Fiesta Island- A Closer Look

On June 15, 2021, one of my best friends and I took her two dogs to Fiesta Island over at Mission Bay Park. Though I have been visiting Fiesta Island for well over 30 years, today was the first time I entered the infamous leash-free dog park; and oh my goodness, this place is magical! Ironically, the next day, the California Coastal Commission formally decided that Fiesta Island Dog Park was to stay the same way that it has been for years-rustic and undeveloped. I had no idea this was up for a vote.

A bit more commentary on this subject later.

So as I said before, I have been coming here for years, but back in 2018, I did a photoshoot of the island. I was surprised at how special it is over here. Would you care to see what I saw?

Let’s also take a closer look at all of the things you can do and enjoy over at Fiesta Island. As a bonus, I will be including phone numbers and links to relevant websites about this area!

A Few Mission Bay and Fiesta Island Facts

mission bay map fiesta island san diego

button map fiesta island mission bay san diego

Phone Number– (619) 235-1169

Hours– 4:00 am to 10:00 pm

Click on the map below for a better idea.

—>Fiesta Island Map<—

#– Fiesta Island Dog Park is open 24 hours, seven days a week, but the island is closed to cars after 10:00 pm. You may enter, but you will have to park off the island and walk.


A Bit of Mission Bay History

fiesta island 1 seaworld sky ride view
A view of Fiesta Island from the SeaWorld sky ride

Before I get into Fiesta Island, it is important to mention Mission Bay Park.

Mission Bay, referred to in the past as False Bay by the infamous Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo in 1542, was once an extensive tidal marsh connected to the San Diego River.

The reference of  False Bay was because, on average, the water level was relatively low and sometimes lacked water altogether.

But back in 1852, the United States Army created a dike on the south side of the river to prevent it from flowing back into the San Diego Bay. You see, before this year, the river emptied into both False Bay and San Diego Bay.

San Diego River East Water rocks plants
San Diego River

Due to the placement of the dike, ‘False Bay’ became an even bigger estuary. In the late 1880s, a bit of development began but was totally ruined due to a huge storm that produced mass flooding.

In 1944, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce recommended developing the area into a tourist and recreational spot to help diversify the city’s economy. San Diego was and still is a big military town.

The constant dredging, moving, and filling of over 25 million cubic yards of sand created what is now known as Mission Bay Park.

Interestingly, most of the leftover sand that was dredged when creating Mission Bay became what is now known as Fiesta Island.


Fun Facts for Mission Bay Park

mission bay view seaworld san diego
View of Fiesta Island from SeaWorld
  • developed in the 1940s to 1960s
  • largest water park in the country
  • 27 miles of shoreline and 4235 acres large
  • 54% water 46% land
  • SeaWorld was built in 1964

A Few Fun Facts- Fiesta Island

fiesta island sunset mission bay park
Fiesta Island sunset 2005

Fiesta Island is a unique, primitive, and undeveloped peninsular island located in the southeastern section in the heart of Mission Bay Park. The entrance is found right near Tecolote Creek in East Mission Bay.

A one-way road circles the circumference of the island counterclockwise at a lovely speed of 25 mph. Usually, it is sparsely populated, with the most visitors being seen over at the world-famous dog park. There are no parking lots, so cars are permitted to drive onto the sandy beach and park. Most cars on the beach are there to launch personal watercraft, but you find some just sitting and enjoying the day.


-A Few Frequently Asked Questions-

How Big is Fiesta Island?

-463 acres

How Big is the Dog Park?

-90 acres

How Many People Visit Fiesta Island Each Year?

-over 5 million people visit annually

What Special Events Happen Over at Fiesta Island?

-Old Mission Bay Athletic Club has been hosting the Over-the-Line Tournament since 1953

-Fiesta Island is the home of the first “Triaholon” swim/bike/run on September 25, 1974, which the San Diego Track Club directed.

How Special is the Fiesta Island Dog Park?

-Fiesta Island Dog Park was voted the number one leash-free dog park in the Nation by readers of USA Today in 2016

Are There Any Conservation Areas on Fiesta Island?

-both the north point and south point (Stoney Point) of the island is closed off to the public to protect California least tern nesting sites; and also, parts of the central island are off-limits as well


Ok, now that we have a bit of historical perspective out of the way and a few fun facts, let us now go and take a look around, shall we?

Fiesta Island Photo Tour and Directory

East Side of the Island- Calm Waters

triatholon rock fiesta island entrance

The entrance of Fiesta Island is found in the southwest corner of Mission Bay Park.  There is a tiny parking area at the entrance, and this is where you can find a row of Torrey pine trees.

As you pass over and onto Fiesta Island, if you look to the right and left, here is where all of the jet skies are flying around.

—>Desperately Seeking Torrey Pine Trees<—

Tecolote Creek

san diego birding tecolote creek

Tecolote Creek is found just north of the entrance of Fiesta Island. Here is a superb area to check out shorebirds! Every time I am here, there are always birds.

—>Best San Diego Birding Hotspots<—

Tecolote Cove

tecolote cove fiesta island mission bay park

Now we are on the island. Continuing north, we pass by Tecolote Cove, where you can ride on your personal watercraft (5mph).

For more information, click on the photo below.

personal watercraft special use sign mission bay

Enchanted Cove

As we continue the journey heading north on the island, we come upon what is known as Enchanted Cove.

Enchanted Cove is located in the southeast corner of Fiesta Island. The speed limit over here is 5mph, so it is an excellent spot for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and rowing.

While I was here, several fishing poles were set up on both sides of the shorelines. I take that as a good sign that the potential here for catching fish is high.

—>Saltwater Fishing in San Diego<—

Fiesta Island Youth Camp and Youth Aquatic Center

As we keep continuing north, we come towards the Fiesta Island Youth Camp and Youth Aquatic Center. Here is where you can bypass the most northern tip of the island, as you have a choice of following the road to the left or continuing to go straight (see map above.)

The seclusion of Enchanted Cove makes it also a great place for birdwatching. While I was there, several different shorebirds were wading on the waterline in search of food.

This area is not for public use but is utilized only by various San Diego Youth Groups, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys & Girls Club, Seascouts, YMCA Indian Guides & Princess, and youth church groups. Here the children learn how to sail, canoe, row, kayak, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, and swim.

The campsite, adjacent to the Aquatic Center, can hold up to 250 campers in 25 camp clusters.

For more information, click on the links below.

Phone Number-  (619)235-1169

—>Boy Scout of AmericaCamp Fiesta Island Information<—

—>Fiesta Island Youth Camp Rules and Regulations<—

Northern Cove

northern cove sand water

Here we are towards the island’s northern tip, where you are not allowed to beach, launch, or anchor. But continuing to go around the tip, and going down a bit more south, here is where many will launch their small personal watercraft into Fiesta Bay, where you can go more than 5 mph.

Also, it should be noted that the most northern tip of Fiesta Island is off-limits and is enclosed for the California least tern.

Center of the Island

Over the Line Fields

Here is the area where the infamous Over-The-Line Tournament takes place. In fact, the last tournament just took place this last weekend (July 16-18.)

The rich history of this annual San Diego event began in the mid-50s, sponsored by the Old Mission Bay Athletic Club.

I found this great tribute video of the event.


Are you interested in participating in an Over-the-Line tournament?

Click on the link below for more information.

—>Old Mission Beach Athletic Club<—

Launching Model Rockets? Yes!

Another little-known fact is that you can also launch model rockets over here on the  Over-The-Line fields, but you will need to get a permit beforehand (see link below).

—>Permits for Private Use of Model Rockets<—

Sand Dunes

sand dunes fiesta island mission bay

As we take a look a bit inland, you can look around at a few native and many non-native plants as well as a few animals if you are a bit lucky. Again, it is quite refreshing walking around here, as most people prefer to stay by the water and there is hardly anyone else around.

—>Plants at the Beach<—

Here is a list of a few native plants that I noticed while here-
  • coastal goldenbush- Isocoma menziesii
  • beach evening primrose- Camissonia cheiranthifolia
  • big saltbush- Atriplex lentiformis
  • pickleweed- Salicornia virginica

The West Side of Fiesta Island

Fiesta Bay

fiesta bay mission bay park

From the northern tip of Fiesta Island down to the southern tip on the west side, you can go as fast as you like (within reason), from sunrise to sunset. So you can see countless personal watercraft mixed in with boats and sailboats.

Stoney Point

least tern area fiesta island mission bay park

As we keep making our way south around Fiesta Island, we come upon Stony Point, connected to the dog park. Due to the isolation of the area and an adequate food source, Stony Point is a favorable nesting site for the endangered California least tern.

least tern sign stony point fiesta island

Fiesta Island Dog Park

dog beach fence fiesta island

If you had to pick one spot that screams Fiesta Island, it would definitely be the Fiesta Island Dog Park.

Located in the southwestern section of the island, this area truly is magical. While researching, I came across a Yelp review that stated that this dog park is the world’s best dog park in the world?

Now I am not sure about that, but it was voted as the number one dog park in all of the United States, but the readers of USA Today.

—> Dog-Friendly Beaches in San Diego<—

While I was walking the dog park with my friend and her dogs, I didn’t realize that the following day the city would decide to keep Fiesta Island the way it stands today.

The staff at the Coastal Commission wanted to breathe new life into a past proposal in opening up broader public access to the island. They argued that the Coastal Act encourages opening up waterfront areas to as many people as possible.

Down below is a link to the proposed plan if you would like to have a look.

—>Fiesta Island Park Precise Plan-General Development Plan: Reduced Intensity (Version 4h)<—

Several from the kayak and canoeing communities wanted to develop parts of the island that would allow then shoreline access. This plan also included decreasing the size and access of the dog park. Opponents of the plan point out that there is already shoreline access across the way at South Shores Launch Ramp.

Fortunately, the proposal did not pass, and the Fiesta Island Dog Park, in all its glory, remains just how it has always been.

For more in-depth information, click on the links below.

—>Save Fiesta Island Dog Park<—

—>Coastal Commission Agrees With FIDO and Cancels Proposed Changes for Fiesta Island Off-Leash Area<–

Hidden Anchorage

Hidden Anchorage is an isolated cove found on the southeastern tip of the island.

Here is the spot to go if you like to water ski!

A permit is needed before waterskiing (see the link below).

Another interesting fact that I found out is to acquire a waterskiing permit; you must also be a member of a waterskiing club.

Because of this, I have found a couple of Waterskiing Clubs in San Diego to make the process a little easier for you.

Please see the information provided below.

—>Waterskiing Permit Information via Lifeguard Station<—

Waterskiing and Wakeboarding Clubs near Mission Bay

End of the Tour!

So what do you think? Hopefully, I have included enough information that someday soon, you too will be able to experience Fiesta Island up close and personal.

Until next time!

Resources-

 

 

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