A Travel Price Comparison for California Carmel-by-the-Sea vs. South Lake Tahoe for Nightlife, Families, Couples, and Food

Should you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

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 South Lake Tahoe 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 picturesque, quaint, and charming town. It also offers plenty of small town charm and also has plenty of sights and activities. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the food, beaches, and shopping.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a idyllic, scenic, and breathtaking town. You'll find world class beauty here as well. Other popular activities here include skiing, nightlife, and food.

Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular beach
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Small town charm
  • Impressive beauty
  • Home to Pebble Beach Golf Course
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less family-friendly
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • 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


Is there more to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

Tourists will generally find more to do in South Lake Tahoe. Although Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe are both popular with visitors, South Lake Tahoe has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. South Lake Tahoe is more popular for its skiing, nightlife, resorts, hiking, and impressive beauty, while Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its museums, food, beaches, shopping, and small town charm. Carmel-by-the-Sea is popular for its storybook architecture, its opulent setting, and its popularity with golf enthusiasts. South Lake Tahoe is popular for its casino resorts, ski resorts, and beautiful setting. It is also home to the Heavenly Gondola.

How is Carmel-by-the-Sea different from South Lake Tahoe?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Skiing?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a well-known place for snow skiing. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a skiing destination.

South Lake Tahoe is a well-known ski destination which attracts visitors from far and wide. There are three ski resorts in the area. Heavenly Mountain Resort is the largest, but if you're looking for something smaller, head to Kirkwood, which is tucked away and less well known. There's also Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort, which is popular with groups and families because it caters to a range of skill levels.

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


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a nice place to visit for its sights and museums. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a good town for its museums and history.

Carmel-by-the-Sea offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. 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.

While most people don't head to South Lake Tahoe specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. Most people spend their time exploring the area's nature, but you can also stop by Tallac Historic Site or the Lake Tahoe Historical Society Museum.

Is the Food Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a well-known place for its local cuisine and restaurants. Also, South Lake Tahoe is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its restaurants.

Eating is part of the travel experience when you visit Carmel-by-the-Sea. 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.

South Lake Tahoe is becoming an appealing option for foodies. While most resorts have their own restaurants, there are a number of options around town that specialize in "alpine comfort cuisine", which is worth sampling. You'll also find plenty of cafes that serve up a hearty breakfast - the perfect way to start an active day.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Nightlife?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for its evening party scene. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for nightlife.

South Lake Tahoe is a destination that you simply have to visit at least once for nightlife. The resort town has plenty of nightclubs, bars, and music venues. There are outdoor options when the weather is warm as well as indoor settings for cooler weather. You'll also find casinos and live shows.

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.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Resorts?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a well-known place for its resorts. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a resort destination.

In South Lake Tahoe, you'll find some of the region's top resorts. It's a resort town, so there are plenty of options to choose from, many with pools, spas, or casinos.

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

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Beaches?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a well-known place for the beache. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a beach destination.

You'll have a great beach vacation in Carmel-by-the-Sea. 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.

South Lake Tahoe is not a beach destination.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Hiking?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for the nearby hiking options. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a hiking destination.

Around South Lake Tahoe visitors will find world-class hiking trails. There are miles of beautiful hikes in the area that follow the lake's shore or explore the diverse terrain. Skyline Trail Hike is a favorite. It is accessible by lift and offers spectacular views. For a relaxing stroll check out Fallen Leaf Lake Hike.

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


Is the Shopping Better in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a well-known place for its shopping opportunities. Also, South Lake Tahoe is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its shopping areas.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular shopping destination with plenty of stores. 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.

South Lake Tahoe has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. Most of the shopping involves retailers selling ski gear or outdoor equipment. There are also clothing shops, gift stores, and some art galleries.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Families?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for its family-friendly activities. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for its kid-friendly activities.

South Lake Tahoe is an extremely popular town to visit for families. Kids will love the outdoor adventures that the area is filled with. There are gondolas, lakefront beaches, adventure parks, and tubing. There are also miles of hiking trails and a beautiful setting that even the young ones will appreciate.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Couples?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is renowned for couples. Also, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for romance.

South Lake Tahoe is a great town for couples, as it has plenty to offer. It's beautiful setting and wide variety of adventurous activities make this the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. The lake has hidden coves and nearby hiking trails. There are also hot springs, gondolas, and carriage rides. You can go hiking when the weather is warm or skiing when the weather is cold.

Carmel-by-the-Sea makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. 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.


Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a town with good options for backpackers. However, Carmel-by-the-Sea is not a good town for backpackers and budget travelers.

South Lake Tahoe is a good town to visit for backpackers. There are a couple of hostels in the area and the skiing and hiking attracts the backpacker crowd.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

Both Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe offer decent public transit options.

Public transit is generally 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 mostly limited in South Lake Tahoe. While there are some shuttles and buses, if you really want to explore the area, you'll need your own car.

Is Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe a more walkable city?

Carmel-by-the-Sea
South Lake Tahoe

Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe both are high quality when exploring on foot.

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.

South Lake Tahoe is very walkable. Once you get to town, the area is very walkable.


For even more information, also check out Is Carmel-by-the-Sea Worth Visiting? and Is South Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in South Lake Tahoe or Carmel-by-the-Sea?

How long in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

In either Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Carmel-by-the-Sea because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 1-3 days is a good amount of time for Carmel-by-the-Sea, and 3-5 days is enough time in South Lake Tahoe.

Families should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Carmel-by-the-Sea. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in South Lake Tahoe, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Carmel-by-the-Sea. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in South Lake Tahoe that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Carmel-by-the-Sea 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 South Lake Tahoe.


  • How many days in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe? Ideal Length of Stay
    Carmel-by-the-Sea 1-3 
    South Lake Tahoe 3-5

One day in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small town where visitors enjoy the museums and food. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. Because of this, one day is usually enough time for a trip here. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from.

With food and shopping around the destination of South Lake Tahoe, there's plenty to do. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. 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 South Lake Tahoe?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small town with plenty to do. If you have a weekend, this town makes for a great vacation. It's also a great beach destination, too. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. This would be the perfect place to spend a weekend, as it has just the right amount of activities.

With shopping and skiing around the idyllic town of South Lake Tahoe, 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. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

Five days in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a popular choice for travelers. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

With skiing and nightlife around the breathtaking destination of South Lake Tahoe, there's plenty to do. You can also relax and pamper yourself at one of the resorts. If you have five days, this town makes for a great vacation. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. With all of its activities, you can easily fill five days here.


A week in Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a great place to explore. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular choice for travelers. It's also a relaxing resort destination. This town 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 One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Las Vegas, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Anchorage, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Los Angeles, and The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City.


Which place is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe 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 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 Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $0.00
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea 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 Carmel-by-the-Sea


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: Carmel-by-the-Sea Hotel Prices and South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Carmel-by-the-Sea $125
    South Lake Tahoe $24

Is it cheaper to fly into Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

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

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

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    South Lake Tahoe $56

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:

  • Fairy Tale Houses Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea's Fairytale Houses: A Self-Guided Walking Tour: $7.99
  • Historic Cannery Row: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of John Steinbeck's Monterey: $7.99
  • Downtown A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Off the Beaten Path in A Self-Guided Tour: $7.99
  • Carmel Point: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Bohemian Art Scene: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Smartphone Audio Driving Tour between San Francisco & Monterey: $7.99
  • Carmel by the Sea: A Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour : $8.99
  • 17 Mile Drive: A Self-Guide Audio Tour of Pebble Beach’s Historical Highlights: $9.99
  • Driving the California Coast: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $9.99
  • Driving the California Coast: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Carmel to Santa Cruz: $9.99

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

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

  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Audio Tour From Tahoe City to Incline Village: $9.99
  • Self-Guided Driving Tour from Lake Tahoe to Virginia City: $12
  • 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
  • Lake Tahoe: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour: $15
  • Tallac Historic Site Pope House Tour: $16
  • Ultimate Lake Tahoe Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Tallac Historic Site Grand Estates Tour: $20
  • Lake Tahoe: Self-Guided Driving Tour: $25
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Guided Tour of Historic Virginia City and Carson City from South Lake Tahoe: $70
  • Introductory Snowshoe Shared Experience: $75

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Carmel-by-the-Sea -
    South Lake Tahoe $34

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:

  • Wine Tasting and Walking Tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea: $149
  • Wine Tasting and Walking Tour of Carmel-by-the-Sea: $149
  • Wine Tours in a Vintage VW Bus: $185
  • Monterey: Wine tour in a 1970 VW bus.: $185

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 Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that South Lake Tahoe 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 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 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 South Lake Tahoe Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Carmel-by-the-Sea or South Lake Tahoe?

South Lake Tahoe has a larger population, and is about 6 times larger than the population of Carmel-by-the-Sea. When comparing the sizes of Carmel-by-the-Sea and South Lake Tahoe, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.