arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

Wetlands and Wildlife

Get Back in Nature in San Diego’s South Bay

San Diego is one of the most biologically rich counties in the United States, sheltering more endangered plants and animals than any other county in the nation. In fact, three national wildlife preserves border the southern end of San Diego Bay and another refuge sits just a few miles off the coast, making it of the best places in the entire state to bird watch or simply get back to nature.

Four National Wildlife Preserves

These four preserves protect more than 50,000 acres of habitat in its natural state. Visiting these truly beautiful spots in San Diego helps preserve the precious resources and natural environments of these unique locations, and it a wonderful way to spend a day.

1. Tijuana Estuary National Wildlife Refuge

Encompasses 2,500 acres on the border between the United States and Mexico, Tijuana Estuary National Wildlife Refuge is the largest coastal wetland in Southern California and an essential breeding, feeding and nesting ground for over 370 species of migratory and native birds including six endangered species. The reserve features four miles of walking trails that pass by prime bird watching areas. There are free weekly events for those interested in learning more about the wildlife in the area and every third Saturday of the month at 10:00 AM, the Tijuana Estuary holds a speaker series with topics related to the history and education of the Tijuana Estuary and its watershed. On the southern end of the reserve, you'll find Border Field State Park where you can horseback ride and enjoy the scenic views.

2. South Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Adjacent to Silver Strand State Beach, South Bay National Wildlife Refuge encompasses a remarkable 4,000 acre haven for protected birds and other animals. Birdwatching is good here year-round, but best in the fall and winter months. There is a walking trail which runs parallel with the Bayshore Bikeway bike path which offers beautiful views of San Diego Bay and the reserve.

3. Sweetwater National Wildlife Refuge

Comprised 316 acres of salt marsh wetlands, Sweetwater National Wildlife Refuge is home to some highly endangered species of birds. It is also home to the Living Coast Discovery Center, a budget friendly aquarium and wildlife experience with more than 350 animal and plant species native to the San Diego Bay habitat including a sea turtle lagoon, rescued birds, a shark and ray exhibit, and hiking trails.

4. Otay National Wildlife Refuge

Consisting of 44,000 acres, Otay National Wildlife Refuge is a few miles east of the bay area and includes many opportunities for hiking, biking, bird watching and more.

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Accommodation

Linger Longer at Humphreys Half Moon Inn

Humphreys Half Moon Inn
Valid: Jan 13, 2021 - ongoing

Created for our extended stay guests, our Linger Longer package includes 15% off of 3 night stays and half-off parking, 20% off of 4 night stays and complimentary parking, and 25% off of 5+ night...

Entertainment

VIP Gender Reveal

Skydiving Innovations
Valid: Oct 14, 2020 - ongoing

Skydiving Innovations can help you announce the gender of your upcomming pride and joy! We can jump into a number of locations where, after we open our canopies, deploy red or blue smoke to the...

Accommodation

Pampered Pooches Welcome

La Valencia Hotel
Valid: Sep 18, 2020 - ongoing

Enhance your pooch's stay by booking our pet package which includes a plush dog bed and dog bowls placed in room during your stay, $25 daily credit for your pooch to enjoy our dog menu, a pink La...

Events to check out

Event

The Flower Fields

The Flower Fields of Carlsbad California
Mar 15 - May 9, 2021

For more than sixty years, Mother Nature has transformed the rolling hills of North San Diego County into one of the most spectacular and coordinated displays of natural color and beauty anywhere in...

Event

PRIVATE SHUTTLED COASTAL GEMS TOUR

San Diego Photography Tours
Jun 24, 2020 - ongoing

Breezy palm trees, captivating coastal vistas, postcard perfect cliffs, colorful beach umbrellas, hidden sea caves, picturesque ocean coves, crashing waves... Need we say more? This is the...

Event

51st Chicano Park Day Celebration

Apr 19 - Apr 24, 2021

The theme for this year's virtual Chicano Park Day is: 'Chicano Park 51: Healing Our Past, Educating the Present, Leading into our Future".

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Visitor planning guide

For the ultimate guide to planning your San Diego vacation, view and download the San Diego Visitor Planning Guide, packed with useful information that will help you plan the perfect San Diego getaway.

Read More

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China FlagChinaGermany FlagGermanyGreat Britain FlagGreat BritainJapan FlagJapanMexico FlagMexicoKorea FlagKoreaSwitzerland FlagSwitzerlandBrazil FlagBrazilFrance FlagFranceAustralia FlagAustraliaCanada FlagCanada USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans Albanian Arabic Belarusian Bulgarian Catalan Croatian Czech Danish Deutsch Español Estonian Filipino Finnish Francais Galician Greek Haitian-Creole Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Irish Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Maltese Nederlands Norwegian Persian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Swahili Swedish Telugu Thai Turkish Ukranian Vietnamese Welsh Yiddish