A Travel Price Comparison for California Palm Springs vs. Santa Cruz for Nightlife, Food, Hiking, and Families

Should you visit Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

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

Which city is more affordable and which is best for your travel style? If you're trying to figure out where to go next, comparing the travel costs between Palm Springs and Santa Cruz can help you decide which place is right for you.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a outdoorsy, ritzy, and chic city. It's also known for hiking, shopping, and museums.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a coastal, scenic, and laid back town. It's also known for nightlife, food, and beaches.

Palm Springs and Santa Cruz: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Less walkable
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable


Is there more to do in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Palm Springs. Although Palm Springs and Santa Cruz are both popular with visitors, Palm Springs has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Palm Springs is more popular for its food, nightlife, resorts, hiking, and shopping, while Santa Cruz is known for its beaches. Palm Springs is more touristy than Santa Cruz and is known for its golfing, shopping, and mid-century modern architecture. It is also home to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Santa Cruz is popular for its dramatic coastline, fun-filled boardwalk, and beautiful beaches.

How is Palm Springs different from Santa Cruz?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Santa Cruz and Palm Springs. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Both Palm Springs and Santa Cruz have good landmarks and museums for visitors.

Palm Springs is a good place to visit if you're interested in museums or other recognizable sights. The Palm Springs Air Museum has an impressive collection of military planes. It's also worth visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum, which has a mix of fine art, natural history, and performing arts. You'll also find botanical gardens and even a zoo around town.

Santa Cruz offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. Local museums in town include the Surfing Museum, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and Santa Cruz Mission.


Is the Food Better in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Palm Springs is notable for its local cuisine and restaurants. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its restaurants.

With its innovative style combined with traditional elements, Palm Springs makes for a great culinary experience. Fresh ingredients and typical California cuisine is common around town. Brunch is a popular option for visitors and you'll find countless brunch cafes in the area. You'll also find Mexican food, pizza, and plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

Santa Cruz has a delicious restaurant scene that relies on local flavors. Sampling local seafood is a top priority for many visitors. Most restaurants have a casual vibe and serve up high quality dishes in a relaxed setting. You'll find cafes, Mexican food, and Italian eateries among other options.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Nightlife?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Palm Springs is very popular for nightlife. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for nightlife and partying.

Palm Springs is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. The area is filled with nightlife options that range from cocktail bars to nightclubs or breweries. You can party into the early morning at the dance clubs or enjoy a bottle of wine with friends at one of the lounges.

Santa Cruz has a lively atmosphere and nightlife is popular here. You'll find a range of nighttime options around town that include live entertainment, bars, clubs, and even a casino.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Resorts?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Palm Springs is very popular for its resorts. However, Santa Cruz is not a resort destination.

For the ultimate resort vacation, Palm Springs is a great choice. Resorts range from luxurious to more laid back. Most have impressive pools and many have their own spas, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Santa Cruz is not a resort destination.


Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Beaches?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is notable for its beaches. However, Palm Springs is not a beach destination.

Santa Cruz is a very popular place to visit for its beaches. The beaches are beautiful and fun. Head to Main Beach for the most activity. This is where you'll find the town's boardwalk, which has a historic carousel and several classic amusement rides. For a more peaceful and scenic spot, check out Natural Bridges State Beach or Seacliff State Beach.

Palm Springs is not a beach destination.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Hiking?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Palm Springs is notable for the nearby hiking options. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its hiking trails.

Palm Springs is a popular spot for hiking. There are more than 100 trails in the Greater Palm Springs area that take you through scenic desert landscapes and unique ecosystems. Some of the most popular trails include Andreas Canyon Trail and Araby Trail.

Many people include a hike when visiting Santa Cruz. There are several great parks in the area and trails that follow along the rugged coastline or go through the impressive redwood forests.

Is the Shopping Better in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Palm Springs is notable for shopping. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its shopping opportunities.

Palm Springs is an extremely popular place for shoppers. Shopping ranges from outlets to boutique vendors. For the most local options head to Palm Canyon Drive and for an upscale shopping experience, visit the El Paseo shopping district.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Santa Cruz. Downtown Santa Cruz is where you'll find some of the best shopping.


Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Families?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

You'll find great kid-friendly activities in either Palm Springs or Santa Cruz.

Palm Springs is a very family-friendly place to visit. The year round sunny weather and diversity of outdoor activities make this a great family-friendly destination. There are desert hikes, zoos, and even a dinosaur museum. Kids can also pass their time playing at the pool or enjoying the waterslides.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Santa Cruz is very family-friendly. It's filled with beaches, parks, playgrounds, and museums that kids and adults will enjoy. Highlights for many families include visiting the boardwalk, playing around at Seacliff State Beach, entertaining the kids at Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab, and taking in the beauty at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Couples?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Both Palm Springs and Santa Cruz are great destinations to visit as a couple.

Palm Springs is a very popular place to visit for couples. Whether you're on a honeymoon or simply looking to escape the city, there are many romantic options in the area. From cozy inns to resort spa hotels, there are a range of accommodation options. Outdoor dining, hiking, and shopping are also popular.

Santa Cruz makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. Dining in downtown Santa Cruz, hiking through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and relaxing on the beach at Natural Bridges State Beach all make for a romantic getaway.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is very good for backpackers. However, Palm Springs is a mediocre city for backpackers and budget travelers.

Santa Cruz is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. There's a laid back vibe that is fun to experience and there's even a hostel in town.

Palm Springs is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. While the city is more famous for its upscale clientele, there's actually a hostel in town for backpackers.


Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Both Palm Springs and Santa Cruz offer decent public transit options.

Public transit is generally limited in Palm Springs. There are nine bus routes operated by SunLine Transit Agency, but most visitors prefer to have a car to get around.

Public transit is mostly limited in Santa Cruz. There are buses that travel around town.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Cruz a more walkable city?

Palm Springs
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is an amazing town to visit for its walkability. Also, Palm Springs is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its high level of walkability.

It is easy to get around Santa Cruz on foot. It's considered to be one of the most walkable cities in California.

Palm Springs is a somewhat walkable place. Parts of the city are very walkable, particularly the touristy areas along Palm Canyon Drive.

For even more information, also check out Is Palm Springs Worth Visiting? and Is Santa Cruz Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Santa Cruz or Palm Springs?

How long in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz to fill your time. Many travelers usually spend more of their time in Palm Springs than Santa Cruz because of the number of activities and things to do in the area. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Palm Springs, and 1-2 days is enough time in Santa Cruz.

Couples should spend more time in Palm Springs than Santa Cruz. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Palm Springs that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Santa Cruz than Palm Springs 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 Santa Cruz.


  • How many days in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz? Ideal Length of Stay
    Palm Springs 2-4 
    Santa Cruz 1-2

One day in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

With museums and nightlife around the ritzy city of Palm Springs, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. One of the main draws to the area is the nightlife. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

In Santa Cruz, many people enjoy the food and shopping that this coastal town offers. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. In one day, you should have a good grasp of this town.


A weekend in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Palm Springs, there's plenty to do. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. One of the main draws to the area is the nightlife. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this city.

Santa Cruz is a fun place to experience. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. If you have a weekend, this is a great place to go. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. So, a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

Five days in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Palm Springs, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

You'll find museums and nightlife around the scenic destination of Santa Cruz. Most people come for the beaches. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

A week in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Palm Springs is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One of the main draws to the area is the nightlife. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.

Santa Cruz is a popular place to visit. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. 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.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best Romantic Tours for Couples in United States of America, The Best Walking Tours in United States of America, The Best Tours Under $1000 in United States of America, and The Best Luxury Tours to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Santa Cruz or Palm Springs?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Palm Springs is $206, while the average daily cost in Santa Cruz is $126. 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 Palm Springs and Santa Cruz in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Palm Springs $120
    Santa Cruz $61
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Palm Springs $240
    Santa Cruz $122
Compare Hotels in Palm Springs and Santa Cruz

Looking for a hotel in Palm Springs or Santa Cruz? 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 Palm Springs


Hotels in Santa Cruz


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: Palm Springs Hotel Prices and Santa Cruz Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Palm Springs $52
    Santa Cruz $40

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Palm Springs

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Palm Springs:

  • Desert Hot Springs to Palm Springs Airport Departure Transfer: $88
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to ONTARIO - Arrival Private Transfer: $106
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to SANTA ANA - Arrival Private Transfer: $129
  • Palm Springs Airport PSP to Snow Summit-Arrival Private Transfer: $132
  • Private Transfer from PSP to Palm Desert / Indian Wells: $137
  • Private Transfer from PSP to Vía La Quinta, Indio, CA : $160
  • Palm Springs Airport (PSP) to INDIAN WELLS - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $163
  • Palm Springs Airport (PSP) to LOS ANGELES - Arrival Private Transfer: $173
  • Palm Springs Airport to Desert Hot Springs Round-Trip Transfer: $176
  • Private Airport Transfer in Palm Springs: $197
  • Desert Hot Springs to Los Angeles Airport Departure Transfer: $253
  • Palm Springs Airport to Snow Summit - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $263

Is it cheaper to fly into Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Prices for flights to both Santa Cruz and Palm Springs 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
    Palm Springs $53
    Santa Cruz $41

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Palm Springs

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Palm Springs.

  • Coachella Valley Cooking Class with Locals in their Home: $164

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Palm Springs $29
    Santa Cruz $18

Tours and Activities in Palm Springs

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Palm Springs are as follows:

  • Self Guided Joshua Tree National Park Driving Tour: $9.99
  • Joshua Tree's Hidden Valley Self-Guided Walking Tour: $9.99
  • Death Valley National Park Audio Guided Driving Tour: $9.99
  • Joshua Tree National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour: $12
  • Self-guided adventure hunt: Explore Palm Springs: $13
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour Joshua Tree: $13
  • City and Desert App-Guided Driving Tour: $14
  • Journey into Joshua Tree Audio Tour and Free Locals Guide!: $16
  • Death Valley National Park Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour: $17
  • Palm Springs Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Joshua Tree National Park Self-Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Palm Springs and Joshua Tree Self-Guided Driving Tours Bundle: $25

Tours and Activities in Santa Cruz

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

  • Self Guided UC Santa Cruz Walking Tour: Unlock Secret Stories : $20
  • Santa Cruz Ghosts Walking Tour: $24
  • Capitola Private 2-Hour Walking Tour: $30
  • Half Day Private Beach Tour in Santa Cruz: $35
  • Santa Cruz Guided eBike Ride & Most Fun Bike e-Bike Tour : $110
  • Santa Cruz 2Hour Guided eBike Tour for Small E-Bike Groups: $110
  • Santa Cruz Family Friendly Guided Electric Bike Tour (eBike): $110
  • Mermaid Experience & Photoshoot: $190
  • Capitola Watercolor Journaling Experience: $297

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Palm Springs $13
    Santa Cruz $8.57


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

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Palm Springs Expensive? and Is Santa Cruz Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Santa Cruz has a larger population, and is about 28% larger than the population of Palm Springs. When comparing the sizes of Palm Springs and Santa Cruz, 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.


When is the best time to visit Palm Springs or Santa Cruz?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Palm Springs or Santa Cruz in the Summer?

Both Santa Cruz and Palm Springs are popular destinations to visit in the summer with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Palm Springs for the hiking and the family-friendly experiences during these months. Also, the summer months attract visitors to Santa Cruz because of the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences.

Palm Springs is a little warmer than Santa Cruz in the summer. The daily temperature in Palm Springs averages around 73°F (23°C) in July, and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 67°F (19°C).

In July, Palm Springs usually receives less rain than Santa Cruz. Palm Springs gets 0 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 0.1 inches (1 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Palm Springs 73°F (23°C) 
    Santa Cruz 67°F (19°C)

Should I visit Palm Springs or Santa Cruz in the Autumn?

Both Santa Cruz and Palm Springs during the autumn are popular places to visit. The autumn months attract visitors to Palm Springs because of the hiking trails and the shopping scene. Also, the hiking trails and the shopping scene are the main draw to Santa Cruz this time of year.

In the autumn, Palm Springs is a little warmer than Santa Cruz. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Palm Springs in October average around 69°F (20°C), and Santa Cruz averages at about 63°F (17°C).

Palm Springs usually gets less rain in October than Santa Cruz. Palm Springs gets 0.3 inches (7 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Palm Springs 69°F (20°C) 
    Santa Cruz 63°F (17°C)

Should I visit Palm Springs or Santa Cruz in the Winter?

The winter attracts plenty of travelers to both Palm Springs and Santa Cruz. The museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Palm Springs this time of year. Also, many travelers come to Santa Cruz for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

In January, Palm Springs is generally a little warmer than Santa Cruz. Daily temperatures in Palm Springs average around 57°F (14°C), and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 51°F (10°C).

In January, Palm Springs usually receives less rain than Santa Cruz. Palm Springs gets 2 inches (52 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Palm Springs 57°F (14°C) 
    Santa Cruz 51°F (10°C)

Should I visit Palm Springs or Santa Cruz in the Spring?

The spring brings many poeple to Palm Springs as well as Santa Cruz. Also, many visitors come to Santa Cruz in the spring for the beaches.

Palm Springs is a little warmer than Santa Cruz in the spring. The daily temperature in Palm Springs averages around 62°F (17°C) in April, and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 58°F (14°C).

Palm Springs usually gets less rain in April than Santa Cruz. Palm Springs gets 0.9 inches (24 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 1 inches (26 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Palm Springs 62°F (17°C) 
    Santa Cruz 58°F (14°C)

Typical Weather for Santa Cruz and Palm Springs

Palm Springs Santa Cruz
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 57°F (14°C) 2 inches (52 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm)
Feb 58°F (15°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm) 54°F (12°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)
Mar 59°F (15°C) 2.2 inches (57 mm) 55°F (13°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)
Apr 62°F (17°C) 0.9 inches (24 mm) 58°F (14°C) 1 inches (26 mm)
May 65°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm) 62°F (16°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm)
Jun 69°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 65°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Jul 73°F (23°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 67°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (1 mm)
Aug 74°F (24°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm) 67°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Sep 73°F (23°C) 0.4 inches (9 mm) 67°F (19°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Oct 69°F (20°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm) 63°F (17°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm)
Nov 62°F (17°C) 1.5 inches (39 mm) 56°F (13°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)
Dec 57°F (14°C) 1.7 inches (42 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)