The sound of seagulls and waves crashing is music to the ears when down on South Padre Island, Texas. On my recent trip to the island, I went to hear the music of nature since I can no longer hear my dad’s beautiful Jerry-Vale-like singing voice since his passing a few months ago. While I was visiting him on this breathtaking beach–his ashes were sprinkled in the water– I decided to put together a visitor’s guide.
Driving five and a half hours is not for everyone, but flying is a feasible option. Book your flight a month or two in advance through Southwest Airlines to get the best possible rate. If you book in advance sometimes you can get a round trip fare for about $150. Watch your local station and when you see the advertisement for $69 each way that’s the time to book it! You can get a non-stop flight from Austin to Harlingen and be in Harlingen in about 45 minutes. Then you can pay extra for the airport shuttle to drive you to the beach, or do like I did and have a friend pick you up and be on the isla in 30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic.
WHERE TO STAY
The Inn at South Padre offers tropical landscaping elegance around the pool area with its lush palm trees swaying, a daily breakfast, and is in walking distance to two great bars and restaurants. They also offer a movie night at the pool. It is conveniently located close to shops and restaurants too numerous to mention. It is a local landmark for its iconic flowing fountain outside. Room rates drop after the 15th of August so why not get your beach on now that the kiddos are all back in school. This cozy hotel caters to families and pets, so don’t worry about finding a pet sitter.
At the Inn, you can bask in the beautiful view of the sun setting over the bay every evening at either of the two bars and restaurants only a short walk across the parking lot. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the hospitable manager, Pam Romer. The lobby had a fresh clean scent as I walked in–that is always a good sign. I was shown where the daily breakfast feast would be served. Through the glass doors, I could see the come-hither look of the palms swaying over the inviting pool area.
Inside my hotel room, I showered with the best-smelling peppermint soap that is for sale in the lobby. My room was spacious and offered a mini kitchen with a refrigerator and microwave. The room also featured two beds for my company. Just out of my door, ice and snack machines were available down the hall. This hotel really caters to service. Each morning, I was able to get an early wake-up call so as not to miss their breakfast in the lobby area. Anything I needed was only a phone call away down to the office. This hotel is run by a seasoned manager with years of experience. For families and pets, this hotel does a great job of making you feel right at home.
WHERE TO EAT
Out the back door of the Inn you can find a beach bar/restaurant called Lobo Del Mar. This tropical restaurant reminded me of the old show Gilligan’s Island with its tropical decor of palm leaves and flowers painted on the building. This haven is on the bay where fireworks go off nightly for about an hour. The place is known for live music and entertainment and large portions of food, as well as excellent customer service. This restaurant is owned by a lovely family that is multi-talented and well-traveled. They kindly shared a fascinating family book from which I learned about their interesting adventures on the sea and around the globe. Ask about the book when you’re there as it’s available for purchase. You will want to read it!
For lunch, I ordered a grilled piece of chicken with grilled vegetables and rice. I also had a healthy salad with bits of basil. It was a very large portion. It was not like your typical beach bar food for it was not only healthy but delicious. The next day, I came back for breakfast and happy hour. I had a yummy omelet and toast, and even a coffee and Corona Light drink! This beach gem offered breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dancing. What more could you ask for? And it was just a short stroll across the parking lot. Even though I was traveling alone it never felt like it in the company of this kind family. They welcomed me with open arms and their son was kind enough to even give me a tour of the island. It was as if they rolled out a beach blanket for me that was my red carpet. I will be back on my next beach trip for sure!
Another restaurant I highly recommend is upstairs at Isla Grand Beach Resort. The hotel is lovely with its tropical decor everywhere and gorgeous pool area that looks right out on the beach. For dinner one evening I decided to try their weekly Italian feast. The restaurant was decorated with traditional red and white checkered tablecloths and dimly lit green candles. The chef was preparing hot pasta dishes made to order. I dined on their spaghetti and meatball dish. Coming from an Italian family, I must say it was right on target for taste. The buffet offered all kinds of pasta dishes with various kinds of meat. Hot vegetables and refreshing cold salads were also on the buffet. Hot fresh garlic bread was brought to my table with fresh creamy butter. The lasagna was also delicious. The service is outstanding. Dinner was $17.95 for the Thursday night buffet, and it was well worth it! A different buffet is offered nightly. The bar and lounge area at the hotel also offers drinks and dancing.
WHERE TO PLAY
For art lovers, head to the Laguna Madre Art Gallery and view all the original paintings and crafts for sale. For all book lovers, South Padre Island has a wonderful bookstore called Paragraphs. If you need a break from the sand, you should check out this bookstore for all the latest reads.