Just five miles north of the Mexican border, Imperial Beach is California’s southernmost beach town and offers residents and visitors no shortage of things to do. The locals call Imperial Beach, IB as many other coastal San Diego neighborhoods are reduced to their two letter acronyms.
The community is a four-mile stretch of sand, surf, boardwalk and pier, all of which have their own allure. If you choose to make Imperial Beach your vacation destination, be prepared to surf, sportfish, play beach volleyball, ride horseback and so much more.
In addition to offering a number of exciting and relaxing activities, IB provides sweeping views of the Los Coronados Islands, a group of islands that are part of Mexico and are an amazing destination to scuba dive.
Not to be confused with Coronado Island, which is to the north of Imperial Beach. In fact, Imperial Beach is connected to Coronado Island via a seven-mile long isthmus, locally known as “Silver Strand.” Silver Strand is an attraction in and of itself, as Silver Strand State Beach is a popular site for bird watching, camping and bicycling.
With Tijuana just five miles away, Imperial Beach is home to the Tijuana River National Estuary. The estuary is a body of water mixed with both the fresh water of the Tijuana River and the saltwater of the Pacific Ocean. The combination forms the largest saltwater marsh in Southern California. It also attracts hundreds of species of birds to the area (many of which are endangered), making the community a popular sport for bird watchers from across the nation. Nearby, you’ll also find the Living Coast Discovery Center, a budget and family friendly aquarium.
Sunset at Imperial Beach
Despite being a popular vacation destination, Imperial Beach is actually a sleepy coastal town. That said, it more than makes up for its lack of business in the off-season with special events. For instance, the community hosts the Sun & Sea Festival that includes the popular Sandcastle Building Competition each year. The event drew thousands of visitors each year, though only one lucky winner took home the grand prize, which typically hovers around $21,000. You will still find the streets lined with vendors and the community alive with music, parades and fireworks during the competition weekend.
Imperial Beach hosts a number of other events throughout the year. Those include the Imperial Beach Triathlon, fish fry derbies and the world-renowned Surf Dog Competition.
The town of Imperial Beach itself boasts a number of things for visitors to do. From chic boutiques to local restaurants to museums and galleries, visitors can easily fill their days exploring all the unique attractions the area has to offer, actually part of Best 16 Farmers Markets in San Diego .
Getting to Imperial Beach is straightforward. If you’re coming from the San Diego International Airport, you would take the I-5 freeway south. Exit Palm Avenue West and take a left on Seacoast Drive. Head south on Evergreen Avenue for a few blocks until you hit Imperial Beach.