The border crossing from San Diego to Tijuana, Mexico is the busiest border crossing in the world. However, Border Field State Park, right by the border crossing, can seem almost empty. This is a hidden place that many San Diego natives have never visited. This is our guide to visiting Border Field State Park.
Location: 1500 Monument Rd, San Diego, CA 92154
Beach Type: Isolated
Access: Parking right by beach in summer, flooded in rainy season
Parking: $5 entrance
Facilities: Bathrooms, picnic tables
Good For: Horseback riding, walking on the beach, seeing Mexico
Not Good For: Families looking for a traditional beach day, swimming
As its name suggest, Border Field State Park sits right by the U.S. border with Mexico. It is the extreme southwestern corner of the United States. That alone makes it a cool place to visit. However, this is also a very scenic and peaceful place where you can experience our southern neighbor without the hassle of crossing the border. You don’t even need a passport.
Border Field State Park is part of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. This is a great place for bird watching and learning about the importance of these type of salt marsh habitats and watersheds. A trip to Border Field State Park can easily be combined with a visit to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center a few miles north.
Being part of a major watershed means Border Field State Park is flooded much of the year, especially in the winter or after a rain. Storms in 2005 changed the topography of the park so that the entrance road is right in the low spot. In the summer it is generally dry, but you should check the website for current conditions. You can still visit in wet season but it means parking and walking along the beach.
Assuming you come in dry season, you simply pay the $5 entrance fee at the gate and drive along the road until you come to the sign directing you up a small hill to Monument Mesa. Monument Mesa has picnic areas and is the site of Friendship Park. Note we get an annual state park pass that allows us to get in state parks for free.
Friendship Park is a special area where U.S. and Mexican citizens can communicate with each other. However, this is strictly controlled. Visiting only occurs between 10 and 2 on Saturday and Sunday. Only 10 people at a time are allowed past the fence to the courtyard between the two countries.
From Friendship Park it is a short walk down Monument Mesa to the beach. The fence stretches the length of the beach out into the ocean. You get great views of San Diego to the north, the mountains to the east and of course Mexico to the south.
What is fascinating is how isolated the United States side is compared to the Mexican side. Border Field State Park is literally right next to the Tijuana Bullring. Note you cannot access Mexico from here but, on a side note, there are tours to the bullfights.
There is almost no one on the beach in the U.S. In contrast you will see a lot of Mexican beach goers out sunning on a summer day. Unfortunately runoff into the watershed means this area can get polluted so I probably wouldn’t swim here.
Border Field State Park is best for a picnic, hiking, bird watching and horseback riding. It is claimed that over 370 bird species have been spotted in the Tijuana River Reserve. Outfits like San Diego Beach Rides offer guided horse tours starting at about $50. These include rides along the beach and even the opportunity to take the horse into the ocean (these cost more).
Visiting Border Field State Park is our first trip on our journey up the 70 miles of San Diego coastline. Next stop is right up the road to Imperial Beach (note Border Field State Park is technically a part of Imperial Beach).