My windsurfing buddies and I used to all stay downtown at a hotel like the Best Western Marina Grand Hotel, the Bayfront Plaza, or the Omni. All of these hotels are in walking distance of downtown restaurants and bars. You may wish to try bidding on a hotel on Priceline -- downtown Corpus is the "Corpus Christi Beach Area".
More recently, since some of my favorite restaurants have closed, I have stayed close to, or on North Padre Island. There are some great dining options on the island, like Dragonfly, JB's German Bakery and Cafe, and Surfside Sandwich Shop.
Motel 6 #413
Recently I have been staying closer to the island. The budget / convenience option is the Motel 6 #413, which is closer to the beach, and also closer to some of the better Corpus restaurants. Motel 6 keeps you close to The Island, but I've had comfort and convenience issues there -- it isn't luxury. You may not find the service helpful.
Some folks have been disappointed with the cleanliness of this Motel 6. If you know Jason, he can share his crazy experiences there. One nice thing about Motel 6 is that they are quite dog friendly, and quite cheap. It seems like a lot of recreational fishermen stay here.
Best Western on the Island
The Best Western on the Island, is clean, allows pets with a fee, and isn't far from Worldwinds. I find the place comfortable, but not fancy. It is designed like a motel. This is good, because it is quick and easy to get to your car, but the view from the rooms tends to be cars, not the beach. Also, they currently offer a free breakfast that usually includes eggs and some other protein.
When there are good deals available, I think this is a great location for getting to and from Worldwinds fast. The island now has several decent dining options, so you can save yourself lots of driving by staying here. This is currently my preferred hotel.
Best Western Paradise Inn
I consider the Best Western Paradise Inn clean yet affordable. This motel is half way between downtown and the island, is pretty clean and comfortable, and has easy access to lots of chain restaurants. Like the Best Western on the Island, it is arranged like a motel. Getting to your car is easy, which is good, because you'll probably be driving, not walking, to anywhere you go.
This hotel is right off of South Padre Island Drive, which is a highway. If you stay here, you'll definitely save some time driving compared to staying downtown. The downside is that the closer dining options are similar to a strip mall in Austin.
There are actually two Omni hotels in Downtown Corpus Christi, right next door to each other. There is the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel Bayfront Tower, and the Omni Corpus Christi Marina Tower. These are two very different hotels, even though reservations are maddeningly accepted as if they were the same hotel.
The Bayfront Tower is a very nice four diamond hotel with a fancy restaurant at the top. The Marina Tower is an OK three diamond hotel. They are both fine hotels, but it is a huge letdown to expect the Bayfront and get the Marina. It seems to me that they benefit from this confusion, and might even intentionally sow it.
One time I booked at what I thought was the Bayfront, but turned out to be the Marina Tower. I drove to the Bayfront Tower, checked in there, was given a key, and hauled my stuff up to the indicated floor. I spent probably five minutes wandering from one end of the hall to the other trying to find my room, confused and irritated.
Finally I ran into an employee and asked where the room was. I couldn't believe when he told me it was in the other hotel! Was there a bridge to the other hotel, I asked. No, I had to drive.
I schlepped my stuff back down to my car, drove to the other hotel, and then carried it back up to the correct hotel room. I was pretty mad that they acted as if it was perfectly normal to get the key for one hotel at another hotel, and as if every idiot knew that room numbers below a certain number were at the other hotel.
Lesson: when dealing with the Omni, call ahead and be sure you know which hotel you'll be staying at.
You can often get good deals on one of these hotels on Priceline (see above).
The Best Western Marina Grand
This hotel used to be my favorite because it is usually inexpensive, clean, and it stands within easy walking distance of the marina, a few shops, some OK restaurants, many iffy bars, and a few OK bars. For a fee, your pet can stay.
One downside to this hotel is that it is tall but only has two elevators. The insiders know to ask for a room at a lower floor so they can skip the elevators. Another downside is that occasionally folks will have noisy parties in their rooms, and the place will sound like a vibrant dormitory late into the night. Also, be prepared to wake up to the 3 AM illegal downtown drag racing.
The staff here is usually nice, and the rooms have a bit of a view.
The Marina Grand also provides a free, but not-so-great breakfast. I suggest walking to Agua Java (update: closed!), or La Bahia, unless you'd rather save money.
Renting a Condo
Last year I rented a condo on Mustang Island through Coastline Adventures. The particular condo we rented was just a few blocks from the beach and had two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, and a living room. They even allowed dogs!
Depending on the season and the number of people, a condo might save you a lot of money. Driving to Port Aransas from Worldwinds is easy, but I'm not sure it takes less time than driving downtown.
Port Aransas is a cute touristy town with lots of shops and restaurants, including the Port Aransas Brewing Company, which makes a mean hamburger. They also have about five different tourist shops with giant concrete sharks in front of them.
You can drive on the beach in Port A -- many streets there just end in the sand. It feels very different from Corpus Christi, which is fun. I should also plug HomeAway as a source of vacation rentals, since I now work there!
Share What You Know
What are your tips and tricks for Corpus-area hotels and lodging? Comment below.
*Updated 4 March 2012 to add Condo information.
*Updated 17 July 2015 to add HomeAway, new restaurants on the island, and to indicate closed businesses.