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

Should you visit Santa Barbara or Santa Monica?

Should I visit Santa Barbara or Santa Monica? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

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.

Santa Monica

When it comes to visiting Los Angeles, Santa Monica is high on the must-see-and-do list. Chances are you'll recognize the iconic ferris wheel from Pacific Park in films and TV shows, and nothing beats the relaxed yet bustling vibe of this laid-back city.

Santa Monica is a popular and diverse beach town, cultural hub, fitness venue, shopping district, and neighborhood full of unique and trendy restaurants, all rolled into one. Visited by more than 6 million people a year, it's no wonder you'll always find a crowd there.

So whether you're up for a high-end shopping spree, bicycling down the waterfront, an eclectic food crawl or simply a stroll down the promenade, Santa Monica is sure to have something in store for you.

The weather in Santa Monica is moderate, with average summer highs in the low to mid 70s and winter climate that rests comfortably around the low 50s. Though flip flops and sandals are considered year-round footwear in Los Angeles, bring comfortable walking shoes for browsing galleries, malls, and boutiques. Santa Monica is the perfect place to break out your California-casual wardrobe.

Which city is cheaper, Santa Monica or Santa Barbara?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Santa Barbara is $130, while the average daily cost in Santa Monica is $168. 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 Santa Barbara and Santa Monica in more detail.



Accommodation

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.

If you're traveling alone, you may be able to find a budget hotel or hostel for around $98. But for two people in a standard two-person hotel room in Santa Monica the cost is $196 on average.


  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Santa Barbara $71
    Santa Monica $98
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Santa Barbara $142
    Santa Monica $196

Food

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.

On average, meal and food prices in Santa Monica cost around $42 per person, per day. While this price can vary widely by location, the type of restaurant, and the amount of food ordered, a typical meal often costs around $17.


  • Food Meals for one day
    Santa Barbara $37
    Santa Monica $42

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

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Santa Monica

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

  • Taste of Santa Monica Walking Food Tour: $84

Local Transportation

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.

The average price of local transportation around Santa Monica is $40 per person, per day. As this average includes both taxis and public transport, keep in mind that the prices of private drivers and taxis are significantly more expensive than public transportation.


  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Santa Barbara $33
    Santa Monica $40

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Barbara

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Barbara:

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

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Monica

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Santa Monica:

  • Santa Monica to Los Angeles Airport (LAX) - Departure Private Transfer: $61
  • Private Transfer From Santa Monica Area To Los Angeles Airport (LAX).: $79
  • Santa Monica to Long Beach Airport (LGB) - Deparure Private Transfer: $113
  • Malibu or Pacific Palisades Private Transfer To Los Angeles.: $115

Is it cheaper to fly into Santa Barbara or Santa Monica?

Prices for flights to both Santa Monica and Santa Barbara 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

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.

Santa Monica's costs for entertainment, tickets, attractions, and tours will often cost around $30 per person, per day. This cost can vary widely by the type of activity, however, as this includes admission tickets, day tours, museums, and other things to do.


  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Santa Barbara $22
    Santa Monica $30

Tours and Activities in Santa Barbara

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

  • Santa Barbara Scavenger Hunt Adventure: $21
  • Tour of Farm and Bodega, with Tasting of Craft Beer, Honey Wine, and Mead: $25
  • Santa Barbara Trolley Tour: $26
  • Private Walking Ghosts Tour at Santa Barbara: $35
  • Santa Barbara Kayak Tour: $49
  • Kayak Tour of Santa Barbara with Experienced Guide: $50
  • Wine and Chocolate Pairing Experience with Kym Slone!: $50
  • Santa Barbara History and Architecture Bike Tour: $58
  • Santa Barbara Harbor Kayak Tour: $60
  • Santa Barbara Kayak Tour: $63
  • Santa Barbara Wine Education Experience: $69
  • Sunset Kayak Tour: $76

Tours and Activities in Santa Monica

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

  • Virtual Guided Cultural Tour of Los Angeles: $5.00
  • Self-Guided Tour of Santa Monica in Los Angeles: $19
  • Bvc 02 -half Day Tour Santa Monica.: $45
  • Experience a beach séance with a medium in Santa Monica: $48
  • Half Day Tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beach: $53
  • Malibu Celebrity Homes Tour: $55
  • The OJ Simpson Tour: $55
  • Santa Monica & Venice Bike Tour: $70
  • Half-Day Private Gas-Powered Scooter Tour in Los Angeles: $70
  • Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Adventure Tour: $74
  • Small Group Electric Bicycle Tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beach: $79
  • Half-Day Private Gas-Powered Skateboard Tour in Los Angeles: $85

Alcohol

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.

The average person spends about $17 on alcoholic beverages in Santa Monica per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.


  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Santa Barbara $9.46
    Santa Monica $17
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

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Monica

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

  • Vintage VW Hippie Tour to Malibu with wine tasting: $148


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

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Santa Barbara vs. Santa Monica Travel Comparison

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