A Travel Price Comparison for California Monterey vs. San Diego for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Monterey or San Diego?

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the prices of travel for Monterey and San Diego. We’ll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget. So, let's dig into it.

Monterey

When it comes to California, Monterey may not be mentioned half as much as you hear about Los Angeles or San Francisco, but it is a beautiful city to visit, with a diverse expanse of exciting and relaxing things to do, whether you're looking for adventure, a quiet getaway, or romance.

Located on California's central coast, the city of Monterey was the first State Capital of California. It was also home to many artists, athletes, and musicians, such as John Steinbeck, Clint Eastwood, and Ron Johnson.

Monterey has mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm, dry summers. Cold season runs from December to April and warm season, from July until October. The peak travel seasons are during summer, from July to September. If you want to avoid crowds, the months of April and October are ideal times to visit for fewer crowds and comfortable weather.

San Diego

For many visitors and locals alike, San Diego is a paradise. Located in southern California, not far from Los Angeles, it has the perfect climate, wonderful beaches, and a culturally rich environment. It's surrounded by beautiful landscape and has a strong focus on wildlife conservation and eco-friendly living. Home to about 1.3 million residents, it is California's second largest city. It also has many universities, a large tech industry, and a thriving economy. Despite its size, many people perceive San Diego as a slower, more relaxed city with a pleasant vibe away from the chaos of a large city.

Which city is cheaper, San Diego or Monterey?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Monterey is $136, while the average daily cost in San Diego is $161. 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 Monterey and San Diego in more detail.



Accommodation

For a normal double-occupancy room in Monterey, $144 is the average cost for a hotel room. Also in Monterey, the typical price for a place to stay for one person is $72, such as in a hostel.

For a normal double-occupancy room in San Diego, $182 is the average cost for a hotel room. Also in San Diego, the typical price for a place to stay for one person is $91, such as in a hostel.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Monterey $72
    San Diego $91
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Monterey $144
    San Diego $182

Food

On average, meal and food prices in Monterey cost around $45 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 $18.

The price of a meal in San Diego can vary widely. However, the average price for food per day is $36 per person, and a typical meal will cost around $14 based on the spending of previous visitors. Less expensive dining options can be found by eating street food or at fast food restaurants.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Monterey $45
    San Diego $36

Typical Food prices in San Diego

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to San Diego:


  • Mexican Lunch for Two
    $27
  • Breakfast at Starbucks
    $20

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Diego

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

  • San Diego North Park Food Tour: $49
  • Liberty Station Food Tour: $49
  • Market and Guacamole Cooking Class in Tijuana Mexico: $89
  • Private Cooking Demonstration of Indian Fusion Cuisine in San Diego: $96
  • Farmers Market Tour & Social Cooking With A Chef: $100
  • San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise: $111
  • Dinner Cruise: $117
  • Private Tour: Secret Food Tours San Diego: $129
  • Secret Food Tours San Diego w/ Private Tour Option: $277

Local Transportation

Monterey's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $26 per person, per day on transportation in Monterey.

Public transportation tends to be much less expensive in San Diego than paying for a taxi or private car service, as is expected. Typically, people spend $19 on transportation in San Diego on average per day.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Monterey $26
    San Diego $19

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Monterey

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

  • Private transfer from Monterey to SFO: $370
  • Monterey Peninsula Airport One Way Transfer: $43

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Diego

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

  • Transfer from San Diego International Airport to San Diego: $62
  • Tijuana Border Crossing Private Transfer To Los Angeles.: $398
  • Private 1-Way Private Airport Transfer: $66
  • San Diego to Long Beach Airport (LGB) - Departure Private Transfer: $357
  • San Diego to Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) - Departure Private Transfer: $342
  • San Diego hotel/address to San Diego Airport (SAN) - Departure Private Transfer: $60
  • San Diego Private Transfer To Palm Springs.: $398
  • San Diego Private Transfer To N. Hollywood/Burbank area.: $398
  • San Diego Private Transfer To Los Angeles.: $389
  • San Diego Airport (SAN) to San Diego hotel/address - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $119
  • San Diego Airport (SAN) to San Diego hotel or address - Arrival Private Transfer: $60
  • Private transfer: San Diego to San Diego Airport (SAN): $622

Is it cheaper to fly into Monterey or San Diego?

Prices for flights to both San Diego and Monterey 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

Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Monterey can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $22 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.

Sightseeing expenses in San Diego, including the cost of admission tickets for day tours, museums, and attractions, usually cost an average of $38 per day, per person.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Monterey $22
    San Diego $38

Tours and Activities in Monterey

For Monterey, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • 1-Hour Monterey and Cannery Row Sea Car Tour: $75
  • 2-Hour Monterey and Pacific Grove Sea Car Tour: $130
  • 3-Hour Monterey Bay Winter Whale-Watching Tour in California: $65
  • 3-Hour Monterey, Cannery Row and Pacific Grove Sea Car Tour: $178
  • Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour in California (Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway): $7.60
  • Half-Day Whale Watching Tour From Monterey: $75
  • Historic Cannery Row: Explore John Steinbeck's Monterey on an audio walking tour: $5.00
  • Monterey State Historic Park and Fisherman’s Wharf: A seaside audio walking tour: $5.20
  • Monterey and Carmel Day Tour & Golden Gate Bay Cruise: $128
  • Monterey and Carmel: Overnight Tour from San Francisco: $229
  • 17-Mile Drive Bike Tour: $79
  • 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour: $10

Typical Entertainment prices in San Diego

For San Diego, here are some examples of average entertainment and activity prices from previous travelers:


  • San Diego Zoo
    $15
  • Sea World Parking
    $12

Tours and Activities in San Diego

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

  • 1-Hour Voodoo Escape Room Experience in San Diego: $35
  • 1Hr GPS Guided Scooter Tour: Harbor/Gaslamp Quarter: $63
  • 2 Hour Whale Watching Kayak Tour for Two: $77
  • 4 Hour Whale Watching/Eco Adventure: $163
  • 90-Minute San Diego SEAL Tour: $42
  • Affordable, Luxury Sailing Tour of San Diego's Bay and Coastal Waterways: $112
  • All Day San Diego City and Shopping Tour: $95
  • All Inclusive Beer Tour-Party bus: $169
  • Behind-the-Scenes at Petco Park Tour: $23
  • Brothels, Bites and Booze: A Culinary Tour of San Diego's Questionable Past: $69
  • Catamaran Sailing Cruise on San Diego Bay for up to 12 Guests: $1,200
  • Catamaran Sailing Cruise on San Diego Bay for up to 6 Guests: $600

Alcohol

Typically, people visiting Monterey spend on average $17 on alcoholic beverages per person, per day.

Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In San Diego, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $17.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Monterey $17
    San Diego $17

Sample the Local Flavors in San Diego

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

  • San Diego Bar Hunt: Slammin' San Diego Bar Crawl: $12
  • Wine Tasting Or Beer Tasting: $15
  • San Diego Brewery Tour: $85
  • San Diego Micro Brewery Tour: $91
  • The San Diego Downtown Craft Brewery Tour: $95
  • The San Diego Downtown Craft Brewery Tour: $101
  • Private San Diego Brewery Tour: $107
  • All inclusive brewery tour-Fire Truck: $189
  • Luxury Private Wine Tasting Tour to Guadalupe Valley from San Diego.: $249
  • Private Wine Tour of Temecula from San Diego: $475


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

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Monterey vs. San Diego Travel Comparison

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