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13 Things to do in Imperial Beach

13 Things to do in Imperial Beach

From piers to museums, and boardwalks to sports parks, these things to do in Imperial Beach will spice up your life.


6 min read

May 18, 2021

Imperial Beach greets visitors with endless surf, sun, and sand. Nestled along the shores of the Pacific, this beachfront destination is one of the southernmost points in the Golden State.

The coastal city’s sleepy streets demand you take it easy as trendy restaurants fill your belly with fresh oysters on the daily. So read up on San Diego fun facts, bring the whole family together, and embark on a laid-back adventure—no need to crank up the radio, the soothing waves are your music (sans advertisements, it’s a win-win). From piers to museums, and boardwalks to sports parks, these things to do in Imperial Beach will spice up your life.

The Best Things to do in Imperial Beach, California

There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss out on the best views at Imperial Beach City Beach.

1. Watch the Sunset at Imperial Beach City Beach

While there’s no bad place to watch the sunset, locals know that the best spot is Imperial Beach City Beach. As day turns to dusk in the city of Imperial Beach, a gorgeous sunset blossoms with red and gold. Let serenity overtake you as the sun disappears beneath the horizon and the ocean reflects its beauty. Kick back, bury your feet in the warm sand, and admire the sky’s changing hues at one of the best beaches to view the California sunset.

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2. Visit the USS Midway Museum 

Want an insider look at what’s normally closed off to the public? The USS Midway Museum—one of San Diego’s inspirational museums—is the longest-serving American aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Marvel at 60 different exhibits and 29 restored aircraft at this historic gem, including ones that flew during World War II, Operation Desert Storm, and the Korean War. If you’re looking for fun things to do near Imperial Beach, visiting this museum should be on your itinerary. 

Volleyball is our business and business is always good at South Imperial Beach. Play a friendly match with your buddies and improve your skills.

3. Play Beach Volleyball at South Imperial Beach

Everyone knows that SoCal is basically the beach volleyball capital of the world, and Imperial Beach is no exception. Many advanced volleyball players fell in love with the game at Imperial Beach—it’s the perfect place to improve your skills by the ocean. Grab a ball, hit South Imperial Beach, and give your fitness routine the jumpstart it deserves.

You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf near the Imperial Beach Pier. Ride the swells into the sunset as the waters engulf you.

4. Surf near Imperial Beach Pier

Imperial Beach boasts one of California’s finest and most underrated piers. Here, you’ll have no trouble choosing a scenic spot to ride the waves. And spoiler alert, there are many. Check out the very end of Seacoast Drive and you’ll find plenty of parking, sand for days, and a desired peace of mind. Grab your board, bask in the summer heat, and let your spirit rise with the waves—splashing around San Diego doesn’t get better than this.

5. Watch the Birds Fly By at Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve

Each spring, Imperial Beach becomes home to thousands of shorebirds traveling along the Pacific Flyway. Waterfowl and neotropical stunners all stop to forage on the beach and its pristine protected wetlands. With over 370 species roaming around, all you have to do is stand quietly and see what comes your way. But, if you want a front-row seat, head over to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve for the best views.

In addition to spring migrations, summer also brings in a fair share of birdwatching opportunities. Colonial nesting seabirds like black skimmers and gull-billed terns can be found frolicking around the area and chirping near the river valleys.

Your perfect companion to the beach is a stallion. Smell the salty air, feel the sand upon your face, ride a horse, and chase the wind.

6. Ride a Horse Along the Beach

Fancy riding a horse into the sunset? Check out Pony Land’s famous Sea Shore Beach Ride. This two-and-a-half-hour horseback ride is one of the most exciting things to do in Imperial Beach. Begin by venturing through a nature preserve, then continue riding along the pristine beach as waves lap at your horse’s hooves. As you’re moving along, keep an eye out for dolphins.

7. Camp out at Silver Strand State Beach

What’s better than RV camping in SoCal? Beach camping, of course. And the best place to experience that is Silver Strand State Beach. Tying Imperial Beach to Coronado, Silver Strand proves that life is best when you’re camping. The white sand beach features four large parking lots, accommodating up to 1,000 vehicles, as well as basic amenities to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

Camping in this Imperial Beach RV park means enjoying sunsets, getting a slice of rustic bliss, and still being close to the attractions of America’s Finest City—SoCal RV camping at its finest, wouldn’t you say? 

The best fishing at Imperial Beach Pier is in the zone which sits above water less than 10 feet deep, occupied by surf perch and corbina.

8. Go Fishing at the Imperial Beach Pier

Any California fishing guide would tell you that the Imperial Beach Pier is a must-visit. Almost 1,500 feet long, the pier is the ideal place to go fishing in SoCal. Both yellowtail and white seabass are reachable at the end of the pier, but the best fishing spot is right in the middle. Surfperch, corbina, and spotfin croakers inhabit the waters, waiting to make your day ‘reely’ good. 

9. Check out the Imperial Beach Outdoor Surfboard Museum

Huntington Beach may have the International Surfing Museum, but Imperial Beach in San Diego is home to the coolest open-air museum. While it’s not technically a museum, the Imperial Beach Outdoor Surfboard Museum is a public art project located along Palm Avenue from Seacoast Drive to Third Street. Full-size tubular steel outlines of surfboards tell the story of waves and wind with designs representing the history and evolution of surfing. 

Going for a stroll on the boardwalk is always a delightful activity. Feast your eyes on the best views in Imperial Beach.

10. Take a Stroll along Imperial Beach Boardwalk 

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the easiest and most inexpensive thing to do in Imperial Beach, California is simply taking a walk along the Imperial Beach Boardwalk. You’ll see fishermen reeling in catches, couples watching the sunset, and surfers riding the waves at the beach. Listen to the waves crashing all around you as you tick one more thing off your San Diego itinerary.

11. Relax at Dunes Park in Imperial Beach

Offering visitors a peek into the laid-back culture of Imperial Beach, Dunes Park promises a fun time for the whole family. Featuring a playground, public artwork, and plenty of adventures, this waterfront destination is the perfect place to spend a mellow afternoon. Play basketball at the court, bike along the sandy beaches, and have a picnic with the fam—the world’s your oyster.

Don't be a hater, be a roller skater. Practice your spins, jumps, backward skating, and show 'em how you roll at the Imperial Beach Sports Park.

12. Skate at the Imperial Beach Sports Park

Armed with ramps, grind rails, and benches, the Imperial Beach Sports Park is a skater’s paradise. Practice your skills on wheels at this scenic recreational area while blasting your outdoor workout playlist. If you’re spending an entire afternoon here, check out the adjacent center for a cool game room, dance center, and picnic grounds.

13. Get a Scoop at Cow-A-Bunga Ice Cream and Coffee

In the mood for sprinkles and sugar cones? Cure that sweet tooth at Cow-A-Bunga Ice Cream and Coffee, a flavor-filled shop in Imperial Beach. Whether you prefer gluten-free or low-fat, chocolate or vanilla, soft serve or hard ice, this ice cream parlor has something for everyone. Dying to have your morning coffee first? Get a shot of espresso, then treat yourself to a banana split—don’t even bother sharing.

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