We arrived in South Padre Island in June for our summer vacation, little did we know, there was a serious cheerleader camp going on during that week for the state of Texas. High school cheerleaders came by the bus load to our hotel, and the events were held on the beach at the resort next door. Unfortunately, things were a bit crowded and loud.
Be sure and check with your hotel about any special events in the area- just so you are prepared!!
I was shocked to be stopped at a customs road block 100 miles away from Mexico. It was on Hwy 77 in the middle of nowhere. You can't see it on your way into South Padre. But you will be stopped on the way out and get your car searched by a drug dog. And asked questions by a customs border agent.
Above all else, if you have been drinking at the bars DO NOT EVER drive. During the off-season the cops here get very bored and prowl around the island looking for people to bust for any infraction. In particular this one fat cop (ok, most are fat) officer Cantu has had numerous complaints about him using excessive force. Be polite to the cops because they will bust you for even eyeballing them. NEVER get into a situation where you are alone at night as the SPIPD cops will pounce like vultures and demand an ID. On The Island, like many other places these days, you are GUILTY until proven INNOCENT. We live in a proto-police state now so BE CAREFUL.
I travel to SPI nearly every weekend in the summer and have become very familiar with the place. NEVER speed- you WILL get a ticket and always wear your seatbelt. The police are always out in full force and if you are discovered with a glass container on the beach they will not hesitate to fine you the (new) $500 fine. The police are ussually friendly if you talk to them but take those fines seriously. Never drive on the dunes, and if your from upnorth- SAND is NOT MUD....you may think you can drive it, but be careful. It can be up to $200 for a tow. There are never lifegaurds and don't underestimate the current, its unlike any other beach I've been to. I've never been stung but the jelly fish have their seasons- check the warning signs to see if they are out in full force. If your on the southern end- watch your stuff, that is the busiest beach, it has more amenities. Don't be scared away- its a wonderful place- just don't be a dumba**, I've seen alot of idiots get themselves into a spot.
SPI is a major Spring Break venue for many college students from the central U.S. Many major companies (SoBe, Nintendo, etc) set up tents and sponsor dances and concerts. The place gets jammed with people for most of the month of March until the beginning of April and unfortunately almost every year there are several deaths due to overdrinking (jumping off balconies, etc.) Also the people that produce videos like "Girls Gone WIld" are there seeking material for a new release.
So depending on your preferences this is either THE place to be or the place to be avoided at all costs during March!
If you want to drive on the beach at South Padre Island, Access #6, about 2 1/2 miles north of access #5, is free. But it is often in very bad condition, with soft loose sand. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, don't enter through here.
It is better to pay $3 to enter at beach access #5. (Atwood Park) This is located north beyond the built-up area. The access ramp is usually well-packed down here. They usually don't collect money after about 4 pm, and don't check exiting vehicles.
There is a rag-tag towing operation know by the locals as “The Vulture”. He usually lies in wait in the vicinity of access #6, for unsuspecting tourists to get stuck. He fees seem to vary by how desperate a situation the stuck vehicle is in. (If the vehicle is about to be swept away in the surf ; reportedly, $500 for 15 minutes of his work) But this is probably better than losing your vehicle.
It is possible to drive north all the way to the “Mansfield Channel”, about 27 miles north of access #5. For tourists, this is probably only for 4-wheel drive. But for the record, I have often seen 2-wheel drive vehicles here.
Start a couple of hours before low tide, so the tide will be going out during your drive. Drive on the hard-packed sand down by the beach; but stay a ways back from the surf, so you aren’t down in the surf if you get stuck. It is “usually” possible to drive the beach at high tide, but there is often only a narrow strip of loose sand between the dunes and the sea; and even a 4-wheel drive will be challenged.
Lastly - but importantly; carry a jack and some boards or pieces of plywood. The most effective way of getting unstuck seems to be jacking each wheel of the vehicle up, and putting boards under each wheel. Also have a board for the jack. Before leaving home, make sure the jack will raise the vehicle high enough.
Well what can I say this is a town that makes it cash from tourists.
The cops are always out and outnumber the ratio of people to cops.
DON"T SPEED. that will get you a ticket for sure. I mean when the sign says 30 mph they mean 30 (actually 29 and under).
Watch out drinking and walking too they will grad you for Public Intox quick.
Drinking and Driving.... well that is a no no unless you like jail and all that goes with it. I will tell you the jail is small and sucks.
A Flag Advisory System is used on South Padre Island to inform visitors of surf conditions. Signs with flags are posted every few hundred feet along the beach. A red flag, as the one pictured, warns of high surf and dangerous currents. A yellow flag indicates calm to moderate seas. A blue flag warns of the presence of venemous marine life. Common sense should always be used regardless of any or no flag. There are no life guards on the beach so swimming is always at one's own risk.
Walking barefoot on the beach is great fun, but be careful where you step. We waded for miles along the shore without an unpleasant incident, however we did see several Portuguese man-of-war,and a few jellyfish. The tennacles of these can inflict a painful sting, even after the animal is dead - so look but don't touch. On the lesser patrolled north end of the island we also saw broken beer bottles in the sand, although the fine for being caught with glass conatiners on the beach is $200.
Don't drive across the dunes at south padre it is illegal, yet there are beach points were you can drive across. You will need a 4 wheel drive if you are going to travel on the sand. It may look all pack along the waters edge be people always think that and they find just a little bit of loose sand and get stuck, i recomend that you stay close to the water and trave in a group or 2 incase one vehile get stuck or anything else, there arn't many people way out at the end of the island, happy travelin
Just use your common since when you’re here, especially in Mexico. Never go on your own and if you’re in a bar and you put your drink down, get another one. Always use the buddy system whether you’re just going to the bar or the bathroom. If you’re in a big group of people who have been drinking it’s easy to leave a bar or club not knowing your leaving w/ someone still inside (I've done it). Watch what you drink! If you set your drink down don’t pick it up. Get another drink, especially the ladies! Don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know, no matter how nice you think they’re being. Not too often, but sometimes creep men who are desperate will slip pills in your drink. They will make you act and feel like you just downed 20 tequila shots (maybe you just did) and you will have no control over what is going on. Not to scare anybody, but just avoid it from happening by being smart. There are a lot of beggars on the street and it is quite sad, but just tell them no firmly and they'll leave you alone. I wouldn't drive into Mexico because it's crazy and I’m, not even sure where you would park. Also, don’t drink Mexico’s water! If the brown hue didn’t give you a clue the after effects will!!