The Magic of South Padre Island

Author & Photo credits: Beth Pollock



The sky was streaked with gold and peach, and the setting sun blazed a path across the water. The crew had just served a meal of ceviche, fajitas, and cheesecake. I was settling back into the cushions the crew had thoughtfully placed out on the seats, with a glass of wine in my hand.

And just when I thought things couldn’t get any more romantic, one of the other passengers dropped down on one knee and handed his girlfriend a ring.

Proposals don’t come standard with the sunset dinner package at Ka Motion Sailing Adventure. But here’s what does come with the package – a delicious meal, a breathtaking sunset, and a friendly welcome from Captain Sean and First Mate Letty.

South Padre, Texas is one of the most welcoming destinations in the south. They don’t call us snowbirds here: we’re Winter Texans, and they love to welcome us.

If you’re looking for beautiful weather, small crowds and adventure, look no further. From a romantic sail, to stand-up paddle boarding, to the best kind of karma, South Padre Island supplies all the magic you need for a memorable holiday.


Stand-Up Paddle boarding (SUP)

All you need to know about Mike and Madlen and their stand-up paddle boarding business, is Milo, their 16-year old Red Heeler dog. In fact, he’s the reason they moved from Hawaii to South Padre Island.

“Milo was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013, and it was very expensive to treat his needs there,” said Mike, owner of Eh Brah SUP. “Milo walks freely and in peace away from huge crowds on the Texas beaches, and strolls through the shallow water of the Lower Laguna Madre.”

Milo and Mike Paddle Boarding.

Milo loves the water, and he used to paddle board with Mike all the time, but had to stop because of his age and illness. He still spends time with Mike in the shop

It was my first experience with stand up paddle boarding, and I couldn’t have asked for a more patient and kind instructor. It struck me that if he could help this balance-challenged author stay on her feet and keep dry, he could probably teach anyone. He told me about “the 85 year old sisters that we took paddle boarding for the first time, successfully! Now they can’t wait to do it again!”

We paddled the lower Laguna Madre, according to Mike the most beautiful part of the Texas Bay. It was a peaceful ride and I loved listening to him talk about his life as a young adult in landlocked Austin, where he drove to the Texas Coast every weekend to teach himself to surf. Moving to Hawaii was a balm to his water-loving soul: he surfed and taught kite boarding, and that’s where he met Madlen. Even Milo loves the water – he used to paddle board with Mike until his age and illness prevented it. South Padre Island is now home to them all.

Mike shared his favourite paddle boarding experiences, like the time a little girl found a seahorse, or the group of people that paddled along with the dolphins in the bay. “One thing that happens out on the water with nearly every tour, is I hear how peaceful and relaxing it is. Every one of the people that have taken a tour or lesson have all been awesome and nothing short of our friends.”

There’s no question that Mike loves what he does, and loves sharing his favourite places on the island with the people who take his tours.

Want to try a water sport that requires a bit more adrenaline? You might check out Mike and Madlen’s Red Dog Kite boarding business, named after – you guessed it – Milo.


Your’s Truly Paddle Boarding on South Padre.


Café Karma

I stopped by chance in Café Karma for ice cream, and found a story of the best kind of karma.

Owner Will Everett was living in Afghanistan as an aid worker. “I was living in an apartment in Kabul, which is rare for foreign aid workers,” he said. “Most live in compounds and have protection and their needs are met. But I was winging it on my own.”

He met Afghani Roin Khurami by chance in 2014. “Roin needed an interview subject for a class project, saw a foreigner strolling by, and sought me out,” Will continued. “Little by little he began doing small favours for me, which turned into part-time work.” Will relied heavily on Roin to help with the challenges he faced while living in Kabul.

But as Will got to know him better, he could see Roin was in an unsafe position. “When I saw the dangers he was confronting, I brought him to the US to visit, and we applied for asylum.” Two years later, Roin is still hopeful of becoming a citizen. But in the meantime…

“The café idea came up in early 2017. Roin can’t study formally as an asylum seeker, so the business was conceived as a way to give him a hands-on introduction to business.” Will continues to do aid work as a communications specialist overseas, so Roin basically handles the business himself. It’s a good fit, says Will – “Business suits him!”

Oh, and about the ice cream? It’s Texas’s favourite brand, Blue Bell. It’s wildly popular, and after eating a cup of the Pecan Pralines and Cream, I could see why. It’s stuffed full of buttery pecans and crunchy pralines, smothered in a rich vanilla base.

Karma is truly sweet.

Blue Bell Ice Cream from Cafe Karma.

For more information on Texas and to receive a free copy of the Texas Travel Guide and Texas Official Travel Map, visit


Notes: The writer saw South Padre Island as a guest of Texas Tourism, who did not review or approve this story.


When to go

If you’re there in early December, don’t miss Lights Over South Padre, with a tree lighting ceremony and nighttime lighted boat parade. And SPI market days in January and February bring Mexican vendors to the island.

Perhaps it’s most important to know when not to go. The island is a popular Spring Break destination, and most Winter Texans leave by early or mid-March to avoid the parties later in the month.


Where to stay

Sapphire Luxury Beachfront Rentals – Sapphire’s condos are available for short- or long-term rentals. With direct beach access, two pools, a hot tub, and a fitness room, the Sapphire is one of the loveliest choices on South Padre. I stayed in # 803, a super roomy unit that features two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a generous living room and kitchenette, with a washer and drier right in the unit. The balcony offered a lovely view of beach and pool area.


Sunrise at Sapphire.


The Beach at Sapphire.

Where to eat

Café Karma – 5200 Padre Blvd #101.

Yummies Bistro – A friendly eatery with a terrific breakfast and lunch options. 700 Padre Blvd.

Grapevine Café – Great selection of breakfast foods, with lots of Mexican choices. 100 E Swordfish St.

Ceviche Ceviche – A tiny shop that specializes in – you guessed it – ceviche. Opt for the Classic (tomato, red onion, cilantro and avocado) or the Islander (mango, jicama, cantaloupe, cucumber), made with shrimp or mahi mahi. Watch as they prepare your order in front of you. And go early, because when they run out of food, they close. 1004 Padre Blvd.

Tropical Smoothie Café – Try their mango smoothie on a hot day, or one of their wraps any day. This chain restaurant fills the bill when you’re looking for a quick, good lunch. 411 Padre Blvd.

Gabriella’s – You’ll spend most of your time enjoying the Mexican and seafood restaurants on the island. But when you feel like a change, order the pizza at this bustling Italian restaurant. 700 Padre Blvd.


What to do

Eh Brah SUP – 5009 Padre Blvd, Suite 16.

Ka Motion Sailing – 200 Pike St.

Sapphire Spa – My last day in South Padre was wet and windy, so I made a last-minute massage appointment at the Sapphire Spa. I got to the spa early and was rewarded with a complimentary glass of wine while I waited. Best of all, if you’re staying at the Sapphire, you receive a 10% discount on all services.