The tropical setting and onshore breezes make South Padre Island a year-round destination. Sea turtle nesting season, one of the more popular times to visit, runs from mid-April through July, when the last of the nesting turtles’ hatchlings, incubated in seclusion by Sea Turtle Inc., are released to the sea. In May, an annual “Shellabration” featuring a kayak flotilla and a tiki-torch parade is held to raise funds. Also in May, the high-flying SPI Kite Round-Up brings together avid followers of the sport of kiteboarding, from seasoned vets in competition to newbies taking lessons on the beach.
September onward is the time when outdoor enthusiasts (as opposed to extreme-sports fans) will find island life most hospitable. Angling opportunities abound on the Lower Laguna Madre, a bay abutting the island, and fishing tournaments pack the calendar after August. In October and November, southbound birds and winter nesters arrive on the island (many returning on reverse course in the spring). In late October, the weeklong Sand Castle Days takes place with live music on the beach while master sculptors compete for the world championship of sand castles. The island also claims one of the warmest “polar bear” swims in the world on New Year’s Day, when hundreds of locals and visitors charge toward the Gulf of Mexico for a dip in 60-something-degree water.
March is when the spring breakers take over. Drawn by the promise of booze on the beach and MTV-inspired shenanigans, more than 50,000 college students show up annually. In addition to standard tourist activities, there’s a nighttime concert series that in the past has featured the likes of Snoop Dogg and Cali Swag District, as well as a strong lineup of DJs. If that doesn’t sound appealing, realize that by April 1, sanity is restored on South Padre, and life returns to normal for its 3,000 full-time residents.