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Shore Things

Six super stays on the Texas coast
Written by Helen Anders. Photographs by Al Argueta.

harbor house view

Texans storm the beaches for a wealth of reasons. So, when we envision the perfect beach hotel, each of us conjures a different image. You might want a hotel right smack on a broad, sandy beach where you can toss a Frisbee to your dog. For your neighbor, perfection might lie in a comfy inn with access to fishing or bird-watching. Some prefer lodging overlooking the Gulf of Mexico; for others, the glasslike calm of the bay fits the bill.

Beach Stays

Following is contact information for sites in the story. Call ahead for details on room rates and amenities. For more on area attractions, contact the local chamber of commerce or convention and visitors bureau.

The Villas at The San Luis Resort, 5222 Seawall Blvd., Galveston. Call 800/392-5937.

Port Aransas Inn, 1500 S. 11th St., Port Aransas. Call 361/749-5937.

Harbor House, Pier 21, Galveston. Call 409/763-3321.

La Copa Inn, 350 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island. Call 956/761-6000.

Lighthouse Inn at Aransas Bay, 200 S. Fulton Beach Rd., Rockport. Call 361/790-8439.

Pearl South Padre, 310 Padre Blvd., South Padre Island. Call 956/761-6551.

ShoreThingsBang for the buck ranks high for some of us; others will spare no expense for a pampered coastal cocoon offering luxurious amenities and service. Maybe you’re after a bustling high-rise hotel near plenty of attractions. Or perhaps when you visit the coast, you simply want to … coast.

Regardless of what you’re after, you’ll enjoy the sunshine, sand, and seafood of the Texas coast—and you can be sure there’s a hotel along Texas’ more than 350 miles of shoreline that’s destined to become your happy place. From hundreds of excellent possibilities, we offer these six shining examples of Texas seaside stays.

san luis pool with ghost

Best Place to Live it up in Luxury

The Villas at The San Luis Resort, Galveston

Go ahead. Trot out those adjectives you usually reject as over-the-top: stunning, dazzling, sensational. The new Villas at The San Luis earns them. Just across Seawall Boulevard from the Gulf of Mexico, The San Luis Resort already ranks as one of the top properties in the historic haven of Galveston, but for weekday rates in June starting at $499 per night, these five new single-story villas, tucked off to the side of the resort, raise the bar on luxury.

Each 800-square-foot, stone-trimmed retreat exudes tasteful opulence, with contemporary chandeliers dangling from tray ceilings; marble and slate floors; an elegant living room separate from the bedroom; and flat-screen TVs in every room, including the bathroom, where you’ll also find vessel sinks, a soaking tub, and a four-direction shower. You’ll feel pampered wearing the softest fleece robe ever, drying off with fluffy towels, and sleeping amid ultrasoft cotton-and-bamboo sheets. Your fridge comes stocked with water, soft drinks, and a split of champagne, and you’ll find a coffee maker, fruit, chocolate-covered Oreos, and other snacks nearby, all included with the room rate. Free Wi-Fi? Of course.

Walk out your back door and enter a shuttered, private veranda with lounge chairs and a bubbling hot tub. Open those shutters and walk out to a pool with cabanas and a bar reserved just for guests of The Villas. Immediately, someone appears to ask if you would like a beverage or, perhaps, a steak dinner from The Steakhouse at The San Luis. In fact, throughout your stay, you’ll often be asked about your needs... but good luck finding one that hasn’t already been met.

pa inn victorian room

Best Place to Immerse in Beach Funkiness

Port Aransas Inn, Port Aransas.

The three-story “pink palace,” as regulars call it because of its pink stucco exterior, sits a block from the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s very much worth the short walk to stay in a highly affordable room (starting at $80) festooned with fake safari trophies or Asian tapestries. Besides, at the Port Aransas Inn, you enjoy extras such as summer night poolside concerts and a pink basketball hoop. If you love to revel in weirdness and a beach-bum vibe, stay here when you visit the fishing mecca of Port Aransas.

Seven of the recently renovated inn’s 34 rooms carry themes of faraway places—Safari, Oriental, Country French, Southern Magnolia, Victorian, New York New York, and Santa Fe—all decorated down to the last detail. In the Safari Room, for example, you’ll sleep beneath mosquito netting in a dimly lighted room with plastic rhino and elephant heads mounted on black and brown walls. A yellow boa constrictor carved from a single piece of wood pokes its head out of a synthetic banana plant next to the bed. On the other side of the room, you’ll find a teak screen painted with exotic birds. A bamboo curtain leads to the closet, and in the bathroom, a painted hippo grins from the toilet seat. Funky enough for you?

If you want laid-back without a theme, choose one of the other 27 contemporary hotel rooms, some of which have full kitchens and all of which—like the themed rooms—include fridges and microwaves, along with free Wi-Fi. Double-queen rooms are perfect for families, and a studio queen includes a futon as well as a queen bed.

Poolside concerts, mostly country and classic rock, complete the summer on Saturday nights. Relax and enjoy.

harbor house waterfront2

Best Place to View a Working Port

Harbor House, Galveston

If your interest leans toward boats, oil rigs, and other waterborne commerce that feeds the Texas economy, you’ll be especially thrilled with Harbor House on Galveston Channel, which overlooks the working Port of Galveston on the bay side of the island. Views from your room might include the sunset behind an oil rig in harbor for repairs, or you might see crafts ranging from fishing vessels to giant cruise ships departing on their way to work or play.

This 42-room, three-story, recently renovated boutique hotel prides itself on its waterfront location. It plays to this theme in its modern décor, with rugged, wood-beamed ceilings, porthole mirrors, and maritime-themed paintings on sheet metal by Kayla Mitchell, granddaughter of the late George Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Historical Properties, of which Harbor House is a member. Each room includes a plush bed, free Wi-Fi, microwave, and fridge for rates starting at $129 with a continental breakfast of pastries, cereal, coffee, juice, bagels, and yogurt.

The rooms’ views of port activity are captivating, but you’ll want to tear yourself away to walk outside and book an excursion on one of those many boats: fishing, birding, or perhaps a ghost tour.

Planning a Caribbean cruise out of Galveston? Harbor House, right next to the departure terminal, offers the perfect night-before stay, but it’s popular, so book early. The hotel also sits right in the heart of the Strand shopping district, and it shares a pier with an excellent restaurant, Olympia Grill. Your Harbor House room gets you a discount there.

la copa dogs

Best Place to Hit the Beach with Fido

La Copa Inn, South Padre Island

The dachshund waddling onto the beach from La Copa Inn wears a smile, and why shouldn’t he? From the moment he arrived at this South Padre Island beachfront hotel, his vacation has been doggone perfect.

La Copa, a friendly and affordable four-story hotel with 146 rooms starting at around $160, offers many human amenities, but it’s especially welcoming to pets, issuing each one a soft, little couch at check-in. In summer, more than half of the hotel’s guests bring pets, paying a $25-per-day deposit. Cats are welcome—and one named Bubbles visits frequently, we’re told—but most guests bring dogs, which tend to enjoy cavorting on the sand more than their feline friends do. And that sandy beach and the Gulf of Mexico sit right at the back door, just past a breezy deck housing a pool, kiddie pool, and bar and grill.

Some rooms have extended balconies to accommodate tables; some include a hot tub. Two- and three-bedroom suites with kitchenettes are family-friendly, and standard rooms include two queen beds, a sleeper sofa, a desk, and free Wi-Fi.

Humans will enjoy the fitness center, business center, games, iPads in the lobby, the in-house Starbucks, and the hot breakfast included in the hotel rate (homemade tortillas and banana bread are the stars). Forgot to bring a Frisbee for Fido to fetch? You’ll find one in La Copa’s gift shop, along with alligator-shaped rafts and other beach necessities.

lighthouse inn back ext3

Best Place for Bird-Watching from the Balcony

Lighthouse Inn, Rockport

Agreat egret lands on the fishing pier behind the Lighthouse Inn, folding its snowy white wings to its side, then pacing slowly toward the end of the pier, where two men sit in rocking chairs. You can almost hear the bird sigh when it finds that the men aren’t fishing; they’re just chatting as shrimp boats motor past at dusk to the nearby Fulton Beach Marina.

Watching the antics of white egrets, great blue herons, laughing gulls, and brown pelicans (occasionally white ones, too) will keep you in your balcony rocking chair at this inn perched at the edge of Aransas Bay.

The bright-white three-story building, a mix of Victorian and Cape Cod styling with a tall watch tower, offers a relaxed, unfussy stay that speaks to the town’s easygoing vibe. Rooms include Victorian touches such as wainscoting and lace curtains, with an eclectic mix of comfy furniture, flat-screen TVs, and granite countertops on bathroom vanities. Some suites have a kitchen and living room.

With highly affordable peak-season rates starting at $129, you’ll enjoy free Wi-Fi, robes, a large pool, and a hot breakfast that includes scrambled eggs both with and without ham and cheese, potatoes, sausage, fruit, cereals, breads, and Texas-shaped waffles that especially delight foreign visitors.

Lighthouse Inn’s restaurant and bar, Palm Grill, specializes in juicy steaks in a romantic room looking out on the water. The restaurant does seafood, too, and if you happen to catch a redfish off the hotel’s fishing pier, the chef will cook it for you.

pearl pool2

Best Place for Beachside Bang for the Buck

Pearl South Padre, South Padre Island

If you’re after a full-service, upscale resort and spa right on the beach that won’t cost an arm and a leg, you can’t do better than the Pearl. You can eat, drink, sleep, and swim in high style in this 12-story resort for summer rates starting at about $170 a night. With 251 rooms, suites, and condos, the hotel offers designs to please everyone from honeymooning couples to big families.

At 6,000 square feet, the pool alone impresses with its curvy design and lush tropical landscaping. Wee ones will splash in the kiddie pool. Adults can enjoy a cocktail at the poolside palapa bar or—no need to dry off—the swim-up pool bar.

The hotel’s restaurant, Beachside Bar & Grill, offers both indoor and outdoor dining on such straight-from-the-Gulf delicacies as shrimp, oysters, redfish, and tangy ceviche. Sunday brunch includes seafood as well as roast beef, pasta, omelettes, waffles, and more.

Rooms feature balconies for sunrise-watching, as well as refrigerators, free Wi-Fi, and contemporary furniture including a comfy bed.

The hotel staff will direct you to parasailing, golf, horseback riding, and boat rides. In the Pearl’s Sapphire Spa, you can book massages, facials, and body treatments. Enjoy the ocean view as you work out in the fitness center, and in summer, partake in the hotel’s free lemonade, organized games, and sandcastle lessons. So much to do … and such a good value.

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