Kid shell

Summer break may have come to a close, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. Family adventure awaits you on your own tropical island, South Padre Island. An easily accessible year-round destination, the Island’s stunning beaches, world-class wind and water sports, nature tourism attractions, and seasonal events keep the Island consistently ranked as a top beach destination. Plus, a trip to the Island is a natural learning experience. With its subtropical coastal environment, South Padre Island has a unique habitat that draws wildlife of all kinds with take-away lessons in biology, geology and conservation. Here are seven ways to learn - and play.

South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center

South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau South Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

The mission of the South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sealife Nature Center is to act as an advocate for South Padre Island's marine life and the wild bottlenose dolphins native to the Laguna Madre Bay. A trip to the Center offers valuable education, which is often the first step in motivating youth to engage in conservation and environmental stewardship. Join a small-group boat tour to view dolphins in their marine environment or visit the aquariums inside the Sea Life Marine Center to ogle fish, crabs, octopi and sea horses. Touch tanks provide an exciting hands-on experience. 

Sea Turtle, Inc.

South Padre Island Convention & Visitors BureauSouth Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

A visit to Sea Turtle, Inc. is as informative as it is engaging - and who doesn't want to look at adorable turtles?

Formed to protect and aid in the recovery of the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle, the organization focuses on education, rehabilitation and conservation. Each year, Sea Turtle, Inc. rescues and rehabilitates 40-100 (sometimes more!) sick or injured turtles. 

There's plenty for visitors to do, from facility tours to "Turtle Talks" to turtle feedings. Be sure to stand next to the life-size illustrations of various turtles species to get a sense of just how large these gentle sea creatures are. Keep an eye on this webpage to see when the next public hatchling release is happening. 

Fins to Feathers


On South Padre Island, Captain Scarlet Colley is known as "The Dolphin Whisperer," and she has a four-legged sidekick - Diesel the Dolphin Dog. 

Fins to Feathers offers small tours (groups up to six people) that run 1.5-2.5 hours long aboard her boat, the Laguna Skimmer. Friendly and informative guides offer information coupled with experiential learning. Choose from a dolphin or birding tour, or one that combines both. Families are encouraged to bring a cooler for beverages and don't forget your camera - you're sure to get up close to dolphins as they fish and play in their natural environment. 


South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary

South Padre Island Convention & Visitors BureauBrent Humphries

The South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary is a non-profit with a mission to educate the public about the flora and fauna of South Padre Island and the Laguna Madre Coastal area. Their mandate also includes a focus on conservation and environmental awareness. 

SPI Birding & Nature CenterSPI Birding & Nature Center

Bring the kids to the Center for one-of-a-kind birding opportunities and attend a daily guided bird walk. Learn all about the incredible American alligator through the Center’s daily "Gator Talks" and experience the SPI Alligator Sanctuary. Meet "Big Padre," a rescued 3.8-metre (12' 6") male American alligator and other juvenile rescued alligators. 

There's a collective kilometere of bayfront boardwalk to amble or post up in the five-storey viewing platform or one of five bird blinds. More than just birds, the kiddos will learn about fish, butterflies, dolphins and local flora.

Sandcastle Capital of the World

South Padre Island Convention & Visitors BureauSouth Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

The sand on South Padre Island is the perfect consistency for building Texas-size sandcastles. Watching sand artists is a fun spectator sport but did you know you can learn from the masters? Sign the kids up for a lesson to build their own castle. Most lessons last one-to-two hours and include all the necessary tools of the trade. We recommend taking a lesson at the start of your holiday so your family can practice their newfound skills throughout your South Padre Island beach vacation. 

Lucinda "Sandy Feet" Wierenga has won awards for sand sculpting and offers private and group lessons, and some with themes: "Grandma & Me" and "Cocktails and Castles," to name a few. Andy Hancock, with Sand Castle Lessons, offers two options for private group lessons: two hours (up to five sculptors) and three hours (up to ten sculptors). He even offers a VIP package for those looking to build a true masterpiece with their own two hands.

Surf camp

South Padre Island Convention & Visitors BureauSouth Padre Island Convention & Visitors Bureau

What? You didn't know Texas has its own surf culture? While the kiddos "hang ten," give it a try yourself or simply enjoy some child-free beach time. 

South Padre Surf Co. has been on the island since 1995, owned and operated by experienced professional surf instructors and ocean safety experts Gene and Rachel Gore. They offer 30-minute or one hour lessons, in addition to a three-hour surf camp. South Padre Surf Co. lessons are open to all ages, and they offer lessons for those with special needs. 

At SPI Sessions, the mantra is "surf-SUP-science." Sign up for a three- or six-day surf camp. Those shorter on time might consider a two-day stand-up paddleboard camp. No matter which activity, they'll learn about ocean safety, environmental education and beach ecology. 


South Padre Island Convention & Visitors BureauWith 34 miles of pristine shoreline and more than 300 days of sunshine, South Padre Island is a year-round destination offering experiences fun and educational for the entire family.
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