The graceful Queen Isabella Causeway connects Port Isabel, home to one of the biggest commercial fishing fleets in Texas, to South Padre Island, one of the biggest spring break destinations in the country. As you might expect, much of the island's activities don't extend beyond getting in the water or soaking up the sun's rays near it. Just off the beach, though, you can glean local knowledge from the friendly owners of the Beachcomber's Museum, 104 W Pompano St (Tel:956/761-5231), which is also a bookstore and coffee shop rolled into one. Ask Kay Lay to tell you about sea beans that wash ashore after drifting north from South American forests.
Though most visitors to the area make straight for the island, you can stay in Port Isabel at the elegant Port Isabel Yacht Club and Hotel, 700 Yturria (Tel:956/943-1301; check first to confirm that ongoing renovations are complete; Price: $76-100). On SPI a good option is the beachfront Wanna Wanna, 5100 Gulf Blvd (Tel:956/761-7677, Web: www.wannawanna.com ; Price: $76-100), which also has a friendly bar popular with locals. A more sedate choice is the South Beach Inn (120 E Jupiter; Tel:956/761-2471, Web: www.southbeachtexas.com ; Price: $51-75), which is a few blocks from the beach and has a pool. Watch the sunset and eat dinner at the secluded Palm Street Pier restaurant, which has west-facing views of the Laguna Madre and serves fresh shrimp dinners for about $10 (204 W Palm; Tel:956/772-PALM; Web: www.palmstreetpier.com ). After dinner, old salts and bikers belly up to the Coral Reef Bar, 5401 Padre Blvd, to groan, drink beer, and tip the pretty bar maid.