A Travel Price Comparison for California Big Sur vs. South Lake Tahoe for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Big Sur or South Lake Tahoe?

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 South Lake Tahoe can help you decide which place is right for you.

Where Should I go: Big Sur or South Lake Tahoe?

Big Sur

Big Sur is the 90-mile stretch of the California Central Coast which runs from the Carmel River in Monterey County south to San Carpoforo Creek in San Luis Obispo County and 20 miles east into the Santa Lucius Foothills.

However you look at it, California's Central Coast is beautiful and undoubtedly a huge tourist trap. If you're not willing to fork over big bucks for overnight stays on coastal hotels, be prepared ahead of time with your camping gear and get ready to go off the beaten track to avoid crowds as best you can and save your wallet.

While the weather in Central Coast is overall, mild and temperate, between 50 and 70 degrees year-round. The highs and lows during the year are in August and January, respectively, with dry summers and wet winters, making April through October the best times to visit but be warned: there will be crowds.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is the largest town on the famous Lake Tahoe that straddles the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Mountain Range. Located just south of Reno, Nevada and about 2 hours east of Sacramento, the Lake Tahoe area is easily accessible to many visitors.

Lake Tahoe is known for skiing and other winter sports, as well as plenty of warm weather activities such as hiking, swimming, boating, mountain biking, and more.

South Lake Tahoe has plenty of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shopping. This is a good town to base yourself if you're looking to explore the area, as it has a large number of amenities.

Located on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe is the town of Stateline. Here you can find some casinos, as gambling is legal in Nevada.

If you're looking to go skiing or snowboarding, the Heavenly Ski Resort can be found on the southern edge of the town of South Lake Tahoe. Naturally, more ski resorts are located around the lake as well.

As swimming is also popular, several beach areas are on the southern section of the lake including the Regan Memorial City Beach, Lakeside Beach, Pope Beach, Emerald Bay State Park, and the Edgewood Resort area (on the Nevada side).

Which place is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe is $118. 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 South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Big Sur $165
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Big Sur $330
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in Big Sur and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in Big Sur or South Lake Tahoe? 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 South Lake Tahoe


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: South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $24

Hired Cars and Shuttles in South Lake Tahoe

Some specific examples of transportation prices in South Lake Tahoe:

  • Northstar/Squaw Valley to Sacramento Airport - Departure Transfer: $219
  • Heavenly Mountain to Sacramento Airport SMF, Departure Transfer: $219
  • Departure Transfer Northstar/Squaw Valley to Reno Tahoe Airport: $164
  • Heavenly Mountain to Reno Tahoe Airport RNO - Departure Transfer: $110

Is it cheaper to fly into Big Sur or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe 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 -
    South Lake Tahoe $38

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $56

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 South Lake Tahoe

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for South Lake Tahoe are as follows:

  • 2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe: $140
  • Clear Kayak Paddle Tour at Sand Harbor: $150
  • Clear Kayak Tour of Lake Tahoe: $165
  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Audio Tour From Tahoe City to Incline Village: $9.99
  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Tour From Incline Village to South Lake Tahoe: $12
  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Tour from South Lake Tahoe to Tahoe City: $12
  • Electric Dirtbike Adventure in Lake Tahoe: $200
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $110
  • Emerald Bay Private Luxury Boat Tours: $695
  • Evening LED Glow Clear Kayak Tour in Lake Tahoe: $153
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $80

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $34

Sample the Local Flavors in South Lake Tahoe

Also in South Lake Tahoe, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Lake Tahoe: Emerald Bay Sunset Wine Tasting Yacht Cruise: $150


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