Kevin Taylor / Alamy

Take five and hang ten, right in the Gulf.

July 08, 2014

The tip of this barrier island may be best known for its rowdy spring break crowds, but the beautiful stretch of white sand and blue waters is also ideal for ocean-loving adventurers who will take the time to step off of the beaten path. The surfing scene is especially vibrant and friendly to newcomers. Along with bikini-clad sunbathers, the shore is also lined with waterfront restaurants and hotels with ocean views.

South Padre Surf Company

Lessons for beginners—or pros looking to sharpen their skills—are held year-round at this family-owned dive shop. Also stop in for board and wetsuit rentals, or to get tips from owner Gene Gore on the best places to ride the waves.

Dolphin Watching Boat

Opt for the Ecology Tour to get schooled on the area’s diverse marine life like starfish and stingrays; you’ll also follow dolphin pods jumping through Gulf waters.

American Diving

SCUBA-certified divers can explore sunken ships and artificial reefs off of South Padre’s shore. Look out for lionfish, barracuda, and octopus, among other sea creatures.

Yummie’s Bistro

Stop into this friendly breakfast and lunch spot for piping hot migas (eggs loaded with tomatoes, onions and tortilla chips), fluffy pancakes, and strong coffee.

Pearl Hotel

Rooms with spacious balconies overlook the ocean at this iconic South Padre hotel. Grab a cocktail at the pool’s swim-up bar, surrounded by royal palms. If tired muscles need kneading, head to the spa for a massage.

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