Spring breakers have been invading South Padre, a small island along the Texas gulf coast, with their beer-guzzling antics for years. But families, too, make good use of the island’s beaches and the Schlitterbahn Water Park. Really, though, most vacationers in the laid-back resort town are just looking for some R&R and an icy margarita. In our mini-guide below, we'll help you avoid the spring break din (think 50,000-watt sound systems) in favor of a quieter, crowd-free slice of island life.
Hike the Laguna Madre Nature Trail: The Laguna Madre Trail, open twenty-four hours and free to enter, carves through four acres of lush marshland. This quiet nature spot, which is situated away from the crowded beaches, is particularly popular among bird watchers, who come to see the more than 300 species of birds that call the island home. You’re almost guaranteed to spot pink flamingos, blue herons, and spoonbills of all sorts. A word of caution, however: the sign warning against alligators is no joke.
See a Stunning Sand Castle, or Build One Yourself: Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga has spent the past year covering the island in sandcastles, and you're invited invited to find each of them along the South Padre Island Sand Castle Trail. Start on Padre Boulevard at the southern end of Andy Bowie County Park, and walk south. If, after the tour, you’re itching to hit the beach and practice, no worries, Sandy Feet offers lessons.
Hit the Beach, of Course: Let’s be real. Most people go to South Padre Island to spend a day (or six) simply lounging in the white sand. As you may expect, most of the island’s beaches are crowded with sunbathing tourists, and the occasional bald man with a metal detector. For smaller crowds, avoid spring-break staples like Coca Cola Beach — so famous it’s branded — and head to the northern part of the island. Here, you can check out the beach at Andy Bowie Park ($10 fee), where you'll find the island’s best burger at Woody’s Beach Shack. If you happen to be in the touristy sector of the island, then — and let’s keep this on the down-low — there are lots of quiet, isolated beaches along Gulf Boulevard. Just remember to keep it down while you visit. These isoalted beaches are all about relaxation.