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Imperial Beach in San Diego, often referred to as the "Most Southwesterly City in the U.S." is in fact the southern most beach town in California, located just five miles northwest of Tijuana, Mexico. Because Imperial Beach San Diego is so close to Mexico, it is the ideal place to take a Tijuana day trip and explore the neighboring country. It is a quiet beach town surrounded by wetlands and home to more than 300 species of birds making Imperial Beach one of the best birding spots in Southern California.
What the sleepy beach town may lack during normal days, it more than makes up for during special occasions and events. Imperial Beach was host to the annual U.S. Open Sand Castle Building Contest for 31 years, in which thousands of visitors and competitors flocked to the beach for the competition. During the contest, the San Diego beach would fill with creations from impressive fairytale-inspired castles to larger than life mermaids, as sand creators competed for the grand prize, which was usually around $21,000! During the competition weekend at San Diego Imperial Beach there was also a street fair, parade, bands and fireworks to celebrate the event. The Sand Castle Contest was moved to the San Diego Harbor waterfront in 2012 but will always be a point of pride for Imperial Beach. The annual Imperial Beach Surftown Triathlon and Duathlon are also held at the San Diego beach. The San Diego Imperial Beach Triathlon involves a 1 k swim, 20 K bike ride and a 5 K run, while the duathlon consists of a 5 K run with a 20 K bike ride, which all take place at the pier.
The San Diego Imperial Beach pier is the most southerly located pier on the west coast and a prime fishing spot. Opened in 1963, the Imperial Beach San Diego pier provides sweeping views of Los Coronados Islands and evening sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. As for getting your toes wet, the Imperial Beach San Diego area is safe for swimming around the pier where lifeguards are on duty and the water is clean, but it is advised that swimmers avoid the waters closer to the Mexican border where there is often hazardous surf and contaminated water from the Tijuana River. Imperial Beach in San Diego is also known for its surf and local surfboard shapers and designers, which are highlighted and celebrated at the Surfboard Museum located in Imperial Beach as well.