Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

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Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge starts at the southern end of Seacoast Dr in Imperial Beach and continues south to the mouth of the Tijuana River.
Birds aren't the only ones who like to spend their time at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge; visitors can hike along the trails or explore the beach.
Why you'll love this beach
Why you'll love this beach
Get an Education and Explore Nature at San Diego's Southernmost Beach
Tijuana Slough
Overview
Explore & Save
Things to Do
Popular Activities
Get There & Parking
Featured Activity
Know Before You Go
Stay Nearby
Similar Beaches

Highlights

Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking
Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking

Overview

Lookout Platform at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife RefugeHidden Habitats at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Where can you stand on the beach and, on a clear day, see all the way to Mexico? It’s possible at Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, located in lovely Imperial Beach. Granted, this area is the southernmost city in California, so it essentially shares a border with Tijuana, but what makes Tijuana Slough a favorite beach has more to do with the natural surroundings and less with its location.

This national refuge is actually part of the Tijuana River National Estuary Research Reserve, which covers over three and a half square miles of land. It’s a frequent site for field trips for local school children, but the refuge is open to everyone to enjoy respectfully.

The refuge itself encompasses over 1,000 acres of wetlands, open waters, sandy beaches, dunes, and scrub. Visitors can spend their time walking on the beach or accessing the rocky trail to see more of the natural landscape. It’s also not far from the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center, so stop in if you want a more educational perspective during your visit.

Go Discover with Go Pass!

Living Coast Discovery Center
Living Coast Discovery Center
There is something for every one at the Living Coast Discovery Center. Using your Go Pass, you can see the wildlife native to Southern California. Enjoy everything form sea turtles to bald eagles. It's a can't miss when visiting San Diego.
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Local Tips
What is a Go San Diego Pass?

The Go San Diego Pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

With the pass, you can visit San Diego’s top attractions like the San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND, all while saving up to 55% off on admissions. Plus, the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Things to Do

Kiteboarding
Kiteboarding
Running
Running
Snorkeling
Snorkeling
Sunbathing
Sunbathing
Surfing
Surfing

Why Visitors Flock to Tijuana Slough

Bird Watching

As a wildlife refuge, this beach area is a prime spot for bird watching and viewing other wildlife. Over 360 species of birds have been spotted here, including endangered species, such as the light-footed rail and the California least tern, from the boardwalk and observation decks.

Visit the Visitors Center

You can stop by the visitor center to grab a trail map and plan your time. In the scrub, look for animals on the ground as well as birds in flight. Ground squirrels, rabbits, gophers, and weasels coexist with snakes and lizards.

Don’t forget to watch the marshes and ocean; mollusks and shells, fish, rays, leopard sharks, and sea mammals including dolphins, seals, and sea lions are also known to frequent the waters. In the cooler months, you may even be able to watch whales from the shoreline!

Local Tips
Next to Mexico
Did you know that the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is located in the most southwestern corner of the contiguous United States, only 1 1/2 miles from the border of Mexico.

Surfing at Sloughs Surf Break

Locals also know to visit Tijuana Slough for some hidden gems of surfing beaches. In fact, Sloughs Surf Break has some of the biggest waves in the area, in part because of the offshore reefs and the deep open waters.

The breaks closer to the beach are known as Boca Rio, and you should always look out for rip tides and dorsal fins. On a good day, long rides are possible, the kind you have seen in movies or heard older surfers talk about.

The Sloughs are not for the faint of heart, and typically, you’ll only see experienced surfers here to brave the waters. The main reason isn’t the size of the swells, but rather that contaminated water, thanks to sewage dumped into the Tijuana River. That’s why swimming is prohibited at this beach.

Even if you avoid the water itself, you can still enjoy the beaches, trails, and the incredible view.

Want to Explore More? Stay Nearby at Sand Castle Inn

Sand Castel Inn is just north of the pier in Imperial Beach and a good place to stay in Imperial Beach. When you stay at the Sand Castel Inn, you get the best of all worlds. Not only is the beach right across the street but also, the best of San Diego, Tijuana and Coronado are all just a short drive away.

Popular Activities

San Diego Harbor Cruise
San Diego Harbor Cruise
$28 per person
Buy Now
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Discounts Available
Learn More
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Discounts Available
Learn More
Half Day Whale Watching Tour
Half Day Whale Watching Tour
$48 per person
Buy Now

How to Get There & Parking

Lot Parking
Lot Parking
Street Parking
Street Parking

Like most every beach in the San Diego area, you can get to Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge from I-5 or Coast Boulevard. Look for signs for Imperial Beach because the refuge is not far from the pier, and you can access it from Seacoast Drive.

As for parking, you can check for spaces on the streets. A parking lot is available near the Visitors Center, off Caspian Way.

Featured Activity

Gray Whale Statues outside Birch Aquarium
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
Birch Aquarium at Scripps features over 60 exhibits of the fish and creatures of the Pacific Northwest, as well as the tropical waters of Mexico. Enjoy interactive exhibits that focus on the ocean, climate and the Earth.
Learn More

Know Before You Go & Tips

No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Camping
No Camping
No Smoking
No Smoking
Pier
Pier
Restrooms
Restrooms
Shade
Shade
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available

Tijuana Slough Tips and Tricks

No Swimming

Seriously, no swimming means stay out of the water. This is not the place to play and splash about with your children.

Dogs Allowed

Dogs are allowed in the refuge, but make sure to keep yours on a leash. You don’t want to scare away the birds and wildlife!

Don’t Litter

Be a good beach citizen. If you take food or drink in, be sure to collect your trash and remove it when you leave. This is a preserved wildlife area, and it should be well-maintained so that everyone can enjoy it.

Check the Surf Report

Check the local surf report before you venture out. You should know the direction the water is moving, tide schedules, and other conditions to stay safe.

Can be Noisy

The refuge isn’t far from a naval helicopter training site, and it can be noisy during the week. Sunday may be the quietest day if you are sensitive to the copter noise.

No Bikes

Bikes are not allowed on the trails or beaches at Tijuana Slough, so leave your wheels at home.

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge
is Known For:
Bird Watching
Bird Watching
Know This:
Restrooms Available
Restrooms Available
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available
This Month's Forecast
63℉ / 73℉
Partly Cloudy in June
Jul
67℉ / 77℉
Sunny in July
Aug
69℉ / 79℉
Sunny in August
Sep
67℉ / 79℉
Sunny in September

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