The best beaches in Tijuana

11 Best Beaches In Tijuana: Playas de Tijuana And More

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It is important to remember that Tijuana is a beach town. It is one of the few major metropolitan areas in Mexico located on the coast. Northern Baja California has a unique beach culture shaped by the cold waters and natural beauty of the Pacific Ocean. The most popular outdoor activities include fishing, surfing, and drinking beer on the beach. 

The best beaches in Tijuana are about 30 minutes away from Downtown Tijuana but they need to be on your list of things to do in Tijuana. Playas de Tijuana is the most popular beach in Tijuana because of the boardwalk and the border wall. However, Rosarito Beach, Playa Blanca, San Antonio del Mar, and Baja Malibu are closer to some parts of Tijuana than Playas.

Surfing punta mita on a shortboard

Las Rocas Resort & Spa

Bueno, bonito y barato hotel on the beach at K-38 surf spot in Baja Norte.

The old trans peninsular Highway 1, the free road, from Tijuana to the beach, heads directly south from Zona Río to Rosarito. There are lots of beaches close to Tijuana.

I prefer to drive the toll road from Playas de Tijuana to Rosarito. A lot of people say that the toll Highway 1D from Playas de Tijuana to Ensenada is the most beautiful freeway in Mexico. 

Before deciding to write this article, I had only been to Playas de Tijuana a few times and it was never to go surfing.

The bullring is the second largest in Mexico and they used to have bullfights there. Today, it is mostly for concerts. I saw Manu Chao play there back in the day and it was a spectacular concert. I did a beach cleanup that was organized by the Caliente Casino workers’ union and met some really cool people.

An Overview of the Best Beaches In Tijuana

The beaches in Tijuana are not my favorite beaches in Mexico. Playas de Tijuana is a place that I highly recommend visiting more as a photography destination rather than a beach destination.

The best beaches near Tijuana are between Ensenada and Playas de Tijuana on the coastal highway. Mexico’s rich culture is easier to find in Popotla, Puerto Nuevo, and Ensenada.

Playas de Tijuana boardwalk and border wall into the ocean

Generally speaking, the water quality is better the further you get from the Tijuana River Mouth and Playas de Tijuana. There are water quality problems that present a health risk to swimmers and residents.

The Tijuana River is a major sanitary risk but there are also slums on the boardwalk with backed-up plumbing leaking into the ocean. Nobody likes stinky water running into the ocean. 

The north side of Playas de Tijuana beach is the main tourist zone with the most restaurants, parking lots, and vendors. As you move south to Los Arcos, Parque Mexico, and Playa El Vigía, there are fewer people and the feeling is more relaxed. On the weekends over the summer, the vibe at the can get kind of heavy. This is what I imagine Venice Beach was like in the 1970s. Visually, the Playas de Tijuana area is enthralling but you need to be careful where you park your car.  

Make it a point to get some food while you are in Playas. There are some spectacular taco places, restaurants, and coffee shops. I didn’t eat at the restaurants on the boardwalk but had some recommendations bookmarked that are a few blocks away near the mall. Ilustre Coffee has become one of my favorite coffee roasters/coffee shops in Mexico. They have a phenomenal lineup of coffees.

The water is much colder in Northern Baja than it is in other parts of Mexico. There are different ingredients from the seafood in Mazatlan and the seafood in Puerto Vallarta.

Fishing the beaches in Tijuana

South of Playas de Tijuana Highway 1D will pass some private developments with restricted beach access. Oftentimes, the more restricted the access is the better the beach.

San Antonio del Mar, Cabo Blanco, and Baja Malibú have great beaches but cliffs make it hard to get down to the beach. Many of the trails lead to quaint beaches but are behind the gates of private communities. The beaches are nice but you need to plan ahead, make reservations, and choose the beaches you want to visit. 

1. Playas de Tijuana Friendship Park

Playas de Tijuana is a very unique part of Mexico. The border wall stretches 100 meters into the ocean at low tide and has been covered in murals. There is a binational garden wedged between the border wall and the bullring, which are both very large structures. I climbed up to the top of the bullring at a Manu Chao concert and could see all the way down to Coronado Beach and Point Loma at night. 

The park is a major tourist destination with an old lighthouse (El Faro), a boardwalk, and vendors selling hippy art. There are loads of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops for the multitudes of people out and about. 

The border wall is one of the most controversial political issues of our generation that most people con not fully comprehend. Visiting the wall will give you a little more context about the debate. It is a complicated issue but seeing it in person will leave an impact. 

2. Los Arcos Playas de Tijuana

Just 500 feet from the border wall, on the south side of the bullring parking lot, are located the Playas de Tijuana Arches. The area is a popular way to access the beach. There is a stage set up with some area-like seating. A clown was putting on a show for some kids while I was there I suspect there is some live music during the summer months. 

The Tijuana Boardwalk continues through this stretch of the beach with more restaurants and coffee shops

3. Parque México

Parque México is part of a series of traffic circles that cut across the Playas de Tijuana neighborhood. The middle traffic circle holds the Parroquia Santa María Estrella del Mar Catholic Church. The westernmost section has a large park with a public library, basketball courts, fútbol rápido courts, and a playground. 

The boardwalk passes by Parque México and this is where the crowds start to thin out a little bit. It is only 750 meters from the border wall to Parque Mexico but the area is much more relaxed than the Friendship Park area. 

The one thing that I disliked about Parque Mexico was the dog poop. Watch where you are walking. 

4. Torre de Salvavidas #5

Lifeguard Tower #5 is an ideal place to enjoy the sandy beach and actually hit the water. It is located in front of the Miktlantekuhtli Reserve and hiking trails. Most people park on Calle Parque Azteca and walk the short trail down to the lifeguard tower. 

The boardwalk ends a couple of blocks away from the Miktlantekuhtli Reserve. The style of tourism is different in this area. It is a popular destination with outdoor enthusiasts and fewer partygoers. 

5. El Vigía Playas de Tijuana

The coastline on the south end of Playas de Tijuana is very different from the north end of town. Playa El Vigía is the beach where people come to get away from the crowds to practice some water activities. The water is cleaner than it is up by the river mouth so you will see fishermen and surfers.

The staircase is in good condition but there was a lot of broken glass. One of the most popular activities is drinking beer and not everybody cleans up the empties like they should. 

6. Playa Delfín Tijuana

Playa Delfín is a beautiful beach on the southernmost stretch of Playas de Tijuana. It is best to visit on the low tide so you can see the tide pools. Much of the beach is inaccessible at high tide because of the cliffs. It is a beautiful place that I did not expect to find in Tijuana. 

7. San Antonio Del Mar

I am blown away at how big San Antonio del Mar has gotten. I haven’t lived in Southern California in a long time and I remember San Antonio del Mar as the development next to Baja Malibu.

There are three large sections of beach houses on top of the cliff. There is a private beach at San Antonio del Mar but the options for a sandy shore are very limited at high tide. It is an ideal spot to watch the sunset and rent a big house with all your friends.

I’m interested to try some of the restaurants that have popped up in the area. There is a lot of new construction on both sides of the highway. 

8. Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is a small condominium complex in front of a nice sandy beach with good waves. There are full amenities for those staying at the complex but the beach access is private.

9. Baja Malibú

Baja Malibu beach near Tijuana

Baja Malibu is one of the most revered surf spots in Mexico. It is a big, heavy wave that breaks across a huge playing field. It is a shifty beach break but there is an offshore canyon that directs open ocean swell energy into big A-frame waves. 

I got my first double in and out barrel here. It is great for big turns, barrels, and general high-performance surfing. There are some similarities between waves like Moss Landing and Baja Malibu. 

Baja Malibu is a small coastal development when compared to San Antonio del Mar. One of the big differences is that Baja Malibu has some public parking for surfers and beachgoers. You need to get here early on the weekends or when the waves are macking because people drive down from Alta California just to surf here

10. Rosarito Beach

Rosarito Beach is one of the closest beaches to much of the east side of Tijuana.

The biggest crowds in Rosarito Beach will be found one the southern part of town near the pier and Papas & Beer. I used to love that place in the summer but haven’t been in 20 years.

11. K-38 Surf Spot and Las Rocas Resort

This is my favorite beach close to Tijuana. I grew up surfing here. I have been driving down to Baja since I was 16 years old and this was the first beach that I got really excited to surf in the 1990s.

There are a couple of day-use parking lots that charge a few dollars to park and surf for the day. A couple of minimalist campsites also offer safe parking.

The most enjoyable place to stay is the Las Rocas Resort. When you see a monster south swell heading for Northern Baja on the swell forecast you need to plan a few days at Las Rocas.

How To Get To The Beaches In Tijuana

Most people are going to drive to Tijuana from San Diego to visit the beaches. Make sure to buy Mexican auto insurance, have a valid passport, and stop to get a tourist card.

I don’t think Playas de Tijuana is worth the effort to take the bus or take a taxi. If I were backpacking through Mexico taking the bus around Baja, Playas de Tijuana is the last beach that I would visit and not one of the beaches where I would spend the night.

Final Thoughts On The Best Beaches In Tijuana

Playas de Tijuana Friendship Park Beach

As much as I love Playas de Tijuana, I don’t think that the beach is the highlight of the excursion. It is kind of a compliment.

When you go to Playas de Tijuana you need to eat. There are some phenomenal restaurants like Titos Mariscos and Mariscos Chilos.

Ilustre Cafe, just a few blocks from the bullring, has some of the best coffee in all of Mexico winning international awards for roasting and methods.

Visiting the beaches in Tijuana is a fun afternoon but isn’t a destination that I would plan a trip around. I’m glad that I went and I love the photos that I took but I don’t see a need to return anytime soon.

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