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1. South Padre Island
Every year around Spring Break, thousands of college students descend on South Padre Island, a barrier island in South Texas. But it's not just undergraduates who love this skinny strip of land at the very bottom of the state. Families, couples, retirees and recreation enthusiasts of all types and ages flock to South Padre Island to settle into the soft, white sands and to dip their toes in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
With miles of public beaches, this island is a beloved vacation spot, and it has appeared on TripAdvisor's list of top 25 beaches in the United States. Travel Channel, too, praised this beach, naming it a top family beach destination.Activities
Water sports are popular on South Padre Island, and from the shore, you'll spot beachgoers enjoying the ocean waves while kite-boarding, water-skiing and jet-skiing. Love to dive or snorkel? Book an excursion on a chartered boat to get you to the coveted, clear-water spots.
Many other boat tours are offered that can get you closer to area wildlife, but if you want to see sea turtles, the best place to go is Sea Turtle, Inc., a rescue and rehab center rated in the top five attractions in South Padre Island by TripAdvisor reviewers. Birders will be thrilled with the abundant avian life on the island; more than 300 species pass through here during various times of the year.
When it's time to eat, head to the streets crisscrossing the sliver of land between the gulf and the bay. Most are casual, beach-themed eateries that serve up seafood or classic American fare like burgers and sandwiches.Tips
Looking to avoid the Spring Break crowds? Plan to go after March, when the town returns to its normal rhythm.
Though there are plenty of hotels and beachfront accommodations to choose from, you also have the option of camping at select sites on South Padre Island.
South Padre Island at a glance
City: South Padre Island
Country or State: Texas
Access: By car or WAVE shuttle service
Best time to visit: Fall - fewer crowds, lower rates
High Season: March to August
Low Season: September to February
- Chairs and umbrellas for rent
- Restaurants and bars along Padre Blvd
- Lifeguards on duty
- Public restrooms
- White sand
- Spring Break, Texas International Fishing Tournament