Looking south along the sandy beaches of Imperial Beach, California you can see the outlines of the Coronado Islands nestled offshore about 14 miles. While gazing out at the four islands it brings to mind a tropical getaway in a foreign land. In this case, that foreign land is not too far away as Imperial Beach sits about 3 miles from Mexico and the coast is only separated by the Tijuana river.
In fact, Imperial Beach is the most southwesterly city in the continental United States and for vacationers as well as staycationers, it is not too far from the attractions in San Diego, Coronado, and of course Mexico to its south.
Nestled next to the Pacific Ocean, its expansive beaches offer swimming, surfing , bodyboarding. and of course sun bathing. Most of the activity is situated near the 1,400 foot long fishing pier and the Portwood Pier Plaza. There you can swim and enjoy the beach with the safety of a lifeguard on duty, at least during the summer months.
At the plaza you will find grassy and picnic areas, a tot-lot, entertainment stage, and access to the pier and beach. There are parking lots scattered about but it can get crowded in the summer and residential streets will be the only available parking. Stay clear from the beaches right next to the river mouth as the surf can get dangerous with no lifeguard on duty as well as potential contamination. It is best to stay closer to the pier where the water is cleaner.
A known fact about Imperial Beach is that it is host to the U.S. Open Sand Castle Building Contest. This event attracts hundreds of thousands around the country as well as some of the best sand building competitors. The weekend long celebration features a street fair, various other activities, and its main draw the expertly designed sand castles. If you miss the event, you can still view the sculptures for a few days until Mother Nature decides to sweep the creations back out to sea.
On the flip side, an unknown fact to most people is that Imperial Beach is home to some 300 species of birds and considered one of the best birding areas in Southern California. The world-renowned Tijuana Estuary and wetlands are part of a National Wildlife Refuge nearby. Visit the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center for maps of public trail systems and guided tours of the area.
There is also a bike path that runs from Imperial Beach to Coronado and provides beautiful views of southern San Diego bay and Silver Strand State Beach.
Imperial Beach gets a bad rap for a coastal town because it doesn’t have the uniqueness of a Laguna Beach, the charm of Carmel, the richness of Newport, or the newness of Huntington Beach. It is mostly untouched and feels like old California. Even on the city’s website they call it ‘Classic Southern California’.
At Staycationscalifornia, we love all coastal towns and will always find the positive.
As mentioned Imperial Beach is no Huntington but it doesn’t try to be. It has its own feel.
If even for a day or weekend visit IB and enjoy the beach, fishing, hiking, biking, or just sit back and watch the sunset. Also remember, even though that foreign land is not so far away, you are still safe and sound in the good ole USA.