South Padre Island was originally settled by Native American Indians, the most well-known tribe of which is the Karankawa, known primarily because they were a cannibal tribe.  The Native Americans of the area were conquered during the Spanish exploration of the area in the sixteenth century, when the area was called Isla Blanca.  Spaniards moved in and out of the area over the next several centuries, primarily looking for gold.  The Native American population dwindled during the course of their explorations.

South Padre Island was given its current name to honor Padre Jose Nicolas Balli who is considered the modern founder of the area.  He began ranching there in the early nineteenth century.  The area was beginning to thrive as a cattle ranch area but this was short lived as a result of the Mexican War which took place in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Shortly afterwards, the Civil War happened.

In the twentieth century, warfare ceased and the area began to see tourism increase.  It began as a fishing destination and then became known for its beaches.  Towards the end of the twentieth century and on in to today, it became recognized as one of the greatest Spring Break destinations in the country.

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