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Right off the southern tip of Texas is a tropical paradise offering as much or as little activity as you want. Whether gazing at a magnificent sunset over Laguna Madre, deep-sea fishing, parasailing, hiking, bird-watching, scuba diving, golfing or simply lazing on the soft white sand beach, this long, narrow barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico offers the ocean-, sun- or recreation-bound vacationer a heavenly respite from the daily grind. Except for Spring Break, when students flood the area, the atmosphere is quiet and laid-back. The clear turquoise waters are enticing, but there's no shortage of activities for landlubbers. Sandcastlelessons at one of the beach bars, horseback riding on the beach, play a round of tennis or golf, hike or join the birders seeking out the area's more than 300 species. Or get a bird's-eye view of the coast from the top of the historic Port Isabel Lighthouse. Fresh seafood with all varieties of seasoning and other fare is served at excellent restaurants, many with outdoor seating. A true island getaway, South Padre will renew your soul.