A Travel Price Comparison for California San Diego vs. Santa Barbara for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit San Diego or Santa Barbara?

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the prices of travel for San Diego and Santa Barbara. We’ll break down costs for accommodation, food, transportation and more to help you learn more about these two destinations. Then, you can figure out if either of these two places are accessible based on your travel budget. So, let's dig into it.

San Diego

For many visitors and locals alike, San Diego is a paradise. Located in southern California, not far from Los Angeles, it has the perfect climate, wonderful beaches, and a culturally rich environment. It's surrounded by beautiful landscape and has a strong focus on wildlife conservation and eco-friendly living. Home to about 1.3 million residents, it is California's second largest city. It also has many universities, a large tech industry, and a thriving economy. Despite its size, many people perceive San Diego as a slower, more relaxed city with a pleasant vibe away from the chaos of a large city.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is located in California, less than 100 miles from Los Angeles. It sits between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, giving it a stunning backdrop. The town has a population of just 90,000 but it still offers visitors many cultural, culinary, and shopping experiences that surpass many large cities. There are wide beaches along a beautiful coastline, impressive wineries, and many top rated restaurants. Many people see Santa Barbara as a hangout for the rich and famous, but with a university and diverse population, the city is much more relatable than you might expect, although travel prices here are still somewhat high.

Which city is cheaper, Santa Barbara or San Diego?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in San Diego is $161, while the average daily cost in Santa Barbara is $130. 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 city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for San Diego and Santa Barbara in more detail.



Accommodation

For a normal double-occupancy room in San Diego, $182 is the average cost for a hotel room. Also in San Diego, the typical price for a place to stay for one person is $91, such as in a hostel.

If you're traveling alone, you may be able to find a budget hotel or hostel for around $71. But for two people in a standard two-person hotel room in Santa Barbara the cost is $142 on average.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    San Diego $91
    Santa Barbara $71
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    San Diego $182
    Santa Barbara $142

Food

The price of a meal in San Diego can vary widely. However, the average price for food per day is $36 per person, and a typical meal will cost around $14 based on the spending of previous visitors. Less expensive dining options can be found by eating street food or at fast food restaurants.

The price of a meal in Santa Barbara can vary widely. However, the average price for food per day is $37 per person, and a typical meal will cost around $15 based on the spending of previous visitors. Less expensive dining options can be found by eating street food or at fast food restaurants.


  • Food Meals for one day
    San Diego $36
    Santa Barbara $37
Typical Food prices in San Diego

Here are some examples of typical meal expenses from previous travelers to San Diego:


  • Mexican Lunch for Two
    $27
  • Breakfast at Starbucks
    $20

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Diego

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

  • San Diego North Park Food Tour: $49
  • Liberty Station Food Tour: $49
  • Market and Guacamole Cooking Class in Tijuana Mexico: $89
  • Private Cooking Demonstration of Indian Fusion Cuisine in San Diego: $96
  • Farmers Market Tour & Social Cooking With A Chef: $100
  • San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise: $111
  • Private Tour: Secret Food Tours San Diego: $129
  • Secret Food Tours San Diego w/ Private Tour Option: $277

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Barbara

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Santa Barbara.

  • Downtown Santa Barbara Food Tour: $99

Local Transportation

Public transportation tends to be much less expensive in San Diego than paying for a taxi or private car service, as is expected. Typically, people spend $19 on transportation in San Diego on average per day.

While taxis and private drivers typically cost much more than public transportation, people usually spend around $33 per day to get around in Santa Barbara.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    San Diego $19
    Santa Barbara $33

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Diego

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

  • Private Airport Transfer: from San Diego to San Diego Int. Airport (SAN): $35
  • Private Departure Transfer from San Diego to SAN San Diego Airport: $46
  • Private Airport Transfer: San Diego International Airport (SAN) to San Diego: $46
  • Private Arrival Transfer from San Diego Airport SAN: $48
  • Private Departure Transfer to San Diego Airport SAN: $48
  • Private Arrival Transfer from SAN San Diego Airport to San Diego City: $49
  • San Diego Airport (SAN) to San Diego hotel or address - Arrival Private Transfer: $60
  • San Diego hotel/address to San Diego Airport (SAN) - Departure Private Transfer: $60
  • Transfer from San Diego International Airport to San Diego: $62
  • Departure Private Transfer San Diego to San Diego Airport SAN in Business Car: $63
  • Private 1-Way Private Airport Transfer: $66
  • Private Airport Transfer San Deigo Arrival And Departure: $67

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Barbara

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara-Ojai: Private Transfer To the Los Angeles.: $345
  • Santa Barbara Area Private Transfer To Los Angeles.: $335
  • Private Transfer from Santa Bárbara to Terceira Lajes (TER) Airport: $87
  • Santa Barbara Municipal Airport One Way Transfer: $48

Is it cheaper to fly into San Diego or Santa Barbara?

Prices for flights to both Santa Barbara and San Diego 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.





Entertainment

Sightseeing expenses in San Diego, including the cost of admission tickets for day tours, museums, and attractions, usually cost an average of $38 per day, per person.

Activities, things to do, and other forms of entertainment usually cost around $22 per person, per day in Santa Barbara. This cost includes the price of admission tickets to attractions and museums as well as daily tours.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    San Diego $38
    Santa Barbara $22
Typical Entertainment prices in San Diego

For San Diego, here are some examples of average entertainment and activity prices from previous travelers:


  • San Diego Zoo
    $15
  • Sea World Parking
    $12

Tours and Activities in San Diego

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for San Diego.

  • La Jolla: Explore California's Riviera on a self-guided audio tour: $5.40
  • San Diego Zoo Hunt: Roar with Rex Adventure at the San Diego Zoo: $12
  • San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter Historic True Crime Tour: $16
  • San Diego Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21
  • San Diego Balboa Park Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21
  • Behind-the-Scenes at Petco Park Tour: $23
  • San Diego Gaslamp District Ghost Tour: $24
  • Ghosts of San Diego Walking Tour: $25
  • Skip-the-Line: USS Midway Museum Entry Ticket: $26
  • San Diego Harbor Cruise: $28
  • Tijuana Walking Tour from San Diego: $28
  • Off the grid Christian tour.: $28

Tours and Activities in Santa Barbara

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

  • 5-Day Wild West Tour From Los Angeles: $809
  • Authentic Funk Zone Tour: $125
  • Beginner or Intermediate Mountain Bike Tour of Santa Barbara: $105
  • Channel Islands 3-Day Private Eco Cruise: $6,500
  • Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide: $50
  • Private All-Inclusive Wine Country Tour for Couples from Santa Barbara: $550
  • Private Party Bus Tour in the Santa Ynez Valley: $245
  • Private Santa Barbara Winery Tour in Mercedes Convertible for up to 18 Guests: $848
  • Private Santa Barbara Winery and Estate Tour in Tesla SUV: $381
  • Private Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Tour: $326
  • Private Walking Ghosts Tour at Santa Barbara: $35
  • Santa Barbara Downtown Cocktails and History Walking Tour: $85

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In San Diego, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $17.

The average person spends about $9.46 on alcoholic beverages in Santa Barbara per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    San Diego $17
    Santa Barbara $9.46

Sample the Local Flavors in San Diego

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

  • San Diego Bar Hunt: Slammin' San Diego Bar Crawl: $12
  • Wine Tasting Or Beer Tasting: $15
  • San Diego Brewery Tour: $85
  • San Diego Micro Brewery Tour: $91
  • The San Diego Downtown Craft Brewery Tour: $95
  • The San Diego Downtown Craft Brewery Tour: $101
  • Private San Diego Brewery Tour: $107
  • All inclusive brewery tour-Fire Truck: $189
  • Luxury Private Wine Tasting Tour to Guadalupe Valley from San Diego.: $249
  • Private Wine Tour of Temecula from San Diego: $475

Typical Alcohol prices in Santa Barbara

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Santa Barbara:


  • Camping
    $20

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Barbara

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Santa Barbara:

  • Santa Barbara Private Wine Tasting Experience: $69
  • Santa Barbara Ghost and Wine Tasting Private Tour: $75
  • Private All-Inclusive Santa Barbara Brewery Tour: $125
  • Santa Ynez Wine Tour from Santa Barbara: $129
  • Private All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara: $135
  • Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tour: $139
  • Cupcake and Wine Tour: $149
  • Santa Ynez Valley Cupcake and Wine Tour: $159
  • Small-Group Santa Barbara Wine Tour to Private Locations: $163
  • All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour from Santa Barbara: $167
  • Small-Group Wine Tasting Tour of Santa Barbara Wine Country: $169
  • Santa Barbara Small-Group Wine Tour to Private Locations Not Open To Pubic: $180


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

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San Diego vs. Santa Barbara Travel Comparison

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