As the sun sets over South Padre Island, The Southern Wave makes its final voyage of the day, whisking up to 48 passengers across the pristine waters as they clink champagne glasses and toast to the beauty of the open water. As the star of Southern Wave Sailing Charters' fleet, the 48-foot catamaran sailing boat is perfect for a leisurely sail or snorkel trip, an afternoon of dolphin watching, or an evening of sunset gazing during the dinner cruise. Captains also charter boats privately, including the more intimate Southern Comfort boat, which welcomes up to 16 guests. Soft drinks are included with all tours and charter trips, and passengers are free to BYOB. For more independent exploration of the local waterways, customers can rent waverunners, kayaks, paddleboards, and paddleboats.
For Isla Tours’ owner Captain Stephen Murphy, the Gulf of Mexico is not just the place he has fished and sailed for more than 30 years—it’s an old family friend. In 1961, his grandfather Eddie Murphy founded the boating company and dedicated himself to touring the Gulf’s waters. Since Eddie’s tenure, however, the company has changed substantially. Now operating under the name Isla Tours, its fleet incorporates three boats, which range from a 67-foot double-decker vessel to smaller ones with covered seating. Aboard these vessels, Captain Stephen—who has set multiple state fishing records—leads deep-sea-fishing adventures, sunset cruises, and dolphin-watching tours, during which passengers can glimpse pods of binocular-toting dolphins on people-watching tours.
When Daniel Bryant founded Breakaway Cruises in 1995, the tour company had a fleet of one—a dolphin watch boat, the Xcape. Nowadays, the Xcape is still bringing tourists face-to-face with live dolphins, but it no longer works alone. Gliding behind one of the new parasailing boats, aquatic adventurers rise up to 600 feet above the waves without having to harness a flying fish to each shoe. Meanwhile, fishermen can seek out sand trout, redfish, and speckled trout aboard assorted fishing boats. Jet skis round out the fleet, along with a second dolphin watch boat.