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

Should you visit Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

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 Monica can help you decide which place is right for you.

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a ritzy, chic, and outdoorsy city. And you can't forget about the hiking, shopping, and museums.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a active, lively, and funfilled town. It's also known for shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Palm Springs and Santa Monica: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Nice resorts
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good public transit
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Home to the Santa Monica Pier


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

Travelers will usually find more to do in Santa Monica. Although Palm Springs and Santa Monica are popular destinations, Santa Monica has more sights and attractions for tourists. Santa Monica is very popular for its beaches, while Palm Springs attracts visitors for its nightlife, resorts, and hiking. Palm Springs is famous for its golfing, shopping, and mid-century modern architecture. Santa Monica is famous for its active lifestyle and fun-filled activities. It is also well known for the Santa Monica Pier.

How is Palm Springs different from Santa Monica?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Both Palm Springs and Santa Monica have nice 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 Monica offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. 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.


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

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Picking the best cuisine and restaurants between Palm Springs and Santa Monica can be difficult as they are each great in their own way.

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 Monica has a huge number of terrific 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.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Nightlife?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Palm Springs is an amazing city to visit for nightlife and partying. Also, Santa Monica is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its evening party scene.

Palm Springs has a colorful and one-of-a-kind nightlife scene. 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 Monica has a lively atmosphere and nightlife is popular here. 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.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Resorts?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Palm Springs is an amazing city to visit for its resorts. However, Santa Monica 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 Monica is not a resort destination.


Is Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Beaches?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is an amazing town to visit for its beaches. However, Palm Springs is not a beach destination.

With world-famous beaches, Santa Monica is a very popular vacation 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.

Palm Springs is not a beach destination.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Hiking?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Palm Springs is notable for the nearby hiking options. However, Santa Monica is not a hiking destination.

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.

Santa Monica is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Both Palm Springs and Santa Monica are great shopping destinations.

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.

Santa Monica is well-known for its shopping. 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.


Is Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Families?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is an amazing town to visit for its family-friendly activities. Also, Palm Springs is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

Santa Monica is one of the most popular family destinations. 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.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Palm Springs is very family-friendly. 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.

Is Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Couples?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Both Palm Springs and Santa Monica 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 Monica makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. 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 Palm Springs or Santa Monica Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

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

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.

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 Monica Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Palm Springs is a moderate city for its public transit. However, Santa Monica does not have public transit.

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.

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 Palm Springs or Santa Monica a more walkable city?

Palm Springs
Santa Monica

Santa Monica is notable for its walkability. Also, Palm Springs is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its high level of walkability.

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

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 Monica Worth Visiting?.

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

How long in Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

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

Families should spend more time in Santa Monica than Palm Springs. 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 Palm Springs than Santa Monica. 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 Monica 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 Monica.


  • How many days in Palm Springs or Santa Monica? Ideal Length of Stay
    Palm Springs 2-4 
    Santa Monica 1-3

One day in Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

In Palm Springs, many people enjoy the food and shopping that this ritzy city 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.

In Santa Monica, many people enjoy the food and shopping that this energetic 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 Monica?

Palm Springs is a fun place to experience. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. 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 nightlife. So, a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

Santa Monica 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. Lots of people come for the beaches. So, a weekend is just the right amount of time to spend here.

Five days in Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

You'll find museums and nightlife around the outdoorsy destination of Palm Springs. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Lots of people come for the nightlife. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

You'll find museums and nightlife around the lively destination of Santa Monica. Most people come for the beaches. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Lots of people come for the beaches. 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 Monica?

Palm Springs 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 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 2-Week Tours from San Francisco, The Best 2-Week Tours from Los Angeles, The Best Family-Friendly Tours to United States of America, and The Best Wildlife Tours to United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Santa Monica 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 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 Palm Springs and Santa Monica in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Palm Springs $120
    Santa Monica $123
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Palm Springs $240
    Santa Monica $246
Compare Hotels in Palm Springs and Santa Monica

Looking for a hotel in Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs


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: Palm Springs Hotel Prices and Santa Monica Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Palm Springs $52
    Santa Monica $50

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Palm Springs

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Palm Springs:

  • PALM SPRINGS to Palm Springs Airport (PSP) - Departure Private Transfer: $79
  • Palm Springs Airport (PSP) to Desert Hot Springs Private 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 LA QUINTA/INDIO - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $130
  • 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: $177
  • Private Airport Transfer in Palm Springs: $198
  • Desert Hot Springs to Los Angeles Airport Departure Transfer: $254

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 Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

Prices for flights to both Santa Monica 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 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 Eve Buffet Dinner Cruise: $175
  • Marina del Rey Christmas Day Buffet Dinner Cruise: $175
  • Marina del Rey Father's Day Plated Dinner Cruise: $222

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Palm Springs $29
    Santa Monica $38

Tours and Activities in Palm Springs

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

  • Journey into Joshua Tree: Audio Tour + Free Locals Guide!: $7.99
  • 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 Audio Tour Joshua Tree: $13
  • City and Desert App-Guided Driving Tour: $17
  • Palm Springs Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Death Valley National Park Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour: $17
  • Joshua Tree National Park Self-Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Palm Springs and Joshua Tree Self-Guided Driving Tours Bundle: $25
  • Paintball Target Shooting Experience located in Joshua Tree: $25
  • Private 1-Hour Archery Experience around Joshua Tree National Park.: $28

Tours and Activities in Santa Monica

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

  • Santa Monica Pier's Self-Guided Walking Audio Tour: $9.99
  • LA & Self-Guided Aerospace Legacy Audio Tour: $15
  • Explore Malibu's Coast: PCH & Beyond - Self Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • Santa Monica Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour and Game: $25
  • Santa Monica Ghosts Haunted Ghost Tour on the Pier: $30
  • Scavenger Hunt Experience in Santa Monica: $30
  • Santa Monica Puzzling Adventure: $35
  • Santa Monica Scavenger Hunt Walking Tour: $49
  • Los Angeles: Latin Dance Club Crawl Experience: $65
  • 4.5 Hour Venice Beach Open Air Van Tour: $65
  • Sights and Sips Cruise Tour in Marina del Rey: $69
  • 3-Hour Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Guided Tour : $72

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Palm Springs $13
    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:

  • Private Vintage VW Hippie Tour to Malibu with wine tasting: $195


When comparing the travel costs between Palm Springs and Santa Monica, we can see that Santa Monica 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.

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 Monica Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Palm Springs or Santa Monica?

Santa Monica has a larger population, and is about 2 times larger than the population of Palm Springs. When comparing the sizes of Palm Springs and Santa Monica, 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 Monica?

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 Monica in the Summer?

Both Santa Monica 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 Monica because of the beaches and the family-friendly experiences.

In the summer, Palm Springs is around the same temperature as Santa Monica. Typically, the summer temperatures in Palm Springs in July average around 73°F (23°C), and Santa Monica averages at about 70°F (21°C).

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


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Palm Springs 73°F (23°C) 
    Santa Monica 70°F (21°C)

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

Both Santa Monica 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 shopping scene are the main draw to Santa Monica this time of year.

In October, Palm Springs is generally around the same temperature as Santa Monica. Daily temperatures in Palm Springs average around 69°F (20°C), and Santa Monica fluctuates around 67°F (20°C).

Palm Springs usually gets more rain in October than Santa Monica. Palm Springs gets 0.3 inches (7 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0.2 inches (6 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Palm Springs 69°F (20°C) 
    Santa Monica 67°F (20°C)

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

The winter attracts plenty of travelers to both Palm Springs and Santa Monica. 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 Monica for the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine.

Palm Springs is around the same temperature as Santa Monica in the winter. The daily temperature in Palm Springs averages around 57°F (14°C) in January, and Santa Monica fluctuates around 57°F (14°C).

In January, Palm Springs usually receives more rain than Santa Monica. Palm Springs gets 2 inches (52 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0.7 inches (17 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Palm Springs 57°F (14°C) 
    Santa Monica 57°F (14°C)

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

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

In the spring, Palm Springs is around the same temperature as Santa Monica. Typically, the spring temperatures in Palm Springs in April average around 62°F (17°C), and Santa Monica averages at about 61°F (16°C).

Palm Springs usually gets more rain in April than Santa Monica. Palm Springs gets 0.9 inches (24 mm) of rain, while Santa Monica receives 0.2 inches (4 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Palm Springs 62°F (17°C) 
    Santa Monica 61°F (16°C)

Typical Weather for Santa Monica and Palm Springs

Palm Springs Santa Monica
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 57°F (14°C) 2 inches (52 mm) 57°F (14°C) 0.7 inches (17 mm)
Feb 58°F (15°C) 2.3 inches (58 mm) 58°F (15°C) 0.9 inches (24 mm)
Mar 59°F (15°C) 2.2 inches (57 mm) 58°F (15°C) 0.4 inches (10 mm)
Apr 62°F (17°C) 0.9 inches (24 mm) 61°F (16°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm)
May 65°F (18°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm) 63°F (17°C) 0 inches (1 mm)
Jun 69°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 66°F (19°C) 0 inches (0 mm)
Jul 73°F (23°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 70°F (21°C) 0 inches (0 mm)
Aug 74°F (24°C) 0.2 inches (4 mm) 71°F (22°C) 0 inches (0 mm)
Sep 73°F (23°C) 0.4 inches (9 mm) 70°F (21°C) 0 inches (1 mm)
Oct 69°F (20°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm) 67°F (20°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Nov 62°F (17°C) 1.5 inches (39 mm) 62°F (17°C) 0.2 inches (5 mm)
Dec 57°F (14°C) 1.7 inches (42 mm) 58°F (14°C) 0.6 inches (15 mm)