A Travel Price Comparison for California San Diego vs. Yosemite National Park for Hiking, Families, Couples, and Backpackers

Should you visit San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

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

Which city should you visit? Read on to compare the activities as well as the prices of travel for San Diego and Yosemite National Park. 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, schedule, and interests. So, let's dig into it.

San Diego

San Diego is a idyllic, fun-filled, and hip coastal city. Because this is such a big city, visitors will find many sights and attractions around town. It offers plenty of beauty for visitors. As this is a very quaint destination, you'll find it has a special atmosphere. Other popular activities here include nightlife, live music, and food.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a stunning, breathtaking, and popular national park. Many visitors also come because of it's amazing beauty. Visitors also love the hiking.

San Diego and Yosemite National Park: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for students
Things to Consider
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
  • Home to El Capitan


Is there more to do in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

Tourists will generally find more to do in San Diego. Although San Diego and Yosemite National Park are both popular with visitors, San Diego has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. San Diego is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, music, scuba diving & snorkeling, beaches, shopping, big city activities, and quaint atmosphere, while Yosemite National Park is known for its resorts, hiking, and impressive beauty. San Diego is popular for its relaxed coastal atmosphere, its many kid-friendly sights, and its beautiful beaches with critter-filled tidal pools. It is also home to The San Diego Zoo. Yosemite National Park is popular for its stunning hikes, giant Sequoias, breathtaking vistas, and the granite cliffs of Half Dome.

How is San Diego different from Yosemite National Park?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Yosemite National Park and San Diego. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a well-known place for its sights and museums. However, Yosemite National Park does not have museums and landmarks.

San Diego offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. While the city is famous for it's beaches, zoos, and aquariums, don't overlook the museums and other landmarks. Popular options include the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, the Old Town State Historic Park, and Point Loma and Cabrillo Monument.

Yosemite National Park does not have museums and landmarks.


Is the Food Better in San Diego or Yosemite National Park? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a popular place for its local cuisine and restaurants. However, Yosemite National Park is not a good national park for its restaurants.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the San Diego area. The city has great seafood and a diversity of cuisines. There are many casual dining options that serve informal foods like burgers or salads, but there are also award-winning fine dining restaurants with elegant atmospheres. Popular local dishes include fish tacos and California burritos.

Yosemite National Park offers some easy restaurants to choose from. There are a few varied restaurants in the park that offer casual food or packaged meals that you can take away. The food is generally expensive and not always the best, so you'll likely enjoy packing your own picnic food to enjoy within the park.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Nightlife?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a well-known place for its evening party scene. However, Yosemite National Park is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.

San Diego offers plenty to do in the evening. The heart of the city's nightlife scene is in the Gaslamp District, which is filled with bars, clubs, and music venues. There's a young student population that keeps the nightlife scene casual and fun.

Yosemite National Park is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Music?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a well-known place for its music scene. However, Yosemite National Park is not a live music destination.

The music scene in San Diego is very popular with diverse venues. Popular venues include the House of Blues, The Belly Up, and The Shout House.

Yosemite National Park is not a live music destination.


Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Resorts?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is great for its luxury resorts. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for its resorts.

There are plenty of resorts in Yosemite National Park to choose from. There are several grand hotels and lodges within the park. Reservations are a must, especially if you're traveling during peak seasons.

San Diego has a few great resort options. Most people prefer to stay in hotels or VRBOs, but several popular resorts include Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Paradise Point, and the famous Hotel del Coronado.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving. However, Yosemite National Park is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

San Diego has a few good snorkeling spots. Popular snorkeling and diving spots include La Jolla Cove, Mission Bay, and Turtle Town. The water's a bit chili, but it's still worth going for a dive or popping on a mask and snorkeling around for a bit.

Yosemite National Park is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Beaches?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a world-class destination for the beach. However, Yosemite National Park is not a beach destination.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in San Diego. The city has great beaches with tidal pools and interesting sea life at low tide. Adults and kids alike will enjoy hitting the beach when the tides are out and looking for local critters in the tidal pools. Popular beaches in the area include La Jolla Cove Beach, Coronado Beach, and Pacific Beach.

Yosemite National Park is not a beach destination.


Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Hiking?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is renowned for hiking. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for the nearby hiking options.

Yosemite National Park is well-known for its hiking and trekking. This park has many famous hikes that take you by Half Dome, near Yosemite Falls, and through breathtaking landscapes. Popular hikes in the area include Mist Trail to Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall and Mirror Lake Trail.

San Diego is a popular spot for hiking. The city is filled with parks and has tons of natural beauty. There is plenty of urban hiking in town, or you can visit more natural areas just out of town. Head to Torrey Pines State Park or Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail for some nice hikes.

Is the Shopping Better in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a popular place for its shopping areas. However, Yosemite National Park is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Many visitors go to San Diego to go shopping. Head to Fashion Valley or Westfield UTC for some fun shopping. There are suburban shopping malls in the area as well as souvenir shops in the more touristy areas.

Yosemite National Park is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Families?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a world-class destination for its family-friendly activities. Also, Yosemite National Park is not as famous, but is still a good national park to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, San Diego is a very family-friendly destination. The city is filled with kid-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy. There's the world-class zoo, several amusement parks, the beaches, aquariums, and more. The year-round warm weather makes it easy to spend plenty of time outdoors in parks, playgrounds, and beaches where kids can stretch their legs and run around.

Yosemite National Park is a very family-friendly destination. This park has many hikes, climbs, and activities that kids of all ages can enjoy. When the weather's warm the kids will enjoy getting wet in Merced River. They'll also be impressed by the giant sequoias and the beautiful waterfalls. In the evening the staff host ranger programs that are fun and educational for everyone. The park also has kid-friendly camping and lodges.


Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Couples?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a world-class destination for couples. Also, Yosemite National Park is not as famous, but is still a good national park to visit for romance.

San Diego makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. For adventurous couples, there are many outdoor activities that you can enjoy together. The beaches offer a great playground for adults who enjoy the water and warm weather. There are also restaurants and a great nightlife in San Diego.

Yosemite National Park makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. Couples who enjoy nature, rock climbing, hiking, and being outside will enjoy a visit to this park. There is an endless supply of romantic views and fun-filled activities that are perfect for avid hikers or those looking for a more relaxing travel experience.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is renowned for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, San Diego is not as popular, but is still a nice coastal city for backpackers.

With so many budget-friendly offerings, Yosemite National Park is extremely popular for backpackers. Campgrounds and back country trails make this area a backpacker's paradise.

Plenty of budget travelers visit San Diego. Backpackers will enjoy the young vibe of the city. There are a few great hostels near the beach or in town.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Students?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a world-class destination for students. However, Yosemite National Park is not popular with students.

Many students frequent San Diego. With its young population and many universities, international students will feel right at home in San Diego. There are also many great outdoor activities for the adventurous.

Yosemite National Park is not popular with students.


Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a good destination for times when you don't have a car. However, San Diego is not a good destination for its public transit.

While Yosemite National Park offers some public transit options, it might not be your first choice. There is a free bus service that travels around Yosemite Valley.

Public transit is generally limited in San Diego. The city has a trolley (light rail system) as well as a bus system. Most people depend on cars to get around, and you'll likely enjoy your trip a bit more if you have your own vehicle.

Is San Diego or Yosemite National Park a more walkable city?

San Diego
Yosemite National Park

San Diego is a popular place for its ease of walking around. However, Yosemite National Park is not a good national park for its walkability.

San Diego is a somewhat walkable coastal city. The downtown area is walkable, but if you want to travel further, you'll need to find a different form of transportation.

Yosemite National Park is generally not a very walkable coastal city. The park is large and a car is necessary to reach many places within the park.

For even more information, also check out Is San Diego Worth Visiting? and Is Yosemite National Park Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Yosemite National Park or San Diego?

How long in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

Both San Diego and Yosemite National Park have a number of activities to choose from. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in Yosemite National Park than in San Diego. Usually, 3-5 days is a good amount of time for San Diego, and 3-7 days is enough time in Yosemite National Park.

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

Couples should spend more time in San Diego than Yosemite National Park. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in San Diego that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in San Diego than Yosemite National Park 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 San Diego.


  • How many days in San Diego or Yosemite National Park? Ideal Length of Stay
    San Diego 3-5 
    Yosemite National Park 3-7

One day in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

The coastal city of San Diego offers museums and nightlife. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

You'll find around the national park of Yosemite National Park. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


A weekend in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

The fun-filled destination of San Diego offers nightlife and live music. This coastal city offers something for everyone. It's also a great beach destination, too. It's no surprise that beaches is why people visit. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything.

You'll find around the stunning destination of Yosemite National Park. Hikers are also drawn to this area. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. This national park offers a variety of activities to choose from.

Five days in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in San Diego. For many, it makes a great getaway for five days. Hikers are also drawn to this area. If you enjoy all that's offered here, then five days is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

You'll find around the popular national park of Yosemite National Park. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision. If you have five days, this national park makes for a great vacation. It's also a relaxing resort destination. Most people head to the area for the hiking. Five days should give you a good understanding of everything this national park has to offer.

A week in San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

San Diego is a fun place to experience. Travelers enjoy the food and scuba diving and snorkeling when visiting the destination of San Diego. It's no surprise that beaches is why people 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.

Yosemite National Park is a popular choice for travelers. One week here is typical. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Yosemite National Park, one week is sufficent for most. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best 3-Week Tours in United States of America, The Best Bicycle Tours in United States of America, Tours for Outdoor and Nature Lovers in United States of America, and The Best Coach Bus Tours in United States of America.


Which place is cheaper, Yosemite National Park or San Diego?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in San Diego is $202, while the average daily cost in Yosemite National Park is $129. 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 San Diego and Yosemite National Park in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    San Diego $115
    Yosemite National Park $64
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    San Diego $230
    Yosemite National Park $128
Compare Hotels in San Diego and Yosemite National Park

Looking for a hotel in San Diego or Yosemite National Park? 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 San Diego


Hotels in Yosemite National Park


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: San Diego Hotel Prices and Yosemite National Park Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    San Diego $24
    Yosemite National Park $41

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Diego

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

  • San Diego International Airport (SAN) Private Arrival Transfer: $38
  • Try find your better than us! Airport transfer service in San Diego HTL-APT(SAN): $47
  • Private Departure Transfer to San Diego Airport SAN: $50
  • Tijuana to Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) – Departure Private Transfer: $54
  • Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) to Tijuana hotels - Arrival Private Transfer: $54
  • Transfer in private minivan from San Diego Airport (SAN) to San Diego Downtown: $68
  • San Diego Airport: One-Way Private Transfer to San Diego: $70
  • San Diego Airport - Private Round Trip Transfer: $70
  • San Diego hotel/address to San Diego Airport (SAN) - Departure Private Transfer: $74
  • Private Transfer from San Diego Port to San Diego city hotels: $74
  • San Diego Airport (SAN) to Carlsbad, CA - Arrival Private Transfer: $74
  • Private Transfer from San Diego Port to San Diego Airport (SAN): $74

Is it cheaper to fly into San Diego or Yosemite National Park?

Prices for flights to both Yosemite National Park 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.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    San Diego $45
    Yosemite National Park $40
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:

  • Pizza and Gelato Tour in San Diego: $80
  • Old Town Tequila and Tacos Walking Food Tour: $81
  • Little Italy Food and Drink Walking Tour - Pizza, Pasta & Piazzas: $85
  • Gaslamp Quarter Downtown San Diego Food Tour: $89
  • Gaslamp Quarter Food Tour: $89
  • San Diego, Seaport Village: Waterfront Walking Food Tour: $89
  • San Diego Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours: $95
  • Guided Secret Food Tour: $102
  • Scenic Buffet Dinner Cruise: $108
  • San Diego Dinner Cruise: $116
  • Gourmet Dinner Cruise: $118
  • San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise: $118

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    San Diego $48
    Yosemite National Park $19
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.

  • Waterfront Smartphone Audio Walking Tour: $7.25
  • A Seaside Stroll: La Jolla's Hidden Treasures Self-Guided Tour: $7.99
  • Beaches & Bluffs San Diego's Ultimate Coastal Driving Tour: $9.95
  • San Diego Natural History Museum Ticket: $12
  • Apple Pies & Desert Skies: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $13
  • Haunted Historic Whaley House - Self-Guided Tour: $14
  • San Diego Gas Lamp: At your leisure & pace. An audio walking tour.: $15
  • Scavenger Hunt Adventure in San Diego by Zombie Scavengers: $20
  • Explore Balboa in a Private Tour of San Diego Hidden Gems: $20
  • San Diego's Historic Treasures and Old Town Tour: $20
  • San Diego Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21
  • Embarcadero Waterfront Ghost Walking Tour: $22

Tours and Activities in Yosemite National Park

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Yosemite National Park are as follows:

  • Big Trees Hike & Riverside Cookout Adventure: $180
  • Family Fun Private Half Day Fly Fishing Adventure: $215
  • Full-Day Small Group Yosemite & Glacier Point Tour Including Hotel Pickup: $169
  • Private Guided Hiking Tour in Yosemite: $293
  • Semi Private Yosemite Tour with Ahwahnee Lunch and Hotel Pickup: $250
  • Yosemite Full Day Small Group High Country / Mariposa Tour: $299
  • Yosemite Highlights Small Group Tour: $200
  • Yosemite National Park Audio Driving Tour: $14
  • Yosemite Panorama Trail Self-Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • Yosemite Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Yosemite Valley & Glacier Point Adaptive Tour: $180
  • Yosemite Valley Full Day Small Group Tour : $299

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    San Diego $21
    Yosemite National Park $11

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:

  • Gaslamp Bar Crawls and Events: $20
  • History Tour Pub Crawl of Famous Gaslamp Quarter: $30
  • Brewery Tour with Tastings and Food Pairings: $85
  • Little Italy Wine Tasting Walking Tour: $119
  • Vino! Vino! Little Italy Wine Tasting Walking Tour: $125
  • Private Wine Tasting Tour in Valle de Guadalupe: $136
  • Baja Tour Guide wine tour: $169
  • Sidecar Wine Tasting Tour: $199
  • Brewery and Tap Room Sidecar Tour: $199
  • California Sunset Brewery Tour: $199
  • Valle de Guadalupe Wine Tour: $249
  • Guided Temecula Wine Tour from San Diego: $259


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between San Diego and Yosemite National Park, we can see that San Diego is more expensive. And not only is Yosemite National Park much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Yosemite National Park would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Yosemite National Park 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 Yosemite National Park.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is San Diego Expensive? and Is Yosemite National Park Expensive?.