Four-Star Hotel Along the Gulf of Mexico
Located on a slender barrier island off Texas’s most-southeasterly tip, South Padre Island is a quiet resort town known for its crystal-clear waters. Just steps from the Gulf of Mexico and with private access to a 250-foot beach, the four-star Peninsula Island Resort & Spa offers a tranquil stay for beachcombers. You’ll have several options on how to relax—stroll along the beach, go for a dip in the courtyard pool, or recline in ergonomic loungers scattered about the sunny deck.
Those with $30 dining credits can dine on authentic Mexican fare at Las Olas Restaurant Bar & Grill. Chefs use fresh seafood and recipes from coastal Mexico to craft shrimp flautas ($9.50), red snapper ($28), and camarones flambé au tequila—jumbo gulf shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic and flambéed in tequila ($22).
From studio rooms and presidential suites, guests have either partial or full ocean views from their balconies. Enjoy a homemade meal, prepared in the full kitchenette, in a studio room. The three-bedroom presidential suite is a home away from home with a full kitchen with granite countertops, dining for up to eight, a washer and a dryer, and an optional hot tub on the balcony. The presidential suite includes a full living room with a leather sofa and a 42-inch plasma screen with satellite TV.
South Padre Island, Texas: Beachfront Leisure and Diverse Wildlife in Quiet Coastal Town
South Padre Island isn't actually an island—it's the name given to the resort town on the southernmost point of the much larger Padre Island. Because the town occupies such a narrow stretch of land (only two or three blocks wide), getting from the Gulf on the east side to inland Texas on the other takes minutes by car. Still, most visitors choose to stay near the coast and lay out on the beach or set sail on a fishing charter to seek out swordfish, blue marlin, and spotted sea trout. A local water park is a safe bet for kids.
For a better understanding of the area's history and culture, head across the causeway to the Museum of Port Isabel. The complex encompasses three facilities, including one that showcases the treasures found in three 1554 Spanish ships that sunk in nearby waters. The Point Isabel Lighthouse is another of the city's main attractions. It was built in 1852, when the low-lying Texas coast presented visibility problems to incoming ships. Today, you can climb a spiral staircase to the top, where the view shows off the causeway, Laguna Madre Bay, and Port Isabel's historical downtown.
Sea Turtle Inc. houses endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtles, an indigenous species that is one of the smallest in its reptilian family. Founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, affectionately known as "The Turtle Lady," the nonprofit organization was based out of her backyard until it was transferred to the current rehabilitation and rescue center. Tours of the hospital unit include open swimming-tank observation, costumed performances, and conservation education.
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