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Imperial Beach California The Best Place To Live
How much do you know about Imperial Beach, California? Do you plan to visit the city? Read on to learn everything that you need to know on the subject.
If you're looking for mild weather all year round, miles and miles of beaches, tons of family-friendly activities, and easy access to other cities and states, San Diego has it. Nicknamed America's Finest City, San Diego is an amazing place to live and visit.
If you're planning a move to the area, or simply considering it, you'll quickly learn that there are many different neighborhoods in the area. One of these areas is Imperial Beach, located in the very southern portion of San Diego, just miles from the Mexican border.
If you're intrigued, we've got your comprehensive Imperial Beach, California guide. Read on to learn more about one of the most idyllic areas near San Diego.
All About Imperial Beach, California
Imperial Beach is San Diego's southernmost beach town. It is just south of Coronado Island, 14 miles from downtown San Diego, giving you the ability to live on the beach but also easily make the commute to downtown, and only five miles north of Tijuana, Mexico.
While you can easily get to the hustle and bustle of the city, you can enjoy quiet neighborhoods, pristine beaches, and a sense of family in Imperial Beach.
Imperial Beach History
Imperial Beach became a US territory in 1848, after the Mexican-American War. In the late 1880s, Imperial Beach started to develop and the beginnings of what we know now as the jewels of Imperial Beach were developed.
Originally used as a retreat for landowners and farmers who lived inland, Imperial Beach was mainly a vacation spot for many years after it became part of the US. In 1887, though, the Hotel Del Coronado was commissioned by E.S. Babcock, bringing thousands of workers to the area for the construction. When it was finished, the hotel was the largest resort in the world.
Many of the laborers who moved to Imperial Beach to build the hotel never left and made Imperial Beach their home. The area was further developed in 1909 with the creation of the pier, the addition of sidewalks to the town, and the building of a public library, cafe, and general store.
Because Imperial Beach is so close to the Mexico-US border, the military settled into the area. Both the Army and the Navy had a presence there in the 1940s and the defense industry boomed in the area, and in 1956, Imperial Beach was officially incorporated as a city.
Imperial Beach Community and Schools
The 2010 Census listed the population of Imperial Beach as 26,324 and it is both economically and ethnically diverse. The close proximity to Mexico means that a large portion of the population is Hispanic, and there are many people in both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.
There are two school districts that serve Imperial Beach: South Bay Union School District and the Sweetwater Union High School District. The South Bay District serves children from pre-K to grade 8 and the Sweetwater Union District serves children from grades 7-12.
In the South Union Bay District, there are a total of 12 schools serving over 6,000 students, including:
- Bayside Steam Academy
- Berry Elementary
- Central Elementary
- Emory Academy of Global Leadership and Empowerment
- Imperial Beach Charter School
- Mendoza Elementary
- Nestor Language Academy Charter School
- Nicoloff Elementary
- Oneonta Elementary
- Pence Elementary
- SBUSD Virtual Academy
- Sunnyslope Elementary
- VIP Village Preschool
In the Sweetwater Union High School District, you'll find middle and high schools, as well as adult learner programs. There are over 30 schools serving over 40,000 students, and within Imperial Beach, there are several high schools, including:
- Mar Vista High School
- Palomar High School
- East Hills Academy
- Stephen W. Hawking Charter School
The highest-rated secondary school is Mar Vista High School.
Imperial Beach Parks & Recreation
From dog parks to skate parks to parks with beach views, Imperial Beach has them.
The Imperial Beach Sports and Skate Park has basketball courts, baseball fields where the local Little League plays, a play structure, picnic tables, and barbeque grills, and a skate park with a bowl, ramps, grind rails, and benches. There's also a recreation center that's adjacent to the sports and skate park that has a workout area, game room, cafe, dance center, and music room.
At Dunes Park and Pier Portwood Plaza, you can enjoy a picnic, barbecue, or play on the playground with an ocean view. If you're looking for a spot to take your furry friend, the dog park, located near Veterans Park and the Boys and Girls Club, is a great spot for them to run off-leash.
Imperial Beach Arts, Music, and Entertainment
There are plenty of things to do in Imperial Beach, no matter your age. Catch a play at the OnStage Playhouse, which is the second-largest community theater in San Diego. Every summer, Imperial Beach hosts the Sun and Sea Festival to celebrate Imperial Beach's love of the beach and sandcastles.
If you like surfing or cool art, or just like neat photo opportunities, you can't miss "Surfhenge" in Imperial Beach and the surfboard benches that tell the story of big wave surfing in the area.
Imperial Beach has also pledged to be a city of kindness and has demonstrated this through murals depicting kindness throughout the community.
Imperial Beach, California Dining
What would a beach town be without delicious seafood? If you're not a seafood lover, don't worry though, as there there are plenty of other options for you!
If it's fresh seafood you're looking for, check out SEA180º Coastal Tavern for their fresh fish, steak, and plenty of other non-seafood offerings. If you want seafood in a more casual setting, Tin Fish has outdoor seating overlooking the Pacific and fish and chips that can't be beaten.
Don't skip Seacoast Pizza either. Their menu isn't huge, but it has all the different pizzas and toppings you could want, along with a few subs and appetizers.
For breakfast, lunch, or just coffee and a snack, don't miss Katy's Cafe, Cow-A-Bunga Ice Cream and Coffee, and the Stardust Donut Shop. Bring your appetite to Imperial Beach, because there is no shortage of places to eat and drink!
Imperial Beach Transportation
If you're looking to fly into or out of Imperial Beach, the San Diego International Airport is the closest major airport and is only about a 15-20 minute easy ride up I-5.
Getting around Imperial Beach is also pretty easy, as it is bike-friendly (make sure you check out the San Diego Bayshore Bikeway Route) and you can take the bus or light rail throughout Imperial Beach and all the way to the Mexican border if you like.
Taxis and rideshares are also options in Imperial Beach, but you can definitely get where you want to go using public transportation.
Imperial Beach Traffic
This leads to another important detail: the traffic. Because Imperial Beach is a smaller community, 15 miles from downtown San Diego, you won't experience as much of the "big city" traffic there as you would further north. However, you will have to contend with everyone else commuting to San Diego from the southern suburbs if you have to go into the office.
The average commute time is about 26.9 minutes, which is slightly higher than the national average, but much less than the average time in other areas.
Traffic tends to follow normal rush hour patterns, so if you can plan your commute before or after the traditional times for most other commuters, you might find that your ride isn't too bad. Using public transportation is one way to maximize your commute. You can get some work done or simply zone out and let someone else transport you to work. This will likely save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.
Imperial Beach Weather
Imperial Beach has the quintessential perfect southern California weather. The summers are warm but not too warm and the winters are mild. The average summer highs are in the upper 70s and they rarely get above the low to mid-80s.
In the cooler months, average highs are in the 60s and it might dip into the upper 40s occasionally, but lows are usually in the 50s. There are over 260 days of sunshine per year in Imperial Beach (267 to be exact) and precipitation is rare. While this is a good thing for outdoor plans and activities, it does put the area at a higher risk of drought and fires.
Working In Imperial Beach
Many people who live in Imperial Beach work in San Diego. That's one of the big benefits of living here. You get the small-town feel with close proximity to a big city with large companies and organizations to work for.
Some of the largest nearby employers include:
- San Diego State University
- Sea World
- Cisco Systems
Cost of Living In Imperial Beach
In general, California has a higher cost of living than the rest of the country. This means homes that are more expensive and other goods and services that cost more too. The overall cost of living in Imperial Beach is slightly higher than the entire state of California, but there are some areas where it's lower.
Housing, transportation, and groceries are three areas where Imperial Beach is more costly than the rest of the state. However, when it comes to utilities and health, Imperial Beach is lower than the rest of the state (and for health, lower than the overall cost in the US).
A higher cost of living typically comes with a higher salary though, so you can expect salaries and wages to be higher in Imperial Beach and the surrounding areas.
Imperial Beach Outdoor Recreation
The beautiful weather, beaches, and proximity to the water make outdoor recreation possible all year long in Imperial Beach. Some of the most common outdoor recreation activities include:
- Beach volleyball
Check out Silver Strand State Beach in nearby Coronado for a gorgeous beach. You can also visit the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve for nature walks, bird walks, hiking, and even volunteering.
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beautiful weather in Imperial Beach and the surrounding areas. If you're a dog owner, you can take your furry friends to the dog beach on the south end of Seacoast Drive. You can take your dog on a leash and enjoy a quiet walk without many others around.
If you want a romantic outing with your partner or an adventure with your friends, take a horseback ride along the beach.
Imperial Beach Shopping
There's also plenty of shopping in Imperial Beach. The Las Americas Premium Outlets are close by and feature all of the outlet stores you'd expect from a large outlet mall. Some of the other places to shop include:
- Imperial Beach Promenade Shopping Center
- Silver Strand Plaza
- Breakwater Town Center
There are also small, local beach and surf spots where you can pick up surfboards, surf gear, and other specialty items that you can't find elsewhere.
If you want bigger malls and more options, head north 15 minutes to San Diego where you can find large shopping malls and plenty of high-end shopping.
Imperial Beach Sports
The weather makes sports in Imperial Beach easy. The Imperial Beach Sports Park, mentioned above, has space for outdoor sports and skateboarding. The nearby beaches also give you the chance to try your hand at beach sports, such as beach volleyball and surfing.
Check out the Imperial Beach Athletic Club for organized outdoor sports and activities like cornhole, skating, and other outdoor recreation sports.
Take a surfing lesson from the Surf Hut or find an experienced surfer to show you the ropes. You can even check out the conditions and a live view of the surfing conditions online.
Fishing is also big in the area, especially from the pier. The best spot to fish on the pier is in the middle, and you can catch fish like corbina, surf perch, yellowfin, spotfin croaker, and halibut. You can also expect to see some sharks and rays in the area too.
You don't need a license to fish on the pier either, so as long as you have a pole and bait, you're all set. Check out Gamboa Bait & Tackle to get everything you need.
Imperial Beach Social and Membership Clubs
Finding friends and like-minded associates is always a challenge when moving to a new area. Joining a social club in Imperial Beach can help with that. Some options include:
- The VFW
- Chula Vista Life Steamers (especially for train enthusiasts)
- Kiwanis Club
- Imperial Beach Athletic Club
If none of these organizations sounds like your thing, check out local Facebook groups, Meetup.com, and other online sites to find groups to find people interested in similar things. You could also find an alumni group from your college or university in the area to meet fellow alumni and participate in activities, such as watch parties and volunteer service.
Imperial Beach Real Estate
If you're looking for a quiet suburb close to the water, Imperial Beach is your place. There is a mix of apartments for rent, condos for rent and sale, and single-family homes. The median home listing price is right around $750,000, which is higher than the national average, but not as high as other waterfront areas and suburbs of San Diego.
Neighborhoods that are popular in the area include:
- City Center
- Palm Plaza
- Dolphin Bay
- The Tapestry
- Imperial Palms
- The Breezes
New construction areas include Breezeline, which has only 15 single-family homes. If you want a brand new home in an exclusive development, Breezeline is an option. Overall, most of the areas of Imperial Beach are quiet, family-friendly, and ethically diverse.
Imperial Beach Estates and Homes
Like many of the other areas of the country, homes in Imperial Beach are going fast and can be hard to come by. Many of the current single-family homes are a bit older and were built prior to the 2000s, but many of them have been remodeled and fully updated. However, unlike many other areas in the larger San Diego metro area, Imperial Beach is expected to see more housing development in the coming years.
You can still find good deals in Imperial Beach, as it's not as pricy as other waterfront areas and you can find single-family homes under $1 million, which can be rare in an area so close to the water. Check out our most up-to-date listings and sign-up for alerts when homes that meet your search criteria hit the market.
Notable Imperial Beach Residents (Past and Present)
The close proximity to San Diego and Los Angeles means that you might actually have the chance to spot a celebrity in Imperial Beach. Some of the past famous residents of Imperial Beach include:
- Actor Matthew Modine, who went to high school in Imperial Beach
- Charlie Jackson, a software entrepreneur who founded several companies, grew up in Imperial Beach and attended Mar Vista High School
- Eleanor Mariano, a retired USN Rear Admiral who was the White House physician for nine years
- Aaron Chang, who was a photographer specializing in surfing photographs (he was a photographer for Surfing Magazine for over 25 years)
- Allen Holder who was a pioneer in the surfing community (the lifeguard facility in Imperial Beach is named after him)
Imperial Beach California Fun Facts
If you're wondering what else we could possibly cover about Imperial Beach, don't worry, because we have more to share.
- The Farmer's Almanac has named San Diego and the surrounding area one of the ten best weather cities in the US
- The South Bay Drive-In has the ocean as its backdrop (the only San Diego-area drive-in to have this)
- Imperial Beach has hosted dog surfing events
- Imperial Beach was the town used for the filming of the now-canceled HBO show "John in Cincinnati"
- It was originally called "South San Diego"
- The first sidewalks were laid in Imperial Beach in 1900
- Imperial Beach had an early public transportation system with a ferry and trolly to take you from San Diego to Imperial Beach
- Imperial Beach was a WWII boomtown, as the defense industry was booming and it had a significant influx of new residents
- It is the most southwesterly city in the continental US
- The Big Kahuna burger from Big Kahuna's was featured in the film Pulp Fiction
- It is affectionately known as "IB" to locals
- There are four miles of beaches and they have year-round lifeguards, so you can swim safely all year long
- It's one of the most affordable beach cities in Southern California
- It is home to the Navy's Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach (NOLF Imperial Beach)
- The novel Tijuana Straits, by Kem Nunn focused on the surfing culture in Imperial Beach and the Tijuana River Valley and the environmental problems in the area
- Over 63% of the population has some college education, which is over the national average of about 42%
When Are You Moving to IB?
What are you waiting for? It's time to check out Imperial Beach and consider it as your next home. Whether you're an out-of-towner moving to the area or a California native looking to move within the San Diego metro area, Imperial Beach has so much to offer.
With a laid-back beach vibe, homes more affordable than some other beach locations, and close proximity to downtown San Diego, Imperial Beach is a great place to call home.
If you're ready to start looking for your next home or need to sell your current home, we can handle it all.
Contact us today to learn about how we can help you buy and sell.