A Travel Price Comparison for California Monterey vs. Santa Barbara for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit Monterey or Santa Barbara?

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the prices of travel for Monterey and Santa Barbara. 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.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is located in California, less than 100 miles from Los Angeles. It sits between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, giving it a stunning backdrop. The town has a population of just 90,000 but it still offers visitors many cultural, culinary, and shopping experiences that surpass many large cities. There are wide beaches along a beautiful coastline, impressive wineries, and many top rated restaurants. Many people see Santa Barbara as a hangout for the rich and famous, but with a university and diverse population, the city is much more relatable than you might expect, although travel prices here are still somewhat high.

Which city is cheaper, Santa Barbara 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 Santa Barbara is $130. 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 Santa Barbara 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.

If you're traveling alone, you may be able to find a budget hotel or hostel for around $71. But for two people in a standard two-person hotel room in Santa Barbara the cost is $142 on average.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Monterey $72
    Santa Barbara $71
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Monterey $144
    Santa Barbara $142

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 Santa Barbara can vary widely. However, the average price for food per day is $37 per person, and a typical meal will cost around $15 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
    Santa Barbara $37

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Barbara

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

  • Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour: $99

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.

While taxis and private drivers typically cost much more than public transportation, people usually spend around $33 per day to get around in Santa Barbara.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Monterey $26
    Santa Barbara $33

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Monterey

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

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

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Barbara

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara-Ojai: Private Transfer To the Los Angeles.: $345
  • Santa Barbara Municipal Airport One Way Transfer: $48
  • Santa Barbara Area Private Transfer To Los Angeles.: $335
  • Private Transfer from Santa Bárbara to Terceira Lajes (TER) Airport: $87

Is it cheaper to fly into Monterey or Santa Barbara?

Prices for flights to both Santa Barbara 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.

Activities, things to do, and other forms of entertainment usually cost around $22 per person, per day in Santa Barbara. This cost includes the price of admission tickets to attractions and museums as well as daily tours.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Monterey $22
    Santa Barbara $22

Tours and Activities in Monterey

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

  • 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
  • Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour in California (Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway): $7.60
  • Scenic 17 Mile Drive Self-Driving Audio Tour: $8.00
  • 17-Mile Drive Self-Guided Audio Tour: $10
  • The Original Monterey Walking Tours: Guided Tours of Historic Monterey 10 AM: $25
  • The Original Monterey Walking Tours : Guided Tours of Cannery Row 2 PM: $27
  • 3-Hour Monterey Bay Winter Whale-Watching Tour in California: $65
  • Half-Day Whale Watching Tour From Monterey: $75
  • 1-Hour Monterey and Cannery Row Sea Car Tour: $75
  • 17-Mile Drive Bike Tour: $79
  • Scenic Half-Day Self-Guided Electric Scooter Tour: $90

Tours and Activities in Santa Barbara

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

  • 5-Day Wild West Tour From Los Angeles: $809
  • Authentic Funk Zone Tour: $125
  • Beginner or Intermediate Mountain Bike Tour of Santa Barbara: $105
  • Channel Islands 3-Day Private Eco Cruise: $6,500
  • Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide: $50
  • Private All-Inclusive Wine Country Tour for Couples from Santa Barbara: $550
  • Private Party Bus Tour in the Santa Ynez Valley: $245
  • Private Santa Barbara Winery Tour in Mercedes Convertible for up to 18 Guests: $848
  • Private Santa Barbara Winery and Estate Tour in Tesla SUV: $381
  • Private Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Tour: $326
  • Private Walking Ghosts Tour at Santa Barbara: $35
  • Santa Barbara Downtown Cocktails and History Walking Tour: $85

Alcohol

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

The average person spends about $9.46 on alcoholic beverages in Santa Barbara per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Monterey $17
    Santa Barbara $9.46

Typical Alcohol prices in Santa Barbara

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Santa Barbara:


  • Camping
    $20

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Barbara

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara Private Wine Tasting Experience: $69
  • Santa Barbara Ghost and Wine Tasting Private Tour: $75
  • Private All-Inclusive Santa Barbara Brewery Tour: $125
  • Santa Ynez Wine Tour from Santa Barbara: $129
  • Private All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara: $135
  • Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour: $139
  • Cupcake and Wine Tour: $149
  • Santa Ynez Valley Cupcake and Wine Tour: $159
  • Small-Group Santa Barbara Wine Tour to Private Locations: $163
  • All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara: $167
  • Small-Group Wine Tasting Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country: $169
  • Santa Barbara Small-Group Wine Tour to Private Locations Not Open To Pubic: $180


When comparing the travel costs between Monterey and Santa Barbara, we can see that Monterey is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

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Monterey vs. Santa Barbara Travel Comparison

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