A Travel Price Comparison for California Monterey vs. South Lake Tahoe for Nightlife, Families, Couples, and Attractions

Should you visit Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

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

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for Monterey and South Lake Tahoe. 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, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

Monterey

Monterey is a relaxing, nature-oriented, and laid back city. And you can't forget about the shopping, museums, and nightlife.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a idyllic, scenic, and breathtaking town. It's considered by many to be an absolutely beautiful destination, too. It's also popular because of the nightlife, food, and hiking.

Monterey and South Lake Tahoe: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
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 Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Both South Lake Tahoe and Monterey have plenty of things to do for travelers. Both provide a wide variety of sights and activities for tourists. Monterey is more popular for its museums, food, scuba diving & snorkeling, beaches, and shopping, while South Lake Tahoe is known for its skiing, nightlife, resorts, hiking, and impressive beauty. Monterey is popular for its rugged coastline, diverse marine life, and excellent seafood. South Lake Tahoe is popular for its casino resorts, ski resorts, and beautiful setting.

How is Monterey 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 Monterey. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Skiing?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for skiing and snowboarding. However, Monterey is not a skiing destination.

South Lake Tahoe draws a large crowd in the winter for its impressive snow skiing opportunities. 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.

Monterey is not a skiing destination.


Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey is a well-known place for its sights and museums. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a good town for its museums and history.

With a variety of museums, monuments, and historical sights, a trip to Monterey can be an interesting and educational experience. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a not-to-be-missed destination in town. You can also visit the Monterey State Historic Park or the Monterey Museum of Art.

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 Monterey or South Lake Tahoe? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey 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 Monterey. Seafood and local produce are what make the food special. There are many great restaurants to you can choose from that will let you enjoy the classic seafood dishes like clam chowder or oysters, as well as fresh artichokes and local wine.

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 Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Nightlife?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is an amazing town to visit for its evening party scene. Also, Monterey is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for nightlife.

South Lake Tahoe has a colorful and one-of-a-kind nightlife scene. 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.

Monterey is a popular destination for visitors looking to party into the night. There's a buzzing atmosphere at night with bars, breweries, and casual eateries all coming to life. Some of the best venues are found at the Old Fisherman's Wharf and along Alvarado Street.


Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Resorts?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a very popular place for its luxury resorts. However, Monterey is not a resort destination.

There are plenty of resorts in South Lake Tahoe to choose from. It's a resort town, so there are plenty of options to choose from, many with pools, spas, or casinos.

Monterey is not a resort destination.

Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey is a nice place to visit for its diving and snorkeling. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Monterey has a few areas where visitors often go scuba diving or snorkeling. Scuba diving offers an unforgettable experience. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary gives you the unique experience of seeing sea lions, otters, kelp forests, crabs, and more.

South Lake Tahoe is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Beaches?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey is a nice place to visit for the beache. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a beach destination.

Monterey has a beach worth visiting. The beaches highlight the laid by California vibe with sunbathers and beachgoers soaking up the atmosphere. There are both inlets and sandy beaches where you can see sea lions or explore the tidal pools.

South Lake Tahoe is not a beach destination.


Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Hiking?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is an amazing town to visit for its hiking trails. However, Monterey is not a hiking destination.

South Lake Tahoe is well-known for its hiking and trekking. 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.

Monterey is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey 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.

Monterey is a popular shopping destination with plenty of stores. You'll find both local vendors and tourist shops around town. Cannery Row is a popular destination, as is Old Fisherman's Wharf and the Old Farmer's Market.

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 Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Families?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Both Monterey and South Lake Tahoe are world-class family-friendly destinations.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Monterey is very family-friendly. Monterey Bay Aquarium is a highlight for kids and adults alike. There's also the Monterey Zoo as well as lighthearted activities like a mirror maze. MY Museum is an interactive museum that's perfect for younger kids. There are also whale watching trips and nearby beaches.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, South Lake Tahoe is a very family-friendly destination. 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.


Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Couples?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is an amazing town to visit for couples. Also, Monterey is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for romance.

South Lake Tahoe is fantastic couple's destination with fun and romantic activities. 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.

Couples visit Monterey frequently as it offers plenty of romantic activities. There are many romantic inns in town as well as quaint restaurants and fun activities. There are also spas, wine bars, and plenty of shopping for couples to enjoy as well.

Is Monterey or South Lake Tahoe Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey and South Lake Tahoe are both good destinations for backpackers.

Plenty of backpackers visit Monterey. There's a hostel in town as well as fun activities that will appeal to backpackers.

Plenty of budget travelers visit South Lake Tahoe. There are a couple of hostels in the area and the skiing and hiking attracts the backpacker crowd.

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

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Visitors will find decent public transit in both Monterey and South Lake Tahoe.

Public transit is mostly limited in Monterey. There is a bus system through the area.

Public transit is generally 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 Monterey or South Lake Tahoe a more walkable city?

Monterey
South Lake Tahoe

Monterey and South Lake Tahoe are great when it comes to walkability.

Monterey is a very walkable destination. If you stay near the town center, it's very walkable and easy to get around on foot.

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

For even more information, also check out Is Monterey Worth Visiting? and Is South Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in South Lake Tahoe or Monterey?

How long in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

In either Monterey 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 Monterey because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 1-3 days is a good amount of time for Monterey, and 3-5 days is enough time in South Lake Tahoe.

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

Couples should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Monterey. 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 Monterey than South Lake Tahoe 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 Monterey.


  • How many days in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe? Ideal Length of Stay
    Monterey 1-3 
    South Lake Tahoe 3-5

One day in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find scuba diving and snorkeling and shopping around the relaxing destination of Monterey. Because of this, one day is usually enough time for a trip here. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from.

The beautiful town of South Lake Tahoe offers nightlife and food. Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

A weekend in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find shopping and museums around the nature-oriented city of Monterey. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. 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.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.


Five days in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Monterey is a popular choice for travelers. 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.

South Lake Tahoe is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. While some people choose to spend more or less time in South Lake Tahoe, five days is sufficent for most. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Monterey is a great place to explore. 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 great place to explore. 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. This town offers something for everyone.


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, South Lake Tahoe or Monterey?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Monterey is $170, 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 Monterey and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Monterey $90
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Monterey $180
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in Monterey and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in Monterey 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 Monterey


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: Monterey Hotel Prices and South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Monterey $32
    South Lake Tahoe $24

Is it cheaper to fly into Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe 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.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Monterey $56
    South Lake Tahoe $38

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Monterey $27
    South Lake Tahoe $56

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

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

  • 2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe: $140
  • Clear Kayak Paddle Tour at Sand Harbor: $150
  • Clear Kayak Tour of Lake Tahoe: $165
  • 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
  • Electric Dirtbike Adventure in Lake Tahoe: $200
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $110
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $80
  • Guided Tour of Historic Virginia City and Carson City from South Lake Tahoe: $70
  • Kayak Tour of Historic Lake Tahoe West Shore: $80
  • Lake Tahoe Small-Group Photography Scenic Half-Day Tour: $195

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Monterey $21
    South Lake Tahoe $34


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

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Monterey Expensive? and Is South Lake Tahoe Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Monterey or South Lake Tahoe?

Monterey has a larger population, and is about 27% larger than the population of South Lake Tahoe. When comparing the sizes of Monterey 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.