Due to its southern location in the United States that border the Gulf of Mexico, Texas is home to a number of great beaches, but many people forget about one beach on the southernmost point of the state, Boca Chica Beach.
While residents and visitors alike usually know about the desolate stretches of beach along the Padre Island National Seashore near Corpus Christi and thousands visit the resort shores of South Padre Island each year, Boca Chica receives surprisingly few visitors each year.
Boca Chica Beach is about 23 miles east of Brownsville on Highway 4, which dead-ends at the Gulf of Mexico. Street-licensed vehicles can travel on the sand, but the refuge rules strictly forbid off-roading otherwise. The beach is open Brownsville from sunrise to sunset and entrance is free, however, you cannot camp or otherwise stay overnight in the refuge.
Natural Environment: What to See
Boca Chica Beach sits on a sandy peninsula separated from Mexico by the Rio Grande River and detached from South Padre Island by the Brazos Santiago Pass. Technically part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the eight-mile beach at Boca Chica fronts tidal salt flats, mangrove marshes, and clay dunes called lomas.
Aside from a few homes on stilts near the pass, which you can see from South Padre Island, and a jetty protruding into the Gulf of Mexico, you won't find any development at Boca Chica Beach. However, since it is the southernmost beach in Texas, you will usually find clean, clear green water lapping against the sand.
The Kemp's ridley sea turtle, the most critically endangered sea turtle in the world, comes ashore to nest in spring and summer. Aplomado and peregrine falcons migrate through the area, and hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey frequent the shoreline. You should also keep an eye out for the Portuguese man o' war, a floating jellyfish-like creature that inflicts a painful sting and becomes particularly plentiful following storms.
Water and Land Recreation: What to Do
What Boca Chica lacks in modern amenities, it makes up for with a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities, including surf fishing, swimming, surfing, snorkeling, kiteboarding, and birdwatching. However, the lack of facilities means you must bring all of your own gear for whichever activity you want to pursue, in addition to plenty of drinking water, food, sunscreen, insect repellent, a first-aid kit, and any other essentials for your own safety and comfort.
Most often, you'll only meet local residents at this remote destination, but it can get more crowded than you might expect, particularly on weekends. Bring a sack to carry out your own garbage and any you find left behind by less conscientious visitors. Refuge rules prohibit alcoholic beverages and unleashed pets; in addition, visitors should refrain from feeding wildlife and collecting or otherwise disturbing the
Another interesting thing to do is travel down to the mouth of the Rio Grande, where you can see the border wall between the United States and Mexico, which continues out to see about 30 feet into the ocean. This is the southernmost point in Texas, which is almost as far south as the Florida Keys, the southernmost point on the continental U.S.