South Padre Island is the perfect location for a Texas honeymoon. The tiny island is located at Texas’s southern tip, bordered by the Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Only 34 miles long and half a mile wide, it’s Texas’ backyard treasure, full of 5,000 friendly locals and hosting one million annual visitors. Boasting 253 days of sunshine a year, average winter temperatures of 65 degrees and an average summer temperature of 82 degrees, the year- long opportunities for fun are many. Known for history-making spring breaks, it certainly is a hot spot for romantic adult fun.
Crossing over the two-and-a-half mile bridge to the island, forget your wedding day worries. (It’s a good idea to shed your tie too as they’re illegal on the island, deemed “detrimental to the island’s welfare”.) Ripping off ties and sloughing off the weight of impossible to-do lists leaves you with the freedom to adopt the life of the islander – beautiful, tangible and light.
When I awoke each morning at the Suites at Sunchase I went straight to the window to watch the sun cast diamonds on the majestic blue water. This four-story boutique resort has an outdoor heated pool and spa, free high-speed wireless Internet, meeting and banquet space, and a flat-screen, high-definition LCD television in every room. This and several other properties on the Boulevard successfully balance placing guests amidst the action while maintaining the peace of a home-away-from- home.
The Beach – Something for Everyone
Thrill-seeking beach goers include horseback riders galloping along the shore,surfers,kite boarders, windsurfers, and stand up paddleboarders gliding in and out of the iridescent waves. First-timers in these sports are welcome and a host of instructional schools are available. The hilarious captain and crew of the Xcape from the Breakaway Cruises fleet took me for a breathtaking parasail over the bay. From the air I saw dolphins dancing alongside the boat, seeming to guide us through the water.
For the thrill of a lifetime, take a dive with the award-winning tandem instructors at Skydive South Padre Island for a view from a perspective you’ll never forget. Experience the ultimate adrenaline rush when you exit the airplane from 12,000 feet and glance out towards the horizon, catching a glimpse of the curve of the earth during one full minute of free fall, followed by a peaceful five to seven minute canopy descent. With thousands of jumps under their belts in drop zones all over the world, these tandem instructors are not only the best in the business, they’re the most fun! Safety is top priority for these professionals, who make jumpers feel secure enough to soak in the adventure to the highest degree of intensity. Suggestion from a veteran: leave your shoes in the van! You’ll never experience a sensation like that of your bare feet gliding through the soft sand as you come in for landing.
If you are looking for a more mellow way to take in the sand and surf, there’s a world of options that are boatloads of fun, like renting a dual or quad line stunt kite. Replace your workout music mix with the sounds of nature by talking a walk or a jog along the shoreline. Make sure to block off time at the beach for just … being – soaking up the sun’s rays with a good book and a refreshing beverage. Take breaks between chapters to bodysurf and frolic in the waves, letting them engulf you and pull you into themselves, simultaneously drawing you back into your own natural essence.
A beach “must-do” for any new couple is taking a Sand Castle building lesson with Sand Castle Master Andy Hancock. Andy and his talented protégés assure that no artistic ability is required to have a great lesson; “you only need to be able to have fun!” He’ll show you how to stack wet sand, carve sharp details and create castles of beauty and quality. Sifting through the sand was cathartic and fun, and the castle we finished during my lesson was the most sophisticated and beautiful castle I’d ever built!
Breaking Away from the Beach
Ecotourists can walk through the wetlands of the Laguna Madre Bay. Fifteen hundred feet of boardwalk allows access to this sacred ground by foot and informative signs along the way teach visitors about birds found in the area. Dolphin Watch Eco-Tours depart at several different times throughout the day, providing the opportunity to view and learn about the animals in a way that’s not harmful to them. One very endearing eco-friendly opportunity the island offers is visiting Sea Turtle Inc., headquarters for rescue and release of Sea turtles, assisting with conservation efforts for marine species, and educating the public about what they can do to help in these efforts. You’ll meet Allison, a world famous Atlantic Green, who wears a jacket with a long rudder to help her swim, developed especially for her after a predator attack left her with only one flipper, and Gerry, also an Atlantic Green, who’s been instrumental in research and education since his rescue after a hurricane in the 1980s (Gerry has met Johnny Carson and David Letterman.)
Dining and Nightlife
The island has plenty of wonderful places to wet your appetite. Start your day enjoying migas and mimosas at the Café on the Beach at the Palms Resort, catching the breeze that wafts through the deck overlooking the seashore. Visit the Sea Ranch for dinner to taste for yourself the wild-caught seafood and Angus beef steak that everyone’s been talking about for the past 35 years. To redefine the word “atmosphere,” take a dinner cruise on the Southern Wave and enjoy shrimp fajitas and fresh fruit prepared on board as you sail into the sunset. For some fun when the sun goes down check out a live show at the famed Wanna Wanna Beach Bar & Grill. Louie’s Backyard is another venue that’s got it all: a two-story sports bar, Wi-Fi, and a dance floor on the open deck upstairs. Reunite with your new skydiving friends at Tom and Jerry’s Beach Club Bar & Grill where they’ll play your jump video on the big screen and make you feel like an ESPN pro.
Locals describe South Padre Island as a place you can “Be yourself … in a place you really want to be.” Dig your toes into the sand and don’t worry about writing your thank you notes.
by Sarah VanHoose
Photography by SVH