South Padre Island isn’t just the Spring Break capital of Texas -- it’s got enough going on to rival the rest of the country’s most popular spots for the madness of March. Here’s the scene: Thirty-four miles of white sand, emerald water alive with dolphins, and a party energy made electric by the over 300,000 co-eds who flock there every spring. And, despite the seemingly non-stop party atmosphere, you can also find all types of waters ports and a serene natural environment begging to be explored via Jeep, scooter, or… golf cart? We’ve put together a list of everything that you need to know to get the most action out of your 2017 Spring Break in Texas’ island paradise, South Padre Island.
One of the biggest Spring Break beach parties in Texas, UME 2017 is a 3-day long, EDM festival that will go down at Clayton’s on the Beach this year. Be sure to put your hands in the air for headlining DJs Marshmello, Tiësto, and Zedd. Get all the deets here.
Clayton’s is the biggest beach bar in Texas, and the place to be for huge, FREE day parties hosted by MTV personality Nick Brown. When the sun sets, headliners like Lil Wayne, Rae Sremmurd, Lil Yachty, and Bright Lights will take the stage at Clayton’s, you’ll need tickets for these.
This stretch of sand is the most popular and most accessible place to party for a bunch of reasons: 1. It’s BYOB 2. For $80 you can get the PadreManiac VIP Club Card which guarantees entry to their beach party every day, the Beach Bash Music Fest, and other events (think neon pool parties) at surrounding clubs!
In the spirit of all things Spring Break, Louie’s is hosting day parties, night parties, and (you guessed it) all the EDM your brain can handle. Your MC for the week will be MTV alum Eric “Big Easy” Banks, who you may remember from Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat.
Catch a wave
Eh Brah SUP offers stand up paddleboarding lessons for beginners, tours, or rentals for the experienced paddleboarder. Depending on your skill level, choose the calm waters of the Laguna Madre or the choppier waves of the Gulf of Mexico.
Cruise the island in a golf cart
It sounds dorky, but trust us... you won’t want to hand over the wheel. Cruise the length of the island (in style) in a covered golf cart while stopping for beach breaks! Hit up these guys.
Hit up the adult park
Gravity Park is an amusement complex aimed at adults -- for thrill seekers, it’s got a full-on climbing wall, and a 150-foot tall reverse bungee (the tallest in Texas).
Watch the sunset
Grab a table at one of the many shoreside restaurants and experience the majestic, golden sunsets Texas is famous for. The Palms Resort & Cafe on the Beach, Palm Street Pier Bar & Grill, Laguna Bob’s, and The Painted Marlin Grille are among the island’s top picks for great food and drinks with a primo view.
Ocean eco tour
Go on a one-and-a-half hour eco-cruise with an informed crew that literally brings the ocean to your feet. The guys running the show will bring up sea-life onto the boat with explanations of all the caught (and safely returned) species. Pro tip: Take the evening tour for a bonus sunset on the water! Get your ticket here.
Get a bird’s-eye view of the island while you are being towed, by a boat, 600 feet above the bay. Book with these folks. (They also offer everything you could ever want to do on the water, from snorkeling to big-fish fishing to late-night fireworks cruises.) Be prepared to get a frantic text from mom when you post the GoPro video of your legs dangling over the Laguna Madre Bay.
Meet wild dolphins
At South Padre Island Dolphin Research & Sea Life Nature Center, meet multiple dolphin pods (aka groups) up close while learning everything you need to know about their species. The Captain will also take you on a small boat to see the wild dolphins in their native environment. Claim your spot ASAP here. Or here. Celebrate your new friendship with a tribal dolphin ankle tattoo, you totally won’t regret it in 10 years!
If you grew up in Texas, you have most likely spent a summer day at one of the handful of Schlitterbahn Waterparks. Schlitterbahn South Padre Island, however, is a 25-acre paradise right on the beach that’s tailor-made for spring breakers. Spend the day with thrilling rides like Blackbeard’s Twister and Boogie Bahn or float one of the lazy rivers. Check out all the attractions and get tickets here!
This is one of the best spots to grab a burger, fried shrimp, or ceviche; Wanna-Wanna has really good food, non-tourist prices, and a wide variety of drinks. The salty breeze and beach view makes their seafood taste that much fresher.
Cook your catch
There are lots of great spots to fish (the jetties being the most popular), but the most rewarding part is actually enjoying your catch for dinner. If you can’t grill at your rental, most restaurants on the island are happy to cook it for you -- hit up Blackbeard’s Restaurant, Cap’n Roy’s, and Pier 19 for the best fish-to-table friendliness.
The lighter side of PSI
If you need a break from fried/heavy food, hit up Ceviche Ceviche for light, lime-marinated ceviche teeming with bright, fresh flavor. Try the Mahi Mahi and shrimp ceviche with mango, jicama, cucumber, and avocado. Mmmmm.
Obey your hunger
You’ll work up an appetite hanging out in the sun all day; luckily, Louie’s Backyard has got you covered. They offer an insane all-you-can-eat prime rib and seafood buffet, and daily specials like Wild Wednesdays with 25-cent wings!
Take a safe, guided tour along the length of the island on a waverunner. Hang with dolphins at Dolphin Cove, then speed past the jetties and the ship channel to Port Isabel and back around.
Ride horses under moonlight
Oooooh! Take a moonlit ride along the beach and through the sand dunes on horseback. This is definitely a bucket list activity that you should jump on... well, mount, immediately. Reserve your saddle here.
See the largest outdoor sandcastle in the U.S. and build one of your own
There’s nothing corny about watching fireworks with someone special. Every Friday at 9:15pm a barge sets off a huge firework display from the middle of the bay. It’s visible from all parts of the island, but is especially spectacular when viewed from a boat on the bay.
Take the bus
Don’t waste any time getting lost, no matter where you’re trying to go. Take advantage of the FREE Island Metro shuttle (formerly known as The Wave) that gets you anywhere on the island, even across the water over to Port Isabel. Did we mention it’s free? Schedule and map here.
Anastacia Uriegas is a Texas native whose fondest memories of South Padre Island were made in the era when the boy group Color Me Badd were still “a thing.” Follow the rest of her #oldaf babble here.