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21 Best Things to Do on South Padre Island

As the only tropical island in Texas, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of fun things to do on South Padre Island!

South Padre Island is popular with all kinds of Texas travelers, from college students on spring break to young families looking to get away from the city to couples looking for a bit of romance.

If you’re planning a Texas beach getaway soon, here’s everything you need to know about what to do on South Padre Island!

Colorful statute of a sea turtle near the SPI Convention Center. Snapping photos nearby is one of the best things to do on South Padre Island TX

The Best Things to Do on South Padre Island

Hit the beach!

Of course, this is the number one South Padre Island attraction and the biggest reason that the island is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Texas: South Padre boasts more than 30 miles of sandy beaches, lined with hotels and restaurants and dotted with 28 public access points.

Whether you’re looking to be in the center of the action or to find a quiet stretch of sand far away from the crowds, the beach at South Padre has you covered.

Kate Storm on the beach in South Padre Island Texas holding her dog Ranger

Stroll along the Laguna Madre Nature Trail at sunset.

Located on the bay side of the island, next door to the convention center sits the charming Laguna Madre Nature Trail.

This short stretch of boardwalk trails is a great place to spot an enormous variety of wild birds, as well as fish on the bay or simply enjoy the sunset views.

It’s one of the more peaceful corners of the island and definitely belongs on any list of the best things to do in South Padre.

Marsh as seen from the Laguna Madre Nature Trail near sunset, one of the best places to visit on South Padre Island Texas

Visit Sea Turtle, Inc.

Founded in 1977, Sea Turtle, Inc. is well-known across the island as an organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles, as well as the general conservation of the species.

Visiting the facility is a special experience, and definitely worth taking part in!

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Snap photos at the SPI Convention Center.

A convention center may be a strange place to recommend someone visit on vacation, but South Padre Island’s is different: the convention center is covered in absolutely beautiful murals, and they are definitely worth visiting.

Plus, since South Padre Island is small and located right next door to the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, it’s very easy to access!

Mural of two orcas at the south padre island convention center, one of the best photography locations in south padre island

Cruise the island in a golf cart.

Not staying right on the ocean and don’t want to pull your car out for every trip to the beach?

No problem: renting a golf cart to explore for a day (or longer) is one of the most popular ways to get around South Padre Island.

Go horseback riding on the beach.

Enjoying the beauty of the island’s beach from horseback is, without a doubt, one of the best things to do on South Padre Island and an unforgettable experience!

Kate Storm riding a chestnut horse on the beach in South Padre Island Texas

Feel like a kid again at Gravity Park.

Featuring a Ferris wheel, go-karts, mini-golf, arcade games, and more, Gravity Park is a slice of classic Americana and a fantastic place to take the kids (or just yourself!) when visiting South Padre Island.

Have dinner on the water.

Eating locally-caught fish while listening to the lapping of the water under the dock and the sunset over the lagoon: without a doubt, this is one of the best things to do in South Padre Island!

Famous Pier 19 is the most popular restaurant to dine on the water on the island, and it’s worth experiencing during your trip.

Hop over to Port Isabel.

Just over the causeway from South Padre Island sits the charming small town of Port Isabel, complete with its adorable 19th-century lighthouse–consider climbing to the top (it’s not tall as far as lighthouses go) for a great view of the lagoon.

White Port Isabel lighthouse at the top of a small hill covered in a green lawn, one of the best things to do in port isabel texas

Get a bird’s eye view of the island on a parasailing tour.

Arguably the best way to appreciate just how long and beautiful South Padre’s beach is is to admire it from above.

A parasailing tour is a perfect way to see the island from a unique angle–be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins while you’re up there.

… or by going skydiving!

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Eat all the fried fish you can handle.

South Padre Island is known for its delicious fried fish, served fresh from the Gulf of Mexico.

Some restaurants will even cook your own catch for you–fish doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Basket of fried fish with a basket of french fries next to it. eating fried fish belongs on your list of what to do on south padre island texas

Go fishing from the beach or pier.

Fishing is one of the most popular things to do in South Padre, and nowhere is it simpler than at the Pirate’s Landing Fishing Pier, which is the longest fishing pier in Texas!

You can find more details on places to fish from the shore on South Padre here.

Two fishing rods set up on the South Padre beach

… or on a deep-sea fishing charter.

Prefer to head out to the open sea (well, gulf) rather than fish from the shore?

Fishing charters are readily available in South Padre!

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Snap photos at the South Padre Island welcome sign.

As soon as you cross over the causeway to the island, you’ll be greeted by this colorful welcome sign.

There’s an easily accessible pull-off between two sections of the median and a paved path that will lead you directly to the front of the sign. 

This is an easy place to stop for photos to commemorate the start of your South Padre vacation!

South Padre Island welcome sign near sunset, one of the most instagrammable places on south padre island

Go surfing!

South Padre Island is home to the best surfing in Texas, with fun breaks to experience year-round.

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Head out on a dolphin-watching tour.

One of the most fun things to do on South Padre Island is to hit the water on a dolphin watching tour to admire these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

Several pods of dolphins call the water around South Padre home year-round, and a dolphin-watching tour is a perfect way to try to catch a glimpse of them.

3 wild dolphins as seen from a boat in texas

Catch the fireworks on summer weekend nights.

On South Padre Island, fireworks aren’t just for holidays: on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, you can catch a firework show at Clayton’s, the self-declared biggest beach bar in Texas.

Kayak or SUP on the lagoon.

The water is much calmer on the Laguna Madre Lagoon than it is in the Gulf of Mexico, making this side of the island a fantastic place to go kayaking or to give SUP a try! 

Front of a yellow kayak on the lagoon madre lagoon on south padre things to do

Take sandcastle building lessons.

Get a whole new perspective on a childhood favorite by adding a sandcastle-building lesson to your plans for what to do on South Padre Island.

The engineering and craftsmanship that goes into a detailed sandcastle is incredibly fun to experience at any age. Plus, there’s a very good chance that by the end of the lesson you’ll have made your personal best sandcastle of all time!

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Wake up early to watch the sunrise on the beach.

The sunrises over the beach on South Padre Island are absolutely beautiful, and worth the early-morning alarm clock on vacation (once, anyway).

Sunrise over the beach in South Padre Island Texas, one of the best Texas romantic getaways

Where to Stay on South Padre Island

South Padre is an extremely thin barrier island, and for that reason, there’s no such thing as a place to stay that’s far from the beach!

Most hotels are right on the Gulf of Mexico, with a smaller number on the lagoon. 

There are some hotels and especially condos for rent that are not directly on the water, however, they’re no more than a short walk or very quick drive away from sticking your toes in the sand!

Kate Storm Jeremy Storm and puppy Ranger taking a selfie on the beach in South Padre Texas

The Hilton Garden Inn is the best-rated beachfront hotel on South Padre Island, featuring excellent reviews, a beautiful pool, and direct access to a quieter part of the beach–this is one of the last hotels you’ll reach when driving onto the island, which is perfect for travelers looking to have a bit more space to spread out on the beach.

The hotel is also practically right across the street from Sea Turtle, Inc. and from the Laguna Madre Nature trail, making those sights easy to access (though honestly, nothing is ever hard to access on South Padre).

Check rates & book your stay at the Hilton Garden Inn!

View of the pool at the Hilton Garden Inn in South Padre Island from above

Prefer to stick to a bit more of a budget? The Best Western Beachside Inn gets great reviews, and while it isn’t a beachfront property, it’s only a 5-minute walk away.

Check rates & book your stay at the Best Western Beachside Inn!

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The Best Time to Visit South Padre Island

South Padre Island’s tropical climate makes it a year-round destination, with the exception of during the occasional hurricane.

The summers are uncomfortably humid, but if you’re planning to stick near the water, it’s definitely manageable.

January is the coldest month of the year, with average temperatures reaching a high of 69°. August is the hottest month of the year, with average high temperatures of 90°.

Unless you hope to join in the raucous party with thousands of college students enjoying Spring Break, it’s best to avoid visiting South Padre Island in March.

Regardless of when you visit, though, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do on South Padre Island!

4 photos from south padre island, a turtle statue, 4 chairs on the beach, the laguna madre trail, and a souvenir shop. black and red text on a white background reads "21 fun things to do south padre island tx"

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