A Travel Price Comparison for California Joshua Tree National Park vs. Santa Monica for Families, Backpackers, Couples, and Attractions

Should you visit Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

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 Santa Monica 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 adventurous, unique, and fascinating national park. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the hiking.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a lively, funfilled, and energetic town. It's also popular because of the nightlife, food, and beaches.

Joshua Tree National Park and Santa Monica: 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
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Very walkable
  • Home to the Santa Monica Pier
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers


Is there more to do in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Santa Monica. Although Joshua Tree National Park and Santa Monica are both popular with visitors, Santa Monica has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Santa Monica is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Joshua Tree National Park is known for its hiking and impressive beauty. Santa Monica is more touristy than Joshua Tree National Park and is popular for its active lifestyle and fun-filled activities. It is also home to the Santa Monica Pier. Joshua Tree National Park is popular for its unique vegetation and large boulders.

How is Joshua Tree National Park different from Santa Monica?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Santa Monica 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 Santa Monica?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Santa Monica 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 Santa Monica. There's a thriving arts scene and a number of museums around town. Check out the Museum of Flying, the California Heritage Museum, or the Santa Monica History 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 the Food Better in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for its restaurants. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for its restaurant scene.

Santa Monica has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. You'll find a diversity of restaurants in the area, many of which make use of the town's many farmer's markets. The restaurant scene has a beachy vibe with a lot of outdoor dining opportunities. There are also a range of cuisines to choose from such as Mexican, Italian, casual, and upscale.

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 Santa Monica Better for Nightlife?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a very popular place for its evening party scene. However, Joshua Tree National Park is lacking in good options for nightlife.

Santa Monica has a large number of nightlife venues. There's a relaxed and laid back vibe to the nightlife scene. Many venues offer outdoor seating and live music in a casual setting. You can hang out on a patio and enjoy the California climate while you sip cold drinks and the beach town atmosphere.

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 Santa Monica Better for Beaches?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is renowned for the beach. However, Joshua Tree National Park is not a beach destination.

Santa Monica is considered to be a world-class beach destination. Santa Monica Beach is large and lined with bike trails. It's also filled with activity and you'll find many water sports, beach volleyball, and surfing in the area. There's also the famous Santa Monica Pier, which has an amusement park aquarium, Ferris wheal, dining, and shopping.

Joshua Tree National Park is not a beach destination.


Is Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica Better for Hiking?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing national park to visit for the nearby hiking options. However, Santa Monica is not a hiking destination.

People visit Joshua Tree National Park specifically for its hiking, as the natural beauty is well-known. 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.

Santa Monica is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Santa Monica 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 Santa Monica. It's easy to pass the time shopping in Santa Monica. There are independent vendors, fashion boutiques, and art galleries. Head to Montana Avenue or Main Street for some of the best 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 Santa Monica Better for Families?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Santa Monica 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.

Santa Monica is an extremely popular town to visit for families. Many families spend their days hanging out on the beaches, soaking up the sun, and even trying to surf. There's a boardwalk as well as bike paths that are perfect for people watching. You should also check out the Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, which is a thrilling amusement park.

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 Santa Monica Better for Couples?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Both Joshua Tree National Park and Santa Monica are excellent 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 Santa Monica frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. Fun days on the beach, peaceful walks at sunset, and a wild nightlife scene make this the perfect couples destination for couples who enjoy activity and excitement.

Is Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing national park to visit for backpackers. Also, Santa Monica is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Backpackers and budget travelers come from all over the world to visit Joshua Tree National Park. There are campgrounds and hiking trails that are popular with backpackers and nature enthusiasts.

Santa Monica is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. There's no shortage of activities in the area, whether you're into surfing, partying, or sunbathing. There's also at least one hostel that's great for budget travelers and backpackers.

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

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

Joshua Tree National Park is not a good place to visit for its public transit. However, Santa Monica does not have public transit.

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

Santa Monica does not have public transit. The Metro E Line connects the city to downtown Los Angeles. There's also the Big Blue Bus as well the Santa Monica Circuit, which are small electric carts that offer free rides between Wilshire Boulevard and Marine Street, and from the ocean to Fifth Street.


Is Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica a more walkable city?

Joshua Tree National Park
Santa Monica

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

Santa Monica is a very walkable destination. The city is very walkable, particularly in the more touristy areas.

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 Santa Monica Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Santa Monica or Joshua Tree National Park?

How long in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both Joshua Tree National Park and Santa Monica. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Joshua Tree National Park than in Santa Monica. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Joshua Tree National Park, and 1-3 days is enough time in Santa Monica.

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

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


  • How many days in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica? Ideal Length of Stay
    Joshua Tree National Park 2-4 
    Santa Monica 1-3

One day in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

In Joshua Tree National Park, many people enjoy the that this adventurous national park offers. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything.

Visitors enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the lively town of Santa Monica. 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.

A weekend in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

Joshua Tree National Park is a fun place to experience. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. If you have a weekend, this is a great place to go. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. Lots of people come for the hiking. So, a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

Visitors enjoy the museums and nightlife when visiting the destination of Santa Monica. Most people come for the beaches. Anyone can find something fun to do here. This is a popular place to visit for a weekend. Most people visit for the beaches. Because of this, a weekend is usually enough time for a trip here.


Five days in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

You'll find around the adventurous destination of Joshua Tree National Park. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Lots of people come for the hiking. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

Santa Monica 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.

A week in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

Joshua Tree National Park is a popular place to visit. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Santa Monica is a popular choice for travelers. Most people visit for the beaches. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. Your budget might influence how long you stay.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Anchorage, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Los Angeles, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City, and The Best 2-Week Tours from New York City.


Which place is cheaper, Santa Monica 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 Santa Monica is $210. 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 Santa Monica in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Joshua Tree National Park $87
    Santa Monica $123
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Joshua Tree National Park $174
    Santa Monica $246
Compare Hotels in Joshua Tree National Park and Santa Monica

Looking for a hotel in Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica? 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 Santa Monica


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: Santa Monica Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Joshua Tree National Park $47
    Santa Monica $50

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Monica

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Monica:

  • Santa Monica to Los Angeles Airport Departure Private Transfer: $75
  • Santa Monica to Long Beach Airport (LGB) - Deparure Private Transfer: $81

Is it cheaper to fly into Joshua Tree National Park or Santa Monica?

Prices for flights to both Santa Monica 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
    Santa Monica $52

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Monica

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Santa Monica.

  • Los Angeles Premier Dinner Cruise from Marina del Rey: $124
  • Marina del Rey Christmas Day Buffet Dinner Cruise: $175
  • Marina del Rey Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner Cruise: $175
  • Marina del Rey Father's Day Plated Dinner Cruise: $222

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Joshua Tree National Park $27
    Santa Monica $38

Tours and Activities in Santa Monica

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Santa Monica are as follows:

  • 15 Passengers Open Ocean/Harbor Cruise Party Boat Marina Del Rey: $129
  • 2 Hour Sailing Adventure From Marina Del Rey: $160
  • 3-Hour Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Guided Tour : $72
  • 4.5 Hour Venice Beach Open Air Van Tour: $65
  • 5.5-Hour Exclusive Malibu Stars Homes & Beautiful Beach Tour: $89
  • Bring-Your-Own-Food and Drinks Marina del Rey Boat Tour: $80
  • City Tour of Los Angeles from Torrance and El Segundo: $122
  • Dolphin Sighting Sunset Tour: $90
  • Dolphins Whales and Sea Lion Wildlife Sightseeing Boat Tour: $90
  • Exotic Tijuana Massage Tour in LA: $250
  • Explore Malibu's Coast: PCH & Beyond - Self Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • LA & Self-Guided Aerospace Legacy Audio Tour: $15

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Joshua Tree National Park $4.93
    Santa Monica $21

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Monica

Also in Santa Monica, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Walking Taco & Wine Tour: $125
  • Private Vintage VW Hippie Tour to Malibu with wine tasting: $195


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Joshua Tree National Park and Santa Monica, we can see that Santa Monica 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 Santa Monica would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Santa Monica 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 Santa Monica Expensive?.