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South Padre Island Report
March 24 - April 03, 2003
November/December, 2004
April 2005


Location: South Padre Island is located just north of Brownsville Texas, at the very southern end of the Gulf Coast. The Island itself is a barrier which separates the Gulf of Mexico from the protected Laguna Madre. The weather is tropical and the winds are reliably strong.

Season: The kiteboarding season lasts from early spring until December. The winds tend to taper off in December, January and February and evening temperatures in the 30’s wouldn’t be uncommon. Spring break periods are very crowded on the island and you may want to totally avoid this place during the big parties. Also, summer is prime time for Texan’s to come to “The Island.”. Expect crowds. From Labor Day through Thanksgiving and again March through May (excluding Spring Break), expect little to no crowds and excellent deals on lodging. Prices tend to double on the weekends as the summer and peak periods approach.

Getting in and out of town: South Padre Island, SPI, is located at the end of the Rio Grande Valley. Along the valley you have several larger airports. The closest to “The Island” are Brownsville Airport and also Harlingen Airport. Farthest away is McAllen, which is apx 1:35 min from SPI. American serves MFE, McAllen with large jets and not commuter flights. Southwest serves Harlingen with large jets as well. Other options might include a commuter flight. All flights connect somewhere like Dallas or Houston. The McAllen Airport offers free parking out front, making it easy to unload your gear and check-in for your flight before returning your rental car.

Hotels and other options:

I have stayed at:

The SPI Travelodge had very clean rooms although they smelled like mold, which is common in humid damp areas.. The room cost averaged apx. $45 per night plus tax. My ground floor room included a large tiled dinning area just inside the door. This was a great storage area for my gear. Also the ground floor drive up access was nice. Large continental breakfast included.

On a return trip, I stayed in Le Casa Rosa Motel, a brand new place located on the main boulevard through the island. The cost here was $29/nt including free local calls, coffee in the morning with doughnuts. The owner is adding free high-speed internet access soon. Also, there was a great hot tub and pool right outside my door. Poor quality breakfast, but the Whataburger is near and you can have breakfast for $4.

Recently, we stayed at La Copa Resort, located just across from the causeway. The Hotel is 1 year old and the rooms are an exact copy of La Casa Real’s rooms and other La Copa Properties. I paid $63 per night while friends were charged $79 and others $89. I booked this through Travelocity and had to pre-pay the week to get the lower rate. No drive up rooms are available. The staff here was kind of indifferent. There is a happy hour from 5:00-6:30 which includes free beer and wine along with chips and salsa! Breakfast is included with 3 hot waffle makers and an assortment of juice and cereal.

Super-8 Motel – Located in the middle of the strip this is one of a string of budget motels. My room was a mini-suite that cost $59 on the weekend and was available during the week for $29. The room was fairly clean and quiet. Free Breakfast but only one Waffle iron for too many guests.

There are several other budget options including, The Beachside Inn, Motel 6, and other discount chains. Most of the larger upscale hotels and resorts are represented here as well. I used the internet to book my room. If you are here during a non-peak time, you can easily drive up the road and check out the hotels which post their nightly rates on their signs. Expect to pay from $19/nt at the EconoLodge up to the $100’s for First Class accommodation. Reservation Trap: It seems that those booking reservations can expect to pay more than those walking in off the street during the non-peak periods. I recently stayed at the Motel Super 8 where the internet rate was $79 and I was offered $59 when I walked up to the desk and enquired. The walk-in rate during the week was $29!

Another option would be to book out a condo for the week. SPI looks like a mini Miami Beach or Waikiki. The Parkshore Condos just behind the Travelodge were located on the beach and had secure parking. Again, the internet would be a great source for booking lodging. Search the net for condo options.

Kiteboarding-

Winds- Bring all your kites! I used the 16, 12, 10, and 8.

There are several locations where you can kiteboard. Actually, there are little or no restrictions on kiteboarding, so you can go anywhere off the beach on the gulf side of the island. I had several great rides right off the beach next to the hotel.

North Flats- Located just north of the Convention Center at the far North end of town, you will find the private windsurfing/kiteboarding area called The North Flats. There is a $15/yr user fee for this private area. There area two rigging areas, one for kiteboarding and another for windsurfing and plenty of room for both. The water is SHALLOW, from a few inches to a maximum of about three feet quite far out from shore. The shallow water isn’t all that bad as it provides for the flattest water you have ever seen. Also, when you dump the kite or have a problem all you have to do is stand up and walk back. Works on all winds.

South Flats- Located right next to the convention center, this is where you ride on north winds. The water is very shallow in spots.

Jetty’s- Back on the Gulf side located in the park at the southern end of the island is an area called Jetty’s. I didn’t get to kite here. The ocean current is reported to be less here and the winds are clean. $4.00 fee to enter the park. Best on a SE. Deep water.

Holly’s- Across the Laguna Madre, apx 20 min from the island, you will find Holly’s. Located down a nasty dirt road, in the middle of shrimp farms and swampy tidal pools, this place has an industrial feel. The sand is muddy and stinks like swamp gas. However, on a SE the wind comes all the way across the laguna and is very clean. Again, very shallow conditions 1-3 feet make for very flat water. Directions: From SPI go across the causeway and through the towns until you reach the 510 Road North split-off. Drive through Laguna Vista on the 510 Road for about 2 miles. The golf course will be on your right. At the end of a white wooden fence, there is a dirt road, turn right on this dirt road. Follow the road back quite far. Finally there is a “Y” in the road stay left into the kite area. Note: There are secure shrimp farms in the area that don’t welcome visitors. Look for the kites and get better directions when you are in town.

Shop: South Padre Island Kiteboarding is located about 2/3 of the way North going from the causeway north through town. The crew runs a nice shop and encourage friendly kiteboarding in SPI. They offer free advice and have a fully stocked shop. Naish , Slingshot, Airush, and NSI are their major brands. Also they offer instruction, and this is an ideal location for learning. This should be your first stop before hitting the water. You can check on local conditions etc. Also you can get you membership sticker so you can use the North Flats area. www.southpadreislandkiteboarding.com

Dinning: There are all sorts of foods available on the island. My favorites included Texas Barbeque, Mexican, Giant Burger at Parrot Eye’s, Dirty Al’s Shrimp Baskets, and Palmedo’s for Mexican. All things considered, the Island isn’t a groumet paradise. If you are looking for a nicer dinning experience you might drive the 30 min to Brownsville.

Crowds: SPI and the entire Texas gulf coast can get very crowded during spring breaks. So much that you may want to avoid this time on the island. Traffic backs up and the spring breakers party all night, all day, everywhere. Sleep might be hard to get during this time. There is a US Break and also a Mexican Break which draw giant rowdy crowds. Plan accordingly. During my visit the place was empty, between the two break times.

Necessities: You can get everything you need at or near the island. There are two large grocery stores, drug stores, and a Hardware store which have everything you need. Shopping malls are back in Harlingen and Brownsville. There is a Walmart Supercenter under construction near the causeway.

Car Rentals: My 11 day rental came to over $300 dollars. I rented with Advantage. It is noteworthy that there were over $80 in taxes and fees which are charged by all companies. On my second trip I paid $90/wk plus tax and was upgraded to a mini-van. I booked through Travelocity.

Summary: I really enjoyed South Padre Island. The conditions are very kite friendly. The costs are quite low compared with other destinations. Sandy warm water beaches on the gulf side, and shallow warm waters on the Laguna are near perfect conditions. The local riders are very friendly. As far as I am concerned, I will be back as soon as possible.


Mike Urban
Windward Sports Chicago
PASA Kiteboarding Instructor
Naish Kiteboarding Midwest Team


Note: These are my opinions and observations only. Your mileage may vary. Not applicable in Alaska and Hawaii. California emissions not included. Check with your doctor before beginning any new physical activity. Non-Refundable. Subject to change. Caution coffee is a hot beverage. Never roll up kite when wet.
JoeBidawid
This is one of the most comprehensive and informative travel posts I have ever seen! coming from one of the most well traveled riders in the Great Lakes. Thank you Mike! I have been to the island a few times but after reading your info I learned a couple of new things!

Joe Bidawid
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