You probably won't find a better-quality beach with the number of amenities here anywhere else in Texas. Sometimes there is seaweed washed up on the shore; they do a good job of cleaning it up as quickly as possible with tractors. This means that if you want to find shells, you must go very early in the morning! It's easy to spend a whole day just walking the beach, seeing the hotels as you go by them, observing the mix of people who gather here.
This is usefull when driving in southern texas. If a person is wanting to pass you, you can stay at the same speed you are going but, you pull into the sholder of the lane, so the car can pass even if there is another car coming the other direction. You will she exactly what i am talking about when you are down in this area.
It's a 30-minute drive from SPI (towards Brownsville) and it's a blast. You park on USA's side and walk over to Mexico after paying a small crossing fee. Parking isn’t a problem, but be careful where you park. One year we decided to park in the lot of a closed down hardware store, and stumbling back to our cars at 5AM we realized we had all been towed (8 cars!). Don’t be scared about going into Mexico because 500 other people drove over from the island same as you and are ready to have a good time. For about 2 blocks the streets are lined w/ bars on both sides. The majority of the bars are a flat rate for all you can drink.
I highly recommend taking a taxi. It’s about $10 – 20 road trip per person and it’s a lot better then having a designated driver or just taking a risk. There are cops everywhere and it’s a long stretch of dark road, especially when all your friends are passed out in the back while your driving. If you risk it, please be careful!! You need to take some ID, a passport to cross is not necessary.
Out of the Ordinary Seafood
This restaurant sits out on the end of a pier in the Laguna Madre. It has a lively bar and smallish restaurant area. There is usually some live entertainment on weekend evenings.
UPDATE: The restaurant has changed ownership and is now called Pier 19. I haven't tried it and can't comment on the current menu. There are several items on the menu above and beyond the normal seafood offered by most restaurants.
Family Vacations on South Padre Island
"Family Vacations on SPI with Young Children"
South Padre Island is a wonderful place to spend spring break with young children, so long as you keep two things in mind: (1) avoid "Texas Week," which is generally in early March, and (2) find accommodations that do not allow "spring breakers"
We have found wonderful beachfront condo accommodations that provide privacy and a family-friendly environment at the website Vacation Rentals By Owner, or www.vrbo.com.
Hotel rooms are also abundant, but with children, it is so nice to have access to kitchen facilities to store drinks, whip up PBJ sandwich after coming in from the beach, and save money by eating at "home" during your vacation.
"Eating Out on SPI"
fter spending three spring breaks in SPI with our two sons, ages five and eight, we have learned that eating in the condo is a much better alternative than eating out in SPI's generally crowded and overpriced establishments.
SPI's restaurants tend to be of the 1970s and 80s seafood house vintage replete with heavy, dark wood, nautical theme decor, and lots of deep fried seafood offerings.
We have found that the food at SPI is pretty mediocre. Anyone who is used to suburban upscale chain establishments or any ethnic fusion cuisines will find the food at most SPI restaurants to be bland and predictable. Iceberg lettuce salads with pale red hothouse tomatoes served up in those little wooden bowls popular back in the 70s are the only vegetable that is not fried that you are likely to see at any of these places, unless you count coleslaw. Blech.
After two years of eating out at local establishments several nights during our first two trips to SPI, I finally realized that I would be much better off shopping at the HEB over in Port Isabel and cooking for our family in the condo.
Prices at the HEB are no higher than you will find in any other Texas HEB or Kroger or Safeway across the country. Produce is especially reasonable and we were suprised by the wide selection of reasonably priced wines available right in the grocery store. For those who are looking to save even more money, a Walmart SuperCenter is located just down the highway from the HEB.
A note on Pirate's Landing: Our kids went nuts for this restaurant. We were lured in by the pirate statues who surround the restaurant -- especially by the one who appears to be "walking the plank" from the restaurant's roof right into the harbor. However, be forewarned that the food is pretty bad. Greasy, bland, and predictable. The kids did love the popcorn shrimp and french fries served up in little paper boats, however.
My advice: Take your kids here for lunch when prices are cheaper and order something inexpensive.
A note on Cuevas Seafood: While not a sitdown restaurant, this place is AMAZING. It is a seafood/bait shop located on the south side of the main drag in Port Isabel. The ceviche is the best that I've ever had. They also make their own cocktail sauce which is out of this world, and the shrimp are enormous and reasonably priced. Stop by here and pick up some shrimp and sauce to eat on the deck of your condo -- Maybe do this every day of your vacation :). You won't be disappointed.