We finally took our kids on their very first trip to the beach! I did a lot of asking around because there are a ton of beach options in Texas. We wanted to make it a day trip from San Antonio and Malaquite Beach on Padre Island was perfect for that.
It was just over a 3 hour drive from the west side of San Antonio to get there and it was really easy to find. Malaquite Beach is a National Park which means there’s a small fee to go in. You’ll want to check the website for current numbers, but when we went, it was just $10 for the whole car. But, since we had a 4th grader last year, we had one of the Every Kid in a Park passes that was just about to expire and it got us in free.
There is a small visitor center and a “bathhouse” where they have showers/changing area and bathrooms. You can park in the parking lot and walk down to the beach. Or you can use the bathrooms to change, then drive out of the parking lot, continuing on a road that takes you right to the beach. I had never driven right on to the beach before so this was a new and cool experience. But you literally drive your car right onto the sand on the beach to find a place to set up. Their website says you can drive out 5 miles on the beach with a 2 wheel drive vehicle before coming to a sign that lets you know the sand is too soft to continue with 2 wheel drive and you can even camp there.
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We went on a Wednesday so I don’t know how it compares to the weekend, but it was still summer – our schools hadn’t started yet. And we were amazed by how empty it was and how much space we had to ourselves. We parked our car, set up our new awesome shade tents — I knew we were going to need shade for our pasty white skin so I got one shade tent that we could set up two chairs in and Jeff and I could sit comfortably, and one that the kids could sit on the floor of. We had so much empty space around us that we felt like we were completely alone! It was so different from any experience I ever had going to the beach in California as a kid. The sand was so soft and it was packed which is why it was easy to drive on and it made it really easy to walk on too. But it wasn’t too great for building sand castles, though the kids (and Jeff) gave it their best effort. The water was just a tad cool, enough that you didn’t feel like you were in bath water but didn’t leave you feeling cold, so it was perfect for wading. The kids were also excited to collect seashells but the only ones we found were little tiny and not worth bringing home.
There was a set of “bathrooms” (a solid building and toilet seat over a hole in the ground, like you usually find in a national park) right where the pavement gave way to the sand and beach. With little kids, we had to make the trip to the bathroom a few times. I would hop in the car with the kid that needed to go and we’d make the short (3/4 mile or so) drive to the bathroom. It was convenient but there were lots of ants inside – that was my least favorite part of the trip.
It really was beautiful and a great way to spend the day. And I felt like we had a great beach experience . . . all except the sunburns, though I guess that’s part of the beach experience too! Jeff got his legs and tops of his feet burned so bad and our oldest got roasted on his back and shoulders. We were out for 3 hours and applied a high spf sunscreen 2 times but it just wasn’t enough for our fair skin. The next time we go they’ll all have swim shirts, we’ll apply sunscreen more often, and I’ll be sure to make them use our shade tents more. They were just having so much fun and didn’t want to take any breaks.