The Texas Tropics & The Rio Grande Valley
There are few places more tropical in the continental United States than the lush Rio Grande Valley of deep South Texas. The call of the tropics is almost too much to resist. And why would you want to resist?
With abundant culture, warm climate, tropical beauty, and delicious Rio Grande Valley fruit (oranges and grapefruit to die for!), the region is spotted with a myriad assortment of small towns and cities full of South Texas charm and down-home hospitality
The hub communities of McAllen, Brownsville, South Padre Island, and Harlingen provide ample shopping, the opportunity to enjoy art, culture, and history, and many attractions that can be enjoyed year-round. With warm summers and mild winters, the area plays host to thousands of Winter Texans who have made the region their home away from home – or their second home – for several months each year.
Dotted across the region (bordered by Mexico to the West and the Gulf of Mexico to the East) are hundreds of RV parks, resorts, and campgrounds, each providing varying levels of service for recreational travelers.
While many types of wildlife are abundant in the region, bird watching, or birding, is one of the most popular and easiest in which to participate. Birders from around the world flock to the region annually to enjoy such events as the Brownsville International Birding Festival, or to enjoy the State-designated Texas Birding Trail. Literally, thousands of species of birds frequent the area or nest in the near-perfect subtropical climate of the Lower Valley.
Lying just above the same latitude as the Florida Keys, winter temperatures are mild with an average low of 51 degrees. The 330-day growing period makes the area a major producer of truck crops, particularly citrus products. Orange and Grapefruit orchards line the highways of the Valley.
Rio Grande City
Newcomers to this region will encounter amazing natural features as well as cities steeped in history. Visitors will come across Rio Grande City on Interstate 83 when they enter the region. The community was founded in the mid-eighteenth century and is among South Texas’s oldest inhabited villages. Charter a trolley tour of the neighborhood or take a guided tour of the city.
Another must-see destination along Route 2 is Mission, which is host to the Mission Butterfly Gardens, which features 150 different types of colorful insects. Experience the Texas Butterfly Festival in November. A stroll across the rope bridge in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Mission will provide you with a different perspective on the Rio Grande environment.
McAllen has a wealth of cultural and natural gems for visitors to discover. Another World Birding Center location, this one centered on the Quinta Mazatlan, a Spanish Adobe Revival estate. The 10,000-square-foot villa is surrounded by tropical grounds, with native flora along footpaths.
Harlingen, just east of McAllen, is a town that proudly displays its Old West heritage. Although it is no longer as wild as it was during the “Six-Shooter Junction” days of the 1800s, Harlingen still has a lot of guts. It can be found at a free summer concert in McKelvey Park during “Blues on the Hill,” as well as live shows at Harlingen Performing Arts Theatre. The Rio Grande Valley Museum highlights the story of Harlingen and its part in the region’s evolution, Museum on the Marine Military Academy site and the Iwo Jima Monument honors World War II warriors.
Driving toward the Gulf, you’ll come to Brownsville, a historic town in the lowlands. The Brownsville Historical Association seeks to educate tourists about the region’s vibrant history. The Children’s Museum of Brownsville will delight younger visitors.
South Padre Island
Along the eastern boundary of what is known as the Lower Rio Grande Valley in South Padre Island, a resort community located on the tip of Texas’ great barrier islands – South Padre, the southernmost tip of the United States. Five miles long on a 35-mile-long stretch of sand dunes and palm trees, the island is situated about two miles offshore, separated from the mainline by the great Laguna Madre – a natural bay formed by the far-reaching island that skirts up the coast to Port Mansfield.
Port Isabel, a historic Texas port, is connected to the island by the causeway and offers the perfect coastal setting for mainlanders who still want to be on the water.
Exploring the Texas Gulf Coast
For hundreds of miles, the Texas shoreline sweetly caresses the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, providing a remarkable environment for abundant marine life, wildlife, and, of course, human life.
On these very shores, early Spanish explorers landed, followed by the French, the Germans, and a host of other explorers and immigrants who had come to find new hope and good fortune on the Texas frontier.
Rich tales of pirates and stories of visionaries are recorded in local history in dozens of coastal communities, where life, in contrast to the bustling inland cities, trudges along at its own comfortable pace, separate and a little isolated from the rest of the world where time seems to pass more quickly.
In addition to the laid-back lifestyle of the region, you’ll find miles and miles of unspoiled beach, abundant water sports activities including world-class fishing, and plenty of places to park your RV, pitch a tent, or secure affordable lodging for a getaway vacation.
On the northern stretches of the coastline, you’ll find cosmopolitan cities like Galveston and the greater Houston Metro area. A few miles south and you reach hideaway destinations like Surfside, still a popular surfing hangout, and Freeport, a traditional Texas coastal fishing community.
The further south down the coastline you travel, the more tropical becomes the environment. Corpus Christi sits in the middle of what is known as the great Coastal Bend, a city that embraces the modern world but remains rooted in coastal traditions and attitudes. South Padre Island, about 120 miles down the coastline, sits at the tip of the barrier islands, with nearby inland Brownsville the southernmost community in Texas.
The Texas coast is full of attractions, state parks, a national seashore, and abundant campground facilities to accommodate travelers, and you can still find a motel/hotel room for a bargain price at the right time of the year.
Bird and wildlife watching, boating, sailing and surfing, fishing, beach camp-outs, theme parks, and abundant museums (many dedicated to marine life) are just a few of the favorite attractions for visitors to the Texas coast.
Get in touch with resources for the Texas coastal region and discover a region full of great food, fun, and attractions. Follow the links below.