Elder Ave. & Seacoast Dr.
Imperial Beach, CA
Parking: Residential streets and some public lots
Hours: 7 AM to sunset
Imperial Beach is the southern-most beach in California, stretching 3½ miles north from the Mexican border. At the heart of the beach are the Imperial Beach Pier and Portwood Pier Plaza. The beach has a long history as one of the best surfing spots in California.
For 32 summers sandcastle builders converged on Imperial Beach for the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition until the event was cancelled after 2011. Reasons cited for the decision included increasing costs and not enough volunteers.
In recent years, Imperial Beach's Sun & Sea Festival has provided a venue for sand sculptors. The family-oriented event is a rebirth of an early Imperial Beach festival which includes both children's and masters' sand sculpture competitions.
The Tijuana Slough Refuge is a 1,072-acre wetland around the mouth of the Tijuana River, a part of the 2,800-acre Research Reserve. Within the slough are areas of open water, tidal salt marsh, beach dune, riparian, vernal pool, and sage scrub habitats.
Over 370 species of birds have been sighted in the area. Visitors to the slough enjoy native plant gardens, guided tours, interactive exhibits and a visitor center. The visitor center is at 301 Capian Way. Trail maps are available there. The visitor center is open from 10 AM to 5 PM, Wednesday through Sunday.
The 18-foot tall statue called The Spirit of Imperial Beach honors the surfing and sandcastle history at Imperial Beach. At the foot of the statue are two children building sandcastles.
The bronze sculpture was designed by artist A. Wasil. It is located at the west end of Palm Avenue.
The wooden Imperial Beach Pier is especially popular with anglers. Restrooms are located half-way out the pier. At the end of the 1,500-foot pier is the Tin Fish Restaurant with a wrap-around view of the ocean. Read more about the pier on our BEACH ACTIVITIES page. The pier is open from 5 AM to 10 PM.
A colorful sculpture known as Surfhenge serves as the gateway to Portwood Pier Plaza. Located at the foot of the Imperial Beach Pier, the plaza includes restrooms, a dozen picnic tables, a tot lot, off-street parking, an entertainment stage, and a grass area. The park is open from 5 AM to 10 PM.
The Imperial Beach Certified Farmers' Market is located adjacent to Pier Plaza at the foot of the pier. They are open on Fridays from noon to 7:30 PM (6 PM in the winter).
Dunes Park is adjacent to the beach, several blocks north of the pier. The park features 10 picnic tables, restrooms, showers, water fountains, a play structure, a grass area, a basketball hoop, and off-street parking. The park is open from 7 AM to 10 PM.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety