South Padre Island, TX

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When we were there: January 1 – February 1, 2019
Where we stayed:South Padre Island KOA
What we ate: Grilled mahi at Louie’s Backyard and fresh caught Drum at Dirty Al’s
What we drank: Beers on the beach at Clayton’s; Laguna BOB was a regular hangout; as was Louie’s Backyard
What we did: Sunset dinner cruise aboard the Osprey; biked at Isla Blanca State Park; ran around the piers at Port Isabel; spent a day in Brownsville; shopped til we dropped; had many adult beverages at waterfront bars; played on the beach
Tourism Website:
Worth the Trip? It’s a looooong way down a big ol’ state so plan on staying awhile

Our Trip Advisor Reviews:
Osprey Cruises
Louie’s Backyard
South Padre Island KOA
Dirty Al’s

The SPI KOA is bangin’! One of the best we’ve stayed at
Texas is WAY more economical than Florida for snowbirds
SPI participates in winter sometimes and the weather can be unpredictable
It’s easy to avoid the Spring breakers if you happen to be there at the same time
Don’t bother with Brownsville unless you enjoy dirty flea markets
There’s a wonderful farmer’s market on Saturdays with all kinds of things you need
SPI is super pet-friendly

The SPI skyline

I am extremely enthusiastic about South Padre Island, so much so that when the KOA guy told me that I could reserve for winter 2020 and get a break, I booked us in for three months.

I thought SPI would be a lazy fishing village but it is a true resort destination with highrise hotels and activities for people who don’t want to fish (like me). Coming across that bridge from Port Isabel – holy cow! The view gets you excited to be there and start having fun.

First, that KOA:

The sunset deck at KOA

It’s a true resort, right on the water with deluxe amenities. Big pool (with hot tub), well equipped fitness room, large bath houses, social events almost every day, there are tiny houses and even real houses for rent, a sunset deck where everyone gathers with drinks in the evening, and a pretty good restaurant on the premises that’s a destination in its own right. The resort is dog-friendly with plenty of grassy areas for your pooch, plus a big dog park. They maintain a Facebook page for daily events, upcoming dinners, and planned excursions. The grounds are immaculate and spacious. Wanna see it? Click and watch an aerial view video!

This lovely KOA was $900/month in peak season. The lesser RV park we stayed at in Marathon, FL the winter before was $2200/month. Moral: Texas gives you a LOT more bang for your buck and winter in the Keys is ridiculous.

Sunset dinner cruise aboard the Osprey

For Christmas I gave Neal a romantic couples sunset dinner cruise aboard the Osprey (wasn’t that smart of me?). We cruised for an hour and a half around Laguna Madre, enjoying the dolphins that chased us and listening to the history of the island from the Captain. Dinner was three skewers – one chicken, one beef, and one shrimp – with assorted cut fruit and crudites. It was a ton of food and there was also a cash bar. There are several boat excursion companies on the island, including a pirate cruise for the kiddies.

If you’re a fisherperson, SPI will be heaven for you. The Gulf on one side and Laguna Madre on the other. It’s like being in the Keys (only a LOT less expensive). The KOA has a boat launch onsite or you can book a fishing trip with one of the many charter boat companies. Neal fished almost every day we were there because it’s so easy to walk over and drop a line.

Drinks just taste better by the water

I hope you drink because SPI has some fabulous beach bars that you’re going to want to hang out at. The party is at Laguna BOB’s on the Laguna Madre, and that whole strip is filled with cute bars, restaurants, and shops – perfect for a crawl. Clayton’s is across the island on the Gulf; this is where you saw all those spring breakers passing out in the sand on the news, but in snowbird season it’s an adult gathering place and some people bring their kids. And then there’s Louie’s Backyard….

Louie’s Backyard is a multi venue complex with waterfront dining, a sports bar, and a nightclub. And a tiki bar. And I think something else….oh yeah, a prime rib and seafood buffet every evening. Louie’s is ENORMOUS and you’ll get lost inside, but there are always 8 million employees cleaning and straightening and whathaveyou who are happy to point you in the right direction. Check out the sandcastle in the entryway!

Pier 1 Restaurant at the KOA

Did I mention that SPI is the Sandcastle Capital of the World? They are everywhere, and companies sponsor sandcastle building competitions. Wanna learn how to make a boss ass sandcastle? You can take lessons!

Isla Blanca State Park is right down the road from the KOA, maybe a half mile. There you’ll find a beach, walking trails, bike trails, boat launch, and an RV park (which is not as nice as the KOA but is a good bit cheaper). A pleasant day for us was biking to the park and hanging out at the beach, then dinner and drinks at Sea Ranch on the way back home.

Brownsville – just say no

We took a day trip to Brownsville, which was a…not a disaster, but I wouldn’t do it again. Blocks of flea market grade crap and ugliness. I had to pee and none of the shop people will let you use their restroom (can’t say I blame them, considering the clientele), so we headed to the worst most ghetto HEB I have ever seen. The only thing I can compare it to is the “grocery store” in downtown Negril, Jamaica. Filthy, run down, falling apart. And the restroom was a war zone that clearly hadn’t been cleaned in months. The only way I knew I was still in the US was because the toilets flushed. Skip it.

We’ll be back in SPI for winter 2020 and I can’t wait. We spent 2019 doing west Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, so I’m ready for the beach and a frozen cocktail.

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