If you are looking to escape the cold winter weather, head down south to a quaint, relaxing island with 34 miles of unspoiled white-sand beaches, surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico and sparkling Laguna Madre Bay. With average year-round temperatures around 74 degrees, the mild climate offers an endless summer and a plethora of adventures for everyone. Here are our top five reasons to visit South Padres Island:
1.) THE ECO-TOURISM
With 34 miles of pristine coastline, ideal temperatures, and access to both fresh and salt waters, South Padre Island is known for its appealing natural habitat. The South Padre Island Birding, Nature and Alligator Center has recorded over 350 species of birds on the island, with migratory birds heading south for the winter in October and November and coming back to their “rest stop “in the spring months of March, April, and May. Some of the birds that can be spotted in the 50 acres of wetlands from the 3,300 feet of boardwalks are egrets, herons, and terns. Don’t forget to say hello to the resident alligator, Big padre, and make sure you venture up to the 5-story Observation Tower for stunning views of the bay, and if your timing is right, a phenomenal sunset.
One of the highlights of the island is Sea Turtle Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to the conservation, education, and preservation of endangered sea turtles. Founded in 1977 by “Turtle Lady” Illa Loetscher, the 30,000 square foot center houses an education center, six tanks with permanent rescued residents like Hang Tang and Christmas Tree, rehabilitation center, amphitheater, and gift shop. As one of the only turtle rescues in the United States, Sea Turtle Inc employs 44 people full-time, with hundreds of volunteers. After falling in love with the turtle, guests can adopt and sponsor a hatchling, patient, resident, or nest with all proceeds benefiting the rescue. $10/adults, $4/child 5-17.
2.) THE ARTS
The Art Business Incubator is a full-service art destination for people of all ages. With several artists in residents, guests can browse or shop the gallery with works by Kristi Abbott, Hamsa, Eva Ryan, Audrey Brown, Carol Plumb, Cristina Piecuch, and Ivan Benavides. You can often see the resident artists at work, creating with paper, watercolor, charcoal, and more. To bring out your inner artist, sign up for one of several art classes being offered throughout the month. From acrylics to paper crafting, the classes are available for group or private bookings, no age limit or prior experience is required!
Unique to SPI is the Art Trails that stretch across 4 miles of the island. Turn it into an outdoor adventure by walking or biking. The Sea Turtle Art Trails feature 10 locations where you can view hand-painted and sculpted and 5-foot turtles by different local artists like Sandy Magret, Christina Salazar, and Andy Hancock. With South Padre Island being the Sandcastle Capital of the World, it would only make sense that they have the Sandcastle Trail, which showcases over 2 dozen sandcastles sculpted by professional sandcastle artists, including the largest sandcastle in the United States.
South Padre Island has been home to the SPI Kite Fest, bringing kiting enthusiasts from all over the world. Sponsored by local B&S Kites, the 3 days of festivities include a typically sold-out mesmerizing indoor kite performance on day 1 at the South Padre Island Convention Center, 2 days of outdoor kite flying, and a closing banquet.
4.) OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
With over 600 different species of fish in the waters surrounding the island, fishing is a year-round favorite pastime for visitors. Over 60 different charters offer half and full-day trips, to bring back catches of trout, flounder, bonito, redfish, and Blackfin Tuna. For sport fishing, South Padre Island is home to the SPI Wahoo Classic (mid-September), Ladies Kingfish Tournament (August 12-14th 2022), and the largest saltwater fishing tournament in Texas, the Texas International Fishing Tournament (August 3-7th, 2022).
The Rio Grande Valley is home to dozens of golf courses with year-round tee times due to the perfect weather. With over 20 18-hole courses and around the same 9-hole course, these can accommodate everyone from beginners to pros. Along with the 18-hole, 72-par South Padre Island Golf Course in Laguna Vista, courses (both private and public) can be found in neighboring towns of Alamo, Brownsville, Edinburg, Harlingen, and McAllen.
For those who just wanted to relax and catch some rays, South Padre Island has consistently been named one of the top beaches in the world, and with 25 beach accesses along Gulf Boulevard, many have amenities like rinse stations, picnic tables, and restrooms.
Right across the bay from South Padre Island is the SpaceX Boca Chica launch site. Space tourists can catch scheduled launches and rocket test fires from across the bay. Check the website for all updates.
5.) THE FOOD
They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that holds true with the variety of food options and decadent serving sizes. With around 86 restaurants on the island alone, from farm to table, authentic Mexican, or the freshest seafood, you can indulge in the best the island has to offer.
For the most important meal of the day, start the day off at the crowd favorite Yummies Bistro. This locally owned gem dazzles guests with a variety of glitter mimosas for brunch, giant omelets, and their homemade special- lemon poppy seed pancakes.
The people of SPI take their coffee seriously, with extensive coffee menus all over the island, and for an afternoon pick-me-up, local Karma Café and Books is the comfort and coziness you have been looking for. With two locations on the island, this locally owned spot is perfect for a rainy afternoon.
For beer lovers, Padre Island Brewing Co. brews craft beers onsite, with quality ingredients of mash, malt, water, and yeast. Pair your favorite brew with an award-winning pizza, gigantic calzone, or classic burger.
No trip to South Padre Island is complete without a stop to The Painted Marlin Grille. Make sure to come to book an early reservation to see the unobstructed sunset views and bask in the ocean breeze, as you sip on goblets of freshly house-made margaritas and nosh on fresh seafood, avocado fries, and a specialty southern catch etouffee. The restaurant will also cook your catch of the day!
What’s your favorite reason to visit South Padre Island?
Kimberly Fisher is a Pursuitist contributor. As a freelance writer and on-camera host, Kimberly has traveled the world and has published over 400 articles in over 44 publications including Sherman's Travel, Huffington Post, Just Luxe, Luxury Lifestyles UK, eHow, Examiner, Food Wine Travel Magazine, Luxe Beat, NiteGuide, Ocean View, and USA Today. Disclosure: Kimberly is employed by Remy Cointreau Americas.