South Padre Island (SPI), Texas
Twenty-five miles north of the border to Mexico, South Padre Island (SPI) is on the coastal tip of Texas. The world’s longest Barrier Island is accessed by crossing a two-mile stretch of causeway in Port Isabel. The 34-mile long barrier reef measures about a half mile at its widest point with Laguna Madre Bay to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the east. The mild weather and 253 days of sunshine makes SPI a year round vacation destination.
The low season includes October, November and February. According to Naida Robles, Public Information Officer for the City of South Padre Island:
Visitors looking for a true getaway with the beach to themselves and cool temperatures of 60-70 degrees (according to Texas standards, but warm for northern states), then the off-peak months are the perfect time to visit.
SPI is a favorite destination for Winter Texans–folks who temporarily relocate to the south escaping the harsh weather of the north. One advantage to visiting SPI when the Winter Texans do is participating in a variety of special events, dinners and promotions offered to this group. Club Padre is an organization that orchestrates social, educational, cultural, and recreational events for locals and visitors–many of whom are Winter Texans. For additional info, call (956) 761-CLUB.
The island has a large number of hotels, condos, and homes for rent, as well as, two RV parks. Tourists visiting SPI for more than 30 consecutive days, can take advantage of the Hotel Occupancy Tax exemption and save 14.5 percent in tax (6 percent from the room rate and 8.5 percent from the City).
The Pearl South Padre offers a “Winter Texan” rate starting at $89 a night including a complimentary appetizer, two breakfast vouchers and a deck of playing card. Stay for 7-20 days and the rate drops to $65 per night. Stay beyond 21 days and the cost is $55 per night. These offers are good from October 1, 2013 through March 7, 2014.
This laid-back community is serious about relaxation–wearing a tie is against the law. First-time offenders are given a written warning and a complimentary SPI T-shirt. Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip flops are acceptable year-round attire.
Both beginners and experts enjoy water sports on SPI, with its shallow, calm bay waters and Gulf of Mexico waves. The subtropical climate and consistent winds make the island ideal for kiteboarding and windsurfing. Laguna Madre Bay, with a water depth of approximately three feet, is a beginner-friendly place to learn the basics, while more experienced kiteboarders and windsurfers find the Gulf a welcomed challenge.
Known for the finest surfing in the state, the Texas State Surfing Championship has been held on the island every March for the past 40 years. Visitors can schedule a 90 minute surfing lesson by calling Island Native Surf Shop (956) 772-7100. Ask for Belle, the cost for the lesson and all supplies is $40. Diving enthusiasts can explore underwater sights at the Texas Clipper—a 473-foot ship that was sunk 17 miles off of the island.
One of the treasures of the island is the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center with a five story observation tower and 3,500 linear feet of boardwalks with observation decks. Admission is $4 for those age 55 and older. The only lighthouse on the Texas coast–open to the public–is a short drive from SPI. Climb 75 steps of winding stairs to the top of the Port Isabel Light House Complex for a great view of SPI. An adult ticket cost $3.
Getting to SPI
Brownsville South Padre International Airport is a 30 minute drive to SPI. For more information on the area, visit SPI online.