A Travel Price Comparison for California Joshua Tree National Park vs. San Francisco for Attractions, Hiking, Families, and Backpackers

Should you visit Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

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

Trying to figure out where to travel next? This travel comparison between Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco 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.

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. It's also popular because of the hiking.

San Francisco

San Francisco is a outdoorsy, quirky, and eccentric coastal city. Visitors will also find so much to do here because it's a large city with many sights and attractions. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. It's also popular because of the live music, food, and beaches.

Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco: Pros and Cons

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 nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Public transit not as usable
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Numerous theater shows
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit
  • Very walkable
  • Big city activities
  • Impressive beauty
  • Home to the Golden Gate Bridge


Is there more to do in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Travelers will usually find more to do in San Francisco. Although Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco are popular destinations, San Francisco has more sights and attractions for tourists. San Francisco is more touristy than Joshua Tree National Park and is known for its striking bayfront setting, stunning urban hikes, quirky personality, and reputation within the tech industry. It is also well known for The Golden Gate Bridge. Joshua Tree National Park is famous for its unique vegetation and large boulders.

How is Joshua Tree National Park different from San Francisco?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is renowned for its museums and history. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its museums and landmarks.

With plenty of landmarks, attractions, and museums, San Francisco has many famous sights for visitors. The city's landmarks are as diverse as the people who live there. The most recognizable landmark is the famous Golden Gate Bridge, but visitors also enjoy seeing Alcatraz Island, the Legion of Honor, the Palace of Fine Arts, as well as the small but fascinating Cable Car Museum.

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 Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Theater?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is a coastal city with good options for its shows and theatre. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a theatre destination.

You'll find a nice selection of shows in San Francisco. The city has around a dozen theaters where you can enjoy musicals or plays.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a theatre destination.

Is the Food Better in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is renowned for its restaurants. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its restaurant scene.

Many restaurants in San Francisco have been singled out for their culinary prowess. There are local dives as well as five star restaurants, with everything in between. Popular local dining experiences include sourdough bread bowls and Dungeness crab at Fisherman's Wharf, and dim sum in Chinatown. Head away from the touristy neighborhoods if you want to sample some of the more local restaurants around town.

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 Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Nightlife?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is a coastal city with good options for its evening party scene. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for nightlife.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in San Francisco. It has a great nightlife with many local bars and trendy clubs. For the best nightlife away from the tourists, head to Valencia Street or Polk Street. If you want to be in a more touristy area, check out Union Square. Popular clubs in the city include Temple San Francisco, Monarch, and Audio Nightclub.

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 Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Music?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is a coastal city with good options for its music scene. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a live music destination.

You'll find some good live music in San Francisco. Well known music venues include the Great American Music Hall, Slim's, and The Chapel.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a live music destination.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Beaches?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is a very popular place for the beach. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a beach destination.

The beaches at San Francisco attract visitors from all over. Whether you're interested in surfing or simply taking in the dramatic views, the beaches of San Francisco will take your breath away. Some of the best beaches include Ocean Beach, Baker Beach, and Muir Beach.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a beach destination.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Hiking?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

Both Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco are destinations which offer first-rate hiking.

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.

San Francisco is well-known for its hiking and trekking. The city's hikes take in the dramatic views of the bay and city. Just outside of town there are also countless hikes through the Redwoods and along the coastline. Popular hikes in the area include Lands End, Tomales Point Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore, and Muir Woods.


Is the Shopping Better in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is renowned for its shopping areas. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for shopping.

Many people travel to San Francisco specifically to go shopping. The city has excellent shopping from local vendors to recognizable brands. Union Square, Embarcadero, Fillmore Street and Haight Street are some of the best neighborhoods for shopping.

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 Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Families?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is renowned for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Joshua Tree National Park is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

San Francisco is an extremely popular coastal city to visit for families. With its many outdoor parks, hiking trails, beaches, and kid-friendly museums, this city makes a great family-friendly destination. There are also many amazing playgrounds with stunning views of the bay and city. Head to Chinatown for some unique and kid-friendly food, or down to Pier 39 for fun activities that the whole family can enjoy.

Joshua Tree National Park is 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.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Couples?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

Both Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco are high quality destinations for a couple's getaway.

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.

Couples visit San Francisco frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. Couples enjoy the romantic backdrop of this beautiful city. There are world-class restaurants and plenty of spas that couples can enjoy during a honeymoon or romantic getaway. There are also many scenic walks and breathtaking views that couples can appreciate.


Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing national park to visit for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, San Francisco is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for backpackers.

A large number of backpackers visit Joshua Tree National Park, as it is a very popular national park for budget travelers. There are campgrounds and hiking trails that are popular with backpackers and nature enthusiasts.

Backpackers come from all over to visit San Francisco. The city is one of the more backpacker friendly cities in the United States. There are a handful of hostels throughout, many concentrated in the popular Union Square and Downtown neighborhoods of the city.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Students?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is a very popular place for its student-friendly activities. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not popular with students.

Students come from all over to stay in San Francisco. As a large and dynamic city, the area is popular with international students who want to experience this unique side of the United States. Major universities in the area include University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and nearby, the University of California, Berkeley.

Joshua Tree National Park is not popular with students.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is renowned for times when you don't have a car. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its public transit.

San Francisco has a great public transit system. The transit network includes a subway (the BART), trams, cable cars, ferries, and buses.

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


Is Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco a more walkable city?

Joshua Tree National Park
San Francisco

San Francisco is a very popular place for its ease of walking around. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its walkability.

San Francisco is a very walkable destination. It is compact enough to explore on foot, but given the large hills, it's a bit of a challenge, even for the most fit among us.

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

For even more information, also check out Is Joshua Tree National Park Worth Visiting? and Is San Francisco Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in San Francisco or Joshua Tree National Park?

How long in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Both Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco have a number of activities to choose from. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in San Francisco than in Joshua Tree National Park. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Joshua Tree National Park, and 3-7 days is enough time in San Francisco.

Families should spend more time in San Francisco than Joshua Tree National Park. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in San Francisco, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in San Francisco than Joshua Tree National Park. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in San Francisco that are perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in San Francisco 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 San Francisco.


  • How many days in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco? Ideal Length of Stay
    Joshua Tree National Park 2-4 
    San Francisco 3-7

One day in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Many travelers enjoy the when visiting the adventurous destination of Joshua Tree National Park. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. Don't miss the hiking, as that's what most people do. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

San Francisco is a eccentric coastal city where you can fill many days. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

A weekend in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Joshua Tree National Park. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. Don't miss the hiking, as that's what most people do. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. For many, it makes a great getaway for a weekend. A weekend is usually enough time to experience most activities.

San Francisco is a big city destination where you can fill many days. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Anyone can find something fun to do here. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.


Five days in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Travelers enjoy the when visiting the fascinating destination of Joshua Tree National Park. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. This national park offers a variety of activities to choose from. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips.

San Francisco is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have five days, this coastal city makes for a great vacation. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Because of this, five days is usually enough time for a trip here. It offers something for everyone.

A week in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

You'll find around the beautiful national park of Joshua Tree National Park. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

San Francisco is a popular choice for travelers. One week here is typical. One week is usually enough time to experience most activities. Your budget might influence how long you stay.


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, San Francisco or Joshua Tree National Park?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Joshua Tree National Park is $152, while the average daily cost in San Francisco is $222. 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 Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Joshua Tree National Park $87
    San Francisco $130
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Joshua Tree National Park $174
    San Francisco $260
Compare Hotels in Joshua Tree National Park and San Francisco

Looking for a hotel in Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco? 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 Joshua Tree National Park


Hotels in San Francisco


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: San Francisco Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Joshua Tree National Park $47
    San Francisco $16

Typical Local Transportation Prices in San Francisco

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in San Francisco:


  • Taxi to SFO
    $45
  • Golden Gate Bridge Toll
    $6.00
  • Alcatraz Tour
    $30

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Francisco

Also for San Francisco, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Try find your better than us ! Airport transfer in San Francisco HTL-APT (SFO): $104
  • Transfer in private Minivan from San Francisco Downtown to Airport (SFO): $183
  • Transfer in private Minivan from San Francisco Airport (SFO) to Downtown city: $183
  • Transfer from San Francisco to San Francisco Cruise Port by Sedan: $127
  • Sedan Airport Transfer from SFO to East Bay (one way): $262
  • San Francisco to/from Yosemite National Park: 1-Way Transfer: $169
  • San Francisco to San Francisco Airport Private Departure Transfer: $79
  • San Francisco to Oakland Airport (OAK) Private Departure Transfer: $64
  • San Francisco Airport 1-Way Transfer to and from the San Francisco: $150
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) to San Francisco - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $223
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) to San Francisco - Arrival Private Transfer: $111
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) to Calistoga Resorts Arrival Transfer: $149

Is it cheaper to fly into Joshua Tree National Park or San Francisco?

Prices for flights to both San Francisco and Joshua Tree National Park 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
    Joshua Tree National Park $35
    San Francisco $46

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Francisco

For San Francisco, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • San Francisco Virtual Food Tour with Local Guide: $19
  • San Francisco Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours: $89
  • Mission: Street Art & Food Tour in San Francisco: $99
  • Mission District Food Tour: Appetizers, Entrée and Dessert: $115
  • San Francisco Premier Dinner Dance Cruise: $132
  • Mission 18th Street San Francisco Food Tour: $150
  • San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz: $174
  • Paella and Tapas Cooking Class in San Francisco: $193
  • San Francisco Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner Cruise: $207
  • Private Food Tour of the Mission District - San Francisco: $240

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Joshua Tree National Park $27
    San Francisco $46

Tours and Activities in San Francisco

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

  • Private Walking Tour in Muir Woods and Tickets : $20
  • 2 or 3 Hour Private Group San Francisco City Tour Open-air Jeep: $169
  • 2-Hour Double Decker City Tour of San Francisco: $73
  • 2-Hour Sunset Sailing Experience on San Francisco Bay: $149
  • 2-Hour Sunset or Evening Private Jeep Tour of San Francisco: $169
  • 3 Hour Sightseeing Small Group Guided Tour in San Francisco: $89
  • 3-Hour Private Group San Francisco Open Top Jeep Tour: $249
  • 3-Hour Private Muir Giant Redwoods Trees and Sausalito Tour: $203
  • 3HR Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park GoCar Tour: $172
  • 90-Minute Sunset Tour Aboard Wine Therapy: $95
  • A Sip and Paint Experience in San Francisco: $89
  • Alcatraz Day Tour and 1-Day City Bus Tour in San Francisco: $170

For more ideas for your next trip, check out The Best Museums in San Francisco, The Best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco, and Things to Do In San Francisco on a Rainy Day.


Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Joshua Tree National Park $4.93
    San Francisco $22

Sample the Local Flavors in San Francisco

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

  • Sunset Distillery with Local Whiskey or Cocktail Tasting: $40
  • Walk with Spirits: A Haunted Pub Crawl in San Francisco: $45
  • 2 to 3 Hour Bar Crawl in Castro San Francisco: $49
  • Small Group: Ultimate Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour from San Francisco: $109
  • Private Wine Tour Napa or Sonoma from $149 per person up to 6: $149
  • Alcatraz and Sausalito California Wine Tasting Experience: $150
  • Shore Excursion: Napa and Sonoma Ultimate Wine Tasting Experience: $165
  • Napa Valley Wine Tour and Muir Woods Guided Tour: $189
  • Muir Woods with Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour: $189
  • Full-Day Private Napa Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco: $221
  • Sustainable Wine and Distillery Tour with Lunch: $250
  • Shore Excursion in SFO - Enchanted Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour in SUV: $285


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

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