Schlitterbahn Beach Resort. This resort was built from the remains of a hotel badly damaged in 2008 by Hurricane Dolly and features loblolly pine boards from burned forests near Bastrop in Central Texas. Comfortable rooms (with furniture from the same pines) provide downtime when you’re not enjoying the discounts to Schlitterbahn water park, which the hotel adjoins. You can walk out the back door, plop yourself in a tube, and float into the wonders of indoor-outdoor Schlitterbahn, including 70-foot tube slides, an uphill river, wave pools, and kids’ play areas.
After exploring Schlitterbahn, buy a colorful box kite—or perhaps one shaped like a shark—at B&S Kites and fly it on the beach. Then, consider taking a sand castle-building lesson from Lucinda Wierenga, known locally as Sandy Feet. A worldwide sand-sculpture competitor, she delights in teaching her craft
At sunset, take a ride on the Black Dragon pirate ship, which cruises the Laguna Madre while onboard pirates engage the kids in treasure hunts, face painting, water pistol and sword battles, and other activities that will have them shouting “Arrrrrr!” long into the night. The cruise serves as a dolphin watch as well. You’re almost certain to see the creatures frolicking as the boat turns near the tip of the island.
Family-friendly Cap’n Roy’s Restaurant pleases parents with its seafood and Mexican dishes (specialties: shrimp and fish Veracruz, bathed in a spicy, chunky tomato sauce), and kids’ plates feature hot dogs, Mexican fare, and fried shrimp.
Take a flashlight down to the beach and hunt for sand crabs. The nocturnal creatures, often called ghost crabs because their tiny, pale bodies seem almost translucent, are too little to eat, so catch and release them.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Beach Resort, 33261 Park Road 100, 956/772-7873.
B&S Kites, 2812 Padre Blvd., 956/761-1248.
Sandy Feet sand sculpting lessons, 956/459-2928.
Black Dragon pirate ship, docked at Pirate’s Landing, 501 Maxan St., Port Isabel, across the causeway on the mainland, 956/943-6283
Cap’n Roy’s Restaurant, 1313 Padre Blvd., 956/761-9990.