Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Imperial Beach, CA

  • Published 2022/05/14

Imperial Beach is one of San Diego County, California’s most famous outdoor destinations.

This small beachside city near the tip of Southern California, just a few miles from the US/Mexico border, is a vibrant travel destination.

This small city is famous for its long stretch of white sand beach, which is less crowded than other beach destinations in southern California.

Imperial Beach is also a stone’s throw away from Coronado Island, another attraction in the region.

At the same time, San Diego is a 15-minute drive north.

You can also head to Tijuana, Mexico, roughly a ten-minute drive from Imperial Beach, for more travel adventures.

Most of the activities you’ll try in Imperial Beach are outdoors.

From swimming, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing to simple relaxation, you can enjoy many things in Imperial Beach.

For a broader idea of what awaits you in this Southern California destination, check the 15 best things to do in Imperial Beach, CA.

Enjoy the Beach

Strong waves of Imperial Beach

Jon Bilous /

Imperial Beach hosts a less crowded and long-winding beach that stretches more than three miles.

Seize the chance to take the whole beach for your loved ones or travel buddies.

Boulders on the shore of Imperial Beach

Sherry V Smith /

Imperial Beach offers more than just swimming; it is also a popular destination for water activities such as fishing, surfing, kite-surfing, and boating.

In addition, you can enjoy the white-sand beach to get tanned, or perhaps play sand volleyball or frisbee.

If you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, you can catch the sunset at this famous beach and marvel at the sun’s gold and red hues.

People enjoying the sunset at Imperial Beach

Manuela Durson /

Feel the Sea Breeze at Imperial Beach Pier

Sunset illuminating the Imperial Beach Pier

Jon Bilous /

After spending your day at the beach, head to the Imperial Beach Pier, another famous spot in this beachside city.

Head to this wooden-planked pier if you’re looking for the best place to breathe fresh air and see Imperial Beach Pier’s beauty from another perspective.

It stretches roughly 1,500 feet toward the Pacific Ocean.

At the same time, the pier offers visitors a comfortable walkway and a seafood restaurant named “The Tin Fish.”

People fishing on Imperial Beach Pier

Britt J /

Walking through this wooden pier and dining at this famous seafood restaurant gives you a one-of-a-kind experience you shouldn’t miss in Imperial Beach.

It’s a magnificent place to hang out and appreciate the natural beauty of Imperial Beach.

Overall, it’s an excellent retreat for people who yearn to shake off stress.

If you want a different experience at the Imperial Beach Pier, bring your fishing gear and cast your line to catch some fish.

Imperial Beach Pier's structure from below

Esteban Acosta /

Get Active at the Imperial Beach Sports Park

The Imperial Beach Sports Park gives you the chance to flex your muscles while enjoying the scenery of the beautiful beach.

This community park features a top-notch and unique skate park equipped with grind rails, ramps, benches, and other terrific amenities.

Whether you’re an avid skater or a sports buff, you’ll find something to do at the Imperial Beach Sports Park.

This park also has numerous sports facilities such as a basketball court, a baseball diamond, and a softball field.

If you’re looking for a relaxing time, the Imperial Beach Sports Park is an excellent to unwind.

It has a vast picnic ground equipped with park amenities to make your visit extra convenient.

Immerse Yourself in Nature at the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Boardwalk at Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Sherry V Smith /

Considered one of the 30 nature reserves in the entire country, the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve is a natural showcase.

Whether you’re a nature lover or a simple tourist, this natural attraction in Imperial Beach is a place you shouldn’t miss.

Besides being a significant protected natural area, it’s an excellent outdoor destination for recreation.

Start your exploration at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center.

A bird at Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Stubblefield Photography /

Find all the needed information about the reserve to add convenience to your journey.

The reserve offers a wide array of exciting outdoor activities such as hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nature photography, and wildlife viewing.

The entire reserve teems with local flora and fauna, making this place a fascinating destination, especially for nature lovers.

You can access the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve through Caspian Way.

Daytime view of Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Sherry V Smith /

Watch the Latest Flicks at the South Bay Drive-In Theatre

Imperial Beach is also home to a charming old-school outdoor drive-in theater called South Bay Drive-In Theatre along Coronado Avenue.

If you’re looking for relaxing movie entertainment with your gang or your family, this is the best theater in Imperial Beach.

Find the perfect spot for your car to get the best view of the outdoor theatre.

Don’t forget to buy popcorn, soda, or hotdogs to complete your outdoor movie experience at this local favorite.

Explore the Border Field State Park

Welcome sign of Border Field State Park

Sherry V Smith /

The Border Field State Park is adjacent to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

It is another natural attraction worth visiting near Imperial Beach.

This place is a significant wildlife habitat for endangered birds in the region.

Sandy trail in Border Field State Park

Steve Cukrov /

The entire area is fascinating, especially for nature lovers or wildlife enthusiasts.

During your visit there, you’ll pass through vast salt marshes, dunes, and forested areas, where you’ll come across various wildlife.

Meanwhile, the park’s amenities, such as picnic areas, restrooms, barbeque pits, horse corrals, and viewing decks, make your visit more convenient.

Border Field State Park is along Monument Road, San Diego.

Nature view of Border Field State Park

Cassiohabib /

Learn Something Fascinating at the Outdoor Surfboard Museum

Imperial Beach’s streets are also known for their arts and history.

Between Seacoast Drive and 3rd Street, you’ll find a one-of-a-kind outdoor museum display called the “Outdoor Surfboard Museum,” which offers tourists a unique historical experience.

Each surfboard silhouette installed on the sidewalk traces provides tourists with a brief history of shaping and designing surfboards.

Local surfers of Imperial Beach designed many of these silhouette boards.

A total of 25 silhouette surfboards stand along the stretch.

At the same time, other artworks add more vibrance to this already beautiful attraction in Imperial Beach.

Pedal through the Bayshore Bikeway

For a fun-filled and convenient tour through Imperial Beach, rent a bike and traverse the Bayshore Bikeway.

Many consider traversing the Bayshore Bikeway an iconic ride and enjoy the scenery you’ll pass along the way while enjoying the sea breeze.

The signature sun-soaked coastline of Imperial Beach and its towering palm trees make your bike ride more memorable.

The entire bikeway stretches 24 miles through San Diego Bay.

Besides being a tourist attraction, it serves as a regional corridor, vital to San Diego’s leading employers and recreational destinations.

Take a Load off at Otay Valley Regional Park

Otay Valley Regional Park offers visitors a wide array of fun-filled outdoor activities.

This park serves as one of San Diego County’s central open spaces where locals love to picnic or do outdoor activities.

Otay Valley Regional Park boasts top-notch sports facilities and trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

At the same time, Otay Valley Regional Park serves as a protected area for San Diego County’s historical, wildlife, archaeological, and agricultural resources.

There are dozens of outdoor activities waiting for you and your loved ones at this famous park along Beyer Boulevard.

Spot Animals at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

The waters of Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

Ruff tuff cream puff, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge is the best place for bird viewing and whale watching in San Diego County.

This spot is a must-visit for local wildlife such as hawks, exotic bird species, and other incredible animals.

Most visitors love to come back to this natural area for bird watching, while some go there seasonally to spot whales.

Numerous trails lead to marshes and dunes teeming with native and migratory birds.

At the same time, it has multiple observation decks where you can get a better view of passing whale pods.

In addition, Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge has other exciting activities for everyone, such as their interpretive programs, educational programs, and guided tours.

Stroll through Portwood Pier Plaza

Portwood Pier Plaza is a vibrant beachside open space known for its scenic view of the Pacific Ocean.

Many people frequently spend time at Portwood Pier Plaza for its eclectic collection of vendors, artworks, and shops.

They offer customers a wide array of food and artisanal handicrafts.

One of Portwood Pier Plaza’s focal points is the Surfhenge.

This well-known public artwork serves as the welcome sign for everyone entering the plaza.

Overall, Portwood Pier Plaza is a wholesome place to bring your family or relax while watching the beautiful sunset.

Chill at Dunes Park

Of course, Imperial Beach also has its own peaceful green open space, Dunes Park along Seacoast Drive.

Instead of the active community parks, Dunes Park offers visitors the chance to experience a more relaxing ambiance.

Many locals consider this the most tranquil place in Imperial Beach, where everyone can chill and have a pleasant time with their loved ones.

Moreover, Dunes Park also provides parkgoers an excellent view of the Imperial Beach Pier and the beachfront of the city.

It has picnic tables, bike racks, bike and hike paths, a basketball court, an arbor, restrooms, public art, and a beautiful beach.

Soak Up the Sun at Silver Strand State Beach

Gorgeous sunset at Silver Strand State Beach

Kevin Key /

Silver Strand State Beach is a famous unique attraction in San Diego County that you shouldn’t miss.

This famous attraction comes after its narrow and low sandy isthmus that stretches seven miles.

It connects Coronado Island and Imperial Beach, making it an accessible place to visit.

Enjoy surfing, swimming, sunbathing, and boating at this famous beach destination.

Daytime view of Silver Strand State Beach

Niceley, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Silver Strand State Beach is also a haven for anglers.

Its waters are abundant in grunion, corbina, perch, and yellow-fin croaker, making it a popular place to fish.

There are many hotels, inns, and campsites for lodging.

In addition, Silver Strand Beach has enough restaurants to give you many choices when your stomach starts to growl.

Lastly, Silver Strand State Beach is a few minutes from San Diego, which offers more travel adventures.

Sign of Silver Strand State Beach

RightCowLeftCoast, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sweat It Out at Veterans Park

Head to Veterans Park along 8th Street in Imperial Beach if you want more outdoor activities.

Veterans Park is near Imperial Beach’s Boys and Girls Club and its public library.

In addition, Veterans Park is an ideal place for sports since it has a multipurpose turf field and wide-open space for sports action.

Locals love to play sports at Veterans Park, such as football, baseball, and frisbee.

Also, kids can play their hearts out at the park through its top-notch playground.

If you want to feel relaxed and picnic with your loved ones, chill inside the pavilion and picnic tables.

Experience Horseback Riding on the White Sand Beach

Imperial Beach might be one of the few beaches in the United States where visitors can ride horses.

Check out San Diego Beach Rides if you want to ride horses on the sand.

This local company offers horseback riding tours through San Diego County, including Imperial Beach.

Besides horseback riding, this company also offers wagon rides for the whole family, including pony rides for kids.

Plus, they have a petting zoo featuring their horses and ponies at their horse corral.

Visit their office at Hollister Street in San Diego to book their exciting horseback riding tours.

Final Thoughts

Imperial Beach is perfect for people who long for a respite on the edge of Southern California.

It’s less crowded than San Diego’s famous beaches, and it offers a wholesome experience worthy of the entire family.

If you’re planning a quick excursion, consider this beachside city your destination and discover its hidden gems.

Also, bookmark this page during your Imperial Beach travel adventure as your handy itinerary.

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