By Logan Hawkes
It's not everyday you'll hear me passing out grand cudos to a hotel, inn or mountain lodge. Those of you that know me know full well I am not easy to please all of the time.
Not that I am hard to please. But in a world where it seems like everyone is trying to mimic everyone else, it's nice to find something on the original side.
And that's exactly what I found at the Palms Resort on South Padre Island, a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel that boldly goes where few others have gone before; a fresh-breath kind of place that offers that "something different" that remains ever so elusive in a world of copy cat roadside hotels.
It's not that The Palms takes your breath away the first time you walk through the lobby doors. In fact, there hardly is a lobby. Instead of rich, imported carpets and crystal chandeliers, there is little more than a check-in counter amid simple if not stylish surroundings -- except for the painting of the "surf woody" that hangs stately on the wall.
Oh, the painting! Not that I am a major art fan. And my surfing days are all but over for the most part. But this painting sets the entire mood for what's to come in this cool little hideaway located directly on the beach. Like the outstanding artwork of the woody, the Palms is sharp, in focus, clean, definitive and mixed with all the right color. And no, the photo of the woody above is not the actual woody hanging in the lobby of the Palms. The lobby art is the kind of painting that deserves to be seen in person and not on a Web site. It just wouldn't do it justice.
But so much for the woody. Before I start sounding like a nostalgia buff that found inspiration in a remarkable piece of artwork, let me get to the root of why I like the Palms.
I am going to save the best for last, so let's get on with the other reasons that I think the Palms Resort is a good choice if you're looking for originality and a cool place on the beach to recreate and rest your bones.
It's not good enough to be a cool beach hang out on an island known for cool beach hangouts. Sure, with the beach literally steps away from your door and every room with a grand view of the surf, there's plenty of good things to say about the Palm's outstanding location. But when sitting in the middle of one of America's most beautiful islands, a good hotel has to offer more than the fantastic beach. And the Palms does just that.
The rooms are more than adequate. What I mean is that you are a far cut ahead of modular chain motels when you sleep in the comfort of these suites. While the size of the room barely qualifies it as a true suite, you have to remember that on a small island you can and should expect big things in small packages.
There are some really good things to be said about the rooms however. For one, it's a rare find to discover a large plasma television hanging on the wall in any hotel room. Not that you're going to watch a lot of television when surrounded by the blissful paradise of the Island environment. But sports fans will tell you a big screen, hi-def television hanging over the bed is a welcome addition when the sunburn starts crying or the cocktails send you to the big chair for a short time out. Not all the rooms have a plasma set. So ask when you make your reservation.
Originally designed as beachside condos and expertly converted to a boutique inn, you'll find great counter space where the kitchen once was, and each room sports a microwave and small refrigerator, perfect for a beach environment. The beds are comfortable (another one of my requirements before I can speak well of any hotel room), and once you understand the reasons behind it, having tiled floors instead of wall-to-wall carpet is a blessing when you track enough sand back from the beach to build your own sandcastle.
Moving down my list of must-haves in a good hotel, I found the staff particularly a bright spot. They are not only friendly and accommodating, but knowledgeable and ready to help. In fact, you'll appreciate the hotel's dedication to helping you secure all the services you could ever want during your island visit. You can make arrangements for beach umbrellas, rent a waverunner, sign up for sandcastle lessons or treasure hunts, arrange surf lessons or surf equipment, book a fishing or dive trip. The staff will even help you secure tickets to area attractions like Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark.
Rounding out the amenities is a fabulous heated swimming pool overlooking the beach with a deck that runs around and extends to the outdoor/indoor beach bar, a perfect place to watch the sunrise or sunset, or both, and the perfect place to enjoy your favorite cocktail, prepared to perfection.
And finally (yes, I saved the best for last), if you appreciate well prepared and imaginative cuisine, you've landed in the right place. The Cafe on the Beach is headed up by hotel director and master chef Arnie Crenin who works magic with the dishes he serves under the covered section of the deck. This experience alone is well worth the stay, and will keep you coming back for more.
Let's review: Comfortable rooms, great beach location, outstanding boutique setting, outstanding cuisine -- and the woody. Now, what more could you want?
South Padre Island's Palms Resort and the Cafe on the Beach - thumbs up in my book!