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