Heading to the beach for a much-needed getaway? If the best beach in Texas, South Padre Island, is on the plan, then you’ll definitely want to go through a list of all the great things you can do on a budget — or for free!
Famous for 34 miles of beautiful white sand and clear emerald water, South Padre’s calm weather and warm water are ready to welcome you. From spending the day at the beach to walking the Laguna Madre Trail, South Padre has it all. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best things to do on South Padre (all under $10!).
You can’t really go wrong with picking one of 24 free beach access points when it comes to planning your day with your toes in the sand. There’s so many activities you can do while visiting the beach, you won’t even know where to start. Bring along your furry friend (as long as they are leashed) and let them enjoy the sand between their toes. Or spend the day making sand castles and kite flying, or just relaxing and soaking up the warm SPI sunshine.
Dolphin Watch Tour
One thing you have to do when visiting South Padre Island is a dolphin watch tour. South Padre is a year-round home to several large pods of dolphins and experiencing this tour is a delight. See what it’s like to meet bottlenose dolphins in the wild and take part in the unique bond they inspire in us.
Sea Turtle, Inc.
Who doesn’t want to see sea turtles, ever? Especially when you get to see them at Sea Turtle, Inc.! Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release sea turtles back into their natural habitat. They offer affordable offseason admission rates as well as summer admission rates.
Laguna Madre Trail
The Laguna Madre Trail is a 1,500-foot boardwalk that crosses 4 acres of marshland where bird watchers can spot many coastal and migratory birds. If you’re not into bird-watching, this is still a must see for your trip. Bring the whole family and enjoy the peace and tranquillity that this gem has to offer.
South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary
The SPI Birding, Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary offers visitors more than just bird watching. Meet some alligators, walk their longer than 3,000-foot boardwalk, and enjoy bird watching year-round. The price of admission is under $10 and they also offer an annual pass option.
After a day of lounging on the beach, fishing or bird watching, you can enjoy a beautiful sunset at one of our bayside or beachfront bars. You can pretty much wander into any restaurant and/or bar in the entertainment district and expect to enjoy anything from jazz cello to Tejano to rock ’n’ roll. There are local artists to bands visiting from all around the world, guaranteeing you’ll find something to tap your toe to or sing along with your friends.
If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, Gravity Park is the perfect place for you! Offering Go-Karts, food trucks, mini golf, a Ferris wheel, a climbing wall and “a trampoline thing,” this is an affordable option to incorporate some fun into your visit.
South Padre Island is home to a collection of castles called the Sandcastle Trail. Around 30 sand sculptures are located throughout the island, sculpted by professional sand artists — some local, some from as far away as Singapore! Many of these sculptures are traditional castles, while others are themed for the businesses and organizations where they are located. They are all free to view.
NEW- South Padre Island Sea Turtle Art Trail
New this year is a set of seven turtles along the Sea Turtle Art Trail. All have been painted or carved by local artists and make the perfect backdrop for photos. Thanks in no small part to the work of Sea Turtle, Inc.’s founder, Ila Fox Loetscher, South Padre Island is renowned for being one of the world’s foremost spots for the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles, including the endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. The City of South Padre Island and the South Padre Convention and Visitors Bureau are sponsoring the Sea Turtle Art Trail as an ideal photo backdrop on an island that celebrates, rescues and works together to protect sea turtles. All turtles on the trail are arranged for ease of both social distancing and selfies.
Wyland’s Whaling Wall
The Whaling Wall is part of artist Wyland’s contribution to the walls around the country, and it is a must-see when you visit South Padre Island! It is featured at the South Padre Island Convention Center right when you pull up to the parking lot and is a free experience. Its purpose is to raise awareness to the dangers that these marine mammals face. There is also one of the turtles on the turtle trail there, so it is a great place to start exploring the Sand Castle and Turtle Trails.