A Travel Price Comparison for California Big Sur vs. Sonoma for Food, Couples, Beaches, and Hiking

Should you visit Big Sur or Sonoma?

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 Sonoma can help you decide which place is right for you.

Big Sur

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

Sonoma

Sonoma is a scenic, serene, and relaxing county. Many visitors also come because of it's amazing beauty. It's also popular because of the hiking, shopping, and nightlife.

Big Sur and Sonoma: 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 food
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
Pros
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers


Is there more to do in Big Sur or Sonoma?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Sonoma. Although Big Sur and Sonoma are popular destinations, Sonoma has more sights and attractions for tourists. Sonoma is more touristy than Big Sur and is known for its world-class winemaking and sustainable agriculture. It is also well known for Buena Vista Winery. Big Sur is famous for its beautiful state parks, dramatic coastal cliffs, and world class views.

How is Big Sur different from Sonoma?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Sonoma 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 Sonoma?

Big Sur
Sonoma

Sonoma 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 Sonoma specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. While most people don't think of museums when they think of Sonoma, there are actually some interesting local options. The California Indian Museum, the Cotati Museum, and the Depot Park Museum are also local are fascinating.

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 Sonoma? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Big Sur
Sonoma

Sonoma is an unbeatable place 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.

Sonoma has long been recognized as a culinary destination with great restaurants. Although wine may be the first thing you think about, the region is also filled with farm-to-table restaurants and award-winning dining options. The food is almost always fresh and local. You can sample many local ingredients such as vegetables, cheeses, olive oils, and fish.

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 Sonoma Better for Nightlife?

Big Sur
Sonoma

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

Many people head to Sonoma for the nightlife scene. Lounges, wine bars, and live music venues offer a variety of activities for visitors during the evening hours.

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 Sonoma Better for Resorts?

Big Sur
Sonoma

Sonoma is great for its luxury resorts. However, Big Sur is not a resort destination.

Vacationers can choose from a number of terrific resorts in Sonoma. Spa hotels, charming inns, and beautiful resorts all offer a variety of options for visitors.

Big Sur is not a resort destination.


Is Big Sur or Sonoma Better for Beaches?

Big Sur
Sonoma

Big Sur and Sonoma are superb choices for a beach vacation.

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.

You'll have a great beach vacation in Sonoma. The county has a coastline that includes several great beaches as well as rocky shoreline. The beaches include secluded coves and picturesque cliffs as well as sand dunes and sandy beaches.

Is Big Sur or Sonoma Better for Hiking?

Big Sur
Sonoma

You'll find superb hiking in both Big Sur and Sonoma.

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.

Sonoma is a popular spot for hiking. In between wine tastings you can explore the area's stunning natural beauty. There are hikes through the vineyards, along the coast, or through forested parks. Some of the best hikes are found in Jack London State Historic Park, Sugarloaf State Park, and Armstrong Woods State Park.

Is the Shopping Better in Big Sur or Sonoma?

Big Sur
Sonoma

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

Many visitors explore the shopping areas in Sonoma. You'll find a range of local vendors in the area, selling everything from jewelry to art, home decor, and olive oil.

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 Sonoma Better for Families?

Big Sur
Sonoma

You'll find nice kid-friendly activities in either Big Sur or Sonoma.

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.

Sonoma is a family-friendly place to visit. While most people think immediately of wine tours, there's actually a lot more to Sonoma County. Kids will enjoy the many outdoor activities in the area, which include beaches, parks, wildlife viewing, and more. There's also horseback riding and even ziplining opportunities.

Is Big Sur or Sonoma Better for Couples?

Big Sur
Sonoma

Both Big Sur and Sonoma are amazing destinations to visit as a couple.

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.

Sonoma has so much to offer for a romantic couple's vacation. It has long been a favorite honeymoon destination for couples who come for the vineyards and wine tours. There are also charming hotels, award winning restaurants, and beautiful beaches.

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

Big Sur
Sonoma

Big Sur is a natural area with good options for backpackers and budget travelers. However, Sonoma is not known for backpackers.

Big Sur is a good natural area to visit for backpackers. There are a couple of hostels in the area, but budget travelers often prefer vacation rentals, which are more common.

Sonoma is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. There are a few budget hotel options in the area, but not much in the form of hostels.


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

Big Sur
Sonoma

Neither Big Sur or Sonoma offer decent public transit.

Public transit is quite limited in Big Sur. There is no real public transportation in the area.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Sonoma. While there are buses, they are almost never used by tourists. There is the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley which you should purchase tickets for in advance.

Is Big Sur or Sonoma a more walkable city?

Big Sur
Sonoma

Neither Big Sur or Sonoma are walkable places.

Big Sur is not a very 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.

Sonoma is not a walkable natural area. You really must have a car to get around the area and explore it efficiently.

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

Should I spend more time in Sonoma or Big Sur?

How long in Big Sur or Sonoma?

It's fun to spend time in either Big Sur or Sonoma. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Sonoma 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 Sonoma.

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

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


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

One day in Big Sur or Sonoma?

Many travelers enjoy the food when visiting the destination of Big Sur. Hikers are also drawn to this area. One day is often enough time to do most activities.

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

Big Sur is a great place to explore. It is common to spend a weekend here. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

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

Five days in Big Sur or Sonoma?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Big Sur. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Sonoma 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 Sonoma?

Travelers enjoy the food when visiting the scenic destination of Big Sur. This natural area offers a variety of activities to choose from. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Sonoma. Many people enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting Sonoma. One reason most visitors come is for the food. 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 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, Sonoma 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 Sonoma is $0.00. 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 Sonoma in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Big Sur $165
    Sonoma $93
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Big Sur $330
    Sonoma $186
Compare Hotels in Big Sur and Sonoma

Looking for a hotel in Big Sur or Sonoma? 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 Sonoma


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: Sonoma Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Big Sur -
    Sonoma -

Is it cheaper to fly into Big Sur or Sonoma?

Prices for flights to both Sonoma 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 -
    Sonoma -

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Big Sur -
    Sonoma -

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 Sonoma

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

  • Create your own wine blend experience: $140
  • From Napa Valley Classic Sidecar Tour to 3 Wineries: $300
  • Sonoma Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour & Game: $49
  • Sonoma Valley: Guided Winery Tour with Picnic Lunch: $126
  • Sonoma Valley: Wine Trolley Tasting Tour with Lunch: $125

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Big Sur -
    Sonoma -

Sample the Local Flavors in Sonoma

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

  • San Francisco: Half-Day Wine Tour with 2 Tastings Included: $189
  • Sonoma Food & Wine Tour: $235


When comparing the travel costs between Big Sur and Sonoma, we can see that Big Sur is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

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 Sonoma Expensive?.



When is the best time to visit Big Sur or Sonoma?

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 Big Sur or Sonoma in the Summer?

Both Sonoma and Big Sur are popular destinations to visit in the summer with plenty of activities. Many travelers come to Big Sur for the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences. Also, many visitors come to Sonoma in the summer for the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences.

Big Sur is cooler than Sonoma in the summer. The daily temperature in Big Sur averages around 63°F (17°C) in July, and Sonoma fluctuates around 73°F (23°C).

In July, Big Sur usually receives less rain than Sonoma. Big Sur gets 0 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Sonoma receives 0.1 inches (2 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


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

Should I visit Big Sur or Sonoma in the Autumn?

Both Sonoma and Big Sur during the autumn are popular places to visit. Many visitors come to Big Sur in the autumn for the hiking trails and the natural beauty of the area. Furthermore, most visitors come to Sonoma for the hiking trails, the shopping scene, and the natural beauty of the area during these months.

In the autumn, Big Sur is around the same temperature as Sonoma. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Big Sur in October average around 62°F (17°C), and Sonoma averages at about 62°F (17°C).

Big Sur usually gets less rain in October than Sonoma. Big Sur gets 0.6 inches (14 mm) of rain, while Sonoma receives 1.3 inches (33 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Big Sur 62°F (17°C) 
    Sonoma 62°F (17°C)

Should I visit Big Sur or Sonoma in the Winter?

The winter attracts plenty of travelers to both Big Sur and Sonoma. Most visitors come to Big Sur for the cuisine during these months. Furthermore, the winter months attract visitors to Sonoma because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

In January, Big Sur is generally a little warmer than Sonoma. Daily temperatures in Big Sur average around 51°F (11°C), and Sonoma fluctuates around 46°F (8°C).

In January, Big Sur usually receives less rain than Sonoma. Big Sur gets 2.3 inches (58 mm) of rain, while Sonoma receives 3.8 inches (96 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Big Sur 51°F (11°C) 
    Sonoma 46°F (8°C)

Should I visit Big Sur or Sonoma in the Spring?

The spring brings many poeple to Big Sur as well as Sonoma. The spring months attract visitors to Big Sur because of the beaches and the natural beauty. Additionally, the beaches and the natural beauty are the main draw to Sonoma this time of year.

Big Sur is around the same temperature as Sonoma in the spring. The daily temperature in Big Sur averages around 56°F (13°C) in April, and Sonoma fluctuates around 56°F (13°C).

Big Sur usually gets less rain in April than Sonoma. Big Sur gets 1.1 inches (29 mm) of rain, while Sonoma receives 1.2 inches (31 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Big Sur 56°F (13°C) 
    Sonoma 56°F (13°C)

Typical Weather for Sonoma and Big Sur

Big Sur Sonoma
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 51°F (11°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm) 46°F (8°C) 3.8 inches (96 mm)
Feb 53°F (12°C) 1.8 inches (47 mm) 51°F (11°C) 2.7 inches (69 mm)
Mar 54°F (12°C) 2.1 inches (55 mm) 54°F (12°C) 2.7 inches (69 mm)
Apr 56°F (13°C) 1.1 inches (29 mm) 56°F (13°C) 1.2 inches (31 mm)
May 59°F (15°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm) 64°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (5 mm)
Jun 62°F (16°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 69°F (21°C) 0.1 inches (3 mm)
Jul 63°F (17°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 73°F (23°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Aug 64°F (18°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 72°F (22°C) 0.1 inches (1 mm)
Sep 64°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm) 70°F (21°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm)
Oct 62°F (17°C) 0.6 inches (14 mm) 62°F (17°C) 1.3 inches (33 mm)
Nov 56°F (13°C) 1.8 inches (45 mm) 54°F (12°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm)
Dec 51°F (10°C) 2 inches (51 mm) 46°F (8°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm)