After getting battered like a submissive English cod by hurricane Ike (2008), South Padre Island started building a frenzy of resorts and condominiums…

…Because it is a TASTY destination.

A curious kind of split personality tourism has arisen in South Padre Island, part inebriated hot-tub-spring-breaker, and part vacationing family. The lines cross somewhat, but you don’t want to be caught up in either boredom, or sleep-deprivation, so getting it right is key!

AND SO, I have written this over-informed masterpiece on where to stay in South Padre Island, filled with the juiciest selection of beach resorts, private balconies, and cattle-sheds *cough* I mean hostels. This guide is perfectly poised to deliver you a fantastic vacation, so let’s dive in!



South padre Island
YESSS, we love the beach, love it…

The Broke Backpacker is supported by you. Clicking through our links may earn us a small affiliate commission, and that's what allows us to keep producing free content 🙂 Learn more.

Where to Stay in South Padre Island

Not too choosy, but still want a great time? These are our top 3 picks for places to stay when visiting South Padre Island.

5th Floor Beachfront Condo | Best Airbnb in South Padre Island

5th Floor Beachfront Condo

Is that a beachfront condo? In South Padre Island? It couldn’t be…

…But of course it is! With amazing views, easy access to pools, a hot tub, and a special winter rate, this one is bigger and better than all the others.

With room for up to 6 guests, a smart TV, air conditioning, and every amenity you could possibly think of (yes coffee), this stay is every vacationers dream, and possibly one of the best Airbnbs in Texas.

El Delfín Lodge | Best Budget Hotel in South Padre Island

El Delfín Lodge

The biggest bang for your buck! Just minutes away from the awesome South Padre Island beach, and boasting a sweet outdoor pool, this is the best stay you will find for any similiar price tag.

All rooms are equipped with an outdoor seating area/ sun terrace, private bathrooms, fridges, and flat screen TVs (you can’t be active all the time). Restaurants, bars, and fun times are just around the corner too!

Holiday Inn Express Hotel | Best Hotel in South Padre Island

Holiday Inn Express Hotel

Oh, so you fancy a little luxury? Want to keep fit on holiday? Want a breakfast that will nurture eternal disappointment in your day-to-day? Then you have found your hotel!

Featuring a fitness centre, buffet breakfast, swimming pool, and free-to-use BBQ, this 3-star hotel has got everything needed for an top-tier stay. You can even organise a bunch of activities at the front desk, including snorkelling, wind-surfing, and horse back riding!

South Padre Island Neighborhood Guide – Places to Stay in South Padre Island

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.

Port Isabel South Padre Island

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.

Isla Blanca Beach South Padre Island

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.

South Padre Island can be thought of as one long road.

Simple right?

Padre Boulevard covers the length of the Island. 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. During the day you’ll find water sports, nature havens, and stunning sunrise views.

You get to drive over the ocean for a bit… …pretty cool right?

On the southern end of Padre Boulevard, Isla Blanca Beach resides 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.

And what about budget travellers? Just over the bridge in Port Isabel, you’ll find more favourable 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. Texas road trip, anyone?

Because South Padre Island isn’t actually that big, scoring accommodation on the Island will open everything available up to you. But having a car is a big bonus here.

South Padre Island’s 3 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

Let’s get cosy with the top neighborhoods in South Padre Island, so you can give yourself a taste of what this superb holiday destination is like.

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

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.

Upper Padre Blvd

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.

Retro Beach Bungalow | Best Airbnb in Upper Padre Boulevard

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.

El Delfín Lodge | Best Budget Hotel in Upper Padre Boulevard

El Delfín Lodge

With South Padre Island beach just a five-minute walk away, if you’re looking to stick it on a budget, this is one of your top bets! As one of the top cheap hotels in town, you’ll have access to the outdoor pool, shared lounge, and business centre. Guests will have access to a sun terrace too.

Rooms come well-equipped and are actually pretty spacious for the price. Some rooms get a pretty sweet city view too!

Upper Deck Hotel and Bar | Best Hotel in Upper Padre Boulevard

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 Do in Upper Padre Boulevard

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Discover local wildlife at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Centre in the far north of the area.
  5. Hire golf buggies for a self-led excursion around the Island
  6. Walk the laguna madre nature trail, which covers some extraordinary wetland areas, and is home to around 300 different species of birds.
  7. Chill out and relax on the beach, soak up some rays, and get ready for a big night out!
  8. Learn to windsurf! There are some awesome beach sports locations, and windsurfing is an epic skill to keep in the locker…

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

It’s a fair cop- Port Isabel isn’t actually on South Padre Island.

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.

Port Isabel South Padre Island

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.

Beautiful Getaway | Best Airbnb in Port Isabel

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.

Southwind Inn | Best Budget Hotel in Port Isabel

Southwind Inn

The Southwind Inn is a perfect place if you are happy to explore South Padre Island from a distance, and at a great price! There is an outdoor swimming pool, and the rooms are clean and comfortable. It’s only a short walk from the Arturo Galvan Coastal Park and has a fair collection of great places to eat and drink nearby.

Rooms are equipped with private bathrooms, tea/coffee makers, and are available with a sea view.

Casa Rosa Inn | Best Hotel in Port Isabel

Casa Rosa Inn

Time to get comfortable in Port Isabel! The Casa Rosa Inn is a top place to stay just 6.4km from the South Padre Island beach. With extremely spacious rooms, a swimming pool, and “remarkably soft towels” you can’t really go wrong with this hotel. While it is probably not where you want to be staying for a two-week holiday, this is a great (and cheap) place to spend a few days exploring the mainland and conducting a couple of day trips!

Super comfortable, inexpensive, and spacious.

Things to Do in Port Isabel

  1. Discover the coast surrounding Port Isabel, including the fascinating local wildlife.
  2. Take a walk around the peaceful canals for unique photo opportunities and a romantic atmosphere.
  3. 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.
  4. Explore the “Treasures of the Gulf” Museum, and see the famous Port Isabel lighthouse!
  5. The Port Isabel historical museum can provide valuable insight into (shock) the history of Port Isabel.

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

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.

Isla Blanca Beach South Padre Island
Isla Blanca is perfect for a family staycation.

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!

Oceanfront Condo | Best Airbnb in Isla Blanca Beach

Oceanfront Condo South Padre Island

It doesn’t get more convenient than this condo right on the waterfront! It’s within two minute’s 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.

Sunrise Retreat | Best Luxury Airbnb in Isla Blanca Beach

Sunrise Retreat

Airbnb is where South Padre Island, and if your budget can take it, you can find some pretty special properties. AND THIS IS ONE OF THEM. A topfloor beachfront condo with room for up to 6 guests, there are 2 pools available for use, 2 hot tubs, and 2 tennis courts. You won’t need a stack of margeritas to see double here.

The best features of this property are actually its unbeatable location, and jaw-dropping panoramic views from the top floor. You will want to move in, and that is normal.

Margaritaville Beach Resort | Best Hotel in Isla Blanca Beach

Margaritaville Beach Resort

Any beach resort that labels itself “Margaritaville” is either a very good time or a Phillipino scam, and this ain’t the latter. With a sensational buffet breakfast, an outdoor pool that is more attractive than me, a fitness centre and a spa, this holiday retreat is an awesome choice for the whole family.

Rooms are equipped with private bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, fridges and coffee machines.

Things to Do in Isla Blanca Beach

  1. 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.
  2. Isla Blanca Beach is a quieter coastal spot on the southern tip of the island, with some great fishing facilities on the pier.
  3. The Original Dolphin Watch is a fun excursion for all the family; you can spot the stunning wildlife in the waters surrounding the island.
  4. Cuisine in Isla Blanca Beach is very seafood-heavy, with Pier 19 offering some of the best on the island
  5. Hop onto a dolphin watch tour, and learn about the local marine wildlife!
  6. The beach park is another great place to have a wild family day out, and hopefully keep everyone happy!
  7. Learn how to kiteboard! One of the most unassailably cool past times of the world, being pulled around by the wind can be super challenging, but super rewarding too!
  8. Go bay fishing!
Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Hide Yo’ Money!

FAQs on Where to Stay on South Padre Island

Here’s what people usually ask us about where to stay on South Padre Island, TX.

What To Pack For South Padre Island

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hotel Packing list for even more top packing tips!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for South Padre Island

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Final Thoughts

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 of things to do during your trip.

If we had to pick one location as our favourite, 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!

Looking for more info on travelling to South Padre Island and USA?
Enjoy it!

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