The Tijuana Border Fence at the Pacific Ocean
Location: Tijuana, Mexico
When to visit: Anytime
Time needed: 10 minutes
If you have occasion to visit Tijuana, Mexico, you’ll probably spend some time checking out the nightlife and maybe some of the art and cultural centers.
Tijuana isn’t known for its beach, but if you do make the trip there, you can see the very spot where the United States meets Mexico. It’s strange to see the fence actually extending into the Pacific Ocean.
These days, border fences and walls are a hot button political issue. But back when I visited about a decade ago, it was just a mildly amusing sight to see a fence extending into the ocean. What a weird international border.
Visiting the Tijuana Border Fence From the U.S. Side
It’s difficult to approach this border fence from the U.S. side – that part of California is desolate and mountainous.
According to the LA Times, that part of the U.S. is called Border Field State Park. It’s a former navy airfield with fences around the property.
You can visit on the U.S. side by following Monument Road to Friendship Park. There, you’ll be right next to the fence and have the ability to see Tijuana Beach.
However, in 2009 a second parallel fence was constructed here. They are 20 feet apart and act as a “buffer zone” between the countries. So you actually have to look through two fences to see Mexico.
Visiting the Fence from the Tijuana Side
I visited the fence the more difficult way. I drove down from San Diego, parked at the border parking lot, and walked across the border into Tijuana. Then I took a taxi (Tijuana has taxis and Uber) to travel around the city.
In Mexico, when you arrive at the beach (it’s the far northern end of Tijuana Beach), you can go right up to the fence.
Here’s a map of the border. On the Mexican side, there’s a bullfighting arena right next to the border. Just a short walk further south is a shopping area with Starbucks and Walmart.
There is a spot on Border Field State Park called International Friendship Park. That’s where family members on opposite sides of the border can sometimes meet to talk through the fence.
This area is monitored closely by the Department of Homeland Security.
Can you swim around the border wall in Tijuana?
Can you? Yes, it’s physically possible. You can see from the photos that it only extends roughly 30-50 feet (depending on tide) out into the ocean. A person could certainly swim out that far and go around the fence.
Should you do that? Definitely not. While this fence may look flimsy, experts say this is one of the most secure parts of the entire USA-Mexico border, because of the level of monitoring on the American side. There are numerous cameras and even unseen barbed wire.
Photographer John Moore has visited the spot many times and says, “Occasionally someone tries to swim around the fence, but often they have to get rescued or they are quickly taken into custody by Border Patrol agents.”
I stopped by this border while spending the day in Tijuana with a local couchsurfing friend.
We didn’t come to see the fence specifically. We just intended to see the beach. Seeing the Tijuana border fence was something I hadn’t expected.
Perhaps someday, as former First Lady Pat Nixon once mused, there won’t be a need for borders. “I hope there won’t be a fence too long here,” she said in 1971 when she visited Border Fence State Park.
Now, half a century later, the fence remains, and in fact, there are two fences here.
Would you visit the border fence between Tijuana and San Diego?