A Travel Price Comparison for California Sacramento vs. Santa Cruz for Attractions, Nightlife, Families, and Couples

Should you visit Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

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

If you're trying to decide where to visit between Sacramento or Santa Cruz, this travel comparison, which includes costs, can help. The overall cost of travel is usually a consideration when deciding where to go next, and the cost comparison down below can help you decide based on the average prices from other travelers along with your own travel budget.

Sacramento

Sacramento is a laid back, relaxed, and undiscovered city. It's also known for nightlife, food, and shopping.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a scenic, laid back, and coastal town. Visitors also love the food, beaches, and hiking.

Sacramento and Santa Cruz: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Family-friendly
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with couples
  • 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 Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Travelers will generally find more things to do in Santa Cruz than Sacramento. While Sacramento is larger than Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz has more sights and attractions for tourists. Santa Cruz is very popular for its nightlife, beaches, and hiking, while Sacramento attracts visitors for its museums. Santa Cruz is more touristy than Sacramento and is popular for its dramatic coastline, fun-filled boardwalk, and beautiful beaches. It is also well known for Santa Cruz Wharf. Sacramento is famous for its history and state capital.

How is Sacramento different from Santa Cruz?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

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

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Sacramento is notable for its sights and museums. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its museums and history.

Sacramento offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. As the state capital, you'll find a number of historical and informational museums around town. You should check out the State Capital, as well as the California State Railroad Museum, the Crocker Museum of Art, Sutter's Fort State Historic Park, and the California Automobile Museum.

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 Sacramento or Santa Cruz? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Both Sacramento and Santa Cruz offer nice local cuisine and restaurants.

Sacramento has a delicious restaurant scene that relies on local flavors. Casual restaurants with laid back atmospheres are what's most common around town. You'll also find a variety of international cuisines that include Korean and Vietnamese.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Santa Cruz area. 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 Sacramento or Santa Cruz Better for Nightlife?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a very popular place for nightlife and partying. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its evening party scene.

Santa Cruz has a large number of nightlife venues. You'll find a range of nighttime options around town that include live entertainment, bars, clubs, and even a casino.

Sacramento has an active nightlife scene for those who seek it out. There highest concentration of activities are found in Downtown Sacramento. You'll find bars, clubs and live music in the area. You can also head to midtown, which has performing arts and comedy shows.

Is Sacramento or Santa Cruz Better for Beaches?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a very popular place for the beache. However, Sacramento is not a beach destination.

You'll have a great beach vacation in Santa Cruz. 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.

Sacramento is not a beach destination.


Is Sacramento or Santa Cruz Better for Hiking?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a nice place to visit for its hiking trails. However, Sacramento is not a hiking destination.

Santa Cruz has hiking trails worth exploring. There are several great parks in the area and trails that follow along the rugged coastline or go through the impressive redwood forests.

Sacramento is not a hiking destination.

Is the Shopping Better in Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Shoppers can find a variety of nice stores in both Sacramento and Santa Cruz.

Shopping is a popular activity when visiting Sacramento. You'll find down-to-earth vendors who have reasonable prices and a great selection. Some of the most interesting shopping is found at the Old Sacramento Waterfront or along Folsom Boulevard.

Many visitors go to Santa Cruz to go shopping. Downtown Santa Cruz is where you'll find some of the best shopping.

Is Sacramento or Santa Cruz Better for Families?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a very popular place for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Sacramento is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

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.

You'll find plenty of kid-friendly things to do in Sacramento. With the large number of families that live in the area, you'll a variety of kid-friendly activities. Options include smaller amusement parks like Funderland Amusement Park, museums like the Sacramento Children's Museum, and indoor trampoline parks. There's also Fairytale Town, which is an imagination filled playground.


Is Sacramento or Santa Cruz Better for Couples?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a very popular place for its romantic activities. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for couples.

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.

Sacramento is not always the best place to visit for a couple. Picnics, nice restaurants, and shows make for enjoyable date activities while you're in town.

Is Sacramento or Santa Cruz Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a nice place to visit for backpackers and budget travelers. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for backpackers.

It's common for backpackers to visit Santa Cruz. There's a laid back vibe that is fun to experience and there's even a hostel in town.

Sacramento is a challenging destination for budget travelers and backpackers due to the higher prices. Although most backpackers skip this town for more popular destinations, there are a couple of hostels in town.

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

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Visitors will find reasonable public transit in both Sacramento and Santa Cruz.

Public transit is mostly limited in Sacramento. There's both light rail and buses around town.

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


Is Sacramento or Santa Cruz a more walkable city?

Sacramento
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is very popular for its high level of walkability. However, Sacramento is lacking in good options for its ease of walking around.

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

Sacramento is generally not very walkable. You'll really want a car to get around town, but Midtown is one of the more walkable areas.

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

Should I spend more time in Santa Cruz or Sacramento?

How long in Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

You'll be able to find lots of things to do in Sacramento or Santa Cruz to fill your time. In our opinion, Santa Cruz has more to see and do, so we recommend spending more time in Santa Cruz than Sacramento. However, 1-2 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

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

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Santa Cruz than Sacramento 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 Sacramento or Santa Cruz? Ideal Length of Stay
    Sacramento 1-2 
    Santa Cruz 1-2

One day in Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

With museums and nightlife around the laid back city of Sacramento, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Sacramento, one day is sufficent for most.

With museums and nightlife around the laid back town of Santa Cruz, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Santa Cruz, one day is sufficent for most.

A weekend in Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Sacramento, there's plenty to do. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this city.

With nightlife and food around the destination of Santa Cruz, there's plenty to do. It's also a great beach destination, too. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town.


Five days in Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Sacramento, a popular city, is full of activities for travelers. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Santa Cruz, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Sacramento is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. 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 that is full of things to see and experience. 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.


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


Which place is cheaper, Santa Cruz or Sacramento?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Sacramento is $281, 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 Sacramento and Santa Cruz in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Sacramento $111
    Santa Cruz $61
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Sacramento $222
    Santa Cruz $122
Compare Hotels in Sacramento and Santa Cruz

Looking for a hotel in Sacramento 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 Sacramento


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: Sacramento Hotel Prices and Santa Cruz Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Sacramento $51
    Santa Cruz $40

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Sacramento

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

  • One Way Airport Transfer Service: $74
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Arrival Private Transfer: $112
  • Sacramento Airport (SMF) to Napa, CA - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $224
  • Private Airport Transfer: $300

Is it cheaper to fly into Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Prices for flights to both Santa Cruz and Sacramento 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
    Sacramento $53
    Santa Cruz $41

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Sacramento

For Sacramento, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Midtown Sacramento Arts and Food Tour: $98
  • Downtown Sacramento Historical Food Tour: $98
  • Historic Old Sacramento Walking Food Tour: $115
  • Midtown Sacramento Walking Food Tour: $140
  • Midtown Walking Food Tour: $140
  • Italian Cooking and Dance Class Experience: $160

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Sacramento $19
    Santa Cruz $18

Tours and Activities in Sacramento

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

  • Gold Rush & Ghosts SmartPhone App Walking Tour: $6.50
  • Gold Rush and Ghosts of Sacramento Smart Phone guided (App/GPS) Walking Tour: $6.75
  • Romantic Quest Experience: $7.09
  • Historic Folsom: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $7.99
  • Old A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $9.99
  • Old A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $9.99
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure Self-Guided City Game: $10
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Jackson to Angels Camp: $12
  • Delta's History and Wine: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $12
  • Driving in Delta’s Wine Country: Private Self-Guided Audio Tour: $12
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Placerville to Jackson: $12
  • A Highway 49 Drive: A Self-Guided Audio Tour from Auburn to Placerville: $12

Tours and Activities in Santa Cruz

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

  • Capitola Private 2-Hour Walking Tour: $30
  • Capitola Watercolor Journaling Experience: $297
  • Half Day Private Beach Tour in Santa Cruz: $35
  • Mermaid Experience & Photoshoot: $190
  • Santa Cruz 2Hour Guided eBike Tour for Small E-Bike Groups: $110
  • Santa Cruz Family Friendly Guided Electric Bike Tour (eBike): $110
  • Santa Cruz Ghosts Walking Tour: $30
  • Santa Cruz Guided eBike Ride & Most Fun Bike e-Bike Tour : $110
  • Santa Cruz Must Sees: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $3.99
  • Mermaid Experience & Photoshoot: $50
  • Santa Cruz:City Scavenger Hunt Tour with Remote Guide: $25
  • Self Guided UC Santa Cruz Walking Tour: Unlock Secret Stories : $20

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Sacramento $12
    Santa Cruz $8.57

Sample the Local Flavors in Sacramento

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

  • Sacramento Bar Hunt: Sacramento Sprint Bar Crawl: $12
  • Wine Tasting Audio Tour - Amador County CA: $30
  • Wine Tasting Audio Tour - Lodi California: $35
  • Clarksburg Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch near Sacramento: $135
  • Old Vine Express Train Ride with Wine Tasting: $174

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Cruz

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Santa Cruz:

  • Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting: $199
  • Private Brewery Tour: $500
  • Private Custom Wine Tour with Hotel Pickup: $750


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Sacramento and Santa Cruz, we can see that Sacramento 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 Sacramento would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Sacramento 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 Sacramento Expensive? and Is Santa Cruz Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Sacramento has a larger population, and is about 9 times larger than the population of Santa Cruz. When comparing the sizes of Sacramento 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 Sacramento or Santa Cruz?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Cruz in the Summer?

The summer brings many poeple to Sacramento as well as Santa Cruz. Many visitors come to Sacramento in the summer for the family-friendly experiences. Also, most visitors come to Santa Cruz for the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences during these months.

In July, Sacramento is generally a little warmer than Santa Cruz. Daily temperatures in Sacramento average around 76°F (24°C), and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 67°F (19°C).

Sacramento usually gets less rain in July than Santa Cruz. Sacramento gets 0 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 0.1 inches (1 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Sacramento 76°F (24°C) 
    Santa Cruz 67°F (19°C)

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Cruz in the Autumn?

Both Santa Cruz and Sacramento are popular destinations to visit in the autumn with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Sacramento for the shopping scene during these months. Also, the autumn months attract visitors to Santa Cruz because of the hiking trails and the shopping scene.

Sacramento is around the same temperature as Santa Cruz in the autumn. The daily temperature in Sacramento averages around 64°F (18°C) in October, and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 63°F (17°C).

In October, Sacramento usually receives more rain than Santa Cruz. Sacramento gets 1.1 inches (27 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain each month for the autumn.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Sacramento 64°F (18°C) 
    Santa Cruz 63°F (17°C)

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Cruz in the Winter?

Both Santa Cruz and Sacramento during the winter are popular places to visit. The winter months attract visitors to Sacramento because of the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine. Furthermore, the museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Santa Cruz this time of year.

In the winter, Sacramento is cooler than Santa Cruz. Typically, the winter temperatures in Sacramento in January average around 45°F (7°C), and Santa Cruz averages at about 51°F (10°C).

Sacramento usually gets more rain in January than Santa Cruz. Sacramento gets 3.8 inches (97 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Sacramento 45°F (7°C) 
    Santa Cruz 51°F (10°C)

Should I visit Sacramento or Santa Cruz in the Spring?

The spring attracts plenty of travelers to both Sacramento and Santa Cruz. Furthermore, many travelers come to Santa Cruz for the beaches.

In April, Sacramento is generally around the same temperature as Santa Cruz. Daily temperatures in Sacramento average around 58°F (15°C), and Santa Cruz fluctuates around 58°F (14°C).

In April, Sacramento usually receives more rain than Santa Cruz. Sacramento gets 1.3 inches (32 mm) of rain, while Santa Cruz receives 1 inches (26 mm) of rain each month for the spring.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Sacramento 58°F (15°C) 
    Santa Cruz 58°F (14°C)

Typical Weather for Santa Cruz and Sacramento

Sacramento Santa Cruz
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 45°F (7°C) 3.8 inches (97 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm)
Feb 51°F (10°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm) 54°F (12°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)
Mar 54°F (12°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 55°F (13°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm)
Apr 58°F (15°C) 1.3 inches (32 mm) 58°F (14°C) 1 inches (26 mm)
May 65°F (18°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm) 62°F (16°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm)
Jun 72°F (22°C) 0.1 inches (3 mm) 65°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Jul 76°F (24°C) 0 inches (1 mm) 67°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (1 mm)
Aug 75°F (24°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 67°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm)
Sep 72°F (22°C) 0.5 inches (12 mm) 67°F (19°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm)
Oct 64°F (18°C) 1.1 inches (27 mm) 63°F (17°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm)
Nov 53°F (12°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 56°F (13°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)
Dec 45°F (7°C) 2.6 inches (65 mm) 51°F (10°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm)