Flanked by the Pacific Ocean and South San Diego Bay, our town is nestled between miles of uncrowded beaches, big surf and unparalleled open space and wetlands teeming with wildlife. Because this town is one of the last untouched beach towns in Southern California, we are known as Classic Southern California®. There is much to see and do in Imperial Beach from swimming or surfing at the beach, to a walking tour of public art, to a nature walk and bird watching experience at the world-renowned Tijuana Estuary or to simply relax and enjoy our beautiful sunsets.
Surfing is synonymous with the Imperial Beach lifestyle. Today’s surfers hit the waves either north or south of the landmark Pier located along Seacoast Drive. Just prior to World War II, a small number of pioneering California surfers began surfing south of Imperial Beach, off the mouth of the Tijuana River.
They established the spot so solidly amongst Southern California surfers that after the war the Slough became the testing ground for most mainlanders going on to bigger surf in the Hawaiian Islands. Unquestionably, the Slough was home to the then-known biggest waves off the continental United States. The first person known to surf or bodysurf the Tijuana Slough was Allen “Dempsey” Holder. Surfing History can be found along the ten benches resembling surfboards popular through the decades are spread throughout the Pier Plaza, turning Pier Plaza into a true surfing museum without walls. Plaques placed next to each surfboard bench explain the historic role played by Imperial Beach in the development of big-wave surfing from the 1940s onward. Surfing remains a tradition among locals in Imperial Beach.
Ocean piers have always fascinated man and Imperial Beach’s pier has given residents and tourist many years of enjoyment. The current majestic wooden structure juts west over the water beyond the wave break for a total of 1,853 feet is the town’s third pier. It was opened to the public in 1989. The first pier opened in 1909. Through years of heavy storms and high tides has not diminished the love affair that residents and visitors have with the Imperial Beach landmark.
The City of Imperial Beach is a military town. Many families who moved here after World War II, when Ream Field and the Imperial Beach Radio Station offered lots of military and civilian employment liked it so much, that they stayed. In 1952 Ream Field became home for the first helicopter anti-submarine units to deploy from aboard an aircraft carrier. In 1968, at its pinnacle, Ream Field was NAS Imperial Beach with 3,400 military personnel and home to all West Coast Navy helicopter squadrons. It was the “Helicopter Capitol of the World”. They rescued downed pilots, many under combat conditions in Vietnam; and pioneered techniques to recover. astronauts from the Mercury, Skylab, and Apollo space missions.