Despite a devastatingly homebound year in 2020, Spartan "racecations" came back in full swing in 2021, landmarked by some of the most epic bucket-list locations on Earth, including Hawaii, North Lake Tahoe, Telluride, and even Abu Dhabi — the site of the 2021 Spartan World Championship.
Now, the 2022 race season is gearing up to offer more unforgettable destination race weekends than ever before, allowing racers to escape to the most incredible, awe-inspiring corners of the globe to test their mettle, get tougher, and have a damn good time. And because Spartans don't procrastinate on their goals, we're not waiting until summertime to get started. Stop dropping your New Year's resolutions before they've even begun. Your next racecation is right around the corner, and it's time to commit.
Welcome to South Padre Island, Texas' ONLY Tropical Island
After a successful slew of Hurricane Heats, OCR races are coming to the southern tip of Texas' South Padre Island — the state's only tropical island — for the first time ever on Feb. 19–20, 2022. The race weekend will feature City races for adults, as well as the 2022 Kids North American Championship (and additional non-championship Kids races).
And because everything is bigger in Texas, the Spartan City race course — accompanied by panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico — begins and ends at the biggest beach bar in Texas, Clayton's Beach Bar.
After you complete the 5K, 20-obstacle course (which is run entirely on the beach), be sure to enjoy some of Clayton's delicious seafood and signature (virgin, for athletes) Turbo Piña Coladas on their newly-constructed outdoor pier.
Whether you choose to race in the morning or the afternoon on Saturday or Sunday is up to you, but either option leaves plenty of time to explore all of the Spartan-worthy attractions, sights, and adventures that the island has to offer.
Don't miss the first epic racecation of 2022 race season. Commit now to conquering a Spartan City or Spartan Kids race at South Padre Island.
Things to See and Do on South Padre Island
While you're battling it out on the course, don't forget to look up and take in the incredible scenery. The SpaceX South Texas launch site — or Starbase, as SpaceX calls it — is right across the bay from South Padre Island, where incredibly advanced rockets are being tested for a variety of missions. On May 5, 2021, Starship serial number 15 (SN15) — a rocket with eventual plans for a Mars landing — completed the fifth high-altitude flight test of a Starship at Starbase. You may, quite literally, witness history being made.
Exploring on Foot
Pre-race nerves and post-race cramps can get the best of even the most well-trained athletes. The island's Laguna Madre Nature Trail, a 1.1-mile loop of boardwalk trail known for its wildflowers and exotic bird watching, is the perfect setting for a sunrise or sunset shakeout run on the Friday or Saturday before your race (depending on which day you choose to compete). Beach views on either side of the trail combined with the trail's general quietness provide the ideal setting for race reflection (and it's short enough to bring the kids along). View the trail map here.
And if you're staying for the full weekend, taking a family walking tour of the island's Sandcastle Trail — a collection of about 30 locally- and internationally-sourced professional sand sculptures that are scattered in various locations around the Island — is a must. Check out the map of South Padre's various art trails here.
In the Water (and on It!)
If you're feeling like you've done enough running and walking for the weekend but still want to do something active and adventurous, the South Padre surf is a great solution. There are great locations to catch waves across the island, and you can check the local surf guide here — which also suggests that the 60-something degree winter weather is the best time to surf on the island — to ensure optimal conditions. And if you're not sure where to get started, SPI Sessions offers group surfing lessons for four or more people at $40 per person (equipment included). The accommodating instructors will come surf wherever you're staying, or recommend their own favorite spots on the island.
Speaking of adventuring out on the open water, South Padre Island’s number one dolphin watch tour company, The Original Dolphin Watch, offers daily excursions aboard a double decker boat. (Tickets are under $20.) And if you're looking for a more intimate encounter with undersea animals, pay a visit to Sea Turtle, Inc., an organization devoted to rescuing and rehabbing sea turtles, or the Dolphin Research and Sealife Nature Center, which offers daily educational experiences involving rescued wildlife.
A Virtually Endless Supply of Other Spartan-Worthy Options
With sandcastle-building lessons, best-in-state family fun and adventure parks, fishing trips, equestrian centers, cruises, and aquatics rentals, there is absolutely no shortage of epic activities for your whole Spartan family to enjoy on South Padre Island. Browse the entire collection of island entertainment options here to start planning your stay.
Places to Refuel on Texas' Only Tropical Island
If you're looking to unwind with your family and newfound Spartan friends after crushing your City race, you can enjoy a long night of karaoke at Louie's Backyard bayside dining, or — in true Texas spirit — attend Country Saturdays at LongBoard Bar and Grill on Saturday night.
Because the island will be buzzing with racers and some restaurants may still be limiting capacities, be sure to reference South Padre Island's restaurant capacity and reservation availability sheet, complete with live updates, open hours, and phone numbers.
Preparing for Your Stay on the Island
The closest airport to the race venue is the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport, about 22 miles from the beach (and all of the action). From there, you can choose from two airport shuttles that will take you to and from the island, rent a car for the weekend, or — if you'd prefer not to Uber or Lyft — utilize one of the airport's many taxi services.
South Padre Island offers dozens of places to stay, from resorts to condos to individual beach bungalows. And if you're considering bringing the four-legged Spartans in your family, there are even a number of pet-friendly hotels and inns available as well.
Your Kid's Chance to Qualify for the 2022 Kids World Championship
It's no secret that packing up and preparing to enjoy a long weekend away from home in a tropical oasis — while conquering your demons on the course, no less — is a LOT easier when you aren't worried about who the kids will be staying with while you're gone. Alongside Spartan City and Kids events on both Saturday and Sunday, the South Padre Island race weekend will feature the Spartan Kids North American Championship on Saturday, Feb. 19, making this one of the most family-friendly race getaways in Spartan history.
After two years of forced cancellations, the Spartan Kids World Championship will return in 2022 at Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas, the event's first time being hosted at a world-renowned resort. By competing in either of the 2-mile North American Championship Heats on Saturday — Ages 9–11 or Ages 12–14, neither of which require prior qualification — Spartan kids will have the opportunity to qualify for Worlds, secure their spot on the grandest stage, and embark on one of our most epic family racecations to date.
Don't miss out on this epic opportunity to combine crushing your goals with an unforgettable island getaway.
Commit now to conquering a Spartan City at South Padre Island and securing your kid's spot on the Spartan world stage.