Chula Vista is the south-westernmost port of call in the continental U.S.
CHULA VISTA, WHICH MEANS BEAUTIFUL view in Spanish, is just south of San Diego and just a few miles from the Mexican border, making it an attractive port of call. Se habla espanol mucho in this vibrant city, the second largest in the San Diego area, with shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities. Situated between San Diego Bay and the Jamul and San Ysidro mountains, Chula Vista — with nature preserves, a harbor and close cultural ties to Mexico — is a remarkable destination for boaters.
To get to Chula Vista, sail into San Diego Bay, which is accessed through the main shipping channel that runs roughly north-south. Marked by lighted red and green buoys, the channel’s course is easy for boaters to follow. However, it is highly advised to stay in the channel near the mouth of the bay, because of several submerged reefs outside the channel. San Diego Bay is very active commercially, so watch for large and small vessels, especially the Navy kind.
To reach the Chula Vista Yacht Club’s marina 1 , which is part of the California Yacht Marina, enter 32 degrees 37.28802 minutes north, 117 degrees 06.03426 minutes west into your GPS. NOAA Chart 18773 will be needed. The club’s 100 feet of side-tie guest moorage are available free for 72 hours to reciprocal club members, if space is available, and it runs $1 per foot up to 50 feet, and $1.50 per foot past 50 feet.
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If you want to get off your boat for the night, you have several choices in Chula Vista and its immediate surroundings. The Best Western South Bay Inn 2 in Chula Vista has an adjoining Aunt Emma’s Pancake House and an outdoor swimming pool. In National City, just to the north of Chula Vista, the Best Western Plus Marina Gateway Hotel 3 has 149 rooms and 24 suites, all equipped with the latest technology for savvy travelers. Also in National City is the nine-story Clarion Hotel. Guests will enjoy amenities such as an exercise room, outdoor heated pool and hot tub as well as a daily cocktail hour.
One of the main attractions of these hotels and others nearby is quick access to the San Diego Trolley, which will take travelers points north to San Diego, east to the foothills and south to the Mexican border.
You’ll find everything from Chinese to Italian to Mexican in Chula Vista. Third Street is a diner’s paradise with a variety of venues. For classic Mexican food with a festive family atmosphere, go to Casa Don Diego 4 in the heart of downtown. Since 1969, the restaurant has been the go-to place for its famous margaritas, chicken and beef fajitas, and Sunday champagne brunch.
The Galley at the Marina 5 is one place everybody should go for a sunset dinner and dancing. Live music is offered Friday through Sunday night. Be sure to make dinner reservations, because this is a very popular spot for locals.
Chula Vista Marina is the place to be at sunset and under twinkling stars. The views from Marina View Park across the harbor to the Silver Strand State Park will take your breath away as the sun casts an orange glow. Another great marina with a casual, outdoor restaurant that serves excellent breakfast and lunch is Pier 32 6 , the marina of National City.
Don’t miss the chance to do some karaoke singing at Dock’s Cocktail Bar 7 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
On the 316-acre Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is the Living Coast Discovery Center 8 . The center is not a museum but a space that inspires the care and exploration of the coastal animals, plants and habitats. The unique animals and plants of Southern California are showcased. In the aquariums, get a face-to-face look at moray eels, leopard sharks, stingrays and other marine life found in San Diego Bay.
Imperial Beach, directly south of Chula Vista, is the most southwesterly city in the continental U.S. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean and South San Diego Bay, the town of 30,000 is one of the last Southern California beach towns left unspoiled by Hollywood glitz. Miles of uncrowded beaches, white-foamed surf and nearby wetlands make this place as sweet and dreamy as the homemade ice cream sold at Cowabunga Creamery on the pier.
National City, to the north of Chula Vista, is home to National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO), one of the nation’s most impressive shipbuilding yards. Humongous naval and merchant marine ships are built on site. Several times a year, the company invites the public to the pomp and fanfare of brand new ships’ christening and launching.
Getting a taste of Mexico is tempting and practical, since Chula Vista and its surrounding communities are so close to the border. The border city of Tijuana is a place teeming with people at the colorful shops, restaurants and the iconic street taco stands. A passport is needed to cross the border, which can be accessed by car, the San Diego Trolley or by simply parking on the U.S. side and walking in.