A Travel Price Comparison for California Palm Springs vs. South Lake Tahoe for Nightlife, Resorts, Hiking, and Families

Should you visit Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

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 South Lake Tahoe 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 museums, nightlife, and food.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is a scenic, breathtaking, and idyllic town. You'll find world class beauty here as well. It's also known for hiking, shopping, and skiing.

Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular for skiing
  • Active nightlife
  • 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 Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

Travelers will usually find more to do in South Lake Tahoe. Although Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe are popular destinations, South Lake Tahoe has more sights and attractions for tourists. South Lake Tahoe is very popular for its skiing, hiking, and impressive beauty, while Palm Springs attracts visitors for its museums, food, resorts, and shopping. Palm Springs is more touristy than South Lake Tahoe and is known for its golfing, shopping, and mid-century modern architecture. South Lake Tahoe is famous for its casino resorts, ski resorts, and beautiful setting. It is also well known for the Heavenly Gondola.

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

Is Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe Better for Skiing?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is notable for snow skiing. However, Palm Springs is not a skiing destination.

South Lake Tahoe is an extremely popular place for snow skiing and other winter sports. 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.

Palm Springs is not a skiing destination.


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

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

Palm Springs is a nice place to visit for its sights and museums. However, South Lake Tahoe is not a good town for its museums and history.

Palm Springs offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. 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.

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 Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs. 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.

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 Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe Better for Nightlife?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

Evening events are terrific in both Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe.

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.

South Lake Tahoe is a party destination, and you'll find plenty of activity all night long. 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.


Is Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe Better for Resorts?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

Palm Springs is an amazing city to visit for its resorts. Also, South Lake Tahoe is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its luxury resorts.

Palm Springs offers an unforgettable resort vacation. Resorts range from luxurious to more laid back. Most have impressive pools and many have their own spas, restaurants, and entertainment options.

In South Lake Tahoe, you'll find some of the region's top resorts. It's a resort town, so there are plenty of options to choose from, many with pools, spas, or casinos.

Is Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe Better for Hiking?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is an amazing town to visit for the nearby hiking options. Also, Palm Springs is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its hiking trails.

Many people visit South Lake Tahoe specifically for its hiking. 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.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Palm Springs. 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.

Is the Shopping Better in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

Palm Springs 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.

Palm Springs is a popular shopping destination with plenty of stores. 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.

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 Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe Better for Families?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe 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.

South Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular family destinations. 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.

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 South Lake Tahoe Better for Couples?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is an amazing town to visit for romance. Also, Palm Springs is not as famous, but is still a good city to visit for its romantic activities.

For those traveling as a couple, South Lake Tahoe has plenty to offer. 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.

Palm Springs makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. 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.

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

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is very good for backpackers. However, Palm Springs is a mediocre city for backpackers and budget travelers.

South Lake Tahoe is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. There are a couple of hostels in the area and the skiing and hiking attracts the backpacker crowd.

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

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

Both Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe offer reasonable 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 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 Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe a more walkable city?

Palm Springs
South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe 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.

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

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 South Lake Tahoe Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in South Lake Tahoe or Palm Springs?

How long in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

In either Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 2-4 days is a good amount of time for Palm Springs, and 3-5 days is enough time in South Lake Tahoe.

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

Couples should spend more time in South Lake Tahoe than Palm Springs. 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 South Lake Tahoe 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 South Lake Tahoe.


  • How many days in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe? Ideal Length of Stay
    Palm Springs 2-4 
    South Lake Tahoe 3-5

One day in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find food and shopping around the ritzy destination of Palm Springs. Hikers are also drawn to this area. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. This city offers a variety of activities to choose from.

In South Lake Tahoe, many people enjoy the nightlife and food that this scenic town 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.


A weekend in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

You'll find shopping and museums around the ritzy city of Palm Springs. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. It's also a relaxing resort destination. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. Most people head to the area for the nightlife. This would be the perfect place to spend a weekend, as it has just the right amount of activities.

South Lake Tahoe is a fun place to experience. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. It will give you the chance to have new experiences. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring.

Five days in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

Palm Springs is a popular choice for travelers. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. 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.

In South Lake Tahoe, many people enjoy the shopping and skiing that this scenic destination offers. Hikers are also drawn to this area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Plenty of people spend five days in the area when traveling. So, five days is just the right amount of time to spend here.

A week in Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

Palm Springs is a great place to explore. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. Most people head to the area for the nightlife. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

South Lake Tahoe 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.


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, South Lake Tahoe 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 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 Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Palm Springs $120
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Palm Springs $240
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in Palm Springs 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 Palm Springs


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: Palm Springs Hotel Prices and South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Palm Springs $52
    South Lake Tahoe $24

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Palm Springs

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Palm Springs:

  • Palm Springs Airport (PSP) to Desert Hot Springs Private Transfer: $87
  • Desert Hot Springs to Palm Springs Airport Departure Transfer: $87
  • Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to SANTA ANA - Arrival Private Transfer: $128
  • Private Transfer from PSP to Palm Desert / Indian Wells: $135
  • Private Transfer from PSP to Vía La Quinta, Indio, CA : $158
  • Desert Hot Springs to Los Angeles Airport Departure Transfer: $251
  • Private Transfer from Palm Springs Municipal Airport to Ontario: $262
  • Palm Springs Airport to Snow Summit - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $262

Is it cheaper to fly into Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe 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
    South Lake Tahoe $38

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Palm Springs $29
    South Lake Tahoe $56

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!: $12
  • Joshua Tree National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour: $12
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour Joshua Tree: $13
  • 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
  • City and Desert App-Guided Driving Tour: $17
  • Palm Springs and Joshua Tree Self-Guided Driving Tours Bundle: $25
  • Paintball Shooting Experience close by Joshua Tree National Park : $25
  • Private 1-Hour Archery Experience around Joshua Tree National Park.: $28
  • Self-Driving Windmill Tour: $30
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Admission Ticket: $30

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

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

  • Driving Lake Tahoe: A Self-Guided Audio Tour From Tahoe City to Incline Village: $9.99
  • 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
  • Lake Tahoe: Self-Guided Audio Driving Tour: $15
  • Tallac Historic Site Pope House Tour: $16
  • Ultimate Lake Tahoe Self-Guided Driving Audio Tour: $17
  • Tallac Historic Site Grand Estates Tour: $20
  • Lake Tahoe: Self-Guided Driving Tour: $25
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Guided Tour of Historic Virginia City and Carson City from South Lake Tahoe: $70
  • Introductory Snowshoe Shared Experience: $75
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $80

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Palm Springs $13
    South Lake Tahoe $34

Sample the Local Flavors in South Lake Tahoe

Also in South Lake Tahoe, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Lake Tahoe: Emerald Bay Sunset Wine Tasting Yacht Cruise: $150


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Palm Springs and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that Palm Springs 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 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 South Lake Tahoe.

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 South Lake Tahoe Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Palm Springs or South Lake Tahoe?

Palm Springs has a larger population, and is about 79% larger than the population of South Lake Tahoe. When comparing the sizes of Palm Springs 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.