The city of Imperial Beach is situated south of downtown San Diego. It stretches from San Diego Bay to the Mexican border, and its western edge faces over six miles of lovely white sand beach that are ideal for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and other recreational activities. Imperial Beach also boasts a vast expanse of protected natural area, which makes it one of the best bird watching sites in Southern California. The city hosts annual events such as the Sun and Sea Festival, the Surf Town Triathlon and Duathlon, and the Surf Dog Contest, an amazing competition featuring dogs on surfboards. Check out the many beautiful vacation rentals at Imperial Beach, and book a stay today. Here are the most unforgettable places to visit in and around Imperial Beach.

1. North Imperial Beach

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Part of the northern border of Imperial Beach lies along the southern edge of San Diego Bay, which provides easy access to the midpoint of the Bayshore Bikeway. If you go northeast from Imperial Beach on this smooth, level 24-mile route, it takes you along the bay through Chula Vista and National City to downtown San Diego. If you go northwest, you cycle along the silver strand to Coronado Island. Along the way, you pass Silver Strand State Beach. It’s not as crowded as other beaches in San Diego County and is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and water sports.

2. Central Imperial Beach

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The Imperial Beach Pier juts 1,500 feet out over the Pacific Ocean, creating an ideal fishing site. At the end of the pier is a seafood restaurant from which you have a superb panoramic view as you dine. Pier Plaza at the base of the pier hosts the weekly Imperial Beach Farmers Market, where you can shop for fresh local fruits and vegetables as well as community artwork. Popular activities on the beach include volleyball, jogging, body boarding, and sand castle building. The Boca Rio beach break is a world-renowned surfing location. Beachside Dunes Park is a kids-friendly facility that includes showers, picnic tables, and a playground.

3. South Imperial Beach

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The southern end of the city of Imperial Beach is a haven for bird watchers. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve has trails where you can access prime bird watching locations at the mouth of the Tijuana River. You can start at the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center, where you can find maps, pamphlets, exhibits, and the free use of binoculars during your stay. In Border Field State Park, which runs along the ocean front from the estuary to the Mexican border, you can enjoy hiking and horseback riding along the beach and through the dunes.

4. Coronado

Source: Flickr/Vanessa Vancour

Coronado is a lovely resort island across the bay from downtown San Diego and north of Imperial Beach. A sand bar called the Silver Strand in the south and a large bridge in the north connect it with the mainland. Its beaches are among the world’s finest, and its main road is a great place to stroll and check out the many quality shops, bars, coffee houses, restaurants, and galleries. Hotel del Coronado is a famous historic landmark where many U.S. presidents and celebrities have stayed.

5. Otay Mesa West

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Otay Mesa West is a southern San Diego neighborhood that lies east of Imperial Beach. To the north, it adjoins Otay Valley Regional Park, a long stretch of protected area that runs west to east along the Otay River Valley. Trails for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding run through the park. Several ponds allow fishing for bass and bluegill. Along the way, you can observe wildlife such as coyotes, badgers, gray foxes, snowy egrets, and great blue herons.

6. West Chula Vista

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Chula Vista is northeast of Imperial Beach, and its west side runs along San Diego Bay. At the northwest edge is the family-friendly Living Coast Discovery Center, a zoo, and aquarium that serves as the gateway to the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Its exhibits include a turtle lagoon, a shark and ray touch pool, a shorebird aviary, and a large collection of raptors. Trails run from the center through the refuge to San Diego Bay. From the Chula Vista Marina, which also hosts the Chula Vista Yacht Club, you can join a whale-watching tour or charter a boat to go fishing on the open ocean.

7. East Chula Vista

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For those who love shopping, Chula Vista Center is a large mall with many national outlets, local specialty shops, and restaurants. In the southeast corner of Chula Vista is Aquatica, San Diego SeaWorld’s water park. This spacious facility features a number of water slides, a wave pool, and a tube ride along a river past Caribbean flamingos. It also has a safety zone for young children with smaller slides and a play area.

8. National City

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National City lies north of Imperial Beach between downtown San Diego and Chula Vista. Its abundance of pleasant, family-friendly parks and proximity to area attractions makes it a popular vacation rental location. Pepper Park faces the waterfront and has a boat launching ramp, picnic areas, and a fishing pier. Spacious Kimball Park features a recreational center, a public library, a skateboard park, and numerous sports facilities. Besides playgrounds, open areas, and sports fields, Las Palmas Park also has an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

9. Downtown San Diego

Source: Flickr/Byron Hetrick

Downtown San Diego offers convenient access to Imperial Beach and many other recreational locations in San Diego County. Famous neighborhoods such as Little Italy, Gaslamp Quarter, Cortez Hill, and Seaport Village are perfect for strolling, shopping, and dining. The Maritime Museum of San Diego on the downtown waterfront is a fascinating collection of historic ships. The New Children’s Museum offers a multitude of exhibits and interactive displays designed to appeal to children of all ages.