This spring, Houston-based travel bloggers Matt and Marissa traveled to South Padre Island for a romantic weekend getaway. From horseback riding along the beach to exploring the Island’s delicious food scene, Matt and Marissa’s beach vacation was one for the books. Check out their experience below.
Texas isn’t the first place that comes to mind for most people when they plan their island getaway, but maybe it should be. Nestled near the southernmost tip of Texas is a beautiful resort town with vibrant blue waters and expansive beaches of soft white sand. It may sound too good to be true, but after spending our first extended weekend in South Padre Island (SPI), we can confirm it is very real. South Padre Island is the perfect destination for a beach vacation in the warm summer months ahead, with beautiful beaches, a ton of excellent eateries, and all sorts of shopping and entertainment to enjoy with family and friends.
One of the best parts about staying on the island is witnessing the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, especially if your accommodations are right on the water. Grab a hot cup of coffee or glass of wine and spend some time listening to the calm waters roll toward the shore while letting the salty breeze run through your hair.
There are plenty of options for every occasion and every budget for a vacation to SPI. You can customize your trip from dining to lodging to fit your exact needs without sacrificing a relaxing and scenic vacation. Single unit beach houses, beachfront resorts, and chain hotels—you can’t go wrong when deciding where to stay!
Isla Grand Beach Resort is a highly sought-after resort for its direct beach access, rooms with an ocean view, convenient location, and stacked amenities like two swimming pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, volleyball courts, coffee shop, restaurants, and nightclub. The resort literally has everything you could need so you never have to leave!
When you need a little break from the beach, a trip to South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary is a must. First explore the indoor exhibits that feature impressive reptiles and displays before wandering outside where you’ll meet the resident tortoises and baby alligators. Finally, stroll the bayfront boardwalk to observe both local and migratory birds along with other Southern Texas coastal wildlife!
The alligator sanctuary at the South Padre Island Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary is home to 50 young alligators and two adult alligators that have been rescued from backyard ponds, pools, piers, and more. Once old enough, they are returned and released to Gator Country in Beaumont. For extra fun, you can purchase food from the Nature Center and feed the alligators yourself!
Sea Turtles, Inc. is a 45-year-old organization with a noteworthy mission to educate, rehabilitate, and conserve sea turtles. When visiting, you’ll get to meet their resident sea turtles that have been rescued and rehabilitated. Be sure to check their schedule for their Feedings, Turtle Talks, and Presentations, which are all fascinating and educational.
If you’re looking to get on the water and enjoy some sun, we recommend a Dolphin Watch Tour. While there are a handful of options to choose from, we booked with Breakaway Cruises and loved their friendly staff! You can purchase beverages on board, or you can bring your own in a small cooler! It makes for a great afternoon, gazing across the blue waters and watching countless dolphins bob in and out of the water.
One of our favorite attractions that we stumbled upon was the Holiday Sandcastle Village under the Ferris Wheel in the Entertainment District. The village is made up of numerous sculptures made completely out of sand—the amount of precision and detail is awe-inspiring. The sculptures are rotating, so if you visit SPI multiple times, you can keep coming back to see the new displays! Visiting the village is free; however, donations are accepted.
The most romantic activity of our trip was the sunset horseback ride with South Padre Island Adventures. To say it was epic would be an understatement! The experience lasted for about an hour and a half, during which we rode on the beach, across the sand dunes, and along the remote bay-side of the island.
As foodies, we naturally had to explore some of the best dining options in SPI, especially their plentiful beachfront establishments such as Cafe on the Beach. The cafe has seating on a covered deck or a pet-friendly uncovered patio and serves up traditional American cuisine all times of the day. They also have a full bar if you just want to come by for a drink.
Another tasty waterfront dining option is Mahi Nic, a food stand located on the same dock we departed from for our Breakaway Cruises excursion. This cozy spot is one of our absolute must-try food recommendations while in SPI. The Mahi Tacos with fries were out of this world, and we’ve heard nothing but good things about all of their other menu items as well.
Seafood lovers, Ceviche Ceviche will have you wanting to come back for more. This popular joint offers affordable made-to-order fresh ceviche where you can pick from an assortment of toppings to create your unique ceviche (or choose from one of their favorite combos). We ordered the fish and shrimp classic and added on additional mango and serrano pepper for a mouthwatering meal. This place does get pretty busy during peak meal times, so be prepared for a wait. Trust us though, it is absolutely worth it.
SPI offers great fine dining options like F&B and Liam’s Steak House & Oyster Bar. We stopped by F&B for Sunday Brunch and Liam’s for an on the water steak dinner—we would recommend these options for an elevated dining experience. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time to ensure a table! Outside of these recommendations, we also enjoyed our visit to Karma Coffee and Books for coffee and RocottoGrill for Peruvian fusion cuisine.
If you’re looking to experience some of the well-known nightlife in SPI, the Entertainment District is the place to go. There are multiple water side bars that have drink specials and often host live bands. We started at Driftwood Landing with a couple of cocktails and witnessed a majestic sunset on the water, then hopped to neighboring bars for their live music!