Imperial Beach "Classic Southern California"

Imperial Beach, the southwesterly most city in the continental U.S., is a place you could drive by andd  miss if you weren't looking for it. Our BEACHCALIFORNIA.COM crew passed by the city several years ago and at the time, saw no reason to return.  But on a recent visit, we quite pleased with the improved "IB". Our travels along the California coast have taught us that cities, beaches and buildings are constantly changing.  Imperial Beach has changed quite a bit and now offers much of what travelers seek in a destination. Public art, Imperial Beach Pier, a beach and ocean waters clean enough to meet quality standards most days of the year are putting it back on the map and returning it to a potential contender for the tourist dollar. The only thing missing at this point is more hotels. With dozens of luxury resorts available just 5 minutes away on Coronado Island, we recommend you search there for a room if the few available properties in Imperial Beach do not fit your needs.


Located a 15 minute drive from downtown San Diego, south of Coronado, Imperial Beach is five miles from Mexico and is separated from the border by the Tijuana  River and Border Field State Park. While the United States and Mexico are worlds apart in many ways, U.S. border cities such as Imperial Beach often are the front line where policies between countries crash and collapse from the weight of disagreement. What it meant to Imperial Beach in decades past was ocean water unfit to dip your toes in and no money to do anything about the sewage problem from Mexico's offshore, northward flow. The problem drifted northward onto San Diego beaches and eventually became an unacceptable threat to the livelihood of California's second largest city. 


Several years ago, Imperial Beach and its 3.5 miles of shoreline were on the brink of collapse, as well.  With the help of the San Diego Unified Port District, $10 million was spent on seaside parks, playgrounds, bathrooms and a combination lifeguard tower/sheriff's substation. A sewage treatment plant built along the border, a new 1,500-foot pier with popular Tin Fish restaurant located at the end of it (pictured above), a new "Pier Plaza" and an entryway with a Wyland sculpture have helped turned the city into a hot property, once again


What is there to do at a this quaint, scenic beach community?  Surfing, boogie boarding, fishing from the pier, day trips to Tijuana, sunbathing and bird watching at Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center are a few attractions.  Looking south from the  beach, you can see the Plaza De Monumental, Tijuana's famous "Bullring by the Sea" just across the International border with Mexico. In contrast to San Diego's beach liquor policy,  alcoholic beverages are not allowed at Imperial Beach.


Annual events include the U. S. Open Sandcastle Competition every summer. Claimed by some to be one of the best beaches for sandcastle building, this event attracts around 300,000 spectators who come to enjoy the Sandcastles and Street Fair. There's a parade, fireworks show and lots of fun things stretching over three days.  150 vendors and arts and crafts booths line Seacoast Drive and a dozen bands or so, perform on two stages.


Imperial Beach Triathlon & Duathlon held usually in August at the Pier. It includes a Triathlon with a 1 K swim/20 K bike/ 5 K run and a Duathlon with a 5 K run/20 K bike run. Sponsored by Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce  


Other events include Chili & Jazz Festival Festival Festival and Symphony on the Sand.  Contact the chamber for more information. Info:  619-424-3151


Skate Park  Sports Park Recreational Complex, Imperial Beach Curb Bonez® Skate Park, 425 Imperial Beach Blvd., Imperial Beach, CA 91932,  Info: 619-423-7950  Ramp System: 20 Plywood & Masonite Ramps with vertical ramps, fun boxes, rails, pool turn, quarter pipes and slider bars. Skateboards & In-Line skates only, Fee, pad, helmet required


Imperial Beach was named for Imperial Valley and was designed as a resort for residents of that region.  It began as plots of land sold by developer R.R. Morrison  in 1887. The first municipal pier was built in 1909 and contained an odd machine known as the "Edwards Wave Motor."


Hoping that the contraption would generate electricity for the town, it did not and was removed.   Without the huge machine, the pier became a more attractive place to stroll.  A boardwalk and bathhouse were built near the pier and stood for many years.  A storm washed the pier away in 1948 and several piers have been constructed since. Imperial Beach has been an official city for over 40 years. 

imperial beach

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