A Travel Price Comparison for California Santa Cruz vs. Redwood National Park for Hiking, Backpackers, Beaches, and Families

Should you visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

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

Should I visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is a laid back, coastal, and scenic town. Other popular activities here include beaches, hiking, and shopping.

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is a grand, impressive, and monumental park. You'll find world class beauty here as well. It's also known for beaches and hiking.

Santa Cruz and Redwood National Park: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Very walkable
Things to Consider
  • Less hiking options
  • Less popular with backpackers
Pros
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Less popular for food
  • Less popular for nightlife
  • Less popular for shopping
  • Less walkable


Is there more to do in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Santa Cruz than Redwood National Park, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Santa Cruz is better known for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Redwood National Park is more popular for its hiking and impressive beauty. Santa Cruz is well known for its dramatic coastline, fun-filled boardwalk, and beautiful beaches. Also, Santa Cruz is famous for Santa Cruz Wharf. Redwood National Park is well known for being the home of the world's tallest trees.

How is Santa Cruz different from Redwood National Park?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

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

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is a good destination for its museums and landmarks. However, Redwood National Park is not particularly known for its historical sights.

If you're looking for an educational opportunity, there are a decent number of museums and historical sights around Santa Cruz. Local museums in town include the Surfing Museum, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and Santa Cruz Mission.

If you're looking to pass the time, head to a museum or historic sight in Redwood National Park. There is little in the form of museums, but you can visit the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center on the south side of the park and see exhibits about Yurok culture and the area's ecology.


Is the Food Better in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is a good destination for its restaurant scene. However, Redwood National Park is not particularly known for its local flavors and cuisine.

There are many up and coming restaurants in the Santa Cruz area. Sampling local seafood is a top priority for many visitors. Most restaurants have a casual vibe and serve up high quality dishes in a relaxed setting. You'll find cafes, Mexican food, and Italian eateries among other options.

While Redwood National Park is not famous for its food, you'll find what you need there. There are no dining or grocery options within the park but there are some options just outside the park.

Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Nightlife?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is well known for its evening party scene. However, Redwood National Park is not particularly known for nightlife.

Santa Cruz is a popular destination for visitors looking to party into the night. You'll find a range of nighttime options around town that include live entertainment, bars, clubs, and even a casino.

The nightlife scene is quiet in Redwood National Park The laid back setting offers little in the form of nightlife.

Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Beaches?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is well known for the beach. Also, Redwood National Park is still popular, but not quite as popular for its beaches.

Many people visit Santa Cruz for it's beautiful beaches. The beaches are beautiful and fun. Head to Main Beach for the most activity. This is where you'll find the town's boardwalk, which has a historic carousel and several classic amusement rides. For a more peaceful and scenic spot, check out Natural Bridges State Beach or Seacliff State Beach.

Redwood National Park is a good option for a beach vacation. The park runs along the Pacific coastline and there are 70 miles of coastal trail in the park. Beaches are rugged and sandy and favorite sections include Gold Bluff Beach, Crescent Beach, and Enderts Beach, which has great tidal pools.


Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Hiking?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is very popular for the nearby hiking options. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its hiking trails.

People visit Redwood National Park specifically for its hiking, as the natural beauty is well-known. Hikes range from coastal trails to world-renowned hikes through the redwoods. You'll feel humbled in the presence of these grand and majestic trees. Several of the most well-known hikes include Fern Canyon, the Cathedral Trees Trail, and Redwood Creek Trail.

Many people include a hike when visiting Santa Cruz. There are several great parks in the area and trails that follow along the rugged coastline or go through the impressive redwood forests.

Is the Shopping Better in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is a good destination for its shopping areas. However, Redwood National Park is not particularly known for shopping.

Many visitors go to Santa Cruz to go shopping. Downtown Santa Cruz is where you'll find some of the best shopping.

Shopping in Redwood National Park can be found for those interested. You'll find park stores at the visitor centers if you want to pick up a small gift or souvenir.

Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Families?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Kids will enjoy a visit to either Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park.

Santa Cruz is a very family-friendly place to visit. It's filled with beaches, parks, playgrounds, and museums that kids and adults will enjoy. Highlights for many families include visiting the boardwalk, playing around at Seacliff State Beach, entertaining the kids at Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab, and taking in the beauty at Natural Bridges State Beach.

Because of its large number of kid-friendly activities, Redwood National Park is very family-friendly. There are plenty of kid-friendly hikes in the park and the kids will love exploring the varied landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Less than a mile long, Fern Canyon is the perfect hike for little kids and it's not-to-be-missed. Cathedral Trees Trail is three miles, and also a highlight of any trip to the park.


Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Couples?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

With fun activities for couples, both Santa Cruz and Redwood National Park make for a superb place to visit.

Santa Cruz is a very popular place to visit for couples. Dining in downtown Santa Cruz, hiking through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and relaxing on the beach at Natural Bridges State Beach all make for a romantic getaway.

Redwood National Park makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. There are historic lodges that make for a romantic getaway. You can fill your days with hikes through magical landscapes and breathtaking settings surrounded by the impressive redwoods.

Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is very popular for backpackers. Also, Santa Cruz is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for backpackers and budget travelers.

Redwood National Park is a mecca for backpackers and budget travelers. There are miles of backcountry trails that let you can explore the park in relative peace and solitude. This is an amazing way to experience the park, but do make sure you purchase a permit in advance.

Santa Cruz is popular with backpackers and budget travelers. There's a laid back vibe that is fun to experience and there's even a hostel in town.

Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is a town with a few options for its public transit. However, Redwood National Park is not particularly known for times when you don't have a car.

Public transit is generally limited in Santa Cruz. There are buses that travel around town.

Public transit is quite limited in Redwood National Park. There's no public transportation within the park.


Is Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park a more walkable city?

Santa Cruz
Redwood National Park

Santa Cruz is an amazing town to visit for its ease of walking around. However, Redwood National Park is not particularly known for its walkability.

Getting around Santa Cruz on foot is easy. It's considered to be one of the most walkable cities in California.

Redwood National Park is not a very walkable town. The park is large and spread out, so you'll need a car to get around.

For even more information, also check out Is Santa Cruz Worth Visiting? and Is Redwood National Park Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Redwood National Park or Santa Cruz?

How long in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

In either Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park, you'll find plenty of activities to fill your time. Most visitors tend to spend more time in Redwood National Park than Santa Cruz because of the overall number of sights and activities. Usually, 1-2 days is a good amount of time for Santa Cruz, and 3-5 days is enough time in Redwood National Park.

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

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

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Santa Cruz than Redwood 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 Santa Cruz.


  • How many days in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park? Ideal Length of Stay
    Santa Cruz 1-2 
    Redwood National Park 3-5

One day in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

In Santa Cruz, you'll find shopping and museums. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. Anyone can find something fun to do here. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Santa Cruz, one day is sufficent for most.

With around the monumental park of Redwood National Park, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. One of the main draws to the area is the hiking. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.

A weekend in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Santa Cruz. For many, it makes a great getaway for a weekend. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town. It offers something for everyone.

With around the destination of Redwood National Park, there's plenty to do. Many travelers plan to spend time hiking while in the area. It offers something for everyone. One of the main draws to the area is the hiking. With so much to do, a weekend is probably not enough time to see everything.


Five days in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

Santa Cruz is a fun place to experience. It's also a great beach destination, too. Five days may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

Redwood National Park, a popular park, is full of activities for travelers. This is a popular place to visit for five days. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. In five days, you should have a good grasp of this park. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

You'll find food and shopping around the scenic destination of Santa Cruz. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. Most people find that one week is more than enough time to see everything.

Redwood National Park is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One of the main draws to the area is the hiking. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Los Angeles, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City, The Best 2-Week Tours from New York City, and The Best 2-Week Tours from Anchorage.


Which place is cheaper, Redwood National Park or Santa Cruz?

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

The average daily cost (per person) in Santa Cruz is $126, while the average daily cost in Redwood National Park is $111. 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 Santa Cruz and Redwood National Park in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Santa Cruz $61
    Redwood National Park $44
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Santa Cruz $122
    Redwood National Park $88
Compare Hotels in Santa Cruz and Redwood National Park

Looking for a hotel in Santa Cruz or Redwood 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 Santa Cruz


Hotels in Redwood 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: Santa Cruz Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Santa Cruz $40
    Redwood National Park $53

Is it cheaper to fly into Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

Prices for flights to both Redwood National Park and Santa Cruz 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
    Santa Cruz $41
    Redwood National Park $33

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Santa Cruz $18
    Redwood National Park $33

Tours and Activities in Santa Cruz

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

  • Santa Cruz Must Sees: A Self-Guided Driving Tour: $3.99
  • Self Guided UC Santa Cruz Walking Tour: Unlock Secret Stories : $20
  • Santa Cruz:City Scavenger Hunt Tour with Remote Guide: $25
  • Capitola Private 2-Hour Walking Tour: $30
  • Half Day Private Beach Tour in Santa Cruz: $35
  • Santa Cruz Guided E-Bike Ride & Most Fun Ebike Tour: $120
  • Santa Cruz Family Friendly Guided E-bike Tour: $120
  • Santa Cruz 2Hour Guided E-bike Tour for Small Groups: $120
  • Mermaid Experience & Photoshoot: $190
  • Capitola Watercolor Journaling Experience: $297

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Santa Cruz $8.57
    Redwood National Park $11

Sample the Local Flavors in Santa Cruz

Some specific costs for nightlife related activities in Santa Cruz:

  • Sidecar Wine Tour with Guide and Wine Tasting: $199
  • Private Brewery Tour: $500
  • Private Custom Wine Tour with Hotel Pickup: $750


When comparing the travel costs between Santa Cruz and Redwood National Park, we can see that Santa Cruz is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

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



When is the best time to visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park in the Summer?

The summer attracts plenty of travelers to both Santa Cruz and Redwood National Park. Most visitors come to Santa Cruz for the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences during these months. Furthermore, the summer months attract visitors to Redwood National Park because of the beaches, the hiking, and the family-friendly experiences.

In July, Santa Cruz is generally a little warmer than Redwood National Park. Daily temperatures in Santa Cruz average around 67°F (19°C), and Redwood National Park fluctuates around 57°F (14°C).

In July, Santa Cruz usually receives less rain than Redwood National Park. Santa Cruz gets 0.1 inches (1 mm) of rain, while Redwood National Park receives 0.1 inches (3 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Santa Cruz 67°F (19°C) 
    Redwood National Park 57°F (14°C)

Should I visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park in the Autumn?

The autumn brings many poeple to Santa Cruz as well as Redwood National Park. The autumn months attract visitors to Santa Cruz because of the hiking trails and the shopping scene. Additionally, the hiking trails and the natural beauty of the area are the main draw to Redwood National Park this time of year.

Santa Cruz is a little warmer than Redwood National Park in the autumn. The daily temperature in Santa Cruz averages around 63°F (17°C) in October, and Redwood National Park fluctuates around 55°F (13°C).

Santa Cruz usually gets less rain in October than Redwood National Park. Santa Cruz gets 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain, while Redwood National Park receives 2.7 inches (68 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Santa Cruz 63°F (17°C) 
    Redwood National Park 55°F (13°C)

Should I visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park in the Winter?

Both Redwood National Park and Santa Cruz are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities. The museums, the shopping scene, and the cuisine are the main draw to Santa Cruz this time of year.

In the winter, Santa Cruz is a little warmer than Redwood National Park. Typically, the winter temperatures in Santa Cruz in January average around 51°F (10°C), and Redwood National Park averages at about 48°F (9°C).

It rains a lot this time of the year in Redwood National Park. In January, Santa Cruz usually receives less rain than Redwood National Park. Santa Cruz gets 2.8 inches (71 mm) of rain, while Redwood National Park receives 6 inches (152 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Santa Cruz 51°F (10°C) 
    Redwood National Park 48°F (9°C)

Should I visit Santa Cruz or Redwood National Park in the Spring?

Both Redwood National Park and Santa Cruz during the spring are popular places to visit. Many travelers come to Santa Cruz for the beaches. Also, many visitors come to Redwood National Park in the spring for the beaches and the natural beauty.

In April, Santa Cruz is generally a little warmer than Redwood National Park. Daily temperatures in Santa Cruz average around 58°F (14°C), and Redwood National Park fluctuates around 50°F (10°C).

Santa Cruz usually gets less rain in April than Redwood National Park. Santa Cruz gets 1 inches (26 mm) of rain, while Redwood National Park receives 2.9 inches (73 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Santa Cruz 58°F (14°C) 
    Redwood National Park 50°F (10°C)

Typical Weather for Redwood National Park and Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Redwood National Park
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 51°F (10°C) 2.8 inches (71 mm) 48°F (9°C) 6 inches (152 mm)
Feb 54°F (12°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm) 49°F (10°C) 4.7 inches (120 mm)
Mar 55°F (13°C) 2.2 inches (56 mm) 50°F (10°C) 5.3 inches (135 mm)
Apr 58°F (14°C) 1 inches (26 mm) 50°F (10°C) 2.9 inches (73 mm)
May 62°F (16°C) 0.3 inches (7 mm) 53°F (12°C) 1.5 inches (37 mm)
Jun 65°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 56°F (13°C) 0.5 inches (13 mm)
Jul 67°F (19°C) 0.1 inches (1 mm) 57°F (14°C) 0.1 inches (3 mm)
Aug 67°F (20°C) 0.1 inches (2 mm) 58°F (14°C) 0.5 inches (12 mm)
Sep 67°F (19°C) 0.2 inches (6 mm) 58°F (14°C) 0.9 inches (23 mm)
Oct 63°F (17°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm) 55°F (13°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm)
Nov 56°F (13°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm) 52°F (11°C) 6.5 inches (164 mm)
Dec 51°F (10°C) 2.1 inches (53 mm) 49°F (9°C) 6 inches (153 mm)