Best spring break value travel destinations: South Padre Island

Long one of the U.S.’s biggest and wildest Spring Break magnets, the 25-mile strip South Padre Island is still as popular as ever. But it's also an adventurer’s paradise, South Padre Island (SPI) offers anything aquatic you could ever want off the Gulf of Mexico: parasailing, windsurfing, jet-skiing and deep-sea fishing.

However, it’s the college crowd that rules over Spring Break, where bikini contests, shot girls, and standing-room-only are the norm. The beach itself is the scene of the party on SPI, where Coca Cola takes over Isla Grand Hotel (ground-zero for SPI spring break) and hosts dance parties and contests, giving the entire beach the feel of a club.

Popular watering holes include Clayton’s Beach Bar, with live music, DJs and prizes, it’s the largest beach bar on the Texas coast, and Louie’s Backyard, a 30-plus-year-old institution that features karaoke and seafood buffets.

Once the hangover kicks in and you crave some quieter activities, there’s dolphin-watching, scuba-diving, or the Schlitterbahn, a heated water-park.

Isla Grand Hotel offers numerous packages during the spring: most approximately $89 per person, but some (depending on dates) as low as $29 per night.

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There’s no airport on South Padre Island, so getting there requires flying through Houston or Dallas into one of the nearest two locations: Brownsville (which Continental serves) and Harlingen (via Southwest).