Horseback rides along the beach may be the perfect South Padre Island beach activity. While the gulf waters may be a little too cold in December to swim comfortably, winter is a rare time of year where you can find yourself dry on a South Texas beach dressed in long pants and otherwise appropriate riding gear and not be terribly hot.
South Padre Island consists of the southernmost tip of Padre Island, a long, narrow strip of land that stretches over a hundred miles northeastward to Corpus Christi. Most of Padre Island consists of a long, untamed stretch of sparkling beaches and sand dunes undeveloped and inaccessible by road. While you obviously can't explore more than a tiny fraction of this area on a 1.5-hour horseback ride, you still can get a very good look at some of the natural beauty the island has to offer.
While we were there, they were offering four rides daily: two 1.5-hour rides (one at 9am, the other at 4pm) and two 1-hour rides (in the middle of the day). We elected to go on the 9am ride, largely because, at only $5 more than the shorter midday rides, it seemed like the best deal (the late-afternoon rides were somewhat more expensive). I would strongly recommend this, since it takes a good 15 minutes or so just to get the horses to the beach, and another 15 minutes or so to get them back, which would, I imagine, severely limit your actual beach time on a 1-hour ride.
I came here expecting a dippy "trail ride" with older horses that barely wanted to move, plodding along in a single-file line for an hour and a half. This is not what this is. Based on what I told them concerning my riding experience (I took lessons at camp every summer as a child), they decided I was eligible for the "experienced riders" group and gave me one of the more energetic horses. These guys wanted to run, and they ran like mad for a long stretch down the beach. I had never ridden this fast for nearly this far before, so it was all a new experience for me, but I had a lot of fun.
However, this shouldn’t be a deterrent to inexperienced (or otherwise cautious) riders. Word has it they are very good at placing children and inexperienced riders on docile animals, and they have groups for those who aren’t interested in cantering (or even in trotting if that makes you nervous). (And the 1-hour trips allow no cantering at all because of time restraints.) The guides are ever-present and helpful when you need it, but you are given more freedom than you normally find on such horseback rides. Whatever your interest or experience level is, the trip is probably flexible enough to accommodate you.
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