South Padre Island… a Vacation for Mature Adults

If you haven’t been to South Padre Island since Spring Break 1987, it’s time to see what you’ve been missing. Really, there’s no excuse not to spend a long weekend at this Texas island gem, especially when Southwest Airlines offers several flights a day into Harlingen, and Continental offers a few into Brownsville.
If you’re having bad flashbacks to the keg-dive you did when you went for Spring Break 1987, while the boom box (Hey Mom, what’s a boom box?) was turned on full-stop to the Beastie Boys, “You’ve Gotta Fight for your Right To Party,” and you ended up:
1. Getting sand in your bathing suit that you carried with you all the way to Matamoros that night, because you actually…crossed the border in your bathing suit. And then lost your driver’s license in the process of buying the Chicklet gum from the little kid on the bridge. And then had to beg the Border Crossing Guard to let you back into the U.S. without your driver’s license. (No Sir, I swear I’m a U.S. citizen. Look at how young and drunk I am.) And the U.S. border guard looked at you, pityingly, and waved you through the TURN-STILE. Yes, we used to cross the border through a turn-stile. It was awesome.
2. Having the cops write you a ticket for a Minor in Possession (No Officer – this is NOT my wine cooler. I only drink Seagram’s Very Berry-licious and this is clearly a Bartles and Jaymes.)
3. Waiting in line an hour at the drive-thru of Whataburger to find out they were out of fries. Who runs out of fries?
4. Wondering why your school let out a week earlier for Spring Break than all the rest of the schools – what kind of torture is this? Why did your school have to “suck so badly?”
5. Buying a t-shirt that read: ‘Official Muff Diver.’

If you think South Padre Island is still only for Spring Breakers. Not to fear, the Girls Gone Wild truck has left the building.

South Padre has undergone a massive transformation, while at the same time retaining its Tex-Mex character and laid-back island charm.

You can still sit on the bay on a lazy Friday night, watching the fireworks and drinking ice cold margaritas at mainstays such as Louie’s Backyard, Wahoo Saloon, or Tequila Sunset.

Or you can go upscale with a plate of Oysters Rockefeller at Scampi’s Restaurant. I recommend a table with a view of the bay, and going just in time for the sunset – they ring a bell as the sun disappears into the water. This is the type of fiery Texas sunset rivaling any on the cover of Conde Nast Traveler. Ask for Leti to be your server, and she’ll make sure you get your homemade chips and salsa before they run out.

Upstairs on the deck, enjoy the live lounge singing of a true South Padre island entertainer, Mr. Larry Battle.

For those of you interested in health food and fresh squeezed juices, you can’t beat Naturally’s for breakfast or lunch. Or, just over the bridge, in Port Isabel, Manuel’s serves the best breakfast burritos in town – and the best cheese enchiladas at lunch. (This is down-home, eat-it-like-it’s-going-out-of-style, Tex-Mex at its finest.)

For lunch with the locals and a view of the rolling waves and sand dunes, try the fried shrimp basket at the Palm’s Restaurant.

And, if you’re concerned about where to stay – don’t be.

Houston’s very own Randall Davis, a visionary developer, has graced the island with the newly constructed Sapphire South Padre – the hottest, most elegant condominium high-rise property to hit the island in years. Located just over the island bridge, between the Sheraton Hotel and Schlitterbahn water park, the Sapphire manages to bring that missing element to South Padre Island – think Miami Beach hits Texas, with a stunning 300 foot long swimming pool, ocean and bay views from every gorgeous unit, a 24 hour concierge, and a gym and full service spa to rival anything in downtown Houston. I don’t know how Randall manages to make the building so magnificent – it has to be seen to be believed. The Sapphire takes South Padre Island to another level – and why not? The best beach in Texas isn’t just for Spring Breakers anymore. …

photo courtesy Jo Barrett

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