Is South Padre Island Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On May 17, 2024
South Padre Island, United States
Safety Index:
70
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Embark on a journey to South Padre Island, where the sun-drenched shores of the Gulf of Mexico blend a vibrant culture and natural wonders.

This island gem, nestled off the southern tip of Texas, boasts a rich history intertwined with tales of exploration and resilience.

Originally inhabited by Native American tribes, its story evolved with Spanish explorers and later became a haven for pirates.

Today, South Padre Island welcomes anywhere from five to seven million people a year.

Adjacent to the mainland, you’ll find communities like Port Isabel, with its charming streets and historic lighthouse, offering a glimpse into the area’s past.

What sets South Padre Island apart is its versatility; it’s a playground for spring breakers seeking excitement and relaxation alike, as well as a tranquil retreat for retirees in search of a laid-back lifestyle.

The island’s unique blend of pristine beaches, diverse wildlife, and lively atmosphere creates an irresistible allure that is hard to resist.

Warnings & Dangers in South Padre Island

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

The overall risk here largely depends on your attention to personal safety. The potential for a medium risk is there, but the low risk in reality is due to increased security over the years and low tolerance for illegal behavior. Plus, there's so much to do in safe, fun places you won't get bored.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

You can view the Getting Around the Island section of the tourism website to see the list of options. Choose from the free shuttle system that runs the length of the island and onto the mainland. Taxis, rideshares, and private charters are available. Rental cars can be found in several surrounding cities. Golf carts are another popular choice for getting around. All options come with a low risk, but that's assuming you are using basic safety practices.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

I'm surprised to see that just one purse snatching has been reported in the past five years in South Padre. However, the "other" category of theft could include beach bags stolen. Statistically the risk is low, but treat it as a medium risk due to the number of people around you. I only use small crossbody bags at the beach, with just enough room for an ID, credit card, and my phone.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Treat this as a medium risk to stay aware of incoming severe or tropical weather. Hurricane Season runs from June through November. Rip tides, flooding, high waves, and bacteria-filled water can cause safety threats. We'll help you find alerts and places to check safety conditions in this article.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

About 30% of robberies are muggings, with eight or fewer robberies in a given year going back a decade. The risk is low, with 2022 having just five robberies and none of those was a mugging. You do need to use extra caution at night and stick with people you know in well-lit, secure areas.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM

This is a medium risk due to criminal and safety concerns around the border. As much as you can risk being a target of international crime, you could also stumble upon a drug deal or cartel activity. You have to use street smarts here and don't downplay the risk of Mexican cartel problems. These people are ruthless. Always report anything suspicious and never try to intervene.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Check local law enforcement social media sites for the latest scams. The local Better Business Bureau office and the state Attorney General’s office will have common scam tactics and protection advice. Before you even think about booking a rental home, check out the short-term rental laws so that you can quickly spot anyone not being compliant. The risk is increased in a major tourist area like this.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM

Women should treat this as a medium risk due to the risks involved with alcohol, large crowds, lowering of inhibitions, and inherent risks of a border town. Always stick with friends and never leave anyone behind. Don't drink beyond your ability to make smart choices.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The U.S. has strict standards for tap water per the Safe Water Drinking Act. Communities are required to provide a Water Quality Report (Consumer Confidence Report) once a year by July 1. The risk is low, but you should also know that South Padre is prone to water outages or water restrictions. Review the Laguna Madre Water District website before your visit.

Safest Places to Visit in South Padre Island

Sopadre.com is the official tourism site for South Padre Island.

You can sign up for newsletter updates or send your information through the Trip Request form to get help planning your vacation.

I really like how the page is broken down into different itineraries, showcasing that it’s much more than a spring break destination.

South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center offers a fascinating insight into the local wildlife and ecosystem.

You’ll meander through wetlands boardwalks with platforms overlooking the Laguna Madre.

It’s a birding paradise.

South Padre Island Historical Museum is housed in the Old City Hall building.

The exhibits here trace the history of South Padre Island and the surrounding region, covering topics such as early settlers, maritime heritage, and local culture.

Located in the heart of the town, Port Isabel Historical Museum occupies a building dating back to 1899.

Inside, you can explore exhibits that delve into Port Isabel’s past, including its role as a bustling port town and its significance in the Texas Revolution.

Just across the street is the Port Isabel Lighthouse with the Treasures of the Gulf Museum inside.

Self-guided tours of the lighthouse are open daily, but can be limited or canceled due to extreme weather or a launch.

You might be asking – “A launch of what?”

I’m glad you asked!

The SpaceX Boca Chica location is testing rockets that will help pave the way to Mars.

You can’t tour the facility, but you can check the launch location and then find a spot to watch it happen.

When there isn’t a launch scheduled, head to Boca Chica State Park to drive by SpaceX and then enjoy the beach.

Tours are available throughout the island, from swimming with dolphins, horseback rides on the beach, parasailing, or kayak sunset tours.

There’s just an overwhelming number of options, including high adrenaline activites like skydiving or flyboarding.

Any risky activity will require you to waive liability of the vendor.

Keep this in mind when booking travel insurance and consider adventure insurance add-ons.

Beach Waterpark is a massive amusement site with carnival rides, various water activities, and several areas just for kids.

Adults will love the swim-up bars and lazy river.

They even have tubing on uphill water coasters!

Among the dozens of restaurants, bars, and nightlife options, the Longboard Bar and Grill stands out as the Live Music Capital of South Texas.

It has a great layout so that you don’t feel cramped with all the other guests and there are some thrill rides on site.

We’ve only scratched the surface of South Padre Island, but hopefully you have got a taste of what’s to come!

Places to Avoid in South Padre Island

The same risks are everywhere on the island, and it’s not that big of an area.

Only 2,600 people live here, and the rest is filled with hotels and resorts.

I would suggest you avoid booking a place simply because it has the lowest price.

Here’s why:

  • You’ll do a lot of walking and want to be close to the places that you’ll visit the most.
  • Some hotel groups are more for the young, hip party crowds. Others are more for retirees. Yet another section might cater to families. Choose within your niche to find a good deal.
  • If you plan to use the island shuttle, pick a place to stay that is on the route. This is especially important at the end of a long day when you’re exhausted.

You don’t need to avoid South Padre Island during hurricane season, but definitely keep an eye on tropical development.

The peak of the season comes from August through October.

You will have plenty of notice that a storm is approaching.

One additional thing to note – Padre Island National Seashore is three hours away by car from South Padre Island.

You’ll have to go to the mainland to reach the national seashore.

If you want to be closer to that location, consider staying in Port Aransas.

Safety Tips for Traveling to South Padre Island

  1. South Padre Island is an island and a city with its own police department. Follow them on Facebook @SouthPadreIslandPolice. Call (956) 761-5454 to ask specific safety questions. That’s also a good number to save in your contact list, so it’s easily accessible if you see suspicious activity.
  2. You should also follow the Padre Beach Rescue Association to learn about beach warning flag systems and other safety guidance from the people who dedicate their lives to rescuing those in need.
  3. Use the Smart911 program to sign up for emergency alerts in South Padre Island. This will cover public safety threats and weather emergencies. This is not the same as the texts you can get from the tourism association – those will cover events, festivals, and concerts.
  4. Check the emergency management section of the city’s website to find evacuation routes and shelter information should you be there during a hurricane or tropical storm. My advice? Get out as soon as it appears a storm is heading that way. Most people wait too long and end up in traffic or without a place to shelter safely. Make San Antonio your back-up city.
  5. Sign up for the Island Vibes newsletter from the city to get the latest information about projects and activities closer to your visit. Pay special attention to construction projects and road closures.
  6. The city has a Shoreline department that offers some important documents for you to review. You need the Beach Access Guide, Beach Access Parking Guide, and Bay Street Endings Guide.
  7. While the beach water quality in South Texas ranks as some of the cleanest in the country, you can’t take that at face value. Check the Texas Beach Watch website for testing of all beaches and choose one that doesn’t have an advisory.
  8. Use the Sharktivity app to track the location of sharks in the water. In March 2024, a shark was spotted within 200 yards of the South Padre Island beach. Sharks are most active at dawn and dusk.
  9. Anglers need a fishing license from the state of Texas. Review the rules and prices on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website. You must have that license with you at all times while fishing, even on a charter tour.
  10. You can drink alcohol on the beaches of South Padre Island, but you must be 21. That doesn’t mean you can drink to excess and cause disruption to people around you – public drunkenness is a crime. Smoking is banned in any public area of the island.

So... How Safe Is South Padre Island Really?

Normally, in this section, I’ll give you a deep dive into crime statistics from the most recent year, but South Padre Island needs a different explanation.

That’s because crime rates are determined by the population, and the raw crime data is turned into “per 100,000 people” to get the numbers.

However, since five million or more people visit each year, the crime statistics won’t hold up.

In this case, it would mean South Padre Island has a violent crime rate three times the national average.

That’s why some sites might say this is a high-crime area.

What it really boils down to is about three violent crimes a month on average.

About 43% of violent crimes happen against strangers, and only 15% happen in private homes.

That means crimes are happening more in the public eye here or at hotels than in the average city.

That makes sense with the high tourism numbers.

However, a stranger doesn’t mean a tourist.

It could be drug deals or other criminal activity where someone is a victim.

In the past decade, theft rates have dropped 54% and that has been a steady drop – meaning it’s not a fluke.

On average, five thefts happen each week, but you can assume here that the majority will happen during busy tourist times like spring break and summer vacations.

A whopping 98% of thefts are connected to the “Other” category, which can mean things stolen from the beach, yards, or campsites.

The average car break-in or accessory theft happens about one day a year, but again, we assume most of those happen during busy tourist times.

While car thefts average one a month, with Mexico being so close by, there’s little chance a stolen car will be recovered.

Always lock your car and bring your keys with you.

Don’t leave personal items inside. Avoid renting a Kia or Hyundai.

I recommend anyone visiting South Padre to look up Spring Break safety tips online and use that guidance year-round.

I spent two spring breaks in this area.

While it was many years ago, it was still a little unnerving, and my group imposed strict safety steps for everyone out of the utmost caution.

I can honestly tell you that I had an amazing time, but it’s also not a place for the naive or easily influenced.

If you’re looking for a party, you can find it here.

You can also find a lot of trouble if you aren’t careful.

How Does South Padre Island Compare?

CitySafety Index
South Padre Island70
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

All international visitors need either a visa defining the purpose of the trip (tourist, work, school, etc.) or a visa waiver. Start the process using the Visa Wizard module on the U.S. State Department website. You’ll quickly find out which one you need. Also, keep in mind that your passport must be valid for at least six months after our trip, or you’ll need to apply for a new one.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is accepted in the United States. International airports usually have a currency exchange desk on site, while regional airports won’t. If you also plan to visit Mexico, you'll need pesos. Some businesses on both sides of the border might accept both currencies, but you have to ask in advance.

Weather

Weather

The good news? Winter brings the mid-70s for daytime highs. However, that means the summers will be in the 90s with a "feels like" temperature that could reach triple digits. You'll need sunscreen, bug spray, and all the beach clothes you can fit into your suitcase. Bring water shoes to protect your feet from sharp items on the ocean floor.

Airports

Airports

Brownsville South Padre International Airport is 30 minutes from the island. It offers flights to Dallas or Houston. While normally I would suggest just driving to the large airport, Texas is huge, and it takes a long time to drive to any major city from this part of the state. For example, Houston is six hours away by car. Dallas is almost nine hours away.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance goes into effect as soon as you purchase it. Comprehensive insurance offers the best protection and peace of mind.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

South Padre Island Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 17° C
Feb 18° C
Mar 20° C
Apr 23° C
May 26° C
Jun 28° C
Jul 29° C
Aug 29° C
Sep 29° C
Oct 26° C
Nov 22° C
Dec 18° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
212223262931323232292622
Low
°C
131417202325262625231814
High
°F
707273798488909090847972
Low
°F
555763687377797977736457

Texas - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Abilene67
Amarillo65
Austin65
Carrollton72
Corpus Christi71
Dallas64
Del Rio68
Dell City81
El Paso77
Fort Davis80
Fort Worth77
Fredericksburg85
Garland83
Granbury74
Gruene82
Houston59
Irving79
Laredo68
Llano83
Lubbock38
Luckenbach77
Marathon78
Marfa80
Nacogdoches78
New Braunfels83
Plano86
Port Aransas83
San Antonio53
Schulenburg83
Sherman73
Smithville84
South Padre Island70
Tyler70
Waco61
Wichita Falls68
Wimberley81

Where to Next?

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