imperial beach san diego

Imperial Beach

I dream of faraway places; sometimes, my mind goes adrift. Today I reeled it in and stayed close and explored an area of my city that I have never been to before. Imperial Beach is only about a 20-minute drive heading south on Interstate 5.

Edging closer towards Mexico with the exit numbers dwindling, I got off the freeway at Palm Avenue. Roughly 5 miles north from where the border crossing is in San Ysidro. Here you will find Imperial Beach, the southernmost beach town in San Diego and California. Yes, it could also be called the most southwesterly city in the continental United States.

Exploring Imperial Beach

Iview of Imperial Beach Pier and the pacific ocean
Imperial Beach Pier

Walking out onto the Imperial Beach pier is an excellent activity that will reward you with incredible panoramic views. You can watch the surfers catching endless waves and the fisherman casting their poles as you stroll past. Take a seat on one of the benches to rest or soak in the view. At the end of the pier, you will find the Tin Fish restaurant.

Looking towards the south, you will see the Coronado Islands, which are a part of Mexico. Still facing south and coming back towards the beach, you will see parts of Tijuana up on the hillside. Gazing to the north, you can make out Point Loma, Coronado, and the downtown San Diego skyline.

Why Visit Imperial Beach?

Wave from the pier

That, my friend, is a straightforward answer, the views are amazing, and it has got a slow pace about it and a community feeling. I didn’t find IB to be overcrowded and inundated with electric scooters as you would see where I live. To me, it was peaceful and relaxing. Maybe I live in the wrong beach community, after all.

Imperial Beach has beautiful palm-lined streets with plenty of pedestrian crossings and warnings for drivers. Gentle breezes coming onshore made it comfortable to be out walking around. The sand felt fresh and was soft to the touch, stretching as far as you could see looking towards the north or south.

Just look at the cities message on their website, “Mission Statement: To maintain and enhance Imperial Beach as “Classic Southern California,”; a beach-oriented community with a safe, small town, family atmosphere, rich in natural and cultural resources.”

Things to Do in IB

dolphin sculpture in IB
Ocean riders sculpture

If you have a chance to visit Imperial Beach, try not to let it slip by. Many water activities, birdwatching over the Tijuana estuary, the surf culture, and quaint food places are yours for the taking.

A quiet little place that is striving to maintain its roots. The people that I encountered were all very friendly.

In July, check out the Sun & Sea Festival, including the sandcastle building and judging events.

If you get hungry, you will find options at and around the Imperial Beach pier and on Seacoast Drive. I stopped by IB Street Tacos for a bite (now called City Tacos and located in Mike Hess Brewing) and The Coronado Brewing Company for an enjoyable pint. To finish off a classic SoCal beach day, grab a refreshing treat at Cow-A-Bunga ice-cream shop.

spirit of IB
The Spirit of Imperial Beach, sculpture

Imperial Beach Advisories

shark art on the side of a building
I Found A Shark ๐Ÿ™‚

With all of the good, there is a bit of bad. For Imperial Beach, it has to do with water quality. After it rains, there can be a runoff and other pollutants in the water coming from south of the border.

San Diegans are advised to avoid beach waves for 72 hours after it rains anywhere in San Diego County due to contamination from runoff.

This beach can be closed more than any other in the county because of this. (the only downside to being so close to Tijuana). The county has a website where you can check for beach and bay water quality.

Take A Step Back In Imperial Beach

Decal on car of the city logo visit imperial beach
Logo of the city

Have you visited before, what are your favorite things?

Protect Your Trip Travel Insurance

While San Diego is very safe and laid back, I love the peace of mind travel insurance gives me in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, trip cancellation, or disruption. For a few dollars a day and with coverage for many types of adventure activities, I’m all in.

Pro Tip

There is a free public parking lot as of June 2018. Don’t fall for the paid parking on Seacoast Drive. Go south until Elkwood Ave (a few blocks away) and turn inland (you’ll see a Parking sign visible on the road). This lot is now free to the public.

Get Ready to Book Your Trip: Helpful Links and Resources

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find and research your airfare needs and to find the best flight deals. It searches worldwide on multiple airlines to help you find the best options.

Book Your Stay is my go-to for finding a place to stay anywhere globally. An outstanding company that I trust and have used for many years. Find accommodation from budget to luxury in cities and countries around the world. If you happen to be backpacking and staying in hostels, I recommend Hostelworld to help you find a place to stay.

Get Travel Insurance
Travel is unpredictable. Anything could happen. A trip interruption, flight delay, lost or stolen items, or personal injury, having comprehensive trip insurance will protect you if anything goes wrong. SafetyWing is a solid choice for most travelers.

Tours, Activities, and Things to Do
Viator (a TripAdvisor company) offers many excellent options to keep you busy wherever you may be, from walking and food tours to sunset cruises and more. Make sure to give them a look and add some fun-filled activities to your itinerary.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend companies and products that I use myself and believe in.