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 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.

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 city 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 $94. 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 city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Big Sur and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation

Double occupancy rooms typically run around $264 in Big Sur For nicer amenities and a premiere location, you can expect to pay a bit more.

A hotel room in South Lake Tahoe is about $86 This assumes double occupancy and modest accommodations.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Big Sur $132
    South Lake Tahoe $43
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Big Sur $264
    South Lake Tahoe $86

Food

On average, meal and food prices in South Lake Tahoe cost around $30 per person, per day. While this price can vary widely by location, the type of restaurant, and the amount of food ordered, a typical meal often costs around $12.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $30

Local Transportation

The average price of local transportation around South Lake Tahoe is $20 per person, per day. As this average includes both taxis and public transport, keep in mind that the prices of private drivers and taxis are significantly more expensive than public transportation.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $20

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.





Entertainment

South Lake Tahoe's costs for entertainment, tickets, attractions, and tours will often cost around $45 per person, per day. This cost can vary widely by the type of activity, however, as this includes admission tickets, day tours, museums, and other things to do.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $45

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 Small Group Sailing Cruise Lake Tahoe: $99
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $94
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $62
  • Lake Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Circle the Lake: $392
  • Lake Tahoe Scenic Driving Tour: $249
  • Lake Tahoe Ultimate Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour in Small-Group: $179
  • Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley: Full-Day Narrated Bus Tour: $60
  • Lake Tahoe: Half-Day Photographic Scenic Tour: $179
  • Happy Hour Cruise: $90
  • Sightseeing Cruise of Emerald Bay: $90
  • Tahoe Helicopter Tour: Lakes and Waterfalls: $265
  • Tahoe's Sand Harbor Helicopter Tour: $265

Alcohol

The average person spends about $28 on alcoholic beverages in South Lake Tahoe per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Big Sur -
    South Lake Tahoe $28


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.

Budget Your Trip

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Big Sur vs. South Lake Tahoe Travel Comparison

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