10+ Awesome Things to do in South Padre Island for Kids

Looking for the best things to do in South Padre Island for kids? South Padre Island is an incredible place for a family vacation. While you may think it’s just a great place to relax on the beach (and it is,) there are so many kid-friendly things to do in South Padre that families will love.

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We took an amazing 1-week vacation to South Padre, a place we didn’t know about much beforehand. But the lure of the beaches and activities drew us in, and it’s one of the most memorable trips we took with little kids. From Sea Turtle Rescues to pirates and boardwalks, it’s an amazing place with fun and great beaches in Texas.

South Padre Texas pin

Top Things to do in South Padre Island for Families

1- South Padre Beaches

There is a great beach right outside the Hilton Garden Inn in South Padre.  We were very happy here, though we did venture and find other beaches as well. There are different beach access points if you’d like to try a different spot.

girl standing with boogie board in the ocean as fun things to do in South Padre Island Texas

There are many big, discount merchandise beach stores on the main road thru the island and we stopped in one and grabbed a few boogie boards.  We had so much fun in the waves with the boogie boards that we went back to a store and bought more boogie boards (bigger ones, so the adults could join in the fun!)

kids playing in sand in South Padre Texas

2- Sea Turtle Rescue Center – South Padre Island

The Sea Turtle Center is definitely one of the more unique things to do in South Padre Island. My daughter had just finished kindergarten where she did her final report on sea turtles, so when we saw there was a sea turtle sanctuary, we knew we had to check it out. 

It looks pretty small from the outside, but it’s like the wardrobe in Narnia.  You get in and its quite large.  You start looking at a bunch of rescued turtles in the room you enter.  Then you keep walking thru and eventually go down to an amphitheater where they have a great presentation on sea turtles.  This was a really cool experience to both see the turtles and to learn about them.

3- Pirate for a Day

One of my son’s favorite things to do in South Padre Island was probably going aboard a Pirate Ship for a day as a pirate.  This was really cool.  The whole staff was dressed as pirates and did an entire interactive day with the kids onboard as we sailed on the ocean.  Check out their page and look at how fun this looks!

They received Pirate certificates at the end of the cruise, gold coins, got to practice swabbing the deck and talking like a pirate.  There is food/beverages available for purchase onboard as well. 

4- South Padre Birding and Nature Center

The last outing we did was to the South Padre Birding and Nature Center   We began the visit by going up the 5 story observatory tower to overlook the whole marsh. 

Then, you can walk all day (or less, whatever you want) on a boardwalk that goes thru a marsh where plenty of birds and butterflies reside. 

There are also said to be American Alligators in the marsh, which many have seen, but unfortunately, we never spotted. 

Birding center in South Padre Texas
boardwalk over the marsh at Birding center in South Padre Texas

Birding and Nature Center

5- Beach Park Waterpark in South Padre Island

Once upon a time, there was a Schlitterbahn waterpark in South Padre Island.

Today, it has reopened as Beach Park in South Padre. This mega, 25-acre waterpark, located at the southern end of the island, is great for a day of fun for the whole family.

The waterpark has sections for every age, so it’s the perfect fun thing to do in South Padre Island for families. Surf the waves, ride the slides, hit the kids’ areas, or even try the zip line.

And when you are hungry, you can choose from Mexican, pizza, tacos, and ice cream.

6- Fishing in South Padre

Fishing is another of the fun things to do in South Padre Island for families.

Head out on the waters for 4-5 hours as you get taken to the best spots in the area to catch local fish. Many people take home Redfish, trout, snapper, whiting, and other varieties.

This family-family fishing outing is for a private group only, meaning you and the kids will get all the help and attention on your fishing trip in South Padre.

Bring your own snacks and drinks (you can grab some before or purchase some to-go food at the restaurant at the meet-up location).

All fishing gear is provided on this trip, as well as a cooler with ice to keep your catch fresh. You can clean the fish yourself, or for a small fee the crew will do it for you.

Note: Kids are fine to fish without prior requirement, but anyone 17 or older will have to get a fishing license.

Note: Price is per group, not per person for this fishing tour.

Book this HIGHLY rated fishing tour in South Padre

7- Dolphin Tours in South Padre Island

Hop on board for a 1-1/2 hour ride to watch for bottle nose dolphins. This fun tour is the perfect thing to do in South Padre Island with the family.

You can bring your own snacks and drinks as you watch for pods of dolphins in the water, often containing anywhere from 10-30 dolphins.

You’ll likely see other wildlife as well, like fish, crabs, and maybe even a stingray or pelicans.

Past participants have rated the tour very high, noting the crew was incredibly friendly and interactive.

Book This Eco Dolphin Tour Here

8- Ride a Banana Boat in South Padre

For all the unique things to do in South Padre Island with family, this one has to be one of the most fun.

Strap on the provided life jacket, and then climb onto the inflated banana boat with the family. Up to 6 people can fit at a time, giving you a chance to all be together during the activity.

The ride is about 20 minutes and you’re likely to “cool down” off the side at least once as you are pulled by a jet ski across the waters.

Since the ride is a bit bumpy, kids must be at least 7 years old to ride.

Past participants loved the professional jet ski driver and that they were always aware of the passengers and driving in a way that was comfortable and fun for them.

Book your Banana Boat Ride here

9- Snorkeling in South Padre Island

The warm gulf waters are home to many great fish. The next fun thing to do in South Padre Island for families consists of hopping out of the boat and exploring a little in the water.

This tour will take you on a short boat ride in the bay to find the best spots for fish. You’ll get acquainted with the snorkel gear and then hop in and explore. Your boat captain will even sprinkle a little fish food in the water to help you out.

This snorkel tour in South Padre is designed for up to 6 people, so you won’t be overcrowded.

Past guests have seen perch, catfish, and even stingrays and dolphins while on this excursion. They have also loved the captains, commentary, information, and friendliness of the staff.

Plan for an hour-and-a-half start to finish.

Book this snorkel tour in South Padre Island

2 More Great Things to do in South Padre Island with family!

Parasailing Adventure in South Padreexperience South Padre Island from the sky!

South Padre Island Sand Castling Experience– this fun family-friendly experience will give you pro tips and tools. Choose 1 or 2 hours.

Does South Padre Island get Hurricanes?

Technically, yes. But it’s been less common for hurricanes to push through where South Padre is compared to places like Florida.

The most notable hurricanes that hit South Padre were Hurricane Belulah in 1967, in 2008 by Hurricane Dolly, and more recently Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

These all occurred in July, August, September, when typical hurricane season is a factor in any travel to the southeast US hurricane zone.

Overall, 40 have hit in the last 90+ years.


When is the Best Time to Go to South Padre Island?

US News notes September to February as the best time to visit South Padre Island. It’s not hurricane season, and it’s not spring break, which tends to get a little wild.

That said, January, February and March are cooler months typically hitting in the low to mid-70’s.

We visited in early June and enjoyed hot weather, average crowds, and great beaches. I felt like end of May and early June was a great time to go to South Padre.

Where is South Padre Island

South Padre Island is located at the very southern tip of Texas.

Why should you visit all the way in southern Texas?

Well, let’s start with 34 miles of beautiful beaches. The island is long and narrow and surrounded by beautiful waters.

The island’s website also says that it’s the only tropical island in Texas!

What Airport goes to South Padre Island

We flew into Harlingen airport (Valley International; HRL) and had about an hour or so drive to get to South Padre Island. 

Brownsville Airport is about 30 minutes away, but only served by a few airlines.

The San Antonio airport is about 4 -1/2 hours away.

kids looking over balcony at the ocean in South Padre Texas

Where to Stay in South Padre with Kids

We stayed at The Hilton Garden Inn, which was a great location. It was a beachfront hotel and not far from some great attractions we wanted to visit.

Just down the street was the Sea Turtle Rescue, Birding Center, and other great beaches if you feel so inclined to find another beach.   We had four kids with us and had a lot of fun family things to do in South Padre nearby.

Check out more Top Hotels in South Padre Island

Things to do in South Padre Island with Kids- wrap up

South Padre Island was such a fun family vacation. Between being relatively affordable, adventurous, and relaxing, it was the perfect mix!

It had great learning opportunities that were FUN, and plenty of relaxing and fun beach time. We were not short on things to do in South Padre Island with the family!

Check out these hotels in South Padre as well:

Courtyard by Marriott

La Copa Inn

Beachfront Holiday Inn IHG Resort

Or see my full list of Top Hotels in South Padre Island

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  1. I love that you found so many nature activities for the kids!! I always looked for these when I traveled with me kids.

  2. I had never heard of South Padre Island either. So I was happy to share in your research. Beaches are always a big draw for kids of all ages. And our kids were always happy to go bird watching.

  3. I haven’t been to South Padre Island, but your pictures make me want to! How about that pirate ship? That looks so fun. I think my husband would like that!

    1. It is such a fun place! And I was so impressed with the actors/staff on the pirate ship!

  4. The sea turtle rescue center looks fascinating. Although it would be scary, I think seeing an alligator at the nature center would be cool and I definitely would not miss the dolphin watch.

    1. The Sea Turtle rescue center was probably our favorite thing we did. And luckily you are on a boardwalk in the marshes, so it’s much cooler to see an alligator from way up there 🙂

  5. South Padre Island was the first beach I ever went to. I was 13-year-old Oklahoma girl. I was pretty landlocked! We had a blast! There was so many fun things to do!

  6. South Padre Island looks amazing! The beach and the Sea Turtle resue centre would be right up our alley!

  7. South Padre Island has so much to offer! I would love to visit and become involved with Sea Turtle rescue!

  8. The sandy beach on South Padre Island looks inviting. There is nothing like a great beach day to make a vacation perfect.

  9. What a fun place to play! I’d love to visit there and go to the sea turtle rescue center.

  10. South Padre Island sounds like a fun family destination! So many fun things to do. Especially love the turtle sanctuary.

  11. South Padre Island looks incredible! The sea turtle rescue would be somewhere Id definitely want to check out.

  12. South Padre Island is so much fun! Lisa had the fortune of visiting with her daughter in 2009!

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