A Travel Price Comparison for California San Francisco vs. South Lake Tahoe for Vacations, Tours, and Honeymoons

Should you visit San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe?

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

If you're trying to decide where to visit between San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe, 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.

Where Should I go: San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe?

San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city that is famous for it's picturesque neighborhoods, liberal character, and stunning location on the bay. Some people describe San Francisco as the United State's most "European City." This title most likely comes from its compact development and its easy walkability. It also has no shortage of parks and public spaces where you can pass some time. The city sits on the end of a peninsula and offers stunning views of the blue bay, rolling green hills, and the striking Golden Gate Bridge.

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe is the largest town on the famous Lake Tahoe that straddles the California-Nevada border in the Sierra Mountain Range. Located just south of Reno, Nevada and about 2 hours east of Sacramento, the Lake Tahoe area is easily accessible to many visitors.

Lake Tahoe is known for skiing and other winter sports, as well as plenty of warm weather activities such as hiking, swimming, boating, mountain biking, and more.

South Lake Tahoe has plenty of accommodations, restaurants, bars, and shopping. This is a good town to base yourself if you're looking to explore the area, as it has a large number of amenities.

Located on the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe is the town of Stateline. Here you can find some casinos, as gambling is legal in Nevada.

If you're looking to go skiing or snowboarding, the Heavenly Ski Resort can be found on the southern edge of the town of South Lake Tahoe. Naturally, more ski resorts are located around the lake as well.

As swimming is also popular, several beach areas are on the southern section of the lake including the Regan Memorial City Beach, Lakeside Beach, Pope Beach, Emerald Bay State Park, and the Edgewood Resort area (on the Nevada side).

Which place is cheaper, South Lake Tahoe or San Francisco?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in San Francisco is $222, 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 San Francisco and South Lake Tahoe in more detail.

  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    San Francisco $130
    South Lake Tahoe $54
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    San Francisco $260
    South Lake Tahoe $108
Compare Hotels in San Francisco and South Lake Tahoe

Looking for a hotel in San Francisco 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 San Francisco

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: San Francisco Hotel Prices and South Lake Tahoe Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    San Francisco $16
    South Lake Tahoe $24
Typical Local Transportation Prices in San Francisco

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

  • Taxi to SFO
  • Golden Gate Bridge Toll
  • Alcatraz Tour

Hired Cars and Shuttles in San Francisco

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

  • Private One-way Airport Transfer (San Francisco Airport To/From San Francisco): $17
  • Transfer in private vehicle from San Francisco Airport to City: $35
  • Private Arrival Transfer from San Francisco Airport SFO: $44
  • Private Departure Transfer to San Francisco Airport SFO: $44
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) to Oakland - Arrival Private Transfer: $44
  • Transfer in private vehicle from San Francisco City to Airport: $55
  • San Francisco to Oakland Airport (OAK) Private Departure Transfer: $64
  • San Francisco to San Francisco Airport Private Departure Transfer: $79
  • San Francisco Airport to San Francisco Private Arrival Transfer: $79
  • Round trip transfer in private vehicle from-to Airport in San Francisco: $80
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) Private Round trip Transfer: $85
  • SFO Airport Private Transfer to/from Downtown San Francisco: $98

Hired Cars and Shuttles in South Lake Tahoe

Some specific examples of transportation prices in South Lake Tahoe:

  • Northstar/Squaw Valley to Sacramento Airport - Departure Transfer: $221
  • Heavenly Mountain to Sacramento Airport SMF, Departure Transfer: $221
  • Departure Transfer Northstar/Squaw Valley to Reno Tahoe Airport: $165
  • Heavenly Mountain to Reno Tahoe Airport RNO - Departure Transfer: $110

Is it cheaper to fly into San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe?

Prices for flights to both South Lake Tahoe 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 Meals for one day
    San Francisco $46
    South Lake Tahoe $38

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: $19
  • North Beach and Little Italy Food Tour: $79
  • Secret Food Tours San Francisco: $85
  • Mission District Food Tour with Tastings: $85
  • San Francisco North Beach and Chinatown - Secret Food Tours: $86
  • San Francisco Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours: $86
  • Farmers' Market & Ferry Building Food Tour: $87
  • San Francisco North Beach Food Tour: $89
  • Chinatown Walking Food Tour: $89
  • Mission District Walking Food Tour: $89
  • Mission District Food Tour: $89
  • San Francisco Chinatown Food Tour: $89

  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    San Francisco $46
    South Lake Tahoe $56

Tours and Activities in San Francisco

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

  • San Francisco self-guided tour App - multilingual AudioGuide: $4.33
  • Historical San Anselmo: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $5.24
  • San Francisco's Barbary Past: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $5.99
  • Self Guided Chinatown Tour: Food, History and Culture: $5.99
  • San Francisco’s Chinatown on foot: A Self Guided Audio Tour: $5.99
  • Embarcadero Self-Guided Audio Smartphone Tour: $5.99
  • Walk the Haight: A Self-Guided Audio Tour of SF’s Hippie Counterculture: $6.47
  • Ghosts & Hauntings Audio App Walking Tour: $6.99
  • Food, History, and Resistance: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $6.99
  • Self-Guided Audio Tour of Japantown & Stories: $6.99
  • The Ghosts of San Francisco Haunted Audio App Walking Tour: $6.99
  • San Francisco's Glen Park and Glen Canyon: A Self-Guided Tour: $7.55

Tours and Activities in South Lake Tahoe

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

  • 2 Hour Sailing Cruise on Lake Tahoe: $140
  • Clear Kayak Paddle Tour at Sand Harbor: $150
  • Clear Kayak Tour of Lake Tahoe: $165
  • 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
  • Electric Dirtbike Adventure in Lake Tahoe: $200
  • Emerald Bay Helicopter Tour of Lake Tahoe: $110
  • Emerald Bay Private Luxury Boat Tours: $695
  • Evening LED Glow Clear Kayak Tour in Lake Tahoe: $153
  • Full Day Self-Guided Bike Tour of Lake Tahoe: $69
  • Full-Day Lake Tahoe Circle Tour including Squaw Valley: $80

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 Drinks for one day
    San Francisco $22
    South Lake Tahoe $34

Sample the Local Flavors in San Francisco

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

  • Private Self Guided Tour and Bar Crawl in Chinatown San Francisco: $4.00
  • Chinatown San Francisco’s Bar Crawl: An Audio Tour: $4.99
  • Ghosts, Boos and Booze Haunted Pub Crawl: $35
  • Walk with Spirits: A Haunted Pub Crawl in San Francisco: $45
  • 2 to 3 Hour Bar Crawl in Castro San Francisco: $49
  • Wine Tasting on the Bay: $85
  • Private Wine Tour Napa or Sonoma from $99 per person up to 7 & Concierge Service: $99
  • San Francisco Napa and Sonoma Valley Wine Tour: $125
  • Half-Day Wine Country Tour with Wine Tastings: $126
  • The Ultimate Napa and Sonoma Wine Tour: $139
  • The Ultimate Napa & Sonoma Wine Tour: $139
  • From The Ultimate Napa and Sonoma Wine Tour: $139

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 San Francisco and South Lake Tahoe, we can see that San Francisco 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 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 South Lake Tahoe.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is San Francisco Expensive? and Is South Lake Tahoe Expensive?.

Which is Bigger, San Francisco or South Lake Tahoe?

San Francisco has a larger population, and is about 30 times larger than the population of South Lake Tahoe. When comparing the sizes of San Francisco 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.