They tried, but locals couldn't keep South Padre Island secret. Rated a top-10 beach in the nation by the Surfrider Foundation, SPI also rates high among fishermen-with the open Gulf of Mexico and its bounty to the east, and miles of flats teeming with red drum, speckled trout, and snook to the west. Resort hotels face the surf, where guests often log a productive hour of casting before breakfast. Daytime, family distractions include parasailing, windsurfing, bird-watching, and biking on a new island trail. Bay-side accommodations are quieter, more personal. The island is enjoyable year-round but crowded at Spring Break and in winter. 800-767-2373; www.sopadre.com.