"Not Popular and Not Expensive" Imperial Beach by lmkluque

Imperial Beach Travel Guide: 89 reviews and 210 photos

Imperial Beach: South of San Diego, CA.

Welcome to my Imperial Beach page,

Most southwesternly point of the continental USA, Imperial Beach is located about fourteen miles south of downtown San Diego and two or three miles north of Tijuana, Mexico.

The US Navy had an air base here, Reem Field, and the town was home mainly to it's personnel. The base closed and is now a U.S. Marine Corps Outlying Landing Field, used mainly for Helicopters.

Second to the Naval Base, the beach is the biggest draw, but it probably seems to be the least interesting beach in all of San Diego County. However, for those interested in the history of surfing in the USA, this might be the place you'd like to visit.

In the creation of Portwood Pier Plaza the city officials of Imperial Beach have created a monument to the big waves of I.B. that became testing ground, from 1930 to present, for those famous and not so famous surfers, planning to compete in Hawaii.

Imperial Beach is also the home of internationally known, Novak Design Surfboards. Beach, surfers and surfboards, what could be more Californian than that?

Details, such as how much bigger the waves are in I.B., are not widely known and too often this beach is overlooked.

So, if seclusion sounds interesting to you, this is your kind of place! The city of Imperial Beach is not very attractive, but it does have a few places I like and here I'll share them with you.

Photo Comment:

The arch at the beginning of IB pier, with it's colorful acrylic surfboards "standing in the sand," and titled: "SURF HENGE," was created and designed by Malcom Jones. A fitting monument to all surfers, great and small who reconized the beauty of Imperial Beach, California.

Along Seacoast Drive there are shops, restaurants and motels which have been spruced up for tourist trade, now it's the nicest part of I. B., and the accommodations are probably the least expensive of any place near a beach in San Diego County.

I hope you enjoy your visit,

Winds of Change!

It looks like Imperial Beach is up and coming. Over the past ten or so years of effort on Seacoast Boulevard to build it up and beautify it the big guns are taking notice.

At the moment the most impressive resident is Marriott's Autograph Collection Boutique Hotel, "Pier South." It opens this month. Barrels Wine & Beer has moved above South Coast Grill and the Coronado Brewing Company will be taking over Jersey Boy's place soon. Right now Sea 180 Coastal Tavern located in Pier South Hotel, is open and seems to be running pretty well already!

City Facts!

Today the population of Imperial Beach is about 30,000 and one interesting fact is that Imperial Beach can never expand. The Pacific Ocean, the San Diego Bay and the Tijuana River Valley refuge area surround Imperial Beach on all sides. It could go up, but seems the voters don't really care for high rise buildings. You might notice that when visiting.

It was in June 1887 that a real estate developer got ahold of the area then known as, South San Diego Beach. It was to be a summer retreat for people then living in the Imperial Valley, so this area was named, "Imperial Beach."

It wasn't until 1909 that sidewalks were installed and a wooden pier built.

About 1917 the U.S. Army had developed the Aviation Field, which is now Reem Field operated by the U.S. Marines.

Allen "Dempsey" Holder began big wave surfing at The Sloughs in 1937. The Imperial Beach Civic Group was formed in 1945 and by 1956 the city was created and the beach became a mecca for the surfing community.

The Fishing Pier was rebuilt in 1960. After a huge rain storm destroyed the pier, again, it was rebuilt in December 1988.

Today, the city of IB is working hard to attract businesses to add to the economy and to build up the quality of the beach area to attract tourists. I hope they succeed, but will be sad if the casual, friendly attitude changes, maybe it won't.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Not So Expensive Beach Town
  • Cons:Not So Active Beach Town
  • In a nutshell:Quiet and Inexpensive!
  • Last visit to Imperial Beach: Jan 2014
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (54)

Comments (23)

  • ines2003's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2015 at 4:36 PM

    very completed information, great

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Sep 30, 2013 at 3:51 AM

    Thanks for the tour of Imperial Beach! I would never have known. Looks like great restaurants and surfing! Can't ask for more than that.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    May 24, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    Me again, coming back to check for updates. Good that you are keeping this page up to date, as well as your main San Diego page. I can't quite imagine how dog surfing works. Thinking back on various dogs I have known, I don't think any of them would have had any aptitude for that sort of thing.

  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo
    May 1, 2012 at 7:28 AM

    Hey Linda, great tips of "Imperial Beach", also perfect photos ... :)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Mar 14, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    Imperial Beach might not be a huge tourist attraction, but you make it sound really interesting because you know the place so well. It?s sad that so many restaurants and shops have closed down or keep changing owners. Hopefully the current owners will have better luck.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Nov 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Excellent page Linda! There is something so special about California beaches and their beach communities. I enjoyed the reading them!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Nov 16, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    A wonderful place to get some sun and feel the nice beach sand in the toes. You did a nice job of describing the sites and scenery is very appealing.

  • Jan 15, 2010 at 12:04 AM

    Good News !!!! Happy Trails Horse Rentals has moved to Imperial Beach located close to where the old Sandys stable used to be. We can now rent horses and go to the Beach. Nice Place and great horses!

  • Dec 16, 2008 at 12:38 AM

    I went to Sandy's Stable. One mare kept freaking out tried backing us over a cliff. Normally the horses went in the ocean or rolled in sand. I did buy a Awesome buckskin bred there. I wish Sandy's was still open, so I could get some kin to my boy.

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2008 at 8:26 PM

    Great beach destination. Interesting tips like sand castle contest and facilities for dog owners. Cheers, SL :)

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