Unique Things to do in South Padre

Several years ago, our family visited South Padre in the middle of summer. We did it several more times over a few different years. We had our boys, who were young at the time, and so were we! I guess that’s the reason the over-crowded beaches and loud, busy restaurants didn’t seem to bother us… our family helped contribute to the madness!

As my husband and I started taking vacations without the kids, we discovered a better time to visit South Padre. We went the day after Labor Day weekend and found that everyone else had gone home after the last long weekend of the summer. Yet the excursions, restaurants, and gift shops were all still open.  Even the fireworks were still going on. It has become a tradition for us.

We always rent a condo by the beach, which usually have nice kitchen facilities, that make cooking a pleasure. I can even make a Pear Pie by using the pie filling I canned from our pear trees. It’s so easy, just pouring it into a frozen pie crust, making a crumb topping for it, then popping it into the oven! 

There are so many things to do while we are there. Of course, the typical things like swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach, and taking mid-day naps are always nice, there are other activities to enjoy.

Some of the more unique things to do are take a Sunset/Dolphin Watch boat ride on the bay, climb to the top of the Port Isabel Lighthouse, take a Sandcastle lesson, visit the Whaling Wall, ride horses on the beach, or visit the Sea Turtle Rescue Center. 

Fishing is another great activity and is a big part of what tourists do on South Padre. My husband grew up on the Texas gulf coast, so this brings back many memories for him. We like to go to Pirates Landing Pier late at night and fish under the lights. I enjoy going with my chair and book. Occasionally I look up and see dolphins swimming around the pier, fishing too! 

Eating is also a large part of our vacation. Most of the year we are trying to lose weight and be healthy, but during vacation, all bets are off! There are so many different places to enjoy besides the big touristy restaurants.

The best place to have breakfast is Manuel’s. They have Texas-size homemade breakfast burritos that are, hands down, the best we’ve ever had! Plus you can donate $5 to write on a brick in the restaurant. They donate all the money they collect to local charities. They sell so many bricks they have to repaint and start all over again every few years. Which gives us a good reason to go back!

The last time we went to South Padre, we decided to forgo the condo and stay at the Hilton Garden Inn on the beach.The decor is very tropical and definitely makes you aware that you’re on vacation. It has private beach access and the staff was really nice and went out of their way to accommodate us at every turn. They have an onsite restaurant and bar. The pool and jacuzzi were amazing; they even had a swim up bar. The front desk told us to sit in the jacuzzi on Friday night so we could relax and watch the fireworks; it was beautiful! They also had a live band that played a variety of music on the outside patio at night.

One of my favorite things to do is drive on the beach at night… yes,  in Texas, you can literally drive on the beach. We park and look at all the stars and watch the waves light up with the moonlight. We also love to see a few crabs at night on the beach and laugh at the way they run sideways! 

If you ever get a chance to visit South Padre, don’t pass it up. You will see some beautiful sunsets and make a lifetime’s worth of memories, like we have. I can hardly wait to go back!

Follow Us:
Visit Us
Follow Me


  1. Jay Hall says:

    I never thought of sand castle lessons before. That’s a great idea because my sand castles more closely resemble a beach than a castle.

    1. Laura says:

      Lol mine too!!

  2. We used to live in Corpus Christi and were very surprised by how different the beaches are there compared to where I grew up in Florida. South Padre is a beautiful place to visit!

    1. Laura says:

      Yes each coastline is so different. I grew up in California and was used to cold ocean water where you had to lug everything blocks to the beach after paying for parking..I was amazed you can just drive on the beach up to the water, which is like bath water temperature!

  3. kmf says:

    It’s been years since I’ve been to South Padre. Now that we’re emptynesters thinking we should go again. Great tip to go after Labor Day

    1. Laura says:

      Yes, it just happens to be our anniversary at that time and it works out great! You should definitely plan a trip out there!

  4. Cynthia says:

    South Padre looks like a beautiful place to visit. It was interesting to learn the tip about traveling the week after Labor Day (I’ll have to remember that one!)

    1. Laura says:

      It’s not a big place which works great for our vacation, just lay around and enjoy the beach! And that tip also worked great when we went to Maui this year!

  5. Tricia Snow says:

    South Padre looks like a great place to stay! Thank you for the tips!

    1. Laura says:

      It is, the the Hilton Garden is my new favorite place to stay at!

  6. Vessy Smith says:

    Yaaay! We love South Padre! We were there not too long ago and enjoyed so much many of the same places. Sea Turtle Inc. was so amazing, the sand sculptures around town, the dolphins, Port Isabel Lighthouse…Loved it all! Thanks for bringing back great memories with this post! 🙂

    1. Laura says:

      Your welcome! We missed it too this year because it was our 30th Anniversary. We went to Maui instead, not a bad place to substitute, but looking forward to South Padre next year.

  7. Looks like a fun trip. See I g the dolphin that clear and close is cool.

    1. Laura says:

      Always a fun relaxing time there, and we see dolphins every year there.

  8. Lori Nielsen says:

    Early September is a great time for a vacation! And this looks like so much fun with the dolphins and the sunsets and the beach!

  9. Pam says:

    What a great place to visit – I’ve never been to South Padre, but a quieter time of the year sounds perfect to me too!

  10. Yes, that’s so cool you can drive on the beach!

  11. Eva says:

    Both of the accommodations look cool, and I love the idea of going when the crowds have dispersed. And I could definitely use the sand castle lessons.

    1. Laura says:

      Yes definitely the time of year to go.

  12. Lisa Manderino says:

    The very first time I ever went to the beach was Padre Island. I was 13 and it was one of my most memorable vacations. I loved it! There is so much to do in that area!

    1. Laura says:

      Wow what a great beach to be your first beach! You should plan a memory trip and go back.

  13. So fun! Love the wildlife here. How did you get that photo of the dolphin?!

    1. Laura says:

      We were on the sunset/dolphin boat. They just swam along side of us. Got a lucky shot!

  14. Jordan says:

    The sandcastle lessons sound really fun! Did y’all try that and if so how was it? I’d also love to see so many dolphins!

    1. Laura says:

      We haven’t done the sandcastle lessons yet. Every year we say we will but end up just playing on the beach instead lol! Maybe nest year!

  15. Hera says:

    I love turtles! This looks like a great place to visit! I would totally come here to do all these things

    1. Laura says:

      Its so much fun and relaxing!

  16. Keagan says:

    I love being any where near turtles. Looks so nice there.

    1. Laura says:

      Sea Turtle Inc. does a great job of rescue and rehabilitation of over 100+ turtles a year. They educate visitors on the dangers we create in the ocean for them. They even list dates you can go see when the hatchlings are released and see all the baby turtles crawling back into the ocean.

  17. I love the sandcastle lessons. That would be pretty awesome. By us, they have a sandcastle building contest where professionals come in and built enormous structures. So, I wonder if these professionals give the lessons? That would be pretty cool.

    1. Laura says:

      I know they have those contests there to. It’s a local company that gives the lessons. It just amazes me how the do it!

  18. Missy says:

    Renting a condo by the beach is the way we would go too. Just relaxing to see the waves.

    1. Laura says:

      That’s what we love about staying there. Everything is on our time. Soooo relaxing.

  19. Shirley says:

    Sand castle lessons? How fun! I love lighthouses too and this one looks gorgeous!

    1. Laura says:

      We love lighthouses, especially when they let you climb it!

  20. Michele says:

    We have never been but it looks like so much fun! Especially the sand castle building!

    1. Laura says:

      It is alot of fun! I love looking at the sand castles but I think I’ll stick to quilting lol!

  21. Jenny says:

    We actually just booked the Hilton Garden for January in South Padre for our family vacation. We have 3 boys, all 5 and under. We can’t wait to see the turtles and hopefully some dolphins. Thanks for the great tips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *