A Travel Price Comparison for California Berkeley vs. Santa Cruz for Attractions, Food, Nightlife, and Families

Should you visit Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Berkeley or Santa Cruz, this travel comparison, which includes costs, can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison down below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

Berkeley

Berkeley is a quirky, progressive, and diverse city. It's a gorgeous place to visit. It's also known for nightlife, food, and shopping.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a laid back, coastal, and scenic town. Other popular activities here include beaches, hiking, and shopping.

Berkeley and Santa Cruz: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Public transit not as usable


Is there more to do in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Visitors will generally find more to do in Santa Cruz than Berkeley. While Berkeley is larger than Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz has more sights, attractions, and activities for tourists. Santa Cruz is better known for its beaches and hiking, while Berkeley is more popular for its museums, food, shopping, and impressive beauty. Berkeley is well known for its progressive and liberal mindset as well as its farmer's markets and local boutiques. Santa Cruz is well known for its dramatic coastline, fun-filled boardwalk, and beautiful beaches. Also, Santa Cruz is famous for Santa Cruz Wharf.

How is Berkeley different from Santa Cruz?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Santa Cruz and Berkeley. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley is notable for its sights and museums. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its museums and history.

Berkeley offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. There are a wide range of museums around town, many of which are affiliated with the university. There are natural history museums, art museums, cultural museums, as well as historical and science museums.

Santa Cruz offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. Local museums in town include the Surfing Museum, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and Santa Cruz Mission.


Is the Food Better in Berkeley or Santa Cruz? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley is notable for its local cuisine and restaurants. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its restaurants.

With its innovative style combined with traditional elements, Berkeley makes for a great culinary experience. There's a huge diversity of restaurants that range from international to California flavors. There are also eateries that cater to the student population, as well as fine dining and everything in between. You'll also find many farmer's markets, vegan options, and restaurants that use locally sourced ingredients.

Santa Cruz has a delicious restaurant scene that relies on local flavors. Sampling local seafood is a top priority for many visitors. Most restaurants have a casual vibe and serve up high quality dishes in a relaxed setting. You'll find cafes, Mexican food, and Italian eateries among other options.

Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Nightlife?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Evening events are very good in both Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

Berkeley has plenty to do after the sun goes down. With its large student population, you'll find no shortage of nightlife activities around town. There are bars and pubs as well as live music venues and plenty of unique experiences.

Santa Cruz has a lively atmosphere and nightlife is popular here. You'll find a range of nighttime options around town that include live entertainment, bars, clubs, and even a casino.

Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Beaches?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is notable for the beach. However, Berkeley is not a beach destination.

You'll have a great beach vacation in Santa Cruz. The beaches are beautiful and fun. Head to Main Beach for the most activity. This is where you'll find the town's boardwalk, which has a historic carousel and several classic amusement rides. For a more peaceful and scenic spot, check out Natural Bridges State Beach or Seacliff State Beach.

Berkeley is not a beach destination.


Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Hiking?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a nice place to visit for the nearby hiking options. However, Berkeley is not a hiking destination.

Santa Cruz has hiking trails worth exploring. There are several great parks in the area and trails that follow along the rugged coastline or go through the impressive redwood forests.

Berkeley is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley is notable for shopping. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its shopping opportunities.

Berkeley is an extremely popular place for shoppers. Quirky and local is what shopping in Berkeley is all about. There are also plenty of thrift stores and farmer's markets. Head to Fourth Street or Telegraph Avenue for some of the most interesting shopping opportunities.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Santa Cruz. Downtown Santa Cruz is where you'll find some of the best shopping.

Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Families?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is notable for its family-friendly activities. Also, Berkeley is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

Santa Cruz is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. It's filled with beaches, parks, playgrounds, and museums that kids and adults will enjoy. Highlights for many families include visiting the boardwalk, playing around at Seacliff State Beach, entertaining the kids at Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab, and taking in the beauty at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Berkeley is a family-friendly city. There are many outdoor places to explore with kids like Tilden Park or UC Botanical Garden. There are also science museums, nature centers, and plenty of kid-friendly restaurants.


Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Couples?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is notable for couples. Also, Berkeley is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for romance.

Santa Cruz is a very popular place to visit for couples. Dining in downtown Santa Cruz, hiking through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and relaxing on the beach at Natural Bridges State Beach all make for a romantic getaway.

Berkeley is a nice destination for couples. There's a wonderful mix of cultural activities and outdoor parks that you can explore. There's the Berkeley Rose Garden, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and many charming restaurants.

Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley is notable for backpackers. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Backpackers come from all over to visit Berkeley. With its eclectic and alternative vibe, backpackers will find their place in this city. There's also a huge student population and a couple of hostels in the area.

Santa Cruz is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. There's a laid back vibe that is fun to experience and there's even a hostel in town.

Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Students?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley is notable for students. However, Santa Cruz is not popular with students.

Berkeley is a very popular city for students and younger travelers. University of California, Berkeley is a well reviewed university that attracts a progressive and motivated student population. The city is an expensive, but very rewarding place to study with many activities and opportunities for students.

Santa Cruz is not popular with students.


Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley is very popular for its public transit. However, Santa Cruz is a mediocre town for times when you don't have a car.

Berkeley has an effecient and thorough public transportation system which can take you anywhere in the city. It's located in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it has access to buses and several BART stations.

Public transit is mostly limited in Santa Cruz. There are buses that travel around town.

Is Berkeley or Santa Cruz a more walkable city?

Berkeley
Santa Cruz

Berkeley and Santa Cruz both are fantastic when exploring on foot.

It is easy to get around Berkeley on foot. Most of Berkeley is very walkable, particularly the parts around the university.

It's very easy to get around on foot in Santa Cruz. It's considered to be one of the most walkable cities in California.

For even more information, also check out Is Berkeley Worth Visiting? and Is Santa Cruz Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Santa Cruz or Berkeley?

How long in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Berkeley or Santa Cruz to fill your time. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Berkeley than Santa Cruz because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Berkeley, and 1-2 days is enough time in Santa Cruz.

Families should spend more time in Santa Cruz than Berkeley. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Santa Cruz, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Santa Cruz than Berkeley. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Santa Cruz that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Berkeley than Santa Cruz if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Berkeley.


  • How many days in Berkeley or Santa Cruz? Ideal Length of Stay
    Berkeley 2-3 
    Santa Cruz 1-2

One day in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

With museums and nightlife around the diverse city of Berkeley, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

The town of Santa Cruz offers food and shopping. Most people come for the beaches. With all of its activities, you can easily fill one day here. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.


A weekend in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Berkeley, there's plenty to do. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this city.

Santa Cruz is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this town makes for a great vacation. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Santa Cruz, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Berkeley, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Santa Cruz is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Berkeley is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Santa Cruz is a great place to explore. It's also a great beach destination, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This town offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Walking Tours in United States of America, The Best Tours Under $1000 in United States of America, The Best Luxury Tours to United States of America, and The Best Tours for Seniors to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Santa Cruz or Berkeley?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Berkeley is $190, while the average daily cost in Santa Cruz is $126. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Berkeley and Santa Cruz in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Berkeley $131
    Santa Cruz $61
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Berkeley $262
    Santa Cruz $122
Compare Hotels in Berkeley and Santa Cruz

Looking for a hotel in Berkeley or Santa Cruz? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Berkeley


Hotels in Santa Cruz


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Berkeley Hotel Prices and Santa Cruz Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Berkeley $30
    Santa Cruz $40

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Berkeley

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Berkeley:

  • Oakland Airport (OAK) to San Francisco hotel/address - Private Arrival Transfer: $64
  • Private Arrival Transfer from Oakland Airport OAK: $81
  • Oakland Airport (OAK) to Oakland hotel or address - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $89
  • Private Arrival Transfer from Oakland Airport (OAK) to Oakland: $93
  • Oakland Airport (OAK) to San Francisco - Round-Trip Private Car Transfer: $129
  • Private Transfer: Oakland International Airport to Hotel: $200
  • Arrival Transfer from Oakland Airport OAK to San Francisco by SUV: $232

Is it cheaper to fly into Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Prices for flights to both Santa Cruz and Berkeley change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Berkeley $36
    Santa Cruz $41
Typical Food Prices in Berkeley

Some typical examples of dining costs in Berkeley are as follows:


  • Chocolates at Sweet Dreams
    $4.46

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Berkeley

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Berkeley.

  • North 3-Hour Food Tour: $116
  • Best of North Berkeley Food Tour: $130
  • Black Food Tour - Downtown Oakland: $130

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Berkeley $30
    Santa Cruz $18

Tours and Activities in Berkeley

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Berkeley are as follows:

  • Oakland Athletics Baseball Game Ticket at RingCentral Coliseum: $11
  • Ruth Bancroft Garden General Admission Ticket: $12
  • 2 Hours Private Walking Tour in Berkeley: $20
  • Self-Guided Oakland Tour in an Urban Excursion: $20
  • Comedy Oakland at The Washington Inn Show Tickets: $20
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure in Berkeley by Zombie Scavengers: $20
  • Unique Scavenger Hunt Experience in Antioch by Zombie Scavengers: $20
  • Redwoods of Marin and Mt. Tamalpais Walking Tour with Local Guide: $59
  • Historic Houseboat Tour: $65
  • Oakland's Temescal Tastes Tour: $120
  • Classic Sausalito Wooden Boat Tour: $135

Tours and Activities in Santa Cruz

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Santa Cruz are as follows:

  • Self Guided UC Santa Cruz Walking Tour: Unlock Secret Stories : $20
  • Santa Cruz:City Scavenger Hunt Tour with Remote Guide: $25
  • Capitola Private 2-Hour Walking Tour: $30
  • Half Day Private Beach Tour in Santa Cruz: $35
  • Santa Cruz Guided eBike Ride & Most Fun Bike e-Bike Tour : $110
  • Santa Cruz 2Hour Guided eBike Tour for Small Bike Groups: $110
  • Santa Cruz Family Friendly Guided Electric Bike Tour (eBike): $110
  • Mermaid Experience & Photoshoot: $190
  • Capitola Watercolor Journaling Experience: $297

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Berkeley $13
    Santa Cruz $8.57

Sample the Local Flavors in Berkeley

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Berkeley:

  • Guided Wine Tasting at Berkeley Wineries with Local Sommelière : $175
  • Guided Wine Tasting with Local Sommelière: $175

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Cruz

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Santa Cruz:

  • Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting: $199
  • Private Brewery Tour: $500
  • Private Custom Wine Tour with Hotel Pickup: $750


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Berkeley and Santa Cruz, we can see that Berkeley is more expensive. And not only is Santa Cruz much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Santa Cruz would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Santa Cruz and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Berkeley would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Berkeley than you might in Santa Cruz.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Berkeley Expensive? and Is Santa Cruz Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Berkeley has a larger population, and is about 83% larger than the population of Santa Cruz. When comparing the sizes of Berkeley and Santa Cruz, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Berkeley or Santa Cruz?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Berkeley or Santa Cruz in the Summer?

Both Santa Cruz and Berkeley are popular destinations to visit in the summer with plenty of activities. Many visitors come to Berkeley in the summer for the family-friendly experiences. Also, most visitors come to Santa Cruz for the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences during these months.

In the summer, Berkeley is cooler than Santa Cruz. Typically, the summer temperatures in Berkeley in July average around 63°F (17°C), and Santa Cruz averages at about 67°F (19°C).

In July, Berkeley usually receives around the same amount of rain as Santa Cruz. Berkeley gets 0.1 inches (2 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 0.1 inches (1 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Berkeley 63°F (17°C) 
    Santa Cruz 67°F (19°C)

Should I visit Berkeley or Santa Cruz in the Autumn?

Both Santa Cruz and Berkeley during the autumn are popular places to visit. Most visitors come to Berkeley for the shopping scene and the natural beauty of the area during these months. Also, the autumn months attract visitors to Santa Cruz because of the hiking trails and the shopping scene.

In October, Berkeley is generally around the same temperature as Santa Cruz. Daily temperatures in Berkeley average around 63°F (17°C), and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 63°F (17°C).

Berkeley usually gets more rain in October than Santa Cruz. Berkeley gets 1.3 inches (33 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Berkeley 63°F (17°C) 
    Santa Cruz 63°F (17°C)

Should I visit Berkeley or Santa Cruz in the Winter?

The winter attracts plenty of travelers to both Berkeley and Santa Cruz. The winter months attract visitors to Berkeley because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Also, the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Santa Cruz this time of year.

Berkeley is around the same temperature as Santa Cruz in the winter. The daily temperature in Berkeley averages around 50°F (10°C) in January, and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 51°F (10°C).

In January, Berkeley usually receives more rain than Santa Cruz. Berkeley gets 3.8 inches (96 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Berkeley 50°F (10°C) 
    Santa Cruz 51°F (10°C)

Should I visit Berkeley or Santa Cruz in the Spring?

The spring brings many poeple to Berkeley as well as Santa Cruz. The natural beauty are the main draw to Berkeley this time of year. Also, many travelers come to Santa Cruz for the beaches.

In the spring, Berkeley is around the same temperature as Santa Cruz. Typically, the spring temperatures in Berkeley in April average around 58°F (14°C), and Santa Cruz averages at about 58°F (14°C).

Berkeley usually gets more rain in April than Santa Cruz. Berkeley gets 1.2 inches (31 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 1 inches (26 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Berkeley 58°F (14°C) 
    Santa Cruz 58°F (14°C)

Typical Weather for Santa Cruz and Berkeley

Berkeley Santa Cruz
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 50°F (10°C) 3.8 inches (96 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm)
Feb 54°F (12°C) 2.7 inches (69 mm) 54°F (12°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)
Mar 56°F (13°C) 2.7 inches (69 mm) 55°F (13°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)
Apr 58°F (14°C) 1.2 inches (31 mm) 58°F (14°C) 1 inches (26 mm)
May 60°F (15°C) 0.2 inches (5 mm) 62°F (16°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm)
Jun 62°F (17°C) 0.1 inches (3 mm) 65°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Jul 63°F (17°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 67°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (1 mm)
Aug 64°F (18°C) 0.1 inches (1 mm) 67°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Sep 66°F (19°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm) 67°F (19°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Oct 63°F (17°C) 1.3 inches (33 mm) 63°F (17°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm)
Nov 57°F (14°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm) 56°F (13°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)
Dec 51°F (11°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)