South Padre Island Travel Guide

Welcome to your own tropical Island – South Padre Island. With 34 miles of beautiful white sand and clear emerald water, South Padre Island is one of the world’s most exquisite barrier islands – and the only Island in Texas!  South Padre Island has some of the widest and cleanest beaches. With the widest point of the Island being just a half-mile, you’re always just steps away from the ocean.  South Padre Island is a small coastal community that offers a wide variety of year-round activities for everyone. Whether you’re a family looking for the perfect beach vacation, a couple wanting a romantic getaway, a bride planning a dream wedding, a fishing enthusiast seeking your biggest catch, a nature lover who wants to get up close and personal with dolphins and sea turtles, or an adventure-seeker in search of watersports – you’ll love what you love more on your Island – South Padre Island!  No matter what time of the year, South Padre Island offers mild temperatures and calm. Our South Padre Island Travel Guide can help you with everything you need to have a great vacation at South Padre Island beaches!  Also find out about other best beaches of Texas.

South Padre Island Weather (Best Time to Go)

The best time to visit South Padre Island is from September to February. Unless you are planning to join in on the spring break fun — rowdy partying at all hours of the day — you’ll find this tiny town rather unbearable in March. college kids have come and gone and the hurricane season has yet to arrive.  Summers in South Padre are hot: Average highs hover in the upper 80s making the beach and water-centric attractions like Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark seem even more inviting. You’ll find plenty of bargain-priced hotel rooms, but make sure you prepare for the heat.  Winter might be a little too chilly to dive into the bay — average temperatures rest in the 50s and 60s — but the weather is perfect for a stroll along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a picnic in Isla Blanca Park or a dolphin cruise.

South Padre Island Attractions

Padre Island National Seashore, South Padre Island, Texas, Texas Beaches, South Padre Island Travel Guide, South Padre Island beaches, things to do in South Padre Island, best restaurants in South Padre Island.Padre Island National Seashore

Padre Island National Seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, one of a few hypersaline lagoons in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and a haven for over 380 bird species. It also has a rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.

Port Isabel Lighthouse, South Padre Island, Texas, Texas Beaches, South Padre Island Travel Guide, South Padre Island beaches, things to do in South Padre Island, best restaurants in South Padre Island.Port Isabel Lighthouse

Of the 16 lighthouses originally constructed along the Texas coast, Port Isabel is the only one open to the public. With a perch 50 feet above the ground, it is popular with photographers and other visitors, because they can enjoy great views of South Padre Island and the beaches. In fact, a number of couples have climbed the 75 winding stairs, including three short ladders, to exchange wedding vows at the top of the tower.  The grassy knoll where the lighthouse sits is ideal for strolling and relaxing, and the facilities are for historical study and scenic viewing. Picnic tables are also available.

Brazos Island Park, South Padre Island, Texas, Texas Beaches, South Padre Island Travel Guide, South Padre Island beaches, things to do in South Padre Island, best restaurants in South Padre Island.Brazos Island Park

Brazos Island is a barrier island south of Padre Island, at the south end of the Laguna Madre. It was the spot for many battles during the 1800s. The Brazos Island State Scenic Park is located on this island. The park has a 1 square km undeveloped area and offers ocean fishing, surfing, swimming, camping, and nature study.

Things to Do in South Padre Island

On South Padre Island, there’s never a shortage of things to do and fun activities – all year long!  Whether you want to camp under the stars and wake up to the sound of waves, visit Gerry the sea turtle, take a surfing lesson, enjoy the night with live music, food and drinks – or do it all – South Padre Island offers this and much more. Love what you love more on your Island – South Padre Island!

Osprey Cruises

The quality of your vacation experience is what’s important to Osprey Cruises. With six boats, they offer you and your family choices that range from Deep Sea and Bay fishing excursions and sightseeing nature cruises to high speed thrill rides and Pirate Adventure cruises. Something for everyone! If you’re looking for fun on the water, you’ll find it with them. Welcome aboard.  Looking for some excitement and the wind in your hair … take a ride on Thriller! Their 55′ Speedboat. Want to score the big catch? Choose from their Bay Fishing or Deep Sea Fishing Trips.  Telephone:  956-761-6655  Web:  Osprey Cruises.

The Original Dolphin Watch

One of the most unique activities on South Padre Island is the dolphin watching tour.  South Texas is a year-round home to several large pods of dolphin and The Original Dolphin Watch is your ticket to viewing them in all their natural splendor.  One of the most memorable activities you will take part in while visiting South Padre is a cruise.  Share the thrill of meeting bottle-nose and spinner dolphins in the wild and experience the unique bond and kinship they inspire in mankind.  Telephone:  956-761-4243  Web:  The Original Dolphin Watch.

Southern Wave Sailing Charters

A visit to South Padre Island or the Rio Grande Valley wouldn’t be complete without a cruise on The Southern Wave. The Southern Wave is a large, stable and comfortable sailing Catamaran that is perfect for a leisurely day’s sail, an exciting afternoon of dolphin watching, or experience an evening watching the breath-taking South Padre Island sunset over the water on one of their famous dinner cruises.  Trips include snorkeling, dinner cruises, sunset/fireworks and moonlight cruises.  Telephone: 956-772-7245 Web:  Southern Wave Sailing Charters.

South Padre Surf Co.

“It’s not about how good you are, its about  how much fun you have!”  Learn to surf in 1 easy lesson at South Padre Island Texas.  With South Padre Surf Company, anyone can learn to surf!  Their surfing lessons and surf camps are fun for all ages!  Their family owned and operated surf school caters to all people, regardless of your age, abilities or disabilities.  Personal instruction from Texas most experienced and respected ocean lifeguards and surfers for an exciting and unforgettable surfing experience at the best surfing location in the Gulf of Mexico!  Telephone:  956-772-7272 Web:  South Padre Surf Co.

South Padre Birding & Nature Center

The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center and gift shop is the Rio Grande Valley’s premier destination for bird watching. This unique location on South Padre Island is the perfect place to observe the birds, butterflies and natural wildlife in coastal South Texas.  Visit them on South Padre Island, walk the bay front boardwalks, take a birding tour and explore the nature center.  Telephone:  956-761-6801  Web:  South Padre Birding & Nature Center.


The Cafe on the Beach

Warm tropical breezes whispering beneath the soft sounds of the surf, the aroma of fine cuisine expertly prepared by skilled and seasoned hands wafting through the air and making its way gently to your table. The sun is setting low in the west, the first twinkling star winking from behind the orange-pink clouds floating above the beach.  You’re not dreaming, you’re sitting in the covered deck dining area of the exquisite Cafe on the Beach, overlooking the dunes and surf, sharing a special moment with a special someone, an experience in paradise and an adventure in coastal dining.  Telephone:  956-761-1316  Web:  The Cafe on the Beach.

The Lookout Bar & Refuge

The Lookout Bar + Refuge is a beachfront restaurant on South Padre Island. Their small restaurant serves a simple variety of your favorite food, alongside a world-class bar selection. Everything from their burgers to their seafood contain the highest quality ingredients for the best flavor. Their bartenders are trained to provide you with anything you need, from a great drink to great company.  Telephone:  956-255-6642  Web:  The Lookout Bar & Refuge.

Pier 19 Restaurant & Bar  $11 – 30

The entire pier has been dedicated to your dining and sightseeing pleasure. Located perfectly on the Laguna Madre between the Queen Isabella Causeway and the Brownsville Ship Channel creates a unique panorama for photography or viewing pleasure. Pelicans, dolphins, large ships, charter boats, parasailing, beautiful sunsets and much more can be viewed from the restaurant, boardwalk or Hooker’s bar at the end of the pier. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their specialty is “Local Wild Caught” seafood cooked to perfection. Bring your catches to them and they will have their chefs prepare you a feast with all the trimmings.  Telephone:  956-761-7437 Web:  Pier 19 Restaurant & Bar.

Liam’s Steak House & Oyster Bar  $31 – 60

They are the best fine dining steak house in the Texas valley, part of Dirty Al’s company.  They strive on customer service and food quality. Their customers are number one in their list. They don’t only have steaks on their menu, they also have fresh seafood from Red snapper to king crab, gulf shrimp and oysters in their delicious specialties. Give them the opportunity to have as you as one of their guests.  Telephone: 956-772-4700 Web:  Liam’s Steak House & Oyster Bar.

Sea Ranch Restaurant Bar  $11 – 30

Sea Ranch Restaurant has been serving South Padre Island visitors for over 35 years, and has established itself as the island’s premier dining destination. If you haven’t spent an evening at the Sea Ranch Restaurant, you haven’t truly experienced South Padre.  Their menu is comprised of local seafood that is caught directly from the Gulf of Mexico, and it changes often based on what is in season. Every item is made with high-quality ingredients, from fresh seafood to juicy steaks and hearty pastas. Their  house specialty is the Red Snapper, which has become a customer favorite as well.  Telephone:  956-761-1314  Web:  Sea Ranch Restaurant & Bar.

South Padre Island Nightlife

Louie’s Backyard

Louie’s Backyard on South Padre Island has been an island favorite for a fine dining destination for years. Each night they strive to pamper their guests with great service and to satisfy their demanding palates with scrumptious menu items cooked by their gourmet chefs. Are you looking for steak? Louie’s serves hand-cut steaks. Prefer seafood? Louie’s will tempt you with our peel and eat shrimp and fresh fish. To top it all off, you may want to leave room for their famous “Death by Chocolate” cake. Enjoy your Louie’s fine dining experience as you relax in either air-conditioned comfort or with a beautiful sunset view on our bay-front patio. Offering several dining options, everyone is sure to be satisfied at Louie’s Backyard.  Telephone:  956-761-6406  Web:  Louie’s Backyard.

Clayton’s Beach Bar

Welcome to Clayton’s, the biggest beach bar in Texas. Clayton’s hosts the biggest concerts and special events on South Padre Island. Relax on their huge beach deck, catch some rays, and enjoy their signature Turbo Pina Coladas. Listen to live music by the best bands in South Texas and grab some delicious seafood from the bar. Check out one of their upcoming major events, concerts, and Fireworks on the Beach schedule. Everything’s bigger in Texas – especially their beach bar!  Telephone:  956-761-5900  Web:  Clayton’s Beach Bar.

Laguna BOB

Serving seafood, sunsets and cocktails.  Great place to see the sunset! If you’re looking for a gourmet meal, this isn’t the place. If you’re looking for good bar food, friendly people and a place where locals hang out, this is the place.  It’s a great laid-back place with an incredible view of the bay.  You’ll find an outstanding atmosphere with live bands playing.  The ceviche, boiled shrimp, and Mahi Mahi fish sandwich are the best!  Telephone:  956-4333-5499  Web:  Laguna BOB

Kelly’s Irish Pub

They have one of the Best Reubens you will ever try, their kitchen is open late everyday and this is the spot where locals hang out nightly. Simply the most fun you will have on the island.  Telephone:  956-433-5380  Web:   Kelly’s Irish Pub

Top South Padre Island Hotels

Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island

This property is a 5-minute walk from the beach. This hotel is located on the north side of South Padre Island, across from the convention and visitors bureau and 500 feet from the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel offers an oceanfront swimming pool and an on-site restaurant.  The Great American Grill Restaurant at the property is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Room service is also available.  Guests at Hilton Garden Inn South Padre Island can use a fitness center or a 24-hour business center. Laundry facilities are also available.

Peninsula Island Resort & Spa

This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. This South Padre Island resort has private beach access and an on-site spa and wellness center. The resort’s staff offers 24-hour concierge services to meet the needs of guests.  An outdoor swimming pool with a sundeck is open to all guests of Peninsula Resort. Guests will also have access to a fitness center and free parking.  Oceanfront dining at Las Olas Restaurant Bar and Grill includes coastal Mexican cuisine, beer and wine.

La Copa Inn Beach Hotel

Located on the beach of South Padre Island, this hotel is 3.1 miles from Port Isabel, Texas. It features a fitness center, business center and free WiFi. La Copa Inn Beach Hotel also offers a hot continental breakfast with omelette station.  An outdoor pool and hot tub are available to guests at this South Padre Island hotel.

La Quinta Inn & Suites South Padre Island

Nested on South Padre Island, Texas, along the Gulf of Mexico, this beachfront hotel offers convenient services such as free high-speed internet access as well as free parking.  La Quinta Inn & Suites is a pet-friendly hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool tub. Guests can work out in the fitness center or take advantage of the convenient laundry facilities. For lunch and dinner, guests can visit the hotel’s Beach Bar and Grill.  The area surrounding the La Quinta Inn is filled with a variety of activities and attractions. Visitors can go deep-sea fishing, parasailing or horseback riding. Attractions such as the South Padre Island Convention Center and the World Birding Center are only minutes away.

Schlitterbahn Beach Resort & Waterpark

This property is 3 minutes walk from the beach. Located 1.2 miles from the Gulf of Mexico beach, this resort on South Padre Island boasts a waterpark and on-site dining options. Free private parking is available.  The outdoor waterpark has floating rivers, water coasters and a surfing ride.  Shrimp Haus restaurant offers ocean views and casual dining at Schlitterbahn Beach Resort. Seaside Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sea 4 Ever Rooftop Bar & Grill features tapas, cocktails and signature sangria.


  1. Andres Santos

    Great article! I’m an east coast junkie, being from Florida. With all the great beaches there, the last place you think about is Texas. South Padre Island sounds like a great place to visit. All you ever hear about is the Atlantic and Pacific. I personally favor the Gulf Coast a lot more.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I love the Gulf Coast as the water so much warmer. My favorite place to head to is Florida, but I live in Texas so I can easily go here as we do have great beaches too! Galveston and South Padre Island beaches are pretty awesome!

  2. LDStudio

    Great post for those of us looking for a last minute get away before the holiday season starts! You cover all the info we need from weather to travel to where to eat, which makes it easy to ‘sell’ S. Padre to anyone not interested in another beach trip this year. The hotel choices are nice too, since most of us get our flights and hotel bundled. Thanks for the info!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome! Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thank you for visiting South Padre Island Travel guide.

  3. Claire

    This is a great article and a great website with plenty of travel and holiday locations!
    Wow, I’d love to visit some of these locations one day, it’s going on my bucket list.
    Wow, I had no idea Texas had islands! You provide us with so much information as well as amazzzzing pictures – i can’t believe you took them yourself!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Any beach to me is amazing! I am glad you enjoyed visiting Beach Travel Destinations. If you ever need any additional information, please let me know.

  4. Alex

    Hi Leahrae,
    Thank you for such a nice post!
    South Padre Island is amazing. So beautiful. I didn’t know that there was only one island in Texas!!
    I love tropical destinations. And there is so much things to do!
    I use to dive. Do you know if there are some dive companies?
    You say that South Padre Island is warm. Do you know the water average temperature? It seems to be warm…
    Thank you so much. I would love to go there.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, there are several diving companies right on South Padre Island, American Diving and Deep Six Diving are the two that come to mind first. The last time I went to Padre was in April. They had a tropical storm coming thru, so the water seemed a bit cold to me. But then my pool stays at 92, so you can’t gauge it by what I tell you LOL. December thru February, it is going to be a bit chilly with water temps in the high 60s. Other than that it fluctuates between the mid 70s to upper 80s. Hope that helps 🙂 Thanks for reading Alex.

  5. Caito Junqueira

    Wow! What a fantastic place. I went to Texas once and would have taken the time to visit South Padre Island if only I had the information you provide in you travel guide.

    The place looks beautiful with so much to do. I hope to find time to back to Texas one day. I will not miss it next time.

    Thanks for the great job. Cheers!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Caito. It really is a fantastic place. Miles and miles of beach and sand dunes. Most would not imagine to see this in Texas. Thanks for visiting South Padre Island travel guide.

  6. Erica

    South Padre Island sounds like paradise! Good to know that it’s easy to fly there and that cheap flights are available. I have never had a dolphin encounter and this is one thing that would attract me to the island, apart from the emerald water and miles of white sand of course!
    I would prefer not to stay in a hotel. Could you tell me what other kind of accommodation is available? I love camping and sleeping under the stars so that would be my best option.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      There are campgrounds there, and yes that is an awesome way to visit a beach personally. There are five camping grounds where you can stay camped out on the beach. Here is the link to find the different campgrounds Let me know if you need anything else Erica. Thanks for visiting Beach Travel Destinations.

  7. Emily

    What a fabulous insight to beach holidaying in the US other than Florida! Being European, I know very little of the amazing resorts around other areas of the US. Thank you so much for your informative guidance Leahrae! Which airports would you suggest flying in to from London please?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh, I would look at Houston, that is the closest airport to the beaches. And being a large airport, it is going to have better airfare rates than the smaller airports in the area. You can also fly into Dallas if you like, there are lots of things to do and see in Dallas. Than it is only about 4 hour drive down south. Thanks for visiting!

  8. marc

    Wow what a great write up I am ready to pack my bags and move, not travel but move! What would be the best time of year to visit? I mean I don’t mind a few tourist, but dont want to get crushed by them. I also would like a balance of good weather with the timing as well. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Marc, living in Texas is GREAT! I absolutely love it. I would go in September. The weather is still beautiful, but you’ll skip all of the crowds. Absolutely do not go during Spring Break! Thanks for reading my South Padre Island Travel Guide.

  9. Mel White

    Have you gone on any of the excursions for Padre island yourself? Which one of them is your favorite? I would love to go to Padre Island someday this fall/winter. Also, any recommendations on places to stay? Is Padre Island your favorite Texas beach? If not, which one is? I just need to go somewhere warm this winter. Thanks!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I personally like Galveston Beach the best. I think they have a lot more action … i.e. beach life, little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and activities. There are so may hotels that I would recommend. I think the south end of Padre is the best, and the Isla Grand Beach Resort, top notch. At Galveston beach, stay at the Hilton Galveston Island Resort. You could actually visit both beaches in the same vacation. It is really not that far to drive and you could split the time. I would probably opt for Galveston beach. Stay clear during Spring Break. It is not any fun then with all of the crazy college kids. It’s like one of the top places they go for Spring Break.

  10. Vertical Veloxity

    The pictures are simply breathtaking. You are the perfect tour guide because I was right there as I read . Plus you told me everything I needed to know and did not think to ask.
    I did not know that Texas had islands. When you said Texas I was like noooo. Lol. I would have never guessed. I bet you get that all the time huh?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes I do. I didn’t think they had em until I went there. It is beautiful and the sand dunes….amazing. It does have a nice stiff breeze which blows off the coast. I imagine it would be way too hot without it in the summer though. Thanks for visiting South Padre Island Travel Guide.

  11. Hal's Review of Body Weighing Scale Ebsite

    Wow, what a terrific travel site this is. Visiting all these beautiful beaches for your website must really be fun. Reminds me of when i was younger, I thought the best job in the world would be either testing Sealy mattresses for comfort, or Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion for tan quality.

    Everything about South Padre Island appears to be outstanding (wish I was out standing on that beach right now!)… I particularly like the fact that there are 300 days of beach weather in South Padre Island. Sign me up for that Dolphin Watch!!

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Ok Hal! Oh yeah, I think I could test Hawaiian tropic suntan lotions for quality too! It would need to be tested in various locations just to make sure 🙂 Thanks for reading about South Padre beaches and the travel guide. And yes, when you do come, sign up for the Dolphin Watch!

  12. Benjamin

    Another quick question. I’m having trouble deciding whether to book airfares and accommodation too South Padre Island.


    Going to Las Vegas. I know if I go to Las Vegas I will more than likely lose a significant amount of money.

    Do you know if there are any cheap flights and accommodation over at Las Vegas?

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, there is always low airfares to Vegas. And the hotels are really reasonable too if you go during the week. They raise the rates for the weekends. I know which hotels offer great prices, let me know if you need any further help.

  13. Benjamin

    Here I was thinking that Texas was in the middle of the United States.

    I’m from Australia so I don’t understand Fahrenheit. What is 65` F in Celsius?

    Go you know if JetStar is still a running airfare company? I heard they have very cheap airfares.

    I would really enjoy going on a cruise with Osprey cruises.

    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      65°F it the same as 18.3°C. I don’t know if that is warm for you 🙂 And yes, JetStar airlines is still running. I am not familiar with them, but I looked them up and they do fly. I am glad you enjoyed reading the South Padre Island Travel Guide.


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