Turquoise waves lap against white sand beaches as music from a live band drifts over the dunes. You sip a frozen margarita and crack open the bestseller you’ve wanted to read for weeks, while your children build a sandcastle and your spouse joins a pickup soccer game. No, you’re not in Miami, Cancun or Cali. You’re in South Padre, and we’ve all grown up since your college spring break.
With over 300 days of sunshine, 30 miles of pristine beaches and an array of engaging activities for kids of all ages, South Padre Island is an ideal family vacation in every season. And there’s no better way to enjoy all the island has to offer than with an all-inclusive package from Enjoy SPI.
Stay at one of South Padre’s top rated, beachfront hotels, and leave the menu planning and cooler packing to the experts. With an all-inclusive package, guests at Hilton Garden Inn, La Copa Inn Beach Hotel, La Quinta by Wyndham and Courtyard by Marriott, enjoy meals and drinks (alcohol for 21+ guests) for every night of their stay. All onsite restaurants and bars participate in these packages, which means that guests have five distinctly different dining options around the island.
“If you’re a Texan, this is your beach.”
Wake up with made-to-order eggs and pancakes from the breakfast buffet at Barry’s International, ranked #3 on the island by Trip Advisor. When it’s time for lunch, don’t let hunger break up the beach fun. In addition to full bar offerings, the Lookout Bar & Refuge serves up coconut shrimp, quesadillas and kid favorites right on the beach, while Copa Cabana Bar & Grill offers grilled burgers and other popular items, poolside. Anytime the kids’ snack monsters roar, pick up freshly griddled tacos from the Barry’s Tacos & Margaritas airstream trailer, and when your party monster starts to howl, raise a glass to good times at Bar Louie, South Padre’s newest, most dynamic beachfront dining experience, located at Courtyard by Marriott SPI. Serving the island’s only frozen martini, appropriately named “The Diva,” this gastrobar prides itself on handcrafted cocktails, local craft beers and an extensive menu of eclectic dishes. As you sip a mojito and savor the coastal breezes and panoramic views from the bar’s 8000 square foot deck, you’ll experience a tropical vacation right in your own backyard.
“If you’re a Texan, this is your beach,” says Hershal Patel, Partner and Director of Operations of Perspective Hospitality. Having travelled extensively throughout his childhood, Hershal sought to recreate the relaxing, all-inclusive vacations he experienced internationally, right here in Texas, no passport required. In addition to the cost-savings that comes from staying in-state, Hershal cites the island’s natural beauty, ecotourism activities, and friendly people as key features that make South Padre a premier, year-round retreat for families. At only a quarter-mile’s width and hugged by the Gulf of Mexico to the east and Laguna Madre to the west, the island guarantees convenient beach access and stunning views no matter where guests kick off their flip flops.
“When you book your package here, this becomes your island,” says Perspective’s President Barry Patel. In addition to food and drinks, these packages also include a dolphin watch tour with Breakaway Cruises. More excursions and island adventures are in the works, but hotel amenities promise fun-filled experiences within steps of your room. All of Perspective’s beachfront hotels feature temperature-controlled swimming pools, hot tubs, kiddie pools with water features, and direct access to the beach. And because the hotels welcome four-legged friends, South Padre Island can be Fido’s island, too.
“When you book your package here, this becomes your island.”
Spring (Break) might be the season for which the island is most famous, but tropical weather makes outdoor fun available year-round. After the college students head home over the Queen Isabella Causeway, take advantage of the island’s many family-friendly activities.
Young children delight in shell collecting and splashing in the Gulf’s warm, shallow water, while older siblings boogie board, skimboard and snorkel. Ready to step up your beach time? Let local experts teach your kids the professional tricks of sandcastle construction or register your teens for a kiteboarding lesson. The family that survives extreme sports together makes memories together. Parasailing, jet skiing and zip-lining are available, year-round, on the island, while horseback riding and fishing provide slower-paced, though equally-memorable experiences. In summer’s peak season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, live music and fireworks light up the beachfront entertainment hub of the Hilton Garden Inn, La Quinta, and Courtyard by Marriott hotels, while musical performances on the outdoor deck at nearby Clayton’s Beach Bar & Grill entertain beachgoers throughout the year.
Because of its unique location, South Padre island attracts an array of wildlife as well as the naturalists and enthusiasts who come to observe it. An essential stopping point for migratory birds on their way to Mexico and Central America, the island hosts a stunning variety of exotic and rare species such as roseate painted buntings, redheads and peregrine falcons. Witness another winged migration in September as Monarch butterflies alight on the island before finishing their journey in Michoacán. During sea turtle nesting season, April to November, don’t miss scheduled sea turtle releases on the beach. Thanks to local preservation and rehabilitation efforts, South Padre island remains home to the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the unofficial symbol of the island.
For those seeking serenity, late fall and winter months are the most peaceful. The majority of island attractions continue to operate, and your family is first in line. Even the most popular ecotourism centers, such as the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center and Sea Turtle, Inc., exude calm and fulfill the dreams of parents traveling with children: no lines, no whines. Winter is also the best time to view the greatest variety of migratory bird species on the island, and the pathways, boardwalks and blinds of Laguna Madre Nature Trail are ready to be explored. Get a front row seat at a Turtle Talk, and spend quality time staring into the eyes of Big Padre, the 12’6”, 700-pound alligator. These are the memory-making experiences that bring families back, year after year.
When people come to South Padre, they become a part of a larger family. “We are very much in tune with the community, and we want to be as inclusive as possible,” Barry explains. “We’re just a big family here.” Many of these extended winter families reunite during epic holiday events such as the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve buffets, which feature in additional vacation packages offered by Enjoy SPI.
At just a half-day’s drive from Austin and Houston (think: four Disney/Pixar movie distance) or a short, inexpensive shuttle ride from the Harlingen Airport, a family-friendly, tropical vacation in South Padre is more parent-friendly than you think.
To book your all-inclusive South Padre Island getaway, visit www.enjoyspi.com. Condos and villas are also available.
Words by Karen Krajcer
Photos by Bee Creek Photography.