A Travel Price Comparison for United States of America Big Sur vs. Boulder for Couples, Hiking, Food, and Families

Should you visit Big Sur or Boulder?

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

Which city is more affordable and which is best for your travel style? If you're trying to figure out where to go next, comparing the travel costs between Big Sur and Boulder can help you decide which place is right for you.

Big Sur

Big Sur is a scenic, remote, and breathtaking natural area. Many visitors also come because of it's amazing beauty. Visitors also love the beaches, hiking, and food.

Boulder

Boulder is a nature-filled, biker-friendly, and outdoorsy city. It offers plenty of beauty for visitors. It's also popular because of the hiking, shopping, and nightlife.

Big Sur and Boulder: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Very walkable
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples


Is there more to do in Big Sur or Boulder?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Boulder. Although Big Sur and Boulder are both popular with visitors, Boulder has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Boulder is more popular for its skiing, museums, nightlife, music, and shopping, while Big Sur is known for its beaches and impressive beauty. Big Sur is more touristy than Boulder and is known for its beautiful state parks, dramatic coastal cliffs, and world class views. Boulder is popular for its outdoor sports, biker-friendly downtown, vibrant downtown, and many local breweries. It is also home to The Flatirons.

How is Big Sur different from Boulder?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Skiing?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is adequate for skiing. However, Big Sur is not a skiing destination.

While in the area, visitors like to go to Boulder for snow skiing. The town offers access within an hour or two to several great ski resorts including Eldora Mountain, Vail, and Breckenridge.

Big Sur is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Big Sur or Boulder?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is adequate for its historical sights. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for its sights and museums.

While most people don't head to Boulder specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. Most people visit Boulder for the outdoor activities more than the museums and sights. If have the time you can wander around the University of Colorado Boulder campus, visit the Museum of Boulder, or see the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art.

Big Sur offers a few options for museum-goers. Nature is what brings visitors to the area, so most people don't prioritize museums or manmade landmarks.

Is the Food Better in Big Sur or Boulder? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Big Sur
Boulder

Dining out at restaurants in both Big Sur and Boulder can be an enjoyable experience.

Big Sur is becoming an appealing option for foodies. Most of the restaurants offer a breathtaking view. Many use locally-sourced ingredients and they range in style from fine dining to casual eateries.

Boulder offers number of good local restaurants to choose from. This is an often overlooked foodie town, with great farmer's markets and restaurants to try. There are many casual places to eat as well as vegetarian and vegan friendly options everywhere.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Nightlife?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is very good for its evening party scene. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for nightlife.

If you're looking for night time activities Boulder has a few options to choose from. The town has breweries, craft beer, and plenty to do in the evening. Live music is popular and many venues are smaller with a more personal atmosphere. Check out The Bitter Bar or License No. 1 for a local vibe.

People don't go to Big Sur for the nightlife. There's a taphouse and lounge, but the area is mostly undeveloped with no real nightlife.


Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Music?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is very good for its music scene. However, Big Sur is not a live music destination.

Music lovers will find a few good venues in Boulder. During the summer months there are often outdoor concerts. Head to Pearl Street for open air stages or see a concert at Boulder Theater.

Big Sur is not a live music destination.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Beaches?

Big Sur
Boulder

Big Sur is a great natural area for the beache. However, Boulder is not a beach destination.

Many people visit Big Sur for it's beautiful beaches. The coastline and beaches are dramatic and beautiful, particularly Pfeiffer Beach, which has a dramatic waterfall. The water is filled with rip tides and strong currents, so swimming isn't advisable in most places.

Boulder is not a beach destination.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Hiking?

Big Sur
Boulder

You'll find high quality hiking in both Big Sur and Boulder.

Many visitors go to Big Sur for the hiking trails. The dramatic hikes take you along the coastline, to beautiful beaches and through Redwood forests. There are a number of state parks along the route and some of the best hikes include Salmon Creek Trail, Pacific Valley Bluff Trail, and Ragged Point Cliffside Trail.

Boulder is a popular spot for hiking. There are many accessible hikes in the area that take you through the mountains, by wildflowers, or up mountain peaks. Popular hikes that are nearby include the Bear Peak Summit Hike, the trails in Eldorado Canyon State Park, and Boulder Falls.


Is the Shopping Better in Big Sur or Boulder?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is very good for its shopping areas. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for shopping.

Boulder has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. The downtown area has many local retailers where you can shop for clothing, art, or home goods. You can also pick up outdoor gear, camping equipment, and any other items you may need in town. Make sure you wander down the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall.

Big Sur has some shopping areas for those that seek them out. There are some galleries and gift shops, but most visitors aren't in the area to go shopping.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Families?

Big Sur
Boulder

You'll find good kid-friendly activities in either Big Sur or Boulder.

Big Sur offers lots of family activities. Kids will enjoy the hiking and beaches, particularly the Carmel Lagoon at Carmel River State Beach. There are a number of state parks where kids can run around and stretch their legs.

Boulder is a family-friendly place to visit. The city has parks, playgrounds, a planetarium, and climbing gyms that are fun for kids of all ages. There are plenty places to get outdoors with hiking, kayaking, and other outdoor recreational activities. Eldorado Canyon State Park is a great place to explore as well.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Couples?

Big Sur
Boulder

Big Sur is an unbeatable place for its romantic activities. Also, Boulder is not as popular, but is still a nice city for couples.

Big Sur is fantastic couple's destination with fun and romantic activities. Stunning viewpoints and breathtaking coastline make this a wonderful destination for couples. There are romantic inns and impressive hikes along the water's edge or through the dramatic Redwoods.

Boulder is a good natural area for couples to visit. This is a great city for couples who love outdoor adventures, hiking, rock climbing, and cycling. You can wander down Pearl Street or go for a bike ride. There are also great restaurants where you can enjoy a meal and then head to Panorama Point to take in the view.


Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Big Sur
Boulder

For backpackers, both Big Sur and Boulder are good places to visit.

Big Sur is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. There are a couple of hostels in the area, but budget travelers often prefer vacation rentals, which are more common.

It's common for backpackers to visit Boulder. There are a number of backcountry areas in the region that are perfect for backpackers. The city also has a young population and several affordable places to stay.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Students?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is great for its student-friendly activities. However, Big Sur is not popular with students.

Boulder is very popular with students. With the University of Colorado, Boulder in town, this city is a popular spot for students. It's an outdoor enthusiast's perfect base with many outdoor recreational activities in the area.

Big Sur is not popular with students.

Is Big Sur or Boulder Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is adequate for times when you don't have a car. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for its public transit.

Public transit is mostly limited in Boulder. There are buses that run around town, but you really need a car to fully experience everything that the city has to offer.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Big Sur. There is no real public transportation in the area.


Is Big Sur or Boulder a more walkable city?

Big Sur
Boulder

Boulder is very good for its ease of walking around. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for its walkability.

Boulder is a somewhat walkable city. The city has some nice walkable areas and it is very bike-friendly.

Big Sur is not a walkable natural area. While there are hiking trails, Big Sur is a stretch of road that runs along the coast and requires a car to fully access.

For even more information, also check out Is Big Sur Worth Visiting? and Is Boulder Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Boulder or Big Sur?

How long in Big Sur or Boulder?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Big Sur and Boulder. In our opinion, Boulder has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Boulder than Big Sur. In general, 1-3 days is a good amount of time for Big Sur, and 2-3 days is enough time in Boulder.

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

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Boulder than Big Sur 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 Boulder.


  • How many days in Big Sur or Boulder? Ideal Length of Stay
    Big Sur 1-3 
    Boulder 2-3

One day in Big Sur or Boulder?

In Big Sur, you'll find food. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This natural area offers something for everyone. This would be the perfect place to spend one day, as it has just the right amount of activities.

In Boulder, you'll find nightlife and live music. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. This city offers something for everyone. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

A weekend in Big Sur or Boulder?

In Big Sur, you'll find food. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Big Sur has to offer.

In Boulder, you'll find live music and food. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel. A weekend here is typical. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Boulder has to offer.


Five days in Big Sur or Boulder?

Big Sur is a great place to explore. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

Boulder is a great place to explore. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. Anyone can find something fun to do here.

A week in Big Sur or Boulder?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Big Sur. Many people enjoy the food when visiting Big Sur. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Boulder. Many people enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting Boulder. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Cultural Tours in United States of America, The Best Photography Tours in United States of America, The Best Camping Tours in United States of America, and The Best Romantic Tours for Couples in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Boulder or Big Sur?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Big Sur is $0.00, while the average daily cost in Boulder is $191. 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 Big Sur and Boulder in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Big Sur $165
    Boulder $102
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Big Sur $330
    Boulder $204
Compare Hotels in Big Sur and Boulder

Looking for a hotel in Big Sur or Boulder? 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 Big Sur


Hotels in Boulder


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: Boulder Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Big Sur -
    Boulder $51

Is it cheaper to fly into Big Sur or Boulder?

Prices for flights to both Boulder and Big Sur 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
    Big Sur -
    Boulder $54

Typical Food Prices in Boulder

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to Boulder:


  • 2 Coffees
    $8.75
  • Nice Dinner for Two
    $71

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Big Sur -
    Boulder $33

Tours and Activities in Big Sur

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Big Sur.

  • Big Sur California: Pacific Coast Highway Self-Drive Tour: $13
  • Big Sur Highway 1: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour: $15

Tours and Activities in Boulder

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Boulder.

  • E-Bike Guided Tour in Boulder, Colorado: $105
  • "Boulder Peaks & Wilderness Tours: Mallory Cave Trail": $65
  • 2 Hours Drone Experience with Pro Pilot and Photographer: $180
  • Amazing Boulder Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $44
  • Around Las Vegas Tour VIP Small Group tour From Las Vegas: $143
  • Astronomy Tour: $45
  • Best Family Small-Group E-Bike Guided Tour in Boulder, Colorado: $105
  • Best of Boulder E-Bike Tour: $104
  • Boulder Backroads: E-Bike Dirt Road Tour: $250
  • Boulder Flatirons Private Photo Adventure: $85
  • Boulder Puzzling Adventure: $35
  • Boulder Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour and Game: $25

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Big Sur -
    Boulder $27


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Big Sur and Boulder, we can see that Boulder is more expensive. And not only is Big Sur much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Big Sur would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Big Sur 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 Boulder would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Boulder than you might in Big Sur.

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