Incorporated in 1973, it lies just across Laguna Madre, the bay separating island from mainland. Not surprisingly, the East side of the island is referred to as the "gulf side" by locals, and the West side, the "bay side".
South Padre Island is served by three airports, with daily service primarily to Dallas and Houston.
- Valley International Airport, in nearby Harlingen, is served by Southwest Airlines, United Express, and Sun Country Airlines.
- Brownsville/South Padre Island Airport is served by American and United.
- McAllen Miller International Airport is served by American, United, and Allegiant Air.
Texas State Route 100 connects South Padre Island to the city of Port Isabel on the mainland, and continues on to meet US Route 77/83 between Harlingen and Brownsville. Texas State Route 48 links Port Isabel with Brownsville. If you will be landing at McAllen Miller International Airport, US Route 83 directly connects the airport to Texas State Route 100, passing through Harlingen en route.
Catch the $2 Rio Transit bus from downtown Brownsville to its last stop in Port Isabel, and catch the free Wave from there. The Wave runs every half hour and takes you all over South Padre as far as the Visitors Center on the north end.
There are no ferry boat services, but if you have your own boat, just point yourself to the place on the Gulf of Mexico where Texas meets Mexico and you're at South Padre Island! There's several marinas both on South Padre and at Port Isabel.
- Sea Ranch Marina - offers transient slips on a space available basis.
- Anchor Marina Park - deep water slips on the Port Isabel side of the causeway.
The Wave is South Padre Island's free public bus line. Buses run along the Padre Blvd. strip and across the bridge to Port Isabel. Wheelchair accessible and FREE (The Wave runs from 7AM to 7PM.)
South Padre Island has only one main road: Padre Boulevard, which is part of Texas State Route 100. There are two parallel side streets, Gulf and Laguna. There are several taxi-cab companies, with fares starting at around $5.
- The best sight to see here is the beach, which stretches for miles.
- The lighthouse in Port Isabel was completed in 1852 and offers a spectacular view of the sea.
- Port Isabel is home three museums , one of which is the lighthouse.
The South Padre Island Visitors Center provides detailed information about accommodations, activities and events related to boating, sailing, fishing, and seashore recreation. M-F 8AM-5PM; Sa-Su 9AM-PM a half-mile north of the causeway at 600 Padre Blvd. Telephone +1 956-761-6433, or +1-800-SOPADRE (767-2373) U.S. and Canada.
South Padre is known for its water sports, including jet skiing; bay, surf, and deep-sea fishing; parasailing, sailing, dolphin cruise, and windsurfing. Other island activities include bicycling, tennis, shelling, and horseback riding on the beach. The popular Laguna Madre Nature Trail for nature enthusiasts and bird-watchers is north of the city next to the convention center.
- Air Padre Kiteboarding (Watersports), 5709 A Padre Blvd (turn north off bridge go about 3.2 miles, next door to WindWater Hotel on left side), ☎ . 9AM-5PM. Offering lessons and rentals for kiteboarding, kite-landboarding, wakeboarding, stand up paddle, kayaking and surfing.
- South Padre Island Sailing Charters.
- Breakaway Cruises. Dolphin watch cruises and parasailing,
- Island Equestrian Center, ☎ . Horseback riding on the beach
- The Original Dolphin Watch, 33256 Park Road 100 Suite 104, ☎ . School Field Trips, Fireworks Cruises, Winter Texan Cruise, Sunset Cruise and Eco-Tour.
- Gravity Park (Across the Street From Louie's Backyard Restaurant). The Rocket - World's Tallest Reverse Bungee, Bungee Grande - Texas' Tallest Bungee Jump, Go-Karts, Climbing Wall, Frog Hopper, Trampoline Thing, Kiddie Cars
- Parrot Eyes Watersports, ☎ . , Waverunners and Waverunner tours, Parasailing, and Dolphin Watch Tours
- The Black Dragon Pirate Ship, 501 E Maxan St - Suite C (From South Padre Island Cross the causeway to Port Isabel. Look for the lighthouse on your right and turn right at the second street (Tarnava) after crossing the bridge. Right again (Maxan) and straight into our parking lot.), ☎ . This company attempts to provide an authentic reproduction of a 17th century pirate galleon coupled with today's advanced entertainment technology. Add to that an experienced and professional troupe of pirates, 4 restaurants, shopping, dolphin watches, fishing, a marine biology center, museum, and the historic Port Isabel lighthouse.
- Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, 33261 State Park Road 100, ☎ .
- American Diving, 33256 Park Road 100 Suite 104, ☎ . Offers snorkel trips, dolphin watch excursions, diving adventures and diving certification. State-of-the-art training facilities. Dive and snorkel from our USCG documented and inspected vessels.
- South Padre Island Massage, 900 S. Padre Island Blvd, ☎ . Daily: 9AM-8PM. Before and after hours for an additional fee. This is a licensed, mobile massage and spa service. Offering Swedish massage and deep tissue massage $80 - $125 for 60 to 90 minute massages.
- On The Beach Surf Shop, 2105 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Great store selling casual sports wear, beach wear, surf accessories and kiteboarding accessories, etc.
- One Particular Harbor, 4113 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Offering tropical gifts, home decor, Island casual clothing and accessories, lighthouses, windchimes, tropical art, skin care products, candles, soap.
- Ocean Motion, 4309 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Beach wear and clothing for all ages, including board shorts, t-shirts, foot wear, sunglasses, bathing suits, and beach accessories.
- Cloud Nine, 2303 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Tobacco and smoking accessories, art, etc.
- Inkredible, 2301 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Tattoo shop
- Shell World, 2311 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Beach souvenirs and accessories
- Treasure Trove, 5504 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Tues.-Sat. 10-6. VERY nice consignment shop-everything like new and many tasteful and eclectic items ranging from small gifts and decor to furniture.
- Paragraphs On Padre Boulevard (A Bookstore), 5505 Padre Blvd (between Morningside and Cora Lee), ☎ . most days 10-6. Full-service independent bookstore selling mostly new but some used books. Special orders are welcome and customers are encouraged to browse. Chairs, Free WiFI, Courtyard available. Very active, with author signings, local charity events, poetry readings, etc.
- Ship Shape, 5212 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Beach accessories, floats, souvenirs, sportswear, rentals
- B & S Kites, 2812 Padre Island Blvd (North of the Causeway, on Right hand side.), ☎ . They carry many different styles of kites, spinners, chimes ,etc. among other souvenirs, many unusual items.
- Surf's Up, 4309 Padre Blvd, ☎ . The largest selection of beach wear and clothing on South Padre Island.Since 1988.
- Jake's Flowers and Gift Shop, ☎ . 10AM to 6PM.
- barbara, 2201 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Accessories-Dresses-Giftware-Jewelry-Swimsuits
- Amberjacks Bar and Grill, 209 W. Amberjack, ☎ . Amberjacks has since gone under new management. Seafood and more, upscale. Fine wines are served. Covered deck and live band Fridays and Saturdays.
- Blackbeard's, 103 E Saturn, ☎ . Sandwiches, Burgers, Steaks, and Seafood. Reviewed favorably in Texas monthly in the late 1990's
- Wanna Wanna, 5100 Gulf Blvd, ☎ . Ceviche, fried shrimp, and more. Palapa bar on the beach
- Padre Island Brewing Company, Padre Boulevard and Saturn. Handcrafted local brews include Speckled Trout Stout; free wireless for customers
- Sunset Cafe and Grill, Padre Blvd. A bit pricey for the quality (American "cheese", ugh!), and playing country music, but free wireless and pleasant service
- Texas Moon, 5800 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Seafood, steaks, burgers, pizza, music.
- Sea Ranch, 33330 State Park Road 100, ☎ . Upscale, popular restaurant with Seafood, steaks, etc.
- Dirty Al's Seafood, 33396 State Park Rd. #100, ☎ . Always busy, tourist favorite-specializing in fried seafood. Also has a seafood market.
- Kohnami, 410 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Kohnami Restaurant is the island's only Japanese eatery known for its authentic sushi. Sushi Bar, Teppanyaki Steak & Seafood Grill.
- Padre Island Brewing Company, 3400 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Best beer on the island, a fun rooftop dining and drinking area, and some downright tasty food make it a great place to hang out in the evening.
- Louie's Backyard, Gulf Blvd, ☎ . Big nightclub with several levels, a restaurant, sports bar and local's area. NTN Trivia, pool tables, outside dance floor.
- Jake's Bar & Grill, 2500 Padre Blvd (Padre and E Amberjack), ☎ . 11AM-2AM. Casual locals hangout specializing in Mexican food. Also features seafood, steaks, burgers, and daily lunch and dinner specials. Full bar, big patio and game room with pool, darts, video games, and jukebox in the back.
- Coral Reef, 5401 Padre Blvd. Hole-in-the-wall with stiff drinks, karaoke, and late-night party crowd
- Boomerang Billy's, 2612 Gulf Blvd, ☎ . Great beach bar behind Surf Motel-pool, volleyball court, wide open view of the beach, VERY cool bartenders, live entertainment, great drinks.
- Club Pelican West, 410 Padre Blvd. Suite 101, ☎ . 8PM-2AM. Live music venue.
- Tequila Sunset, 200 West Pike St, ☎ .
- Mooncusser's, 205 West Palm St, ☎ . Located at the southmost point of Laguna Boulevard and Palm Street on the Bay. This bar has an operating capacity to accommodate multiple forms of events with over 13, 400 sq ft of entertaining area.
- Wanna Wanna Beach Bar & Grill, 5100 Gulf Blvd, ☎ .
- Big Boy's Wings, 1912 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Bar w/entertainment, pool table, tv's, and bar food
- The Quarterdeck Lounge, 500 Padre Blvd, ☎ , toll-free: . 11 an-2AM. The Quarterdeck Lounge, open from 11AM to 2AM, presents refreshments and live entertainment in the evening with the "BEST DANCE BANDS" from across the country. The Quarterdeck presents bands from Las Vegas, Reno, Nashville, Chicago, New York and all over the United States.
Visitors find wide range of accommodations from campgrounds and family motels to high-rise luxury hotels and condo rentals, marinas and seaside cottages.
- Blue Bay Inn, 901 Padre Blvd, ☎ . Swimming pool, free breakfast.
- Sunchase IV Resort, 1004 Padre Blvd, ☎ .
- Super 8 South Padre Island, 4205 Padre Blvd, ☎ .
- La Quinta Inn & Suites South Padre Beach Resort, 7000 Padre Blvd, toll-free: .
- South Padre Island Travelodge, 6200 South Padre Blvd, toll-free: .
- Motel 6, 4013 Padre Blvd, ☎ .
- Isla Grand Resort (formerly Radisson), 500 Padre Blvd, ☎ . This beachfront resort has great onsite amenities such as two swimming pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, restaurants, nightclub, and more.
- Ramada Limited, 4109 Padre Blvd, ☎ .
- Howard Johnson, 1709 Padre Blvd, ☎ . This hotel offers a resort atmosphere with a tropically landscaped swimming pool and hot tub. Spacious, comfortable lobby, oversized rooms.
- The SandBox Inn, 117 E. Saturn (half a block from the beach), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Spacious 2BR/2BA beach house sleeps 8 comfortably. Pool table, piano, designer kitchen (nicely equipped) and sand sculpture garden/gallery -- great location for a gathering of up to 50 people.
- SPI Visitor Center, Padre Blvd (it's a Wave (free local bus) stop). SSID: SPI Visitor Center
- Sunset Cafe and Grill. For customers, SSID: Sunset Cafe
- Padre Island Brewing Company. For customers, SSID: Brew
Cross the bridge to get back to the nearby port town, Port Isabel. It has many restaurants, souvenir shops, Wal-mart, HEB, Beall's, Movie Gallery, etc.