South Texas, that strip of land extending along the Rio Grande River near the Texas/Mexico border, is an excellent destination for visitors who love wildlife, beaches, and delicious food. It’s the place where snowbirds (and real birds) flock for balmy temperatures and a laid-back, easy lifestyle.

South Texas is even farther south than San Antonio. If you draw a triangle from Corpus Christi in the east to Brownsville and McAllen in the south and up to Laredo on the west, you’ll find a collection of off-the-beaten path quaint small towns and surprisingly interesting places awaiting you on an easily manageable four-day itinerary.

Stop 1: Harlingen, Weslaco and Edinburg

Your closest airport will be either Harlingen or McAllen in South Texas. While in Harlingen, stop in at the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum and tour some of the first buildings in the area, including an original hospital and the home of Lon C. Hill, Harlingen’s founder.

The Rio Grande Valley is home to nearly 500 species of birds—many of which you can only find in this region, including several “valley specialty birds,” such as the chachalaca, the green jay and the Pauraque. If you’re interested in nature, head to Weslaco’s Valley Nature Center and Estero Llano Grande, both ideal spots for birders and botanists. Explore even more nearby at the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands. The Museum of South Texas, also in Edinburg, boasts several immersive exhibits designed to put you right in the middle of the region’s history as it unfolded over the years.

For a unique night away, make a reservation at the Alamo Inn B&B, beloved by birders and other tourists for its rooms decorated with themes such as the Pancho Villa Suite and appointed with antiques. The proprietor’s honor system policy for snacks and souvenirs speaks to the safe and friendly environment of the region.

Stop 2: McAllen

Spend a day exploring McAllen, a town that explodes with contemporary and traditional cuisine (Chef Larry Delgado’s SALT New American Table and House Wine and Bistro are among several recently earning top praise from restaurant critics) and is also home to one of the highest grossing malls in North America, La Plaza Mall, thanks to an influx of shoppers.

In the mood for a peaceful respite? Don’t leave the area without a visit to Quinta Mazatlan, a nature preserve and a historic house surrounded by so many lush trees, birds, and butterflies, you’ll forget that you’re located right in the center of a bustling city. This urban sanctuary is surrounded by a remnant of the Tamulipan Thorn Forest with birding trails, a bronze sculpture trail, and so much more.

Stop 3: Laredo

Laredo is a great example of a modern-day town, where two nations meet and give rise to interesting cuisine and cultural exchange. Explore the delicious Mexican cuisine at La Palenque Grill or grab a mug of what is arguably the best hot cocoa (think: rich chocolate with a hit of cinnamon spice) at La India Packing Company. Scoop up hecho en Mexico souvenirs at the shops on San Bernardo Avenue, and cheer on the Tecolotes Dos Laredos at a baseball game at Uni-Trade Stadium, the only place where a cross-border Mexican league team plays in the U.S. Stay the night at La Posada Hotel, a dark wood-beamed historic outpost located right in San Agustin Plaza.

Stop 4: Corpus Christi and Port Aransas

Ready for some beach with a side of culture? Corpus Christi and Port Aransas have you covered. For families and folks who love museums and culture, spend a day exploring Corpus Christi’s wealth of options, including the South Texas Museum of Art, the Texas State Aquarium, and even quirkier options such as the Selena Museum and Texas Surf Museum. Then grab your beach blanket at head to Mustang Island State Park for a day at the beach, or get your fishing pole and spend some time out on the water in Port Aransas.

Visit one of these cities and find out more about the South Texas Plains to start planning your trip to Texas.