Skip to Content

The Complete Guide to Snorkeling in South Padre Island

Snorkeling South Padre Island is one of the most exciting activities you and your family can try while vacationing on this island.

Nothing is more relaxing and energizing than exploring the waters around the island.

South Padre Island snorkeling is an extremely popular sport as it is easy to learn, and you don’t need professional equipment to explore the waters from the area.

All you need for snorkeling at South Padre Island is a mask, fins for more speed in the water, and a snorkel tube.

This article will help you learn about snorkeling on South Padre Island. You will also get some helpful tips for how to spend your time watching marine animals.

Snorkeling in South Padre Island

Laguna Madre Bay is the best place to go snorkeling on South Padre Island. There are stingrays, redfish, eels, sharks, jellyfish, and many other marine creatures.

Some of the following links are affiliate links. When you buy something using the retail links in our article, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost for you. You can read our full disclosure disclaimer and privacy policy.

General information

South Padre Island is an island in the Gulf of Mexico. It belongs to the state of Texas and is located in Willacy County and Cameron County.

This place is full of sandy beaches and clear waters that are perfect for swimming, surfing, and other water sports.

South Padre snorkel
South Padre snorkel

It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike who are looking to enjoy the sun and the waves.

Many people visit the island all year round, including during winter. Texans come here to escape the cold weather and wind.

Among the most popular activities on the island are surfing, fishing, sunset cruises, banana boat rides, dolphin watching, rafting, parasailing, scuba diving, and horseback riding (for more information about horseback riding, read our article Horseback riding South Padre Island, the best experience   /texas/horseback-riding-south-padre-island/ ) and snorkeling.

Is snorkeling South Padre Island any good?

There are more than 360 miles of coastline in Texas, so for scuba divers and snorkelers, this is the right place to be.

South Padre Island is a place where you can go to have fun and try different watersports. Many people from Texas come to South Padre Island because it is so popular.

The island is a great place to snorkel because the water temperature is good, there is a lot of sea life, and you can see clearly under the water.

Snorkel near South Padre
Snorkel near South Padre

The water around the island is tested a lot. It is ranked as “the cleanest water in the country.” This means that the water is clear, safe, and calm. You will be able to see a lot while snorkeling.

South Padre Island snorkeling spots

The waters around the island are perfect for divers. This is because there are a lot of shipwrecks, artificial reefs, and oil rigs on the North Eastern side.

Snorkelers prefer the Northwestern side for exploring the underwater world, and Laguna Madre is among the best spots.

You can snorkel everywhere around the island, outside the Lagoon, but bear in mind that the currents are stronger, and the waves might be intimidating, so you should be a good swimmer to explore these waters.

For this reason, most tour agencies that offer snorkeling trips choose Laguna Madre for this experience.

Laguna Madre is a beautiful and protected lagoon with no reefs, so you can snorkel everywhere and see the marine life from the area.

The best places to go snorkeling have shallow water, about 3 to 5 feet deep.

The water is clear so you can see the white sand at the bottom of the ocean. There are also a lot of shells and rays hiding in the sand.

Snorkeling near South Padre Isle
Snorkeling near South Padre Isle

From place to place, there is sea grass on the ocean floor, the perfect place for hiding used by crabs, shrimps, starfish, and sometimes, seahorses.

The lagoon waters are a good place to snorkel with dolphins and see young fish. This is because the lagoon is a place where many marine species have their babies.

The warm waters from the lagoon allow you to spend many hours in the water and quietly observe the fauna and flora from the area.

Marine life you can see when snorkeling South Padre Island

Laguna Madre is a unique ecosystem and the best spot to snorkel South Padre Island.

The lagoon water is saltier than the ocean, which will help you float and make your snorkeling experience more enjoyable.

The water here is special and a lot of different kinds of fish live in it.

If you go snorkeling in Laguna Madre, you might see stingrays, crabs, eels, jellyfish, catfish, turtles, redfish, herrings, dolphins, and sometimes sharks.

Snorkeling on South Padre
Snorkeling on South Padre

The hypersalinity of the lagoon water allows you to see species of fish that generally meet in reefs.

Tropical fish like wrasse, triggerfish, and trumpetfish can also be seen in the lagoon’s waters.

The lagoon is a great place to snorkel for everyone. The water is not deep, so it’s perfect for beginners.

And there’s plenty to see for experienced snorkelers too. You’ll have a great time!

Good visibility means you can see the bottom of the ocean and all the marine creatures in the area.

Useful tips for snorkeling at South Padre Island

Here are some things you should bring and know before for a memorable experience in the waters around South Padre.

What to bring with you as no snorkeling tour will give you:

  • Bathing suit
  • Suncream
  • Sunglasses
  • A hat

What you generally have included in the snorkeling tour:

  • Snorkeling equipment ( or if you choose to bring your own, then go with this snorkeling gear)
  • Snacks and soft drinks, including fresh fruit and lemonade
Snorkeling South Padre Island
Snorkeling South Padre Island

What to know before you snorkel

  1. First of all, it is very important to trust and understand how your snorkeling equipment works. If this is the first time you snorkel, ensure you get comfortable with the snorkeling equipment while on the boat. The mask must fit perfectly on your face to avoid water leaking into the inner space. If you rent snorkel equipment, then ask for shop attendant help to find the mask that fits you best.
  2. You don’t need to be a good swimmer to snorkel. If you are a beginner, bring with you some floating equipment to feel less stressed when in the water.
  3. Stay with the snorkeling group or your friends. When you are snorkeling, staying close to your friends or the other people you are with is important. If you find yourself alone in the water, try not to panic.

One thing that really helps me whenever I plan my next travel is - to stay focused and organised! Check out this gorgeous Vacation Planner printable - with pre-trip to-do lists + accommodation and flight research + activities and car-rental + packing lists (empty and even pre-filled) to make sure you don't forget anything when you travel

Vacation Planner 45 pages



Related: Trip research planner (a lighter version of the Vacation Planner)

Best time to go snorkeling on South Padre Island

South Padre Island becomes really crowded, especially during Spring Break when everybody rushes to the island to enjoy the good weather and the lagoon’s warm waters.

The island is also well-known for its lively nightlife, so younger travelers come here to party all night and enjoy the sun.

The summer months, from June to September, might be too hot, with temperatures reaching 91 degrees Fahrenheit and an increased probability of hurricanes.

South Padre Island Snorkel
South Padre Island Snorkel

Actually, September is the rainiest month of the year, with an average of 7 rainy days per month. Seven days are nothing significant to scare you, but I think you should know this information for better plan your vacation.

The best months for exploring the island and snorkeling in the waters around are from September to February, when Texas is colder and windy.

Best tours for exploring the underwater world

Many travel agencies and tour companies offer snorkeling South Padre Island tours all year round.

Most companies choose Laguna Madre for snorkeling for the reasons mentioned earlier in this article.

Almost all the tours last for three hours. Most companies operate two daily tours, one in the morning and another early in the afternoon.

Best tour companies come with experienced instructors and guides who keep an eye on you and ensure that nothing bad happens.

South Padre Island snorkeling
South Padre Island snorkeling

It is likely that the snorkeling equipment, snacks, and water are already included in the tour price, but it is still important to confirm these things with the tour operator before you make your purchase.

The most popular tour operators which offer the best experiences are Breakaway Cruises, Southern Wave Sailing Charters, and American Diving.

Breakaway Cruises offers snorkeling experiences in remote areas, which ensures close encounters with amazing marine creatures.

The tour price includes equipment and a professional crew who will teach you about South Padre Island’s waters.

Southern Wave Sailing Charters offers a 3-hour tour with lunch and supplies included, but the price is definitely higher than average.

This company will go snorkeling north through the Thompson Channel. The tour price also includes a tour of the beautiful homes located along the channel.

American Diving offers snorkeling tours for a good price, and the tour includes free fish food so that you can feed the fish while in water.

South Padre Island snorkeling
South Padre Island snorkeling

The destination for snorkeling is the Laguna Madre estuary, packed with many marine creatures.

How expensive is a snorkeling South Padre Island tour?

Snorkeling tours are definitely less expensive and risky than diving tours, making learning easier.

The waters around the island, especially Laguna Madre, are perfect for snorkeling because of the water temperature, increased visibility, and the abundance of marine creatures.

Snorkeling is easier and cheaper than diving, with costs ranging from 35-40 USD per person.

South Padre Snorkeling tour
South Padre Snorkeling tour

You will get a 3-hour trip, basic snorkeling equipment, some water, and maybe some fruits for this price.

If you want to have lunch included, a more experienced crew, and a better boat, then the price might easily exceed 160 USD per person.

Best hotels on South Padre Island

South Padre Island is one of the most beautiful places close to the ocean where you can run after a long and stressful week.

There are a lot of options for hotels on the island, so it can be hard to pick one with the best view and price.

Below, I have listed the three best hotels in the area. This will make it easier for you to pick your favorite one.

Comfort Suites South Padre Island

This is one of the best mid-range resorts in South Padre Island Texas, with a private beach and a great price-quality ratio suitable for everyone.

Comfort Suites South Padre Island is not located on the beach, so you must walk a few steps and cross the dunes to reach the private beach, but nothing to bother you.

Comfort Suites South Padre entrance
Comfort Suites South Padre entrance

Guests can relax near the outdoor pool or in the hot tub, or you can stay directly near the ocean.

A fitness center is available on the property, breakfast is complimentary, and plenty of options are available.

Comfort Suites South Padre breakfast area
Comfort Suites South Padre breakfast area

The rooms and suites are modern and spacious, extremely clean with comfy beds, and you have plenty of space to walk around.

Peninsula Island Resort & Spa

The resort has a private beach where you can perfect your tan, listen to the sound of waves and relax while reading a book.

Peninsula Island Resort overview
Peninsula Island Resort overview

The rooms and suites at Peninsula Island Resort & Spa are spacious, and all have a seating area and are equipped with a kitchenette, free WI-FI, and private balconies.

You will have a floor-to-ceiling wall in your room to admire the ocean and let the sunlight come in.

The on-site restaurant serves a wide range of dishes mostly inspired by Mexican cuisine, all cooked from good quality ingredients.

Peninsula Island Resort beach
Peninsula Island Resort beach

You can admire the ocean from your table and, in the end, sip a cocktail and enter the vacation mood.

 La Quinta by Wyndham South Padre Island Beach

La Quinta by Wyndham is a great resort that is located very close to the beach on the northern side of South Padre Island, Texas.

La Quinta by Wyndham South Padre Island Beach room
Beach Room at La Quinta by Wyndham South Padre Island

This mid-range property where kids stay for free offers spacious and clean rooms and suites, and some have ocean views.

You have an outdoor swimming pool and a lot of different things to do outside so you will not get bored.

La Quinta by Wyndham South Padre Island Beach recreation area
La Quinta by Wyndham South Padre Island Beach recreation area

The resort is perfectly located close to the beach, restaurants, and bars. You can get to the place where all the action happens quickly.


Snorkeling South Padre Island is a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your family in the water and observe the fascinating underwater world.

If you go for a basic snorkeling tour, you won’t spend much money, but the experience is something you won’t forget very soon.

Logistical tips and tricks for your trip

Book your accommodation
We always use as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.

You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.

Don't forget travel insurance
We never leave home without HeyMondo Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money.

When we go for longer trips around the world we get Globelink Insurance as it offers a good cover for an affordable price.

Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected costs caused by medical events like illness, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.

We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.

Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.

We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.

Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.

We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.

Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.

Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.