I’m not sure if it’s because we were stuck in the house for so long or because I haven’t booked a beach vacation in what feels like forever, but ever since I booked this trip I was so excited. I was creating checklists, looking up pictures, and packing in advance. I felt almost more excited than I have in the past when booking bigger and farther trips. Prior to Covid, no one could have convinced me that there was a “real” beach in Texas. And while that still might be true, this mini getaway was something that was much needed after the year we’ve had and I’d visit many many times again.
As I was preparing for this trip, I kept seeing pictures of all these great stays that seemed like dreamy beach front resorts. I’m talking the type of stays you would see at your favorite island destination. I looked up Airbnb’s but the few that really stood out to me would be gone by the time I went back to look at them. I knew if I wasn’t planning on going out I wanted to have the best stay, so I was willing to splurge a little more than I usually do. After visiting, I would say that finding a great stay in South Padre Island can really make or break your experience. I found spirentals.com that had the exact condos I had been looking at for so much cheaper. They had exactly one condo at the Sapphire for the exact amount of people we needed. Luckily by the time we were ready to book, that one condo was still available. It seemed like all the stays I previously looked at were going fast. I definitely recommend looking at their website if you’re looking for bay front or beach front rentals for a decent price. You can filter by the number of guests, whether you want beach front or bay front and the prices vary. They do not accept deposits unless it’s more than 30 days before your trip otherwise they require you to pay the full amount. Booking with them was extremely easy, I was able to call and get all my questions answered right away. Once I booked, they sent me a rental agreement and options for check in. Unfortunately, I didn’t send in what I needed in the allotted time to be able to do contactless check in but they do offer that as well. Even though I prefer contactless check in, I felt pretty safe doing the face to face check in. First I had to check in at SPI Rentals which I did not know was separate from checking in at my condo and it was a little tricky to find because I was expecting to arrive at the Sapphire rather than SPI Rentals. At SPI Rentals they only allow one person in at a time – if that’s not social distancing I don’t know what is. They checked me in really quickly and let me know I also had to check in when I got to the Sapphire. At the Sapphire they had a screen between you and the person working behind the counter and hand sanitizer readily available right next to you. Overall, it was quick and easy and I didn’t feel unsafe checking in.
To my standard the Sapphire was the perfect stay. From the minute you pull into the parking lot, Sapphire provides a beautiful aesthetic. Once you check in they have carts available for you to bring up your luggage. The elevator even requires masks to be on at all times or you could face up to a $100 fine. The condo was spacious with full bathrooms in each room, I’m not sure if that’s the case with each condo but I loved that. They also have a full kitchen which was stocked with a new paper towel roll, new sponge still in the plastic, and a brand new kitchen soap. It also had a balcony that over looked the pool and had views of the beach from a far. There was a beautiful pool with cabanas outside with private access to the beach. For those of you who want amazing vacation pictures, everything about the Sapphire was Instagram worthy.
Speaking of things being Instagram worthy, horseback riding was just as breathtaking as it seems in the pictures. I never thought I’d be horseback riding on the beach in Texas, I always thought I’d have to travel far to have an experience like this. There were multiple places that offered horse back riding on the beach in South Padre island but we went with Island Adventure park because they also had zip lining (I did not zip line but the people I traveled with did and loved it). You can choose between horseback riding at sunrise, midday, or at sunset. We went mid day because the price was the best and they offered packages. If you’re not looking to do zip lining and want an even cheaper horseback riding experience, SPI Stables offers it for as low as $40 a ride. No prior experience was necessary. I’ve only been on a horse once so I am no pro and the fact that my horse was far behind the group the whole time showed it. At first I was scared because my horse was just doing it’s own thing before we even left the stable. I was ready to tell the tour guides to just let me off the horse. But, I stuck it out and once we got to the beach it was a great experience. My horse was following my directions and listening to the water was so soothing. When you’re done don’t forget to kiss your horse (which I forgot to) and tip your tour guides.
I had plans to mainly cook when I got to South Padre Island but our stay didn’t end up going that way. That’s the only thing I would’ve done differently. We tried a few restaurants and I honestly came to the conclusion that the food on the island was mediocre at best. The first restaurant we tried was Pier 19 which was walking distance from the Sapphire. I had the shrimp boil with no sausage. I’d probably say this was the second best thing I ate while I was there. The shrimp boil wasn’t the best I had, but the service was great. They had an hour wait but allowed us to order take out and eat outside. When we were ordering take out the host was so busy answering calls, bringing people their drinks, and taking our order. Even while he was busy he made time to make sure there was no sausage or any other meat in my shrimp boil. When we were sitting down eating outside after our orders were ready another worker came over and I thought he was going to tell us to leave because we ordered our food to go. But, to my surprise he said “well, looks like you guys are going to need more napkins!” I felt like the service at this restaurant was great.
The next restaurant we went to was Dirty Al’s. The first thing that made me feel comfortable about eating here was that they took your temperature before seating you. They also socially distanced the seating and it was dinner with a view of the bay and the bridge. The chips, guac, and pico had me full before my food even came. To be completely honest, I wasn’t happy with my shrimp tacos but they offered to take it off the check and get me something else. I ordered the salmon salad to go and ate it the next day and I will say the salmon was AMAZING. So I’d skip the shrimp tacos and go right for the salmon.
The last restaurant we tried was Clayton’s beach bar. We picked between two restaurants and both had similar reviews saying the food was mediocre but Clayton’s looked like a good pick because it overlooked the beach. A mask was required to get in but I don’t believe they were properly practicing social distancing. The food was also my least favorite, it was regular beach boardwalk food. So I wouldn’t go here expecting to eat good. However, outside of Covid I believe this would be a fun beach bar experience because it’s right on the water.
Overall, I had a great time. It was a much needed recharge and I realized it was all about perspective. I woke up super early to get to the pool every day before any one else did, I laid out on the beach for hours on end (which resulted in the worst sunburn ever), I read, and I napped. The sky seemed to be extra blue (as you can see in my pictures) and I loved the cool breeze. I would’ve stayed longer had I known I would’ve enjoyed it so much.