A Travel Price Comparison for California San Francisco vs. Santa Barbara for Attractions, Food, Beaches, and Hiking

Should you visit San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

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

If you're trying to decide where to visit between San Francisco or Santa Barbara, 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.

San Francisco

San Francisco is a one-of-a-kind, scenic, and beautiful coastal city. Visitors will also find so much to do here because it's a large city with many sights and attractions. You'll find world class beauty here as well. Other popular activities here include nightlife, live music, and food.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a stunning, wealthy, and opulent coastal town. Because this is such a big city, visitors will find many sights and attractions around town. Many visitors also come here because of it's amazing beauty. As this is a very quaint destination, you'll find it has a special atmosphere. It's also popular because of the museums, nightlife, and food.

How is San Francisco different from Santa Barbara?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Museums and Historical Sights?

You'll find a number of museums and attractions in both Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

With plenty of landmarks, attractions, and museums, San Francisco has many famous sights for visitors. The city's landmarks are as diverse as the people who live there. The most recognizable landmark is the famous Golden Gate Bridge, but visitors also enjoy seeing Alcatraz Island, the Legion of Honor, the Palace of Fine Arts, as well as the small but fascinating Cable Car Museum.

Santa Barbara offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. The city is famous for its missions, with Mission Santa Barbara being the most iconic. Also visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Sea Center.


Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Food?

Foodies will appreciated the dining options available in San Francisco a bit more than Santa Barbara.

Known for it's food scene, San Francisco is always at the top of any foodie's travel list. There are local dives as well as five star restaurants, with everything in between. Popular local dining experiences include sourdough bread bowls and Dungeness Crab at Fisherman's Wharf, and dim sum in Chinatown.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Santa Barbara area. The city is best known for its fine dining, particularly if you enjoy seafood. The scallops, oysters, clam chowder, and sea urchin (when available) are all world class.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Nightlife?

If the nightlife is your priority, you'll find comparable options between San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

If you're looking for night time activities San Francisco has a few options to choose from. Popular clubs in the city include Temple San Francisco, Monarch, and Audio Nightclub.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Santa Barbara. For the best nightlife in the city, head downtown to State Street. This is where you'll find the most active bars and biggest crowds.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Beaches?

Both San Francisco and Santa Barbara have beaches worth visiting.

You'll have a great beach vacation in San Francisco. Whether you're interested in surfing or simply taking in the dramatic views, the beaches of San Francisco will take your breath away.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Santa Barbara. The city is famous for its pristine, sandy beaches. Whether you want to enjoy world class surfing or enjoy a gentle ocean setting, Santa Barbara has options.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Hiking?

San Francisco and Santa Barbara are both places where visitors can find hiking trails.

Known for its hiking, San Francisco draws a crowd to experience the nature and the trails. The city's hikes take in the dramatic views of the bay and city. Just outside of town there are also countless hikes through the Redwoods and along the coastline. Popular hikes in the area include Lands End, Tomales Point Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore, and Muir Woods.

People visit Santa Barbara specifically for its hiking, as the natural beauty is well-known. Just outside of town are countless hiking opportunities that offer spectacular ocean views. Popular hikes include Inspiration Point, San Ysidro Trail, and Cold Spring East Fork.


Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Shopping?

If you're looking to go shopping, San Francisco and Santa Barbara both offer plenty of spots.

Many people travel to San Francisco specifically to go shopping. The city has excellent shopping from local vendors to recognizable brands. Union Square, Embarcadero, Fillmore Street and Haight Street are some of the best neighborhoods for shopping.

Santa Barbara is a world class destination for shoppers. The city is famous as a high end shopping destination. Head to State Street for a palm tree lined street with local boutiques.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Families?

San Francisco and Santa Barbara are both fun destinations for the whole family.

You'll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in San Francisco. With its many outdoor parks, hiking trails, beaches, and kid-friendly museums, this city makes a great family-friendly destination.

Santa Barbara is a family-friendly place to visit. The city has some nice family-friendly activities including a zoo, some cool museums, and even whale watching.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Couples?

San Francisco and Santa Barbara are both fun to visit as a couple.

San Francisco is a great coastal city if you're traveling as a couple. Couples enjoy the romantic backdrop of this beautiful city. There are world-class restaurants and plenty of spas that couples can enjoy during a honeymoon or romantic getaway.

Santa Barbara makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. The town is a stunningly beautiful destination with beautiful beaches, excellent shopping, and nice resorts that make for a great honeymoon or romantic trip.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Students?

For students, both San Francisco and Santa Barbara are fairly comparable places to visit.

San Francisco is a great coastal city to visit as a student. As a large and dynamic city, the area is popular with international students who want to experience this unique side of the United States. Major universities in the area include University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and nearby, the University of California, Berkeley.

Santa Barbara is a very popular coastal city for students and younger travelers. With a major university right in town, there's plenty of student life that international students or locals can enjoy.


Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara better for Public Transit?

San Francisco has better public transit to get you around.

Public transit in San Francisco is top-notch. The transit network includes a subway (the BART), trams, cable cars, ferries, and buses.

Santa Barbara has a few public transit options. Transit options include buses, trolleys and water taxis.

Is San Francisco or Santa Barbara a more walkable city?

San Francisco and Santa Barbara are similar when it comes to walkability.

San Francisco is a very walkable destination. It is compact enough to explore on foot, but given the large hills, it's a bit of a challenge, even for the most fit among us.

Santa Barbara is a very walkable destination. The downtown area is very pedestrian friendly and best explored on foot.

San Francisco and Santa Barbara: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good public transit
  • Big city activities
  • Impressive beauty
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Impressive beauty
Cons
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular with backpackers
  • Public transit not as usable


Should I spend more time in Santa Barbara or San Francisco?

How long in San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

Visitors can find plenty of fun things to do in both San Francisco and Santa Barbara. With generally more activities and things to do, visitors tend to spend more time in San Francisco than Santa Barbara.

The ideal length of time for a trip to San Francisco is 3-7 days, and the ideal length of time for a trip to Santa Barbara is 2-3 days.


  • How many days in San Francisco or Santa Barbara? Ideal Length of Stay
    San Francisco 3-7 
    Santa Barbara 2-3

One day in San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

San Francisco is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

Many travelers enjoy the shopping and museums when visiting the affluent destination of Santa Barbara. It's also a relaxing resort destination. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it.

A weekend in San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in San Francisco. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Santa Barbara. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. For many, it makes a great getaway for a weekend. A weekend is usually enough time for a trip here.


Five days in San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

San Francisco is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. This coastal city offers a variety of activities to choose from. If you have five days, this is a great place to go. Five days is usually enough time for a trip here.

Travelers enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the stunning destination of Santa Barbara. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. This coastal town offers a variety of activities to choose from. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips.

A week in San Francisco or Santa Barbara?

San Francisco is a bustling city that offers something for everyone. People usually spend lots of time at the beach. Plenty of people spend one week here when traveling.So, one week is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

You'll find food and shopping around the beautiful coastal town of Santa Barbara. People often spend their time relaxing at one of the resorts. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

Which city is cheaper, Santa Barbara or San Francisco?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in San Francisco is $175, 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. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for San Francisco and Santa Barbara in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    San Francisco $106
    Santa Barbara $71
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    San Francisco $212
    Santa Barbara $142

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    San Francisco $13
    Santa Barbara $33
Typical Local Transportation prices in San Francisco

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in San Francisco:


  • Taxi to SFO
    $45
  • Golden Gate Bridge Toll
    $6.00
  • Alcatraz Tour
    $30

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Francisco

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

  • Private Arrival Transfer from San Francisco Airport SFO: $40
  • Private Departure Transfer to San Francisco Airport SFO: $40
  • Private Airport Transfer: from San Francisco to San Francisco Int. Airport (SFO): $43
  • Private Departure Transfer from San Francisco to SFO San Francisco Airport: $57
  • Cruise Terminal to San Francisco Airport (SFO) - Departure Private Transfer: $60
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) to Cruise Terminal - Arrival Private Transfer: $60
  • San Francisco Departure Chauffeur Driven Airport Transfer: $65
  • San Francisco Departure Chauffeur Driven Airport Transfer by Executive Sedan: $65
  • Private transfer from San Francisco to SFO Airport for up to 4 passengers: $73
  • Private SFO Departure Transfer from San Francisco: $74
  • San Francisco Departure Chauffeur Driven Airport Transfer by Executive SUV: $75
  • Private transfer from San Francisco Airport (SFO) to San Francisco City for up to 4 passengers: $80

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 Francisco or Santa Barbara?

Prices for flights to both Santa Barbara and San Francisco 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 Francisco $32
    Santa Barbara $37

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in San Francisco

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

  • San Francisco Virtual Food Tour with Local Guide: $15
  • Traveling Spoon Pad Thai and Papaya Salad Private Online Cooking Class: $25
  • Chinatown Walking Food Tour: $75
  • Cooking with Ale: let's make Tiramisu - private groups: $80
  • San Francisco Food Tour: Ferry Building and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: $80
  • American Cooking Class in San Francisco with a Local near Golden Gate Park: $82
  • San Francisco Chinatown Food Tour: $89
  • Russian Hill Gourmet Food Tour: $97
  • I Can't Believe I Ate My Way Through Chinatown - Food Tour: $98
  • Mamaz Social Food Arepa Class and Dinner: $100
  • Private Tour: Secret Food Tours San Francisco: $103
  • Hayes Valley Gourmet Food Tour: $108

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

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    San Francisco $37
    Santa Barbara $22

Tours and Activities in San Francisco

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

  • San Francisco Private Tour: 19th Century Gold Rush Exploration Game: $4.96
  • Syn City SF: The Synesthesia Walking Audio Tour of Haight-Ashbury by VoiceMap: $5.34
  • San Francisco's Barbary Past Walking Audio Tour: $5.34
  • Food, History, and Resistance: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of San Francisco's Japantown: $5.34
  • Union Square to Lotta's Fountain Walking Tour by VoiceMap: $5.40
  • Walk the Haight Audio Tour: Tune into San Francisco’s Hippie Counterculture: $5.99
  • San Francisco Private Tour: 70s Hippie Culture Exploration Game: $6.21
  • The Remarkable History of San Francisco's Glen Park and Glen Canyon Audio Tour: $7.55
  • Ultimate San Francisco Self-Driving Audio Tour: $8.00
  • Bike Tour of Tucson: $10
  • The Flyer San Francisco Admission Ticket: $12
  • San Francisco Scavenger Hunt: SF Park Tour and Haight-Ashbury Experience: $12

Tours and Activities in Santa Barbara

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

  • Authentic Funk Zone Tour: $125
  • Beginner or Intermediate Mountain Bike Tour of Santa Barbara: $105
  • 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 Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $44
  • Santa Barbara Downtown Cocktails and History Walking Tour: $85
  • Santa Barbara Electric Bike Tour: $95

For more ideas for your next trip, check out The Best Museums in San Francisco, The Best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco, and Things to Do In San Francisco on a Rainy Day.


Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    San Francisco $15
    Santa Barbara $9.46

Sample the Local Flavors in San Francisco

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in San Francisco:

  • San Francisco Bar Hunt: Soul of San Francisco Bar Crawl: $12
  • San Francisco North Beach Pub Crawl: $60
  • Wine Tasting on the Bay: $70
  • Half-Day Sonoma Wine Tour: $100
  • Shore Excursion: Napa and Sonoma Ultimate Wine Tasting Experience Full-Day Tour: $135
  • San Francisco City & Wine tour: $140
  • Chariot wine tour: $145
  • From Full-Day Sonoma Valley Wine Tour: $149
  • Viticulture with Charm: Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco: $149
  • Small Group Redwoods and Wine Country Trip Including Wine Tasting and Cave Tour: $152
  • Small Group Muir Woods with Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour: $169
  • The Perfect Blend: Napa and Sonoma Combo Wine Tour from San Francisco: $169

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
  • From All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour & Lunch: $146
  • 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 Francisco and Santa Barbara, we can see that San Francisco 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 Francisco would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in San Francisco than you might in Santa Barbara.

Budget Your Trip

Budget Your Trip has average travel costs for thousands of cities around the world, all provided by other travelers. You can also register to organize your spending by category and location with graphs, maps, charts, and tables.

Share This Page
Pin This Page
San Francisco vs. Santa Barbara Travel Comparison

Some of the links on this website are sponsored or affiliate links which help to financially support this site. By clicking the link and making a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but this does not affect the price of your purchase.