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13 Best Things To Do In South Padre Island, Texas - Updated 2020

things to do in south padre island texas
Rebecca
Rebecca
Updated

Most people associate South Padre Island with spring break, but it is still a great beach destination the other 51 weeks of the year. Thanks to South Padre’s mild weather, calm seas, and an average of 300 days of sunshine, you can do just about anything you want, all year long, like kiteboarding, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, jet skiing and deep sea fishing. If your idea of fun is a little less adventurous, there are calmer activities you can enjoy, such as visiting the islands, nature centers, wildlife refuges, or walking on one of the many boardwalks.

Other favorite activities include horseback riding, camping on the beach, and ecological tours of Padre Island National Seashore. South Padre Island is a barrier island and is accessible from the Queen Isabella Causeway and the town is located at the southern end of the island. The island is named after José Nicolás Ballí, a Catholic priest and settler. One of the landmarks on the island is the larger than life Cristo de los Pescadores, or Christ of the Fishermen, a memorial to fishermen who never returned.

If you want to camp under the stars and wake up to the sound of waves, take a surfing lesson, do water sports, enjoy the night with live music, good food and drinks, San Padre Island offers you the chance to do any or all of these activities, in one memorable visit.

1. Port Isabel Lighthouse

Port Isabel Lighthouse

Port Isabel Lighthouse is one of the 16 lighthouses originally constructed along the Texas coast and the only one open to the public. It is a popular site for photographers and visitors. If you climb the 75 winding stairs and three short ladders, you will have great views of South Padre Island and the beaches. The lighthouse has long been a prominent landmark on the southern tip of the Texas Gulf Coast. Its heavy brick walls have enabled it to withstand the elements for more than a century. The lighthouse was abandoned permanently when shipping traffic declined in 1907. The lighthouse and surrounding buildings became a historic site in 1950 when it was donated to the state. The lighthouse sits on a grassy knoll and is an ideal setting for relaxing. The grassy knoll where the lighthouse stands is ideal for strolling and relaxing. If you want to enjoy a picnic lunch, picnic tables are available.

Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily (weather permitting). Summer hours are extended to 8 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in the Lighthouse, the Keepers Cottage (Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center), the Treasures of the Gulf Museum and the Port Isabel Historical Museum.

Port Isabel Lighthouse

Address: 421 E. Queen Isabel Blvd. in Lighthouse Square, Port Isabel, South Padre Island, TX 78418

Website: Port Isabel Lighthouse

2. Sea Turtle, Inc

Sea Turtles
Source: Rawpixel

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Don’t miss the chance to visit the renowned Sea Turtle, Inc. The facility itself serves as a hospital for sick and injured sea turtles. Each year, they rescue and rehabilitate over 100 sea turtles with the goal of returning them to the wild. Sea Turtle, Inc. was founded in 1977, by Ila Fox Loetscher, better known as the “Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.” In 1999, Sea Turtle, Inc. moved from Ila’s backyard into its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd. Today, their mission is centered on rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured sea turtles, educating the public, and assisting with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species.

April through November is nesting season on South Padre Island and Sea Turtle, Inc. also monitors about 50 miles (80.5 km) of beach, searching for nests. The nests are then relocated and protected in a special corral until the baby turtles hatch and are ready for release. If you visit during nesting season, you can attend one of the scheduled releases, during the summer months and watch as the tiny sea turtles make their way into the ocean for the first time.

Hours: Open from 10 am - 4 pm, Tuesdays through Sundays (Closed Mondays). From Memorial Day to mid-August, hours are extended from 10 am - 5 pm.

Admission: They ask for a donation of 4 USD for adults, 3 USD for seniors and 2 USD for children over the age of 4.

Sea Turtle, Inc.

Address:6617 Padre Blvd. South Padre Island, TX 78597

Website: Sea Turtle, Inc.

3. Laguna Madre Island Trail

Laguna Madre

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

The Laguna Madre or Mother Lagoon Nature Trail is 1.1 mile (1.8 km) loop trail on a 1,500 foot (457.2 meter) boardwalk that crosses 4 acres (1.6 hectares) of marshland. It offers scenic views of the lagoon and is used for nature walks and birding. Bird watchers can view many coastal and migratory birds, as well as many others that are attracted to the berries on the fiddlewood bushes, along the trail. Throughout the year, more than 300 species of birds come through the South Padre Island area.

The trail begins at the South Padre Island Convention Center and extends out to the Laguna Madre wetlands. A walk on the Laguna Madre Natural Trail is one of the best ways to experience the pristine, natural wetlands of South Padre Island. The trail is open 24 hours a day and access is free.

Laguna Madre Island Trail

Address: 7355 Padre Boulevard South Padre Island, TX 78597

Website: Laguna Madre Island Trail

4. Isla Blanca Park

People on Isla Blanca Park

Isla Blanca Park is located on the southernmost tip of South Padre Island and is the crown jewel of the parks system. Within the park, there is over a mile of pristine beach along the Gulf of Mexico. Also within the park are many recreation amenities available for a wide range of outdoor activities. There are two large beachfront pavilions, a walking trail, fishing jetties and surf fishing, cabana rentals, a boat ramp, water park, restrooms/shower facilities, and shaded picnic areas. And you don’t have to bring your own food as there are onsite concessions and restaurants.

If you want to stay overnight, there are tent sites and over 600 full hook-up RV sites. The park also has equipment rental for an array of activities (e.g. snorkeling, diving, jet skis, parasailing, etc.). There is also a full-service marina, here.

Open 6:30 am - 11 pm

Isla Blanca Park

Address: 33174 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Website: Isla Blanca Park

5. Dolphin Research and Sea Life Research Center

Up Close Encounter with Dolphins
Source: Pixabay

The Dolphin Research and Sea Life Research Center is located next to the Port Isabel Lighthouse. Their mission is to educate the public regarding the wild bottlenose dolphins, native to Laguna Madre Bay and South Padre Island, in addition to promoting public support for the wildlife of the area. They offer three types of activities: Dolphin Tours, Sea Life Center and Field Trips. The Dolphin Tours accommodate six people or less, the cost is 25 USD per person and lasts about an hour and a half. Private and family tours can also be arranged. The tour starts with a visit to the Seal Life Center and then on to board the boat to see the local tribe of near shore dolphins.

The Sea Life Center offers visitors a unique encounter with many of the fascinating marine animals native to the area. Numerous aquariums showcase live fish, starfish, crabs, octopi, snails, along with a whole host of other exciting creatures. Touch tanks allow visitors to get a hands-on experience with sea life.

The Center’s educational field trips give teachers and students up close exposure with the touch tanks to hold a live starfish and other sea life such as octopi, seahorses, live shells, or local fish. They also offer nature walks. Fees for students and parents is 2 USD and there is no charge for teachers.

Hours: Daily 10 am to 4 pm

Dolphin Research and Sea Life Research Center

Address:110 N Garcia St, Port Isabel, TX 78578

Website: Dolphin Research and Sea Life Research Center

6. Sandy Feet sandcastle lessons

Sandy Feet Sand Castle Lessons
Source: Max Pixel

Next time you go to the beach, impress beach goers with your amazing sand sculpting. On South Padre Island, you can get professional private or group instruction from Sandy Feet Sand Castle Services. They work with all ages and skill levels and all tools are provided, with some you can take home. The classes range from a 45-minute crash course in sand sculpting to a basic and extended basic course, where you learn packing and stacking techniques. Specialty lessons, such as castles and cocktails, adult billboard party, kiddy birthday party, and “build me something”, are also available. They also offer customized “beach billboards” for special occasions, like marriage proposals, birthdays, or anniversaries.

Sandy Feet Sandcastle Lessons

Address: 117 E Saturn Ln, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Website: Sandy Feet Sandcastle Lessons

South Padre Island Sandcastling Experience

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

7. Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark

Schlitterbahn Beach Water Park

The Schlitterbahn Water Park is a 25 acre (10.1 hectare) park, with two dozen world-class attractions, such as 13 indoor and outdoor water slides, river systems where you can float along, a surfing ride, body slide, tidal wave river, uphill water coaster, Lily Pad wading pool and Pirates Cove for children, swim-up cocktail area, a seaside pool, and of course, beaches. Thrill levels range from low speed to aggressive. There are indoor and outdoor parks. Cabanas and palapas are available for shade. If you’re more into non-water activities, there are also carnival rides, such as the Twister and a carousel.

Admission price covers the use of all water attractions, free parking, free inner tubes, and you can bring your own picnic and coolers into the park (no glass or alcohol allowed). Another dining option is the Shrimp Haus, a casual dining restaurant on the beach, with a deck overlooking the Gulf. The Schlitterbahn Water Park has been rated a number one kid-friendly attraction, but there are lots of attractions for adults, as well.

Schlitterbahn Beach Water Park

Address: 33261 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Website: Schitterbahn Beach Water Park

8. Go on a horse ride

Beach horseback riding
Source: Pixabay

If you have never been on a horse ride, South Padre Island offers plenty of fun and safe options for you and your family! Horseback riding is an enjoyable way to explore the beach. The tours are a great way to get introduced to the sea life along the shore and see the flora that grows amongst the sand dunes. Several tours are offered on the island and each of them comes with its own perks. Morning tours are best to explore the beach before the crowd shows up, and the weather makes for a more cooling and comfortable ride. Afternoon tours are usually shorter and easier to squeeze into your schedule, perfect for those who don’t have much time or want a shorter ride. Sunset tours also allow you to escape the afternoon heat and offer a more romantic experience. And finally, moonlight tours, only offered during the period of a full moon, are quieter and allow you to enjoy the serenity of the coast. Choose the tour that best fits your travel itinerary to make the most of your time on South Padre Island.

South Padre Island Adventure Park

Address: State Park Road 100, South Padre Island, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Price: from 40 USD to 79 USD

Opening Hours: Summer, 8.30 am - 6.30 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of the bridge to the island, at the end of Park Road 100

Contact: +1 956-761-4677

Website: South Padre Island Adventure Park

The Stables

Address: 8805 Padre Boulevard, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Price: from 40 USD

Duration: around 2 hours required

Contact: +1 956-761-7743

Website: The Stables

9. Try a new water sport

Being a coastal resort, South Padre Island is home to its fair share of sun-kissed water sport enthusiasts. Visitors crowd the beach to splash in the sea and have a go at different water sports. The waters stay relatively warm all year round, but you might need a full wetsuit if you’re planning on taking a dip in winter. Almost any water sport you can think of is available here on South Padre Island, from waterskiing to kiteboarding; you can even give flyboarding a shot! The water-powered jet board may seem daunting to the uninitiated, but vendors limit the maximum height to 3 feet (0.9 meters) above the water surface for beginners, ensuring a safe experience for all. If you feel like you have the hang of the contraption, the limit is abolished and you may have your chance at performing tricks on a flyboard!

Flyboard South Padre Island

Address: 5709 Padre Blvd., Unit A2, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Price: from 99 USD to 199 USD

Duration: around 1 hour required

Contact: +1 956-299-1763

Website: Flyboard South Padre Island

Prokite

Address: 2500 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Opening Hours: 8 am - 10 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Contact: +1 541-490-6872

Website: Prokite

South Padre Island Water Sports

Address: 5709A Padre Blvd, South Padre, TX

Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm

Duration: around 1 hour required

Contact: +1 956-299-9463

Website: South Padre Island Water Sports

South Padre Surf Company

Address: Park Rd. 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Price: from 40 USD

Opening Hours: 8 am - 5 pm

Duration: around 1 hour required

Contact: +1 956-772-7272

Website: South Padre Surf Company

10. Set sail on a fishing adventure

Deep Sea Fishing

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Ready your sea legs and be led out to the open sea by experienced crew members who know local waters and have a deep knowledge about the fish in the region. Depending on the season, you could haul in huge catches such as red snappers, lings, groupers, kingfish, and even sharks! All the equipment you could need is provided. The helpful crew aboard the ships makes the trips enjoyable even if you’ve never held a fishing rod before! Deep sea fishing charters cost more and are usually longer, from 6 hours onwards. Bay fishing charters can range from 3 to 4 hours per trip.

Isla Tours

Address: South Padre Island, TX 78597-6402

Price: from 25 USD

Opening Hours: 8 am - 8 pm

Duration: around 3 hours required

Contact: +1 956-761-4752

Website: Isla Tours

Captain Murphy's Fishing Charters

Address: 1 Padre Blvd. South Padre Island, TX. 78597

Opening Hours: 8 am - 7 pm

Duration: around 3 hours required

Contact: +1 956-761-4752

Website: Captain Murphy’s Fishing Charters

Danny B Fishing Charters

Address: 2305 Laguna Blvd, South Padre Island, TX

Price: from 25 USD

Duration: around 4 hours required

Access: Located in the entertainment district next to Amberjacks Restaurant, down the street from Tequila Sunset, Wahoo Saloon, and Louie’s Backyard

Contact: +1 956-761-1389

Website: Danny B Fishing Charters

11. Have a roll on the beach

4x4 on the beach
Source: Pixabay

Not every beach allows vehicles onto its sandy shores. Beach driving can offer a fun and different driving experience. Explore the length of the coastline in the convenience of your own vehicle. Pick a quiet spot at the end of the beach where it’s less crowded and have the luxury of setting up your beach chairs with everything you may need just a stone’s throw away. It is recommended that you travel in a 4x4 on the beach, however, a 2x4 is fine as well, as long as you just stay on the compacted surface and skirt around the soft sand. If you do get stuck in the sand, don’t call the official tow just yet. See if a 4x4 comes your way; most drivers with adequate rigs and tow equipment are usually more than willing to lend a helping hook.

South Padre Island Beach Driving

Address: South Padre Island, TX

Price: It costs 12 USD for a permit; you get back 2 USD upon returning the issued thrash bag at the end of the trip

Duration: around 2 hours required

12. Take your experience to new heights by skydiving

Skydiving

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

This is a must-do for all thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies, or simply anyone who wants the best views of South Padre Island. Here’s your chance to see the entire coastline blur into the horizon as you jump out of an airplane at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). The freefall lasts for around 60 seconds and the canopy deploys at 5,500 feet (1,676 meters). The remainder of the journey down is a smooth-sailing canopy flight of 5 to 7 minutes, plenty of time to appreciate the views and capture your new social media profile picture that is sure to leave your friends and family green with envy.

Skydive South Padre Island

Address: 2500 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597

Price: from 230 USD

Opening Hours: 8 am - 8 pm

Duration: around 1 hour required

Contact: +1 956-744-5867

Website: Skydive South Padre Island

13. Delve deep into the sea on a diving trip


Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico. South Padre Island is home to several popular dive sites, such as the Texas Clipper, a former World War 2 ship converted into a training vessel for a university, subsequently sunk to form an artificial reef. The Texas Clipper is a suitable dive spot for both novices and experienced divers. Beginners can survey the surface of the Texas Clipper, while those who are more comfortable being in an overhead environment can gain access into the various decks aboard. Training for all stages is provided by diving schools. However, if diving doesn’t pique your interest, snorkeling is an alternative way to view the magnificent beasts beneath the ocean surface.

American Diving

Address: 1 Padre Blvd. South Padre Island, Texas 78597

Price: from 140 USD

Duration: around 6 hours required

Access: Take a right off of the bridge. Continue for one third of a mile (536 meters). Look right and you will see a large blue and white building, The Sea Ranch Marina. Take a right and go to the red and white dive flag

Contact: +1 956-761-2030

Website: American Diving

Fun in the sun on South Padre Island, Texas

North, west, east or south, there is something for everyone on South Padre Island. On the north end is Padre Island National Seashore where Big and Little Shell Beaches are located (yes, there are lots of shells). To the west of South Padre Island, you will find business and residential areas, along the bay. The east is the ocean playground, on the Gulf of Mexico, with a mix of beach hotels, vacation rentals, shops, and restaurants that line the longest, undeveloped barrier reef on the continent. And to the South is the pristine Isla Blanca Beach, with over one mile (1.6 km) of beach, on the Gulf of Mexico. This barrier reef island, with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, is a nature and beach paradise, with something for everyone.

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Things To Do In South Padre Island, Texas
Source: Trip101.com

Frequently asked questions about best things to do in South Padre Island, Texas

1. What are the top attractions to visit in South Padre Island?

There are plenty of things to do and interesting attractions here in South Padre Island, but if you don’t have the time to visit everything, then make sure you see the Sea Turtle Inc. and Isla Blanca Park.

2. What are the best outdoor activities in South Padre Island?

Given that it is an island, a lot of popular outdoor activities here are watersports, including kiteboarding, waterskiing, surfing, and flyboarding. Other water activities you can try here include fishing and scuba diving. And if you want an adrenaline-pumping experience, you can go on a sky diving adventure with the help of Skydive South Padre Island.

3. What are the most popular things to do in South Padre Island with kids?

One of the best activities you can do here with your children is joining a Sandy Feet sandcastle lessons, where you’ll learn basic on sand stacking and sand sculpting. Another must-visit attraction for kids is the Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, with its kid-friendly amenities, water slides, and dining options.

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I have been a freelance writer for 10 years writing for local and regional publications as well as online travel sites. I have been a traveler most of my life going back to my first trip to Europe...Read more

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