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South Padre Island
Trace your finger south along the map of Texas's coast, nearly as far as you can before reaching Mexico, to find a slice of sub-tropical paradise: South Padre Island. It's on this gentle barrier island that families love making sun-soaked, sea-splashed vacation memories. From incredible feats of sandcastle engineering to the wide-eyed amazement of meeting sea turtles to sailing down corkscrewed waterslides, South Padre Island speaks the language of family travel. Here are ten reasons families love vacationing on “SPI.”
As one of the most exquisite barrier islands in the United States, and the only tropical oasis in Texas, South Padre Island features 54-kilometres of pristine white beach and emerald water. The shore is easily reached via 22 public beach accesses, including a few that allow cars. Families can drive north on the island to view spectacular sand dunes – just be sure to watch out for wildlife.
South Padre Island is known as “the Sandcastle Capital of the World,” home to the largest outdoor sandcastle in the United States. The Island is also host to a collection of 30 castles that make up the Sandcastle Trail. These castles are sculpted by professional sand artists, some local, some from as far away as Singapore. Families can take sandcastle sculpting lessons together or attend the annual Sandcastle Days which take place in October.
Beach Park at Isla Blanca
Officially open on weekends and set to begin daily operations for the summer on May 28, Beach Park water park features aquatic attractions for all ages, including multiple waterslides, splash pads, a lazy river and a Surf Rider. The Beach Park also offers dining options and private cabanas, perfect for a full day of fun in the South Padre sun.
Shaping South Padre Island’s Entertainment District skyline is Gravity Park amusement park, a destination for dusk-lit and after-dark thrills. Adrenaline junkies should strap into The Rocket (a reverse-bungee) or Skycoaster, a giant swing that offers a bird’s eye view of the island. Kids can get behind the wheel of a go-kart, get air on the trampoline ride, hit a high score at the Arcade or muscle their way up a climbing wall. Slow it all down on a 60-foot Ferris wheel as the sun dips below the horizon. Entrance is free; rides are paid à la carte. Hours: 6:00 – 10:30 p.m.
Sea Turtle Inc.
Sea Turtle Inc. is a must-do when visiting South Padre Island. The organization’s mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured sea turtles while educating the public and assisting conservation efforts. Families can visit year-round to meet the non-releasable residents, learn about the “patients” in the turtle hospital and enjoy daily “turtle talks” and feedings. Families can even adopt a hatchling, sea turtle nest or sponsor a current resident.
A painted bunting | SPI Birding and Nature Center
The South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary is one of the top destinations for birding in the Rio Grande Valley. Its unique location makes it an ideal place to observe birds and butterflies during their migration period. In fact, the center has recorded more than 350 species of birds and holds a monarch festival every year. In addition to the birding opportunities, families can get up close with alligators, including Big Padre, the facility's resident American alligator.
Horseback riding on the beach
Riding horses along the beach is an experience that’s sure to be etched into family vacation memory. The South Padre Island Adventure Park offers multiple options, including a Family Favorite ride. Being the shortest ride, it is suitable for families with younger kids (six and older), while still allowing children to experience the thrill of horseback riding. Longer rides, along with sunset and moonlight rides, are available for those who have more riding experience.
South Padre Island is a haven for anglers and can be considered Texas’s fishing mecca. Since it is an island, there are many ways for families to cast a line, the simplest being via the shore, piers or jetties. Those looking for an adventure without leaving the bay can try their hand at kayak fishing while families who want the whole package can hire a fishing guide or charter a fishing boat. For the competitive, South Padre Island hosts a few fishing tournaments throughout the year, including the Texas International Fishing Tournament, Ladies Kingfish Tournament, Hooters Tournament and Redfish Rodeo.
Family-friendly lodging to suit all budgets
With an option to meet every budget, South Padre Island offers a variety of rental properties from more than 90 different companies. From beachfront to walking distance to attractions, vacation rentals offer families the space and amenities to self-cater their vacation.
Hotels, inns & resorts
Those looking for a more serviced holiday should check into a hotel, inn or resort to skip the dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning. There are more than 30 different choices.