A Travel Price Comparison for California Big Sur vs. Palm Springs for Couples, Food, Hiking, and Families

Should you visit Big Sur or Palm Springs?

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 Palm Springs can help you decide which place is right for you.

Big Sur

Big Sur is a breathtaking, scenic, and remote natural area. You'll find world class beauty here as well. It's also known for food, beaches, and hiking.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a chic, outdoorsy, and ritzy city. It's also popular because of the shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Big Sur and Palm Springs: 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 museums and historical sights
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Very walkable
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers


Is there more to do in Big Sur or Palm Springs?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Palm Springs than Big Sur, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Palm Springs is better known for its museums, food, nightlife, resorts, and shopping, while Big Sur is more popular for its beaches and impressive beauty. Palm Springs is more touristy than Big Sur and is popular for its golfing, shopping, and mid-century modern architecture. Also, Palm Springs is famous for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Big Sur is well known for its beautiful state parks, dramatic coastal cliffs, and world class views.

How is Big Sur different from Palm Springs?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

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

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is very good for its historical sights. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for its sights and museums.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Palm Springs. The Palm Springs Air Museum has an impressive collection of military planes. It's also worth visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum, which has a mix of fine art, natural history, and performing arts. You'll also find botanical gardens and even a zoo around town.

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 Palm Springs? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is great for its local flavors and cuisine. Also, Big Sur is not as popular, but is still a nice natural area for its local cuisine and restaurants.

Palm Springs has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. Fresh ingredients and typical California cuisine is common around town. Brunch is a popular option for visitors and you'll find countless brunch cafes in the area. You'll also find Mexican food, pizza, and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

Big Sur offers number of good local restaurants to choose from. Most of the restaurants offer a breathtaking view. Many use locally-sourced ingredients and they range in style from fine dining to casual eateries.

Is Big Sur or Palm Springs Better for Nightlife?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is an unbeatable place for its evening party scene. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for nightlife.

The nightlife in Palm Springs is well established with world renowned clubs and venues. The area is filled with nightlife options that range from cocktail bars to nightclubs or breweries. You can party into the early morning at the dance clubs or enjoy a bottle of wine with friends at one of the lounges.

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 Palm Springs Better for Resorts?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is an unbeatable place for its luxury resorts. However, Big Sur is not a resort destination.

If you're looking for a fantastic resort destination, Palm Springs is a perfect choice. Resorts range from luxurious to more laid back. Most have impressive pools and many have their own spas, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Big Sur is not a resort destination.


Is Big Sur or Palm Springs Better for Beaches?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Big Sur is notable for its beaches. However, Palm Springs is not a beach destination.

Big Sur is a very popular place to visit for its 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.

Palm Springs is not a beach destination.

Is Big Sur or Palm Springs Better for Hiking?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

You'll find very good hiking in both Big Sur and Palm Springs.

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.

Palm Springs is a popular spot for hiking. There are more than 100 trails in the Greater Palm Springs area that take you through scenic desert landscapes and unique ecosystems. Some of the most popular trails include Andreas Canyon Trail and Araby Trail.

Is the Shopping Better in Big Sur or Palm Springs?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is great for its shopping areas. However, Big Sur is not a good destination for shopping.

Many visitors explore the shopping areas in Palm Springs. Shopping ranges from outlets to boutique vendors. For the most local options head to Palm Canyon Drive and for an upscale shopping experience, visit the El Paseo shopping district.

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 Palm Springs Better for Families?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is great for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Big Sur is not as popular, but is still a nice natural area for its family-friendly activities.

You'll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in Palm Springs. The year round sunny weather and diversity of outdoor activities make this a great family-friendly destination. There are desert hikes, zoos, and even a dinosaur museum. Kids can also pass their time playing at the pool or enjoying the waterslides.

Big Sur is a family-friendly place to visit. 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.

Is Big Sur or Palm Springs Better for Couples?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Big Sur is an amazing natural area to visit for romance. Also, Palm Springs is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its romantic activities.

For those traveling as a couple, Big Sur has plenty to offer. 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.

Palm Springs makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. Whether you're on a honeymoon or simply looking to escape the city, there are many romantic options in the area. From cozy inns to resort spa hotels, there are a range of accommodation options. Outdoor dining, hiking, and shopping are also popular.

Is Big Sur or Palm Springs Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Big Sur is very good for backpackers. However, Palm Springs is a mediocre city for backpackers and budget travelers.

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.

Palm Springs is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. While the city is more famous for its upscale clientele, there's actually a hostel in town for backpackers.


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

Big Sur
Palm Springs

Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs. There are nine bus routes operated by SunLine Transit Agency, but most visitors prefer to have a car to get around.

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

Is Big Sur or Palm Springs a more walkable city?

Big Sur
Palm Springs

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

Palm Springs is a somewhat walkable city. Parts of the city are very walkable, particularly the touristy areas along Palm Canyon Drive.

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 Palm Springs Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Palm Springs or Big Sur?

How long in Big Sur or Palm Springs?

It's fun to spend time in either Big Sur or Palm Springs. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Palm Springs due to the larger number of activities and things to do. Usually, 1-3 days is a good amount of time for Big Sur, and 2-4 days is enough time in Palm Springs.

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

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs.


  • How many days in Big Sur or Palm Springs? Ideal Length of Stay
    Big Sur 1-3 
    Palm Springs 2-4

One day in Big Sur or Palm Springs?

In Big Sur, many people enjoy the food that this scenic natural area offers. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. In one day, you should have a good grasp of this natural area.

In Palm Springs, you'll find nightlife and food. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. One reason most visitors come is for the nightlife. 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 Palm Springs?

Big Sur is a fun place to experience. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. If you have a weekend, this is a great place to go. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. So, a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

In Palm Springs, you'll find food and shopping. 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. One reason most visitors come is for the nightlife. A weekend is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Palm Springs has to offer.

Five days in Big Sur or Palm Springs?

You'll find food around the remote destination of Big Sur. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

Palm Springs is a great place to explore. You can also relax and pamper yourself at one of the resorts. 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 Palm Springs?

Big Sur is a popular place to visit. 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. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Palm Springs. Many people enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting Palm Springs. One reason most visitors come is for the nightlife. It's also a relaxing resort destination. 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 Tours Under $1000 in United States of America, The Best Luxury Tours to United States of America, The Best Tours for Seniors to United States of America, and The Best Contiki Tours to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs is $206. 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 Palm Springs in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Big Sur $165
    Palm Springs $120
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Big Sur $330
    Palm Springs $240
Compare Hotels in Big Sur and Palm Springs

Looking for a hotel in Big Sur or Palm Springs? 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 Palm Springs


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: Palm Springs Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Big Sur -
    Palm Springs $52

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Palm Springs

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Palm Springs:

  • Private Transfer from Palm Springs Municipal Airport to Ontario: $262
  • Palm Springs Airport to Snow Summit - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $262
  • Desert Hot Springs to Los Angeles Airport Departure Transfer: $251
  • Private Transfer from PSP to Vía La Quinta, Indio, CA : $158
  • Private Transfer from PSP to Palm Desert / Indian Wells: $135
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to SANTA ANA - Arrival Private Transfer: $128
  • Palm Springs Airport (PSP) to Desert Hot Springs Private Transfer: $87
  • Desert Hot Springs to Palm Springs Airport Departure Transfer: $87

Is it cheaper to fly into Big Sur or Palm Springs?

Prices for flights to both Palm Springs 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 -
    Palm Springs $53

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Big Sur -
    Palm Springs $29

Tours and Activities in Big Sur

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

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

Tours and Activities in Palm Springs

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

  • 100+ Self Guided Driving & Walking Tours by Action: $100
  • Best of Palm Springs Small Group Tour w/ Aerial Tram: $166
  • Covered Wagon Adventure & BBQ: $129
  • Death Valley National Park Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour: $17
  • Earthquake Canyon Express Downhill Bicycle Adventure: $139
  • Joshua Tree National Park Driving Tour : $235
  • Joshua Tree National Park Offroad Tour: $235
  • Joshua Tree National Park Scenic Tour: $149
  • Joshua Tree National Park Self-Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Joshua Tree National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour: $12
  • Joshua Tree National Park: Tour and Hike: $1,255
  • Joshua Tree Open Air Hummer Adventure: $179

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Big Sur -
    Palm Springs $13


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Big Sur and Palm Springs, we can see that Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs Expensive?.



When is the best time to visit Big Sur or Palm Springs?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Big Sur or Palm Springs in the Summer?

Both Palm Springs and Big Sur during the summer are popular places to visit. The summer months attract visitors to Big Sur because of the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences. Also, the hiking and the family-friendly experiences are the main draw to Palm Springs this time of year.

In the summer, Big Sur is cooler than Palm Springs. Typically, the summer temperatures in Big Sur in July average around 63°F (17°C), and Palm Springs averages at about 73°F (23°C).

Big Sur usually gets more rain in July than Palm Springs. Big Sur gets 0 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Palm Springs receives 0 inches (1 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Big Sur 63°F (17°C) 
    Palm Springs 73°F (23°C)

Should I visit Big Sur or Palm Springs in the Autumn?

The autumn attracts plenty of travelers to both Big Sur and Palm Springs. The hiking trails and the natural beauty of the area are the main draw to Big Sur this time of year. Also, many travelers come to Palm Springs for the hiking trails and the shopping scene.

In October, Big Sur is generally cooler than Palm Springs. Daily temperatures in Big Sur average around 62°F (17°C), and Palm Springs fluctuates around 69°F (20°C).

In October, Big Sur usually receives more rain than Palm Springs. Big Sur gets 0.6 inches (14 mm) of rain, while Palm Springs receives 0.3 inches (7 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Big Sur 62°F (17°C) 
    Palm Springs 69°F (20°C)

Should I visit Big Sur or Palm Springs in the Winter?

The winter brings many poeple to Big Sur as well as Palm Springs. Many travelers come to Big Sur for the cuisine. Also, many visitors come to Palm Springs in the winter for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Big Sur is cooler than Palm Springs in the winter. The daily temperature in Big Sur averages around 51°F (11°C) in January, and Palm Springs fluctuates around 57°F (14°C).

Big Sur usually gets more rain in January than Palm Springs. Big Sur gets 2.3 inches (58 mm) of rain, while Palm Springs receives 2 inches (52 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Big Sur 51°F (11°C) 
    Palm Springs 57°F (14°C)

Should I visit Big Sur or Palm Springs in the Spring?

Both Palm Springs and Big Sur are popular destinations to visit in the spring with plenty of activities. Many visitors come to Big Sur in the spring for the beaches and the natural beauty.

In the spring, Big Sur is cooler than Palm Springs. Typically, the spring temperatures in Big Sur in April average around 56°F (13°C), and Palm Springs averages at about 62°F (17°C).

In April, Big Sur usually receives more rain than Palm Springs. Big Sur gets 1.1 inches (29 mm) of rain, while Palm Springs receives 0.9 inches (24 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Big Sur 56°F (13°C) 
    Palm Springs 62°F (17°C)

Typical Weather for Palm Springs and Big Sur

Big Sur Palm Springs
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 51°F (11°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm) 57°F (14°C) 2 inches (52 mm)
Feb 53°F (12°C) 1.8 inches (47 mm) 58°F (15°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm)
Mar 54°F (12°C) 2.1 inches (55 mm) 59°F (15°C) 2.2 inches (57 mm)
Apr 56°F (13°C) 1.1 inches (29 mm) 62°F (17°C) 0.9 inches (24 mm)
May 59°F (15°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm) 65°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Jun 62°F (16°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 69°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Jul 63°F (17°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 73°F (23°C) 0 inches (1 mm)
Aug 64°F (18°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 74°F (24°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm)
Sep 64°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm) 73°F (23°C) 0.4 inches (9 mm)
Oct 62°F (17°C) 0.6 inches (14 mm) 69°F (20°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm)
Nov 56°F (13°C) 1.8 inches (45 mm) 62°F (17°C) 1.5 inches (39 mm)
Dec 51°F (10°C) 2 inches (51 mm) 57°F (14°C) 1.7 inches (42 mm)