This summer, Ana Cruz, author of the lifestyle blog Rollos De Mujeres, paid her first visit to South Padre Island. From dolphin watching to family waterparks, Cruz’s trip to the Texas Coast was one for the books. Check out her experience below. >>

As the second largest state in the United States, Texas contains a number of geographic, climate, and social contrasts with endless recreational options to enjoy with the family. This size and variety creates opportunities for road trips and adventure. For these reasons and more, my family and I love the great state of Texas. So, moms and dads, are you looking for an extraordinary and affordable place to take your family on vacation? If you answered ‘yes’, then let’s travel to South Padre Island, also known as SPI, in Southeast Texas.

SPI is a tourist destination for any month and occasion. It averages 300 sunny days a year, has 34 miles of white sand, beautiful waters, and locals that are welcoming, lovely and fun. If you are feeling adventurous, you can launch an epic family road trip from Texas cities like Dallas, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, or wherever else you choose to call home. Many people from northern Mexico also travel by road in search of the warm waters adding to the diversity of this unique island getaway.

After several years of living in Texas, we decided to take our first family trip to the island. Our trip was full of memorable experiences and here are a few highlights that can guide you as you plan your own family adventure.

You reach the island by Crossing Queen Isabella Causeway, and are immediately welcomed by a huge and colorful sign that says “South Padre Island”. Immediately you feel the breeze, warmth and energy from the beaches. By the way, make sure to prepare your cameras as this is a must stop for family and Instagram photos. Also, checkout the monument’s plaque in honor of Queen Isabella to learn about how she supported Christopher Columbus’s expedition.

The sunrises and sunsets in South Padre are spectacular with light reflecting off the sandy beaches and waters from the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre. Waters are calm throughout the year, making anytime the right time to escape to SPI. And if you like to admire nature, breath fresh air, and enjoy morning walks and meditation, make sure you wake up early to walk the powdery beaches barefoot. You can sit and contemplate as you stare over the water, into the infinite horizon, while the sun’s rays caress your face.

While in SPI, take advantage of activities in and around the Laguna Madre. A number of companies offer outings that range from dolphin-watching to dinners, sunset cruises, pirate shows and deep-sea fishing expeditions. The coastline is also dotted with restaurants that offer meals, snacks, great music and spectacular firework shows ensuring that each day is filled with new experiences and opportunities to create lasting memories. A special thanks to Breakaway Cruises for hosting us and letting us experience the beautiful SPI sunset and fireworks, from the water.

Now, let’s talk about some adrenaline-filled activities for the little ones and thrill-seeking parents.  In SPI you can visit one of the world famous Schlitterbahn water park locations. With two sections, indoor and outdoor, kids’ playgrounds, slides and water coasters, get ready for a whole day of adventure. You can also enjoy seeing SPI from another perspective by giving parasailing a try. My husband decided to do this for the first time, and he loved it!

Sea Turtle, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, their mission is to rescue and rehabilitate injured sea turtles for release back into the wild, and to educate the public and assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species. We want to thank Jeff, Executive Director at Sea Turtle, Inc. for welcoming us and for letting us witness a sea turtle’s tracking chip implant prior to it being released back into the wild. If you visit Sea Turtle, Inc. make sure you say hi to Allison, the first sea turtle in the world to use a prothesis!

Food, food and more food. Yes! Because when you are at SPI you will find a variety of delicious island food for all types of tastes. From coffee shops, to gelato, Mexican dishes and of course, seafood! Pick from a big list of places with beach and bayside views. Our favorite breakfast spot was Yummies Bistro where we found delicious Huevos Colima, Ernie’s Bacon Waffles and seasonal fresh fruit. But of course, if you are in SPI, seafood is a must! And we tried the best fried calamari at Dirty Al’s.

Now let’s talk about important things for moms … actually for everyone, shopping! We found super cute stores like Islands Resort Clothing & Gifts, to buy souvenirs for the entire family, from hats, clothes, beach bags, antiques and more. And if you are into water sports, be sure to stop by On The Beach Surf Sports or Island Style. Without a doubt, SPI has many options for shopping.

Did you know that The Largest Outdoor Permanent Sandcastle in the USA is located at South Padre Island? Established in 2012, created from local sand and carved by some of the most talented sand sculptors in the world, it has thousands of visitors a year. Lovely and amazing, right? The good news is that the whole family can learn how to build these pieces of art. Make sure you follow the complete Sand Sculpture Trail in SPI at sandsculpturetrail.com to learn more.

Finally, the list of activities that the whole family can enjoy in South Padre Island is long. From food to parks, jet skis, parasailing, fishing, boat tours, LED glowing Kayaks, stand up paddle boards, snorkeling and more! Most importantly, South Padre lets us enjoy family time and create memories with our children that they can remember with love. Thanks a lot SPI for this amazing vacation, until next time.