A Travel Price Comparison for California Carmel-by-the-Sea vs. Joshua Tree National Park for Backpackers, Families, Couples, and Attractions

Should you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

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

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Joshua Tree National Park can help. It includes a travel cost comparison in addition to other factors. For many travelers, the cost of a destination is a primary consideration when choosing where to go.

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quaint, charming, and picturesque town. With amazing attractions and sights, it's also a fun small town not to be missed. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. It's also popular because of the beaches, shopping, and museums.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a unique, fascinating, and adventurous national park. With stunning beauty, it attracts visitors from all around. Other popular activities here include hiking.

Carmel-by-the-Sea and Joshua Tree National Park: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Popular beach
  • Fun shopping
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Very walkable
  • Small town charm
  • Impressive beauty
  • Home to Pebble Beach Golf Course
Things to Consider
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • 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 food
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Less walkable


Is there more to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Although Carmel-by-the-Sea and Joshua Tree National Park are popular destinations, Carmel-by-the-Sea has more sights and attractions for tourists. Carmel-by-the-Sea is very popular for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, shopping, and small town charm, while Joshua Tree National Park attracts visitors for its hiking. Carmel-by-the-Sea is famous for its storybook architecture, its opulent setting, and its popularity with golf enthusiasts. It is also well known for Pebble Beach Golf Course. Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its unique vegetation and large boulders.

How is Carmel-by-the-Sea different from Joshua Tree National Park?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Joshua Tree National Park and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a town with good options for its museums and history. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its museums and landmarks.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Carmel-by-the-Sea. The Carmel Mission is a beautiful and fascinating Spanish mission that dates back to 1770. It's also well worth visiting the nearby Pebble Beach Golf Course. There are also a few fairytale style cottages in the area with some of the most notable being the Hansel cottage, the Gretel cottage, and the Tuck Box cottage.

Joshua Tree National Park offers a handful of options for museums and historical sights. There are a couple of museums in the area that display local art or cultural and historical items.


Is the Food Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place for its restaurants. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its restaurant scene.

Carmel-by-the-Sea has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. For such a small town there is a huge number of bistros and local cafes. Seafood is popular, but you'll also find international restaurants and more casual eateries.

While Joshua Tree National Park is not famous for its food, you'll find what you need there. There aren't any restaurants inside the park, so you'll want to pack your own food and eat at one of the picnic areas.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Nightlife?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a decent place to visit for its evening party scene. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for nightlife.

Those looking for nightlife will find a few places to hang out in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's not a late night town, but there are a couple of bars and some decent Happy Hours around town.

Things get quiet in the evenings in Joshua Tree National Park. Stargazing and gathering around campfires are the most popular activities during the evening.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Beaches?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place for the beach. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a beach destination.

The beaches at Carmel-by-the-Sea attract visitors from all over. It's easy to walk to the beach from the village center. Just head down Ocean Avenue and you'll be at a beautiful beach with great scenery, surfing, and fun activities.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a beach destination.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Hiking?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is renowned for the nearby hiking options. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a hiking destination.

Around Joshua Tree National Park visitors will find world-class hiking trails. There are a wide range of hikes that include easy, moderate, and strenuous options. Some of the best hikes include Discovery Trail, Boy Scout Trail, and Black Rock Canyon Panorama Loop.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place for its shopping areas. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for shopping.

Many visitors explore the shopping areas in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It's easy to walk around the heart of town and pop in the many shops and galleries. The highest concentration of shops is found around the Carmel Plaza which has upscale brands as well as local items.

Joshua Tree National Park has some shopping areas for those that seek them out. There is a park store where you can pick up gifts or other items.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Families?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a well-known place for its family-friendly activities. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for its kid-friendly activities.

Joshua Tree National Park is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. With its giant boulders that kids can scramble on and its Dr. Seuss-like Joshua Trees, this really is nature's best playground. There are also kid-friendly hikes and Junior Ranger Programs that will both educate and entertain the kids.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is not always a place people visit with their families. Carmel is a good place to let the kids stretch their legs. There are also some good kid-friendly walks in the area.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Couples?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Both Carmel-by-the-Sea and Joshua Tree National Park are great destinations for a couple's getaway.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place to visit for couples. It's a charming town with a beautiful coastline and plenty of cute hotels that makes for a great romantic getaway. There's wonderful shopping and many great restaurants where you can enjoy a local meal.

Joshua Tree National Park makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. Couples who enjoy the outdoors, adventure sports like rock climbing, and hiking through spectacular landscapes will find this to be the ultimate romantic destination.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is renowned for backpackers. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for backpackers and budget travelers.

Joshua Tree National Park is a very popular national park to visit for backpackers. There are campgrounds and hiking trails that are popular with backpackers and nature enthusiasts.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. There aren't any real hostels or accommodation options that appeal to backpackers.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a decent place to visit for times when you don't have a car. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its public transit.

Public transit is mostly limited in Carmel-by-the-Sea. There are a couple of buses, but you can't really depend on them to get around.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Joshua Tree National Park. There's no reliable public transportation in the park.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park a more walkable city?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
Joshua Tree National Park

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very popular place for its ease of walking around. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its walkability.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a very walkable destination. The village center is very walkable so it's easy to park you car and shop or walk to the beach.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a walkable town. You need a car to truly explore the park.

For even more information, also check out Is Carmel-by-the-Sea Worth Visiting? and Is Joshua Tree National Park Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Joshua Tree National Park or Carmel-by-the-Sea?

How long in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

It's fun to spend time in either Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Joshua Tree National Park due to the larger number of activities and things to do. Usually, 1-3 days is a good amount of time for Carmel-by-the-Sea, and 2-4 days is enough time in Joshua Tree National Park.

Couples should spend more time in Carmel-by-the-Sea than Joshua Tree National Park. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Carmel-by-the-Sea than Joshua Tree National Park 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 Carmel-by-the-Sea.


  • How many days in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park? Ideal Length of Stay
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 1-3 
    Joshua Tree National Park 2-4

One day in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Even though Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small town, it has plenty of activities to choose from. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. So, one day is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

With around the destination of Joshua Tree National Park, there's plenty to do. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it. It offers something for everyone.

A weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small town where visitors enjoy the food and shopping. Most people come for the beaches. Anyone can find something fun to do here. This is a popular place to visit for a weekend. Because of this, a weekend is usually enough time for a trip here.

With around the unique national park of Joshua Tree National Park, there's plenty to do. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. This is a popular place to visit for a weekend. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here.


Five days in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. It offers something for everyone.

Travelers enjoy the when visiting the unique destination of Joshua Tree National Park. Hikers are also drawn to this area. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

A week in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular choice for travelers. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Joshua Tree National Park is a popular choice for travelers. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. One of the main draws to the area is the hiking. This national park offers a variety of activities to choose from. 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 Hiking & Trekking Tours in United States of America, The Best Historical Tours in United States of America, The Best 10-Day Tours in United States of America, and The Best One Week (7-Day) Tours in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Joshua Tree National Park or Carmel-by-the-Sea?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Carmel-by-the-Sea is $0.00, while the average daily cost in Joshua Tree National Park is $152. 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 Carmel-by-the-Sea and Joshua Tree National Park in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    Joshua Tree National Park $87
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $0.00
    Joshua Tree National Park $174
Compare Hotels in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Joshua Tree National Park

Looking for a hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park? 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 Carmel-by-the-Sea


Hotels in Joshua Tree National Park


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: Carmel-by-the-Sea Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $125
    Joshua Tree National Park $47

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Carmel-by-the-Sea:

  • Private Transfer from Monterey Port to San Francisco City Hotels: $137
  • Private Transfer from Monterey Port to San Francisco Airport(SFO): $137

Is it cheaper to fly into Carmel-by-the-Sea or Joshua Tree National Park?

Prices for flights to both Joshua Tree National Park and Carmel-by-the-Sea 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
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $153
    Joshua Tree National Park $35

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

  • Thai Cooking Class in Monterey: $99
  • Old Monterey Walking Food Tour: $150

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    Joshua Tree National Park $27

Tours and Activities in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Carmel-by-the-Sea are as follows:

  • 1-Hour Monterey and Cannery Row GoCar Tour: $79
  • 17 Mile Drive: A Self-Guide Audio Tour of Pebble Beach’s Historical Highlights: $9.99
  • 17-Mile Drive Electric Bike Guided Tour: $75
  • 2-Hour Monterey and Pacific Grove GoCar Tour: $149
  • 2.5-Hour Electric Bike Tour Along 17 Mile Drive of Coastal Monterey: $65
  • 3-Hour Monterey, Cannery Row and Pacific Grove GoCar Tour: $189
  • Big Sur Electric Bike Tour Along Old Coast Road: $175
  • Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour: Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway: $17
  • Big Sur's Old Coast Road eBike Tour: $250
  • Carmel Point: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Carmel Small Group Walking Food & Cultural Tour: $139
  • Carmel Tour in The Heavenly 17 Mile Drive: $30

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    Joshua Tree National Park $4.93

Sample the Local Flavors in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Carmel-by-the-Sea:

  • Carmel Valley Wine Tour in a Vintage VW Bus: $99
  • Wine Tours in a Vintage VW Bus: $139
  • Wine Tasting and Walking Tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea: $159
  • Carmel Valley Wine Tour's Premium Package: $299


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

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Carmel-by-the-Sea Expensive? and Is Joshua Tree National Park Expensive?.