Top 5 ‘Off-the-Beaten-Path’ RGV Destinations

Top 5 ‘Off-the-Beaten-Path’ RGV Destinations

Let’s Go! by Gretchen Losi

The Rio Grande Valley is enchanting, with its native birds, butterflies, and lush tropical landscape. The Central Valley has its fields of seasonal crops dancing in the Texas wind, while the southern Valley has ribbons of resaca flowing through towns and neighborhoods. It’s a feast for the senses before you even spend a dime.  

With so many opportunities on every nook and corner, it can be hard to know where to start, so we decided to take you off the beaten caliche path and into the heart of a few special gems tucked away in our RGV.

For ecotourism, you hit the jackpot.

            You are never more than 30 minutes from hiking, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, camping, and everything in between. But there’s one spot that’s a bit more unique than the rest, and that’s La Sal del Rey. With its salt crystals the size of your fist and stunning natural wildlife–on foot, in the air, and swimming–in salt-filled waters, it’s truly a wonder. La Sal Del Rey is a natural salt lake in Edinberg that has been enchanting visitors for centuries. Whether you come for the history, the natural beauty, the birding, or a picnic, it promises to be a day for the books you won’t soon forget.

Rich in history, artifacts are still found from 1,000 years ago when the Paleo-Indians called this territory their home. Battles among Spanish conquistadors, Mexican traders, and, according to some historians, Aztecs took place here with one victory in mind–the lake’s precious salt. Today, sitting on over 530 acres, the five-mile-wide lake is estimated to still hold about four million tons of salt and continues to attract visitors to its unique shores as part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

The Park is basically untouched, allowing you to experience the same, natural majesty as those who came before us. With that in mind, bring what you need and be sure to take it back with you. There are no facilities, including bathrooms and trash cans.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Dress weather appropriate. It’s a big area with no amenities, so bring lots of water, binoculars, and boots if it’s after a rain.


DIRECTIONS: From McAllen, go north on Hwy. 281 for approximately 20 miles. Exit 186 East and go approximately four miles to the kiosk on the north side of the road. From Harlingen, go north on Hwy. 77 for approximately 24 miles. Exit 186 West and go approximately 22 miles to the kiosk.

For more information, tune in to AM 530.

That Small-Town Charm

Drive through the Rio Grande Valley, and you’re sure to spot one of its most iconic water towers in San Benito, ‘Home of Freddy Fender.’ Stop into the local cemetery, and you’ll find the local legend’s grave and memorial. Don’t stop there. Drop in and explore the wealth of fascinating history tucked away in this small town with big personality.

The city’s downtown still has that quaint old feel that so many of our downtowns possess. The buildings, some more than 100 years old, are painted everything from fuchsia pink to royal blue and are still home to restaurants, bakeries, hair salons, and curio shops. Every third Saturday, they close down the historic downtown to host their Market Days. This gives everyone a chance to take in the charm and history the town offers amid several vendors offering everything from kettle corn to imported goods from Mexico, live music, and all things Tejano.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: The cemetery can have lots of pesky mosquitos and gnats, so dress accordingly.

Directions: Freddy Fender’s grave is at the local cemetery, located at 210 E. Heywood Street, San Benito.

Birding at its Best

There are so many incredible birding locations in the RGV, including most back yards. But one city has a unique view as you take in the majesty of the skies while you look into Mexico.

Roma is one of the area’s oldest, most historic towns and seems to be in a class all by itself, with its unique architecture, petrified walls, unique geographical location, and birding. This slice of the Rio Grande Valley is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Chances are you’ve unknowingly caught glimpses of the historic downtown on the Silver Screen. It provides the perfect backdrop throughout the 1952 blockbuster, Viva Zapata, with Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn. The town’s streets are lined with many of those sandstone relics still screaming out to Zapata.

But before you take in all the history of the streets, turn to the majesty of the skies. Roma is known as one of the world’s renowned birding locations, with a door leading you to an enchanted birding portal. Once you cross the threshold, you’re welcomed by a unique scenic view into the back yards and parks of our Mexican neighbors to the South, along with the flowing water of the Rio Grande.

The scenic patio is perfect for sitting and taking in the several species of rare birds, including brown jays, orioles, screeching hawks, and other feathered delights.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: This area can get hot, so bring water and dress accordingly. The town is directly on a busy border, so you will likely see more Border Patrol than locals while you’re in town. If you’re lucky, they may even point you in the direction of some petrified wood the area is famous for.

Willy Wonka eat your heart out.

            Just a mile from the border lies a scrumptious workshop where chocolate beans from six countries arrive to create some of the smoothest, creamiest, most unique chocolate flavors in the world. It’s Mozna Chocolate, and they love to show you around.

Mozna is an intimate chocolate factory in Hidalgo that began with a simple dream of a local chocoholic,

“My husband just came home from work one day and said, ‘Let’s start making chocolate,’ so we did,” said co-owner Rosario Matulewicz.  

Today, Mozna brings in hundreds of pounds of cacao beans from Tanzania, India, Vietnam, Mexico,Venezuela, and Columbia to create their smooth, silky chocolate now sold worldwide. And their small batch and artisanal handling of the sweet goodness keeps their popularity growing. Using old-world techniques, each bar is single sourced, making the flavor unique to each country of origin. Schedule yourself a tour and discover the magical flavors for yourself. Warning: This place is highly addictive–and they ship.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Call Monza to schedule a tour at 956-429-3809.

Directions: 115 Brazil Street, Hidalgo

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