Where to Stay and Play on South Padre Island

South Padre Island Texas WelcomeBeautiful South Padre Island has a known reputation for the influx it receives during a couple busy Spring Break weeks in March. If that’s the only thing that comes to mind when you hear South Padre, I’d suggest you think again! It is a WONDERFUL getaway for families too! During the rest of the year, South Padre Island is a relaxing oasis that rivals the best beach towns in America. This summer our family was invited to experience this Texas island as a family and we’ve got the best recommendations for a getaway you’ll never forget.

*We believe in full disclosure and wanted to let you know that this trip was provided by the South Padre Island CVB in partnership with Texas Travel Talk. As is common in the travel industry, our family was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation. As always we only provide opinions, recommendations, and experiences that are 100% authentic and our own.  

Where to Stay on South Padre Island

Pool at the Sapphire South Padre Island

One of the things I love most about staying on South Padre Island is that there are a wide range of available properties to fit every accommodation preference and budget. I can assure you that there is not a bad view anywhere on the island but if luxury accommodations are what you are looking for (you KNOW this is what our family enjoys most!), I highly recommend booking at the Sapphire through Coastal Lifestyles Luxury Rentals. The Sapphire has two private pools and rows of private cabanas to enjoy a beautiful day poolside.

Sapphire pools South Padre island

Beautiful lush landscape leads you to the beach boardwalk and the beautiful Gulf of Mexico just steps away from the pool cabanas. If you like to pool hop, staying at the Sapphire also allows you access to the neighboring Pearl pools and facilities as well. After spending a little time in the sun you can indulge yourself in luxury with amazing massages, refreshing facials, relaxing manicures and pedicures at the Sapphire Spa.

Sapphire Spa South padre island

Your teens can enjoy a space all to themselves in the Teen Game Room to enjoy some shuffleboard, pinball, pool and foosball! All fun and games here at Sapphire South Padre! At the end of the night, when you want to wind down as a family there is a private movie theater that let’s YOU choose the movie from a lonnnnng list of new releases. Just schedule the movie of your choosing with the front desk and it’s all yours!! This was one of our family’s favorite amenities.

Private Movie Room Sapphire South Padre island

Where To Play on South Padre Island

There is so much to do on the island you might have a tough time choosing exactly what to do first. We spent a very full weekend here and STILL didn’t have enough time to fit every thing in that we wanted to do. That gives us plenty of reason to plan a second (and third) trip back! Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy everything that the island has to offer.

-Get up early and watch the sunrise on the beach. 

Sunrise Sapphire South Padre Island

Build Sandcastles with the Experts!  Who else is fascinated with the elaborate sandcastles you’ve seen on the beach? I am always enamored with them. As it turns out, the experts are available and willing to teach you and your crew a few simple techniques to make you a master architect of sand as well. Several members of our group had the opportunity to meet on the sand to get an in-person lesson. This will be one of our “bucket list” items for our next beach trip!

Sandcastle building South padre island

-Get out on the water in a kayak, jetski, water bike or stand up paddle board!

If your body is a little water logged from being IN the water, you can still have fun ON the water. Even if your family has never kayaked before South Padre Island truly is the perfect place to learn. Of course you’ll all be wearing life-vests but the water surrounding the island in most places is only four feet deep. This means even if you are a little apprehensive about your stability on the water, and worst case scenario you do tip, all you need to do is stand up.

ProTip: Be prepared for the hyper-salinity (extra salty) of the water here. If it gets in your eyes it may be a bit more noticeable than average salt water.

Kayaking on South padre island

-Take a Eco-Sea life cruise while Dolphin watching or go on a pirate adventure on the Black Dragon with Osprey cruises

Pirates Pier Port Isabel

We arrived on a Friday night just in time for the evening pirate show and cruise on the Black Dragon. Drinks and snacks are available on the deck and aboard the ship. This cruise is IDEAL for families with young children.

Black Dragon Sign

The Black Dragon cruise is super interactive and the crew is just incredible with families! You’ll be on board to catch a beautiful sunset over the water and if you are there on a Friday or Saturday you’ll also get to watch the fireworks!

On Saturday, we took the 2 pm Dolphin watch cruise and we saw one of the most active dolphin pods I’ve ever seen!  This was a perfect time of day to be out on the ship too.

Osprey Cruises Chase Family South Padre Island

The ocean breezes kept us cool and there was plenty of shade on the deck to ensure we wouldn’t get too much direct sun. While sightseeing, you’ll also learn about the local wildlife and ecology of the Laguna Madre. The crew will use a trawling net to bring sea life directly to you onboard the ship and return it safely back into the eco-system.

Eco Tour Osprey Cruises Starfish South Padre Island

-Go Birdwatching at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. The birding center is fascinating and people come from all over the world just to see the birds that migrate here.

Swim the Day Away Remember the two awesome pools I mentioned at Sapphire? AND at the Pearl? Almost every resort or condo has great pool access to enjoy splashing the day away. Be sure to take enjoy some pool time while you are here!

Swimming at Sapphire South Padre Island

-Enjoy a fun filled day at Schlitterbahn South Padre

“Experience the best the Gulf Coast has to offer… a 25-acre paradise and the most popular waterpark in the Rio Grande Valley. Enjoy nearly two dozen world-class attractions, roar down 13 amazing indoor and outdoor water slides, or float one of the multiple river systems. The resort includes lodging, great Gulf beaches, fantastic dining location options, and unlimited use of both the indoor and outdoor waterparks.”

Where To Eat on South Padre Island

Vegetarian foods at the Painted Marlin grille

Whether it’s prepping for the day or coming in from a full day of island activities, South Padre has you set for dining options for breakfast lunch or dinner. Two of our best recommendations are WindJammers Beachfront Cafe ( located inside the IslaGrand Beach Resort) and The Painted Marlin Grille. Both have spectacular views and casual attire is acceptable at either location. Remember to be laid back enjoying the views and atmosphere, even though you are in Texas this is island life!

Painted Marlin Grille

Painted marlin South Padre dining


Fish and Chips at the painted Marlin Grille South Padre Island

For more family fun and ways to explore South Padre Island head over to Visit South Padre for all the latest activities and fun on the island! Be sure to check out our Instagram for more photos of our trip to South Padre Island and for the latest in Texas travel follow @TXTravelTalk on twitter.

Have you visited South Padre Island? What was your favorite activity, accommodation, or memory? Share in the comments below!  

Belmond El Encanto : A Luxurious Santa Barbara Escape

Belmond El Encanto property view

Santa Barbara has long been called the American Riviera. With its subtropical temperatures and proximity to coast, it’s easy to see why everyone who visits is so enchanted with the location, especially when staying at the Belmond El Encanto. In Spanish, Encanto quite literally means “enchantment” or “glamour“. Nestled right in the neighborhood mountains, overlooking the dazzling waters of the Pacific Ocean the Belmond El Encanto is Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five-Star resort. With a longstanding history of being a landmark for inspiration, relaxation, and romance, the property is steeped with tales of tranquil offerings to Hollywood elite and beyond. The Belmond El Encanto has hosted former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Golden age celebrities such as Clark Gable, Carol Lombard and Hedy Lamarr, and today has become the go-to destination for many celebrity artists. I’m honored to say I’ve now added my name to it’s guest list as well. It could be the perfect hideaway for your next luxury escape too.

Arriving at the Blemond El Encanto Kia Motors America

Luxury vehicles line the drive at the El Encanto (pictured here : Kia Optima, Cadenza, Stinger and K900)

As soon as you arrive on property the staff graciously anticipates your every request. As the porter escorted me to my bungalow, he shared the unique history of the resort with me. Everything here has meaning and was designed with thoughtfulness of the overall experience. I love learning interesting facts and special stories that are only told by those who know a property best. Curious about something? Just ask the staff, they are incredibly knowledgeable and always happy to share.

Belmond El Encanto bungalow exterior

Opening to guests for the first time in 1918, the property has exchanged hands a more than a few times in its history. Belmond reopened the hotel in March 2013 following an extensive seven-year, $134 million dollar meticulous renovation to bring back glamour, restore original architectural elements and updating with the modern luxe detailing that you experience today.

Rooms Made for Relaxation

Belmond el Encanto bungalow

92 luxuriously designed bungalows and suites are situated among acres of lush gardens and landscaping. In the air the scent of lavender and eucalyptus sweeps over you as you walk along the pathways to your reserved hideaway. There are two distinct styles of early Santa Barbara architecture present here – California Craftsman and Spanish Colonial Revival. Each bungalow interior is decorated with works of art reflecting the Santa Barbara landscape.  As a landmark property much of the architecture styling has remained the same but the interior comforts of plush beds, heated floors, wi-fi access, push button gas fireplaces, controlled lighting, private terraces, waterfall showers and over-sized tubs have not been overlooked. The cottages provide a more than accommodating space for master bedroom and living room space. The in-room welcoming of a fruit plate and bottle of wine was a lovely surprise.

Belmond El EnCanto Welcome

Gardens, Pool and Spa

El Encanto Belmond Lily pond

Courtesy of Belmond El Encanto

The gardens are as welcoming as the rooms themselves and you might find yourself torn between where to spend the majority of your time. Signs along the walkways subtly direct you to your chosen spot of interest: a historic 1928 wishing well, serene waterfall, or a historic lily pond perfectly positioned under a wisteria lined arbor. Any choice is a good choice here and all make the perfect backdrop for memorable photos you’ll treasure forever.(insider tip: the lily pond is home to an adorable family of turtles.)

El Encanto Belmond Santa Barbara Wishing Well

If the pool or spa are more your interest, you’ll be delighted at what you find. The zero-edge saline pool is positioned to look out over the ocean and city for a spectacular view. The full-service, on property spa offers an array of treatments over seven rooms including a couples room to relax and unwind together. The Spa also offers relaxation lounge, showers, steam rooms and private lockers.

El Encanto Belmond Santa Barbara pool

Courtsey of Belmond El Encanto

Be certain to take advantage of the complimentary sunglass cleaning and Evian cooling mist service before returning to your room. Ending the evening with glass of Californian wine in hand, watching the sun dip below the horizon, is the perfect way to remember this luxurious escape whether visiting for a solo retreat or relaxation with ones you love.

Enchantment at the Belmond El Encanto

To book your stay visit the Belmond El Encanto online or see more on instagram and twitter.

Address: 800 Alvarado Pl, Santa Barbara, CA 93103, United States
Phone: +1 805-845-5800

Disclosure: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation. My host for this stay was Kia Motors America as part of the Kia Santa Barbara Experience #KiaSBExp







San Antonio Adventures with Kia Niro #ExperienceNiro

Exciting News! My Christmas wish came early this year. I was granted one last travel adventure before the year ends. I’m off to San Antonio to check out the 2017 Kia Niro! Be sure to watch instagram, twitter, and facebook for real time updates Dec 14th- 16th!

Kia Niro #ExperienceNiro

If you’ve been following our story for very long, you’ve seen we have regular routine of traveling throughout the year. We had scheduled to end our travels mid November through the new year intentionally so we could be home for a variety of family events and holidays. After a few weeks without a trip however, I was getting rather restless. So when presented with the opportunity to come and check out the brand new 2017 Kia Niro in San Antonio, I jumped at the chance. It was a Christmas miracle! 😉

Living in Texas, I’ve visited San Antonio several times before but this trip will give me the chance to experience the city in a whole new way. I’m really excited to share this adventure with you all as well! Since Kia is an official NBA automotive sponsor we couldn’t miss the opportunity to attend a Spurs game. That will actually be new for me too.

NBA San Antonio Spurs Kia Niro #experienceniro

I’m sure there will be fabulous food! Our family has always found great places to dine in San Antonio. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Emma with its rich history and divine details. Take a peek at their website and you’ll see why I am SO excited to be a guest there.

Hotel Emma San Antonio Texas

I’ll also be able to give you first hand information on the Kia Niro. It’s a vehicle I’ve been checking out as I’ve shopped this season. If you’ve seen my IG posts, it’s been featured in malls across the country this holiday season. Our family had the opportunity to look it over and now I’m looking forward to driving before the year is out. Thanks Santa!!

Not only does this fit the bill for the welcome travel opportunity I’d told Santa about but it also combined an automotive brand I love in my very favorite state in the US #texasforever. I’ll do a full recap after I get back but for now you all can follow along live on IG, facebook and Twitter.

Thanks so much to Kia for covering all travel and accommodations on this adventure! 

Looking into the Autonomous Future at SEMA 2016 #KiaSEMA

As a young girl, I remember watching movies about the future and being enamored at the possibilities of what would one day be. Handheld video games, hoverboards, being able to call one another through video conferencing, dehydrated foods, touch screens everywhere and even the Cubs winning the world series…

These were all once far off ideas, mere creative fantasies captured in film, that now are our commonplace reality. They have been produced, manufactured, and some have even been around long enough for a recall. Perhaps the only thing we haven’t obtained in full measure from those futuristic films is flying cars. It looks like we may not be waiting too much longer for those either or perhaps something even better!

Last week during SEMA  2016, Kia rolled out four unique concepts of what  autonomous living might look like for us in the not too distant future. In fact, they anticipate producing fully autonomous vehicles occupying our roads as soon as 2030. I was invited as a guest of Kia to get a first look and share my experience.

Not only were these four Kia concepts designed as fully autonomous, they were also tailored to align with the lifestyles and goals we are each trying to achieve. What if everything in your life was working with you to make your dreams possible? Just imagine what you could accomplish. Take a look into the future with me…..

Kia Soul First Class

Soul First Class

Soul First Class photo cred: Kia Motors

Seeing white and gray diamond stitched leather surrounding upscale travelers with only first class comforts, you recognize instantly how the Soul First Class got its name. Soon business travelers can simultaneously prep for meetings and relax on the road. For those just along for the ride, passengers will enjoy the 40-inch Samsung LED TV connected to a Mac mini computer system and premium audio speakers. Designed by LUX Motorwerks , this self driving concept has two rear-facing seats and no steering wheel( because you no longer need one!). Instead a motorized center console opens like a butterfly to reveal two touchscreen tablets that ultimately control this Kia vehicle. The Soul First Class is ultimate nirvana in both luxury living and executive work/life balance.

Kia Niro Triathlon

Niro Triathlon

Niro Triathlon photo cred: Kia Motors

This is where all my ultra-marathon and high endurance athlete friends will perk up. Night runs, bike rides for miles upon miles and swimming make training an isolating experience. Kia’s Niro Triathlon is here to be the ultimate training partner. Its interior is designed to be a cabin to relax and recharge while also providing top-notch training and safety equipment. “With no reason to drive, the athlete is cosseted in an ultra-comfortable Human Touch zero gravity ergonomic reclining chair. Numerous custom cabinets hold essential supplies, attire and parts, and a portable shower allows for a quick post-race clean-up

Kia Sorento Ski Gondola

Kia Sorento Ski Gondola

Sorento Ski Gondola photo cred: Kia Motors

All of a sudden the lyrics “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough” start playing when the Kia Sorento Ski Gondola enters. Instantly notable are the dominator rubber tracks powercoated orange to take this Kia Sorento turned gondola anywhere. This is the ultimate in sport-utility vehicles. Built by LUX Motorwerks to tackle snow and ice as it gets you and your fellow skiers up to the top of the mountain for another run. The luxurious and self-driving Sorento Ski Gondola is all about climbing to higher ground in style, comfort and warmth.

Kia School of Rock Sedona

Kia School of Rock Sedona

School of Rock Sedona photo cred: Kia Motors

One of the most intriguing aspects of the autonomous life is the safety aspects associated with removing the possibility of human error when behind the wheel. This is especially true when children are involved and Kia imagines a world when vehicles will someday autonomously transport our young ones to accommodate their busy lives.

Partnering with School of Rock, this rolling recording studio features everything aspiring musicians crave: a studio, a place to chill and a completely hands-free way of transporting the band to the next gig. The stunning hand-painted School of Rock imagery hides the strong bones of the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and NHTSA 5-Star rated Sedona so parents can be assured their kids will make it to the show safely and with more than 180 locations, School of Rock plans to hit the road in style to perform at various shows with their talented musicians.

A digital mixing board and dual flat-screen monitors to record tracks. Front-mounted near-field speakers pump out the tunes and when a track is being laid down, the RECORDING light mounted to the roof illuminates. Vocalists will appreciate the boom mic that hangs from the ceiling. Sound-studio-quality acoustic foam panels line the interior to reduce exterior noise during an intense recording session. Should the band decide to host an impromptu roadside show, the Sedona’s lift gate flips open to reveal an imposing stack of amps. There is also storage on the roof for guitars, bass guitars and a myriad other instruments. Fun and comfortable custom bean bags allow the band members to relax or jam in style.

I was invited to experience SEMA 2016 in Las Vegas as a Brand Ambassador on behalf of Kia and share my experiences. This post,including my travel and accommodations were sponsored as part of the experience. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.  Be sure to check out www.Kia.com for the most current news, designs and offers. 

Living a Life that is “Anything but Ordinary” – 2016 Kia Optima

KIA Aspen Colorado

There are certain encounters with people, places, or phrases that just resonate with you.  This fall I was invited to spend some time in Aspen, Colorado to enjoy exploring the beautiful landscape of rivers, mountains, and trees in the all new 2016 Kia Optima. From the very beginning the phrase “Anything But Ordinary” would be an echo that defined the experience.

KIA Aspen Fire

We arrived at the beautiful Viceroy Snowmass resort in the afternoon with plans to relax and meet up later to enjoy a an outdoor dinner with live music and a mountain view backdrop. Local experts from the historical society arrived to share the long standing history of the area we would be driving through the next day and were even able to share information on the current economic standings of the present day. As the evening temperatures dropped, our conversations moved to surround the warmth of the fire as we roasted homemade marshmallows and gourmet s’mores.

The next morning we woke up early ready to start the day with breakfast and an opportunity to hear more about the unique details and technology that we would be experiencing during our drive.

Aspen curves in a KIA

Once we got out on the road we were so impressed by the way every turn handled with ease.

Moose Crossing Aspen Colorado KIA

Each new view was nothing less than amazing.

Aspen Colorado Mountain view

Kia close up Aspen

Life is a journey, not just a destination. If I can transfer anything from 2015 to the new year of 2016 it is this: Enjoy every stop along the way and make sure you spend time seeking out people, destinations and knowledge that adds to a life YOU design to be Anything But Ordinary.