2019

15 Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

These tips will help pregnant women travel the world in comfort and style.

Holly JohnsonOctober 10, 2019

The Best Chicago Segway Tours

See all the top sights in the Windy City without breaking a sweat.

Marisa MéndezOctober 3, 2019