The Tijuana River Estuary

If you’re looking for a quick nature trip, the Tijuana River Estuary is a place to visit. This natural reserve is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna and is a popular spot for birdwatching and nature hikes. Here, you’ll find plenty of activities to savor the beauty of wildlife and nature.

This article will guide you if you plan to visit the Tijuana River Estuary. Here, we’ll cover every piece of information you may need, including the location, operating hours, and contact info, should you need it. After reading, you’ll have an overview of the place and maximize your visit to this natural reserve.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Tijuana River Estuary

About the Tijuana River Estuary

The Tijuana River Estuary is a coastal intertidal wetland sitting north of the border as part of San Diego County. The tip of the estuary ends on the international border and into Tijuana.

The Tijuana River Estuary is also a protected natural reserve, and it houses the following places and organizations:

  • Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Tijuana River Valley Regional Park
  • Border Field State Park
  • Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge

This estuary is an ecosystem with shallow pools of water. As a result, its water level changes every season, and you’ll occasionally find dry land or flooded parts. 

This estuary is frequently referred to as an inconsistent estuary because its water level is susceptible to the flow governed by the seasons. In 1973, it received the designation of National Natural Landmark.


The Tijuana River Estuary is located north of the US-Mexico International Border. As such, while it’s called the Tijuana River Estuary, the reserve belongs to the territory of the US as part of San Diego County.

It’s easy to visit if you’re coming from the US since you don’t have to cross the border. However, if you’re from Tijuana, you’ll need to cross the border even though you can see the reserve from the other side.

If you’re visiting Tijuana and planning to cross the border, read How to Get to Tijuana from San Diego?

For this reason, visiting the Tijuana River Estuary before or after crossing the border is best if you’re coming from the US. However, if you’re living nearby, you can plan it another time and not make it part of your Tijuana trip itinerary.

Entrance Fee

A visit to the Tijuana River Estuary does not require an entrance fee. However, it would be best if you headed to the Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center to visit the area. This place is at 3rd Street and Caspian Way in Imperial Beach, the tip of the southwestern US.

Operating Hours

The Tijuana Estuary Reserve has trails open daily from dusk until dawn. However, the visitor center is only open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

The Visitor Center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s also closed during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Contact Info

If you want to know more information, you can reach out to the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve through the following contact information:

Things to Do at the Tijuana River Estuary

The Tijuana River Estuary is vast, and there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Here are some of them:

At the Reserve

The reserve offers a wide range of recreational opportunities for people of all ages and interests. For example, in Border Field State Park and the Tijuana Estuary, there are a variety of hiking and nature trails, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Overall, you’ll find something for everyone to enjoy along the trails.

At the Estuary

A variety of programs and tours offered by the Tijuana Estuary are open to the public. Such activities include bird walks, nature walks, and educational talks throughout the year.

A free tour of the Tijuana Estuary is available for elementary, middle, and high school groups. There are also teacher training programs and curriculum resources for teachers.

At the Border Field State Park

A little more than 15 miles south of San Diego lies Border Field State Park, located in the very southwestern corner of the United States. 

Border Field is part of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, an essential habitat for wildlife in the region. 

The park has restrooms, picnic areas, barbecue grills, horse corrals, and interpretative displays. 

Its visitors can enjoy activities such as surf fishing, beachcombing, hiking, riding horseback, and watching birds while on vacation in the area.

At the Visitor Center

There is an array of hands-on, interactive activities available at the Visitor Center for all ages, as well as a video collection (which includes videos in Spanish) that is shown upon request to visitors. 

As part of the educational videos, the organization aims to educate the public about flora and fauna of estuaries. Moreover, the video includes the biology and ecology of watersheds and estuaries.


The Tijuana River Estuary is an excellent place to visit if you want to enjoy nature-related activities. Here, you’ll find some wildlife and a natural reserve that will always be a relaxing scene to enjoy. 

Of course, as mentioned earlier, it’s best to leave the trip to reserve it apart from your Tijuana trip since it’s located on the US side of the border. However, even if you’re from Tijuana, a day trip to this natural reserve will always be worth it.

If you want to know more activities to enjoy in the south of the border, you can read our article about the 15 Things to Do in Tijuana.

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