South Padre Island, TX

South Padre Island, TX

My first time to the best beach in my home state.

This past week I skipped blogging because I was getting ready for a long-awaited beach vacation.

I’ve lived in Texas my entire life and had never been to South Padre. It’s not too surprising- I wasn’t much of a Spring Breaker and it’s very far from my hometown in the DFW area, so it never really made sense to go.

I also assumed it was similar enough to Galveston which, bless them, isn’t that great of a beach. The gulf is usually pretty brown too. I figured I’d always have to fly to go to decent beaches and that was just the way of it.

Until I started doing some research into South Padre. Since it’s so far south, it benefits from the tropical climate of Mexico and, since it’s a long island, more closely resembles Miami than it does Galveston.

Fast forward a few months, my husband gets the idea to take his parents on a vacation and landed on South Padre. It’s a beach, it’s driveable, and we can bring our dog who had never seen the ocean before.

The whole place really took me by surprise. It’s hard to get a beat on something without seeing it for yourself, but once you cross the big bridge and get to the island proper, it really does feel like Miami albeit with much less of a party vibe.

This is the area where we did all of our vacationing. The part of the island we stayed on was probably only about 10 miles long and maybe a mile wide at the widest. Sometimes while driving you could see the beach out either car window at the same time. It’s a really tiny place and would be walkable in cooler months.

I want to run down what we were up to in South Padre to help convince fellow Texans (or anyone!) to make the drive and visit.


We stayed at this VRBO that was basically right on the beach! Every morning we could sip our coffee from a bench swing or rocking chair and look out over the ocean- it was incredible. There was also easy beach access directly across the street. Literally only had to walk a few steps and you were in the sand.

The beach itself was so nice. Very clean, with no seaweed anywhere, and it was sparsely populated because I think we went in the offseason which I highly recommend. You can section off your own chunk of the beach and not have anyone around you all day.

And, as I said earlier, the water was so blue!

And this is our lil' man after running through the surf. It took him a while to figure out the water wasn’t going to attack him, but he loved it once he let loose. He is also very smelly and this is from the day we left, so.


There are so many restaurants to choose from that I don’t think you could go wrong. Here are the ones we tried during our stay.

Joe’s Oyster Bar

Joe’s Oyster Bar is a no-frills place in Port Isabel that does seafood right. Our VRBO host had a binder with a ton of recommendations on where to eat and Joe’s was a favorite. What was so wild to me about all the seafood restaurants was the prices. It’s insanely cheap. I had the Nathan Special. It was only $14 and had a grilled piece of flounder, shrimp, and a crab cake included. That and everything was caught that morning. Definitely some of the best seafood I’ve had. We also shared a half order of raw oysters which were great as well.

Los Tortugos Seafood Market

Los Tortugos is another place that has great seafood at even better prices. Our group of four ate here for $50 and all had seafood dishes. I got the ceviche and they brought out a massive bowl- the photo doesn’t do it justice. I couldn’t even finish!

It was very tasty, but the lime juice got to me after a while and so the flavor got a little same-y. It’s technically an appetizer so I do recommend getting it for the group and having a few bites, but get something else for your main dish.

Tip: Get the shrimp tacos and ask for a bowl of salsa on the side. They’re incredible!

The Meatball Cafe

The Meatball Cafe is a casual Italian place with slightly steep prices. Most everything on the menu is over $20. That being said, it was delicious. Solid, authentic Italian food. They make all of their noodles in-house as well as a few sauces/dressings.

Not to brag, but I think I ordered the best thing on the menu. I got the shrimp scampi pasta and it was so rich and delicious. I can’t say enough good things. Was it heavy? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Definitely.

Tip: Get the fried cheese ravioli appetizer. They’re giant, amazing, and easily enough for a table of four.


Alright, I had to include it! It was technically the last restaurant we went to. My husband picked up some breakfast taquitos (potato, ftw) before we headed back home. Honestly, they were probably the best I’ve had and they were huge. One will do you just right.

Things to do

South Padre isn’t all partying and Spring Break shenanigans. There are lots of casual and family-friendly activities too.

South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

That’s Big Padre. You can meet him at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. It’s $10 and the money goes towards the conservation of gators and other animals.

There are interesting and educational talks and you can pay a little more to feed and take pictures with small gators. There’s also a long boardwalk where you can watch birds. It’s all mostly outside, so go on a nice day.


There are quite a few little shopping centers around South Padre and Port Isabel. These are great to kill some time or find some souvenirs, but be sure it isn’t too hot. They’re mostly outdoor malls and sometimes don’t have AC.

One of the shopping areas is right next to the Port Isabel Lighthouse and has some neat shops. The one I was most interested in was the Mercado Faro which was a covered market with several vendors selling their wares. Also y’all, it was dirt cheap and they had all kinds of treasures. Lots of jewelry, stones, clothing, and nicknacks. I wanted to stay longer, but there was no air-conditioning and it was very hot. There’s also an antique store, food, cafes, and souvenir shops.

After the Mercado, we headed back across the bridge to the Ocean Palm Shopping Center. This place has several shops to choose from and, as far as I know, all have AC! There’s also one of those giant souvenir shops that sell t-shirts for around $6. It’s a tourist trap, but it’s fun to look around.

We went to Karma Coffee and Books first to grab an iced coffee to fight the hot day. It was pretty tasty! I always get a plain vanilla latte and this one had some hints of cinnamon and wasn’t too sweet. The whole place smells like incense so if you’re sensitive watch out. It’s a good-sized place that also sells little desserts and books as the name suggests.

The real star of the show at Ocean Palm is Karen’s Custom Toe Rings. At first, I was a little surprised that a business could run on toe rings alone, but my MIL and I went in to check it out while the guys did something else (who knows).

Let me tell you, we had way too much fun. There were several other women in there and all were getting fitted for toe rings. The shop is run by a husband and wife team and it was the husband doing all of the chatting and fitting. He was an older guy named Mike who knew all the ins and outs of South Padre and also had some great food recommendations.

One of the groups was a mother and her daughters who happened to originally be from DFW too (small world). They decided to get matching toe rings to commemorate their trip- hey it’s less permanent than a tattoo! My MIL got really excited about it so the two of us got matching ones too. It was a fun bonding experience!

They make all their rings and, from looking around, they all seem to be sterling silver or gold so you shouldn’t end up with an itchy, green toe. They have all kinds of styles and the prices seem fair.

Honestly, even if you’re not into jewelry, you may like it. They’re comfortable and add a cute flash when you wear your sandals. It’s helping a small business too and Mike was a great guy.

Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier

We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but you can go out on this big ol' pier and do some fishing. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.

There’s a restaurant and some boats you can charter and, in particular, there is a pirate ship you can go out on. I think it’s kind of like a show with actors and music that you’re a part of.

Port Isabel Lighthouse

That’s my husband waving down at us from atop the Port Isabel Lighthouse. There are stunning views from the top and you can take 360-degree panos. There’s also a visitor’s center with more history and info that you can tour.

Laguna BOB

There are a lot of bars in South Padre and there’s a whole strip of them along the coastline. Laguna BOB is located in a pretty fun area. If you get here at a good time, you can grab a spot and watch the sunset while sipping something cold. They don’t have cider though, but they do have live music.

Tequila Sunset

Right next door to Laguna BOB is Tequila Sunset. It’s quite a bit bigger, has ample seating and a large bar, and has a bunch of TVs so you won’t miss the game (see: Week 1 Bucs @ Cowboys). They also have live music…and cider.

Holiday Sand Sculpture Village (by Gravity Park Amusement Park)

There is this cool, rotating sand castle sculpture garden in the same area as the bars I mentioned. I sadly didn’t get any photos, but you can check them out on Facebook. The artwork is incredible.

It’s also right beside an amusement park with a Ferris wheel and several scary-looking suspension rides.

Check out my outfits

This is all the beach wear I wore on vacation so everything has the seal of approval that it stays on and looks good in the ocean. They’re Amazon affiliate links so I’ll get a little kickback from your purchase, but there is no added cost to you so shop away!

I wore this every day at the beach. My swimsuit was only $24 when purchased, but it looks like it went back up to $29. Keep checking for sales! You can wear it two different ways and it comes in a ton of color options. I got a size medium in green and it fits great. There is a little ruching around the stomach for some camouflage as well.

My hat is a touch big for my head, but it’s still cute and allows me to wear a ponytail or bun while keeping the sun off my face. By big, I mean it covers my ears just a bit but stays put on my head. The adjustable band is velcro and there’s an adorable, subtle bow on the back. I ordered beige brown and it was only $15.

I did a lot of research into sunglasses and ultimately went with this pair of sunnies from J+S. I ordered a size large with pink mirror lenses. They look great, are inexpensive, and, most importantly, will protect your eyes.

Men’s swim shorts always have convenient pockets, but it seems like women’s clothes get left out. I found this pair of high-waisted shorts with a zip-up pocket and usually wear them when I do anything in the water. They’re also great for working out because they’re lightweight and dry quickly.

This crop tank was another Amazon find a while ago, but I’m constantly wearing it. It’s perfect for the gym but comes in so many colors you could wear it every day for different stuff. It hugs you at the bottom so the fabric bunches some to create a unique silhouette that pairs well with tight yoga pants. I got a medium in army green, but would probably go with a small next time. Also, please ignore that my husband and I are wearing similarly colored shirts. This was not planned but happens too often.

Until next time, South Padre!

Everything said and done, it was a great vacation. I wish we could have stayed longer, but the real world calls. We’re definitely planning to go back when it’s a touch cooler so we can spend more time outside and not rush through things. Also planning on eating 100% more seafood. Going out three times was not enough!

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