Padre Island is a barrier island along the southern coast of Texas. South Padre Island is the main settlement, and a popular destination for spring breakers. It has so much more to offer throughout the year, however, and grows in popularity among families over the summer. With extensive beaches, epic water parks and modern restaurants waiting around every corner, there’s a little something for everyone in South Padre Island.

It’s quite a small destination stretched along a narrow strip of land. This can make it tricky to figure out where each area starts and ends. It’s also important for you to choose a base that aligns with what you want to get out of your trip, this will minimise how much travelling you have to do and make your stay much more relaxing.

Which is where we come in! We’ve combined personal experience with hints and tips from locals and tour guides to give you a rundown of the three best places to stay in South Padre Island.

So, let’s dive right in!

Where to Stay in South Padre Island

Quirky Bungalow in South Padre Island – Retro Beach House

Retro Beach House South Padre Island

Looking for something a bit different? This bungalow sets itself apart from the endless array of condos with unique interior design and a local vibe. It is still within walking distance of the main tourist areas but enjoys a more authentic atmosphere thanks to the surrounding neighborhood. It’s also dog friendly – so feel free to bring Fido along with you!

Charming Waterfront Villa Near South Padre Island – Salt Life

Salt Life South Padre Island

Over in Port Isabel, this rustic villa is a super affordable option for large groups – it sleeps up to 12 guests! Its location right on the canal means you get to enjoy an incredible atmosphere right in the heart of the town. You’ll only be a short drive away from South Padre Island itself while getting to enjoy the more budget-friendly amenities of the mainland.

Welcoming Vacation Community in South Padre Island – Gulfview II Condominiums

Gulfview II Condominiums South Padre Island

South Padre Island is all about condos, so it’s no surprise that one of their best rated resorts is a condominium complex. Close to Schlitterbahn Beach WaterPark, this is a firm favorite with families visiting the area. They offer apartments sleeping anywhere from six to twelve guests, so there are plenty of options for all kinds of families. 

South Padre Island Neighborhood Guide

FIRST TIME IN SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
South padre Island
FIRST TIME IN SOUTH PADRE ISLAND

Upper Padre Boulevard

The northern half of the region is where you will find the most popular attractions. Padre Boulevard, in particular, is home to vibrant bars and quirky local boutiques.

ON A BUDGET
Port Isabel South Padre Island
ON A BUDGET

Port Isabel

Port Isabel is just across the bridge – and the main connection between South Padre Island and the rest of the mainland. This town is a little bit more laid-back, with gorgeous canals meaning you’ll get to enjoy unique views wherever you go.

FOR FAMILIES
Isla Blanca Beach South Padre Island
FOR FAMILIES

Isla Blanca Beach

Right on the opposite end of Padre Boulevard is Isla Blanca Beach. This is likely the first place you’ll land when arriving, making it a super convenient spot if you need to travel to the mainland often.

The BEST Travel Backpack?!
aer travel pack 2 backpack

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite travel backpack is the Aer Travel Pack 2.

View on AER

Top 3 Places to Stay in South Padre Island

South Padre Island stretches along the coast, so bring a car if you can and pack that beach-bag. That being said, it’s worth confining yourself to one area if you’re looking for a calmer staycation. South Padre Island can get really busy during the peak season, so choose your accommodation based on whether you want to join the crowds, or avoid them.

Padre Boulevard covers the length of the region. On the northern end, a.k.a. Upper Padre Boulevard, you’ll find the most popular attractions. There’s an endless selection of bars and restaurants in this area, making it a great spot for spring breakers. Even outside the peak season, the nightlife maintains a lively atmosphere in this neighborhood. During the day you’ll find water sports, nature attractions, and stunning views of the sunrise and sunset.

On the southern end of Padre Boulevard, Isla Blanca Beach is on the calmer side. Despite being located right next to the bridge connecting South Padre Island with the mainland, the resorts and villas here are generally quieter and better for families. This is also where you will find the largest waterpark in the area – perfect for keeping the kids entertained.

And what about the budget travellers? We’ve not forgotten about you – but you might need to get a little creative! South Padre Island is a popular destination so the prices are a bit higher, but just over the bridge in Port Isabel you’ll find more favorable rates on accommodation, dining, and nightlife. If you’ve got a car, this is a great way to visit the island without breaking the bank. You’ll also get to enjoy quicker connections to the rest of the mainland. Texas road-trip, anyone?

Don’t worry if you’re not quite decided yet – we’ve got more extensive guides to each neighborhood below. We’ve even included our favorite accommodation and activity picks in each area to make your decision that little bit easier.

1. Upper Padre Boulevard – Best Place to Stay in South Padre Island for your First Time

South padre Island
Ah, bliss.

The northern half of the region has the most popular attractions. Padre Boulevard, in particular, is home to vibrant bars and quirky local boutiques. The food is pretty incredible across the island, but this is where you’ll find the widest variety of cuisine. The area gets busier over Spring Break, but the weather is pretty good all year round.

Generally speaking, you’ll find condos and apartments on the west side of the boulevard while hotels take up the coast on the east. Many resorts have their own private beach areas, making them a great alternative during the peak seasons. Upper Padre Boulevard can get a little pricey, but for first-time visitors, this is your best chance to get an overall feel for the place.

Quirky Pied-a-Terre in Upper Padre Blvd – Retro Beach House

Retro Beach House South Padre Island

Get away from the typical tourist condos in this quirky local bungalow close to the beach! The retro architecture harks back to South Padre Island’s heyday, with solid interiors creating a comfortable environment. Rooms are spacious, and carefully designed by a family that used the place as their own vacation spot for decades. Padre Island Brewing Co. is only a short walk from the front door.

Romantic Hideaway in Upper Padre Blvd – HomeAway

HomeAway South Padre Island

This one is a little more affordable and comes with its own private pool! This makes it a fantastic choice for those that want to bask in the sun without having to rub elbows with tourist crowds. With one bedroom, this is an excellent choice for couples looking for a romantic break in South Padre Island.

Adult Only Hotel in Upper Padre Blvd – Upper Deck Hotel and Bar

Upper Deck Hotel and Bar South Padre Island

Speaking about great spots for couples – the Upper Deck Hotel and Bar is for adults only! South Padre Island is a popular destination with families, so it can be hard to avoid the screaming children of the larger resorts. At Upper Deck you’ll get some peace and quiet, with bespoke services for adult guests. They’re also a proudly gay-friendly hotel – making it a great choice for LGBTQ+ visitors to South Padre Island.

Things to See and Do in Upper Padre Blvd

Upper Padre Blvd
Quack.
  • Looking for a laid back way to explore the island? This fun little scavenger hunt takes you around the main attractions and sights in the heart of South Padre Island.
  • Always wanted to try surfing but don’t know where to start? This epic experience will get you used to the basics, all while helping a non-profit organization.
  • There are so many great bars to choose from, but we love Coral Reef Lounge in particular – a local sports bar that bursts into life during Spring Break.
  • Discover local wildlife at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Centre in the far north of the area.

2. Port Isabel – Where to Stay Near South Padre Island on a Budget

Port Isabel South Padre Island
source: Arina P Habich (shutterstock)

Port Isabel is just across the bridge – and is the main connection between South Padre Island and the rest of the mainland. This town is a little bit more laid-back, and with its gorgeous canals meaning you’ll get to enjoy unique views wherever you go.

Being on the mainland, it’s a little bit cheaper than South Padre Island. If you’re arriving by car, you’ll only be ten minutes away from the main attractions on the island itself. Meanwhile, dining and drinking here are super affordable, and a great alternative if you’re travelling on a budget.

Affordable Fishing House in Port Isabel – Beautiful Getaway

Beautiful Getaway South Padre Island

This is another great canal front home, but it’s even more affordable! Sleeping up to five guests, it’s perfect for families (though the prices mean it isn’t a bad option for couples). You’ll have two fishing poles included, so you can unwind from the comfort of your balcony. As with the property above, it is part of a larger community, so you will have access to outdoor sports and a heated pool.

Gorgeous Canal Home in Port Isabel – Salt Life

Salt Life South Padre Island

This is a great example of why Port Isabel is an incredible destination! Nowhere else would you get to enjoy canal front property at prices this reasonable. It can sleep up to 12 guests, so it is a great option for larger groups planning a trip to the area. Part of a resort community, you’ll also have access to a communal pool and outdoor sports facilities.

Affordable Resort in Port Isabel – White Sands Motel

White Sands Motel South Padre Island

This hotel might only have two stars, but the excellent guest service and comfortable rooms mean it has some of the best reviews in Port Isabel. Interiors are a little basic, but perfectly arranged to maximise comfort and convenience. State Route 100 runs past the motel, giving you quick access to South Padre Island. Port Isabel Lighthouse is within walking distance – perfect for capturing some unique photos.

Things to See and Do in Port Isabel

Port Isabel South Padre Island
Port Isabel is perfect for budget travellers.
source: Roberto Galan (shutterstock)
  • Discover the coast surrounding Port Isabel, including the fascinating local wildlife, in this boat excursion to Barracuda Cove, where you can also enjoy some snorkeling.
  • It’s totally worth getting up at dawn to head out on this guided fishing experience in Laguna Madre – especially if you’re a total beginner.
  • Take a walk around the peaceful canals for unique photo opportunities and a romantic atmosphere.
  • Restaurants in Port Isabel have a more local vibe – Dirty Al’s is a great example of this and has great views of the bridge and coastline.

3. Isla Blanca Beach – Best Area in South Padre Island for Families

Isla Blanca Beach South Padre Island
Isla Blanca is perfect for a family staycation.
source: CrackerClips Stock Media (shutterstock)

Right on the opposite end of Padre Boulevard is Isla Blanca Beach. It’s well connected, making it a super convenient spot if you need to travel to the mainland often. Hotels here tend to be more family-oriented, so this should be top of your list if you’re visiting with kids.

It’s also home to Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, the largest waterpark in the area. In general, outside of the waterpark, you will find Isla Blanca Beach is much more laid-back than the touristy north – perfect for an easy-going escape!

Peaceful Condo in Isla Blanca Beach – Oceanfront Condo

Oceanfront Condo South Padre Island

It doesn’t get more convenient than this condo right on the waterfront! It’s within two minutes’ walk of all the main bars, restaurants, and attractions of Isla Blanca Beach and Lower Padre Blvd. If you’re arriving by car, you’ll be right at the building as soon as you get off the bridge. The condo itself is also next to the shared pool and terrace.

Spacious Apartment for Large Families in Isla Blanca Beach – La Isla Residences

La Isla Residences South Padre Island

This is our favorite condo for families in South Padre Island. Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark is located right next to the building, and Isla Blanca Beach is only a five-minute walk away. Hosted within a gated community, you will also have access to two shared swimming pools. Sleeping up to ten guests, this is great for larger families.

Stylish Aparthotel in Isla Blanca Beach – Gulfview II Condominiums

Gulfview II Condominiums South Padre Island

Get the best of both worlds with this condo complex that operates like a hotel resort. Apartments are bright and spacious, with modern fixtures and fittings resulting in a comfortable and welcoming space. Guest reviews confirm that service standards are high, and the location is simply unbeatable. We also love the pool deck, which has plenty of lounge chairs and a prime spot in the sunlight.

Things to See and Do in Isla Blanca Beach

Padre Boulevard South Padre Island
source: Arina P Habich (shutterstock)
  • Schlitterbahn Water Park is a great spot to take the kids – especially if you’re visiting outside of the peak season when it’s quieter.
  • Isla Blanca Beach is a quieter coastal spot on the southern tip of the island, with some great fishing facilities on the pier.
  • The Original Dolphin Watch is a fun excursion for all the family; you can spot the stunning wildlife in the waters surrounding the island.
  • Cuisine in Isla Blanca Beach is very seafood-heavy, with Pier 19 offering some of the best on the island

Final Thoughts on Where To Stay in South Padre Island

South Padre Island is a stunning destination if you’re travelling in the United States. Its southern location means the weather is great year-round, so don’t hesitate to book that last-minute winter sun escape. With gorgeous beaches, vibrant bars, and epic water sports available across the island, you’ll be spoiled for choice for things to do during your trip.

If we had to pick one location as our favorite, we would go with Isla Blanca Beach. This really depends on what time of year you’re visiting, but Isla Blanca Beach tends to be free of larger tourist crowds and enjoys some pretty good weather. It’s also well connected to the rest of South Padre Island and houses the bridge connection to Port Isabel on the mainland. Nature lovers will also love a trip up to Port Aransas, for a spot of fishing or bird-watching.

That being said, the best place for you really depends on what you want to get out of your trip. We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your options!

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

And don’t forget to take out Travel Insurance for your trip! I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.

Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!

world nomads insurance banner

Do you own an awesome hostel, hotel or apartment? Want to be featured in our list? Email [email protected] to find out how.

“Find out how YOU can support the site. We work hard to put out the best backpacker resources on the web, for free! It’s all about helping out our tribe of awesome backpacker readers [that’s you!]. Please visit the link to find out how you can help keep the site going 🙂

For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. Thanks for your support.