A visit to Alcatraz Island and Prison is one of the top things to do in San Francisco. It is a very popular attraction. You will need to book your tickets to Alcatraz Island in advance. Discover the best Alcatraz tours in San Francisco, tips for booking your tickets last minute, and what tours not to book.
As a Bay Area local, I have toured Alcatraz Island on multiple occasions, and I still believe it is worth adding to your San Francisco bucket list. All of my friends who have visited me in California, I am originally from Pennslyvania, have really enjoyed their tour of Alcatraz. It is a unique and one-of-a-kind experience.
⏰ Don’t have time to read the whole article?
The One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz is the best Alactraz tour in San Francisco. I love this tour because you visit a ton of incredible Bay Area locations in just one day.
⭐ Also, there are lots of 5 star reviews, so you can’t go wrong!
Best Alcatraz Tours San Francisco 2022
I have compiled a list of the best Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco. You can either book a tour to see Alcatraz by itself. The main booking website for Alcatraz offers four different types of tours that I will explain in detail below. Or you can do a combo tour with a tour company and get to see more of San Francisco and other popular Bay Area attractions.
It is important to know that tickets to Alcatraz Island sell out fast! You should book your tour as soon as possible to avoid sold-out tickets. Tickets are made available about 90 days in advance.
You may have a hard time if you are looking for the day before or the day of for tickets. However, I do provide some tips below on how to get last-minute tickets. I highly recommend you book your tickets in advance, so you get the option of the best price and tour.
At the bottom of this post, I answer other frequently asked questions about visiting Alcatraz. Such as what tours I wouldn’t suggest, can you visit Alcatraz without a tour, how much are tickets to Alcatraz, what to wear to Alcatraz, and more.
Alcatraz City Cruises
If you want to book a tour of only Alcatraz Island without adding on a combo tour of other Bay Area locations, then this is the tour you will want to book. All tickets to Alcatraz are provided by Alcatraz City Cruises. This is the cheapest and most direct source to get your tickets for Alcatraz Island and Prison.
Alcatraz City Cruises offers three types of tours, Alcatraz Day Tour, Alcatraz Night Tour, and Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour. All three tours include transportation by ferry to and from Alcatraz Island, an audio-guided tour of the island and cell house, access to the outdoor historic spaces, and iconic vistas of San Francisco.
1. Alcatraz Day Tour
Explore the history and fascinating stories of Alcatraz Island on an Alcatraz Day Tour. The day tours tend to be busier than the tours at night, so be prepared to arrive early on the ferry, and you may experience a wait to start the Cellhouse Audio Tour to prevent crowding.
The advantages of the Alcatraz Day Tour are that it is the cheapest and most offered tour. Also, with an Alcatraz Day Tour, you can book the day’s first tour, the Early Bird Tour. The Early Bird Tour leaves at 8:45 or 9:10 am. If you book the first tour of the day, you get to explore the island before it gets crowded.
2. Alcatraz Night Tour
The Alcatraz Night Tour is one of the more popular options of tours offered at Alcatraz and does typically sell out quicker than the day tours. Tickets to Alcatraz Night Tour are limited to only a number of people per night and offer many perks that the day tour does not.
Besides fewer people, the night tour includes special programs, tours, and activities that are not offered during the day. Also, at night you get an upfront view of the sun beautifully setting over the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco.
3. Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour
The Behind the Scenes Tour is a small group tour with your own personal guide. They will take you behind the scenes to explore off-the-beaten-path areas of Alcatraz that are closed to the general public. You also have the option to stay for longer on the island and join the night tour.
The Behind the Scenes Tour involves a lot of walking up steep hills, climbing stairs, and standing for long periods of time. They also do not allow children under the age of 12 to participate in the Behind the Scenes Tour due to the physical and strenuous demands.
Best Combo Alcatraz Tours San Francisco
As you may know, when you are visiting San Francisco, there is so much to do and see in such little time. A combo tour is a perfect way to see Alcatraz and experience other amazing Bay Area locations and attractions in San Francisco.
Pairing your visit to Alcatraz with a combo tour is also a great option if the official tickets to Alcatraz Island are sold out.
Here is a list of the best combo Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco that I believe are worth the cost and from a reliable tour company.
4. One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz
Personally, I think this is one of the best Alcatraz tours in San Francisco. The One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz provides a well-rounded tour because you can see and visit a ton of incredible Bay Area locations in just one day.
Your One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz begins with your local guide who drives you around the city to see and make stops at numerous well-known and historic locations. Such as Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, China Town, Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Heights (where Mrs. Doubtfire’s house is), Fort Point National Historic Site, and the Presidio of San Francisco.
After you tour San Francisco’s best neighborhoods, you will drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to one of my favorite towns, Sausalito, for a quick lunch break. There are many amazing restaurants in Sausalito that boost waterfront views of the bay.
The next stop on your tour is the famous Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods is known for its enchanting redwood forest. If you haven’t stood beside a redwood tree before, it is an incredible experience. The towering redwood trees are some of the tallest trees in the world, and Muir Woods is home to redwoods of over 800 years.
Finally, it is time for Alcatraz! Your guide will take you to the ferry, where you will head to Alcatraz Island to explore this historic prison.
- It is the perfect tour if you are on limited time
- You get to see Alcatraz, Sausalito, Muir Woods, and other famous San Francisco neighborhoods.
- Informative tour guide
- Many raving and 5-star reviews
- You do not get a lot of time at each location since you are squeezing in so much in one day.
- Muir Woods entrance fee is not included
- One of the more expensive tours on this list
✅ Book the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz here
5. Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour
The Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour is very similar to the tour above. Just like the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz, you get an adventure-packed day of three of the top best Bay Area attractions. However, the main differences between these two tours are the time, price, and the extra tour of the San Francisco neighborhoods.
If you are looking to still get a full day of exploring the area, but want a shorter tour, a cheaper price, and don’t mind skipping the guided tour of San Francisco. Then this is the perfect tour for you. The Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito tour is also a smaller tour group, they only take a maximum of 11 people. Whereas with the other tour, they have a max of 20 people.
What should you expect on your Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour? Your day will start at a pickup location in San Francisco, where you will meet your small group and local guide. From there you will cruise along the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in your luxury van to your first stop, Muir Woods National Monument.
You will have a little over an hour to hike and explore the lush and magical redwood forests at Muir Woods. After your time enjoying a little bit of nature, your tour guide will whisk you away to the quaint and charming nearby town of Sausalito.
During your time in Sausalito, you can grab lunch with gorgeous views of the Bay. Or spoil yourself with some ice cream at one of our favorite shops Lappert’s Ice Cream as you explore the downtown shops and galleries.
Lastly, you will board the ferry from San Francisco to the infamous Alcatraz Island. The audio-guided tour will take you back into history as you learn about notorious criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly to ’70s Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger who were incarcerated here.
- A packed day of touring three must-see Bay Area locations
- Informative tour guide
- Extra time to spend at each location compared to other Muir Woods, Alcatraz, and Sausalito tour
- Muir Woods entrance fee is not included
- You do not get a tour of San Francisco neighborhoods.
✅ Book your Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour here
6. Official Alcatraz Tour + 2 Hour City Bucket List Excursion
Another tour that makes the list of 10 best Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco is the Bucket List Excursion. This combo tour is a great option if you want to add an extra activity to your Alcatraz Tour in San Francisco that doesn’t take up your entire day.
The Official Alcatraz Tour + 2 Hour City Bucket List Excursion is about a 5-hour tour that takes you to Alcatraz Island and a unique guided tour to some of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods.
The tour starts at Alcatraz Landing, where you will board the ferry to Alcatraz Island for a self-guided audio tour. The audio-guided tour offered at Alcatraz is one of the best! It does an incredible job transporting you back in time to when Alcatraz was a working federal prison and home to some of the most dangerous criminals of the time. You get to tour the prison cells and learn about the interesting history of Alcatraz and the various attempted escapes by the prisoners.
After your time at Alcatraz, you will meet your tour guide at Alcatraz Landing for a city tour of San Francisco. Your guide will take you on an informative tour to various must-see locations in San Francisco. You will get to pass by and get photo ops at the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, Fort Point National Historic Site, and Pacific Heights.
- Great opportunity to visit Alcatraz and do a city tour of San Francisco
- Shorter tour than some of the others on this list
- Many 5-star reviews
- Knowledgeable tour guides
- More of a sightseeing tour, you do not get to stop at each of these San Francisco locations.
✅ Book the Official Alcatraz Tour + 2 Hour City Bucket List Excursion here
7. San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz
For a tour that is different and unique, I love this San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz. If you have already toured San Francisco and other nearby locations, then this food tour can be a great addition to your visit to Alcatraz Island.
The tour begins at the historic Ferry Building located along the Embarcadero. The Ferry Building is over 120 years old and serves as a ferry terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay. However, besides acting as a hub for transportation, the Ferry Building is a marketplace full of bustling restaurants, specialty food stores, a farmer’s market, coffee shops, artisan meat and cheeses, specialty wine, and more.
You will meet your tour guide outside the Ferry Building clocktower, where you will start your San Francisco food journey. For the next 90 minutes, your knowledgeable guide will have you tour the Ferry Building and sample food from popular vendors throughout the market.
After tasting your way through the Ferry Building, you will head outside to visit the farmer’s market. The farmer’s market at the Ferry Building is considered to be one of the best in the world.
When your food tour is complete, you will make your way to Alcatraz Landing to catch your ferry to Alcatraz Island. You can either take a quick Uber or it’s a 20-minute walk from the Ferry Building. Alcatraz is one of the top attractions in San Francisco and absolutely worth a trip.
You will tour “The Rock,” an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay that was once a maximum security prison with your audio guide. As you explore the prison and learn of the history behind Alcatraz, you will also enjoy the incredible panoramic views of the Bay and the city of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz is approximately a 4-hour tour. It is one of the shorter tours on this list, which could be great if you do not have a lot of extra time to see Alcatraz.
- Unique combo tour
- Less time than other tours so it won’t take up an entire day
- Transportation from the Ferry Building to Alcatraz Landing is not provided
- On the expensive side compared to other tours
✅ Book the San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz here
8. Alcatraz & Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito Guided Bike Tour
Book an adventurous two-day combo tour and get the opportunity to check off some San Francisco bucket list attractions. The Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito Guided Bike Tour takes place over two days, which is nice if you don’t want to cram everything into one day.
On the first day, you will explore San Francisco on a guided bike tour. The tour will pass by numerous iconic locations such as the Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Mason Center, and along the waterfront by Fisherman’s Wharf. After touring San Francisco, you will take your bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge to the charming town of Sausalito.
A visit to the famous Golden Gate Bridge is an absolute must-do when touring San Francisco. Once you arrive in Sausalito, enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the many waterfront restaurants. Sausalito has some of the best views of the Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco.
The bike ride concludes in Sausalito, and you have the option to ride your bike back to the city. For an extra fee, you can return the bike at their Sausalito drop-off location or take the bike with you on a ferry to San Francisco.
On day two, you finally get to see Alcatraz! Your ticket includes transportation to and from the island by ferry and a 2.5-hour audio-guided tour of the island.
- Tour spread out into two days
- Get to see many must-visit locations by guided tour
- They also offer electric bikes to help with the hills
- Knowledgeable tour guides
- You may not have enough time to dedicate two days to a tour
- Not the best tour for young children
✅ Book your Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito Guided Bike Tour here
9. San Francisco Bay: Sail & Jail Boat Cruise & Alcatraz Ticket
Nothing like cruising the San Francisco bay by boat! You get a unique and incredible view of many iconic San Francisco sights. The San Francisco Bay: Sail & Jail Boat Cruise & Alcatraz Tour is the perfect combo tour, especially if you love to be on the water.
The Sail & Jail Boat Cruise includes a 1.5-hour catamaran cruise and a ferry ride to the infamous Alcatraz Island. Your tour will begin at Alcatraz Landing, where you will catch a ferry to The Rock and explore the island that famously was a maximum security prison. The audio guide will transport you back in time as you learn about the history and the interesting stories of those who lived at Alcatraz.
After your tour, your will return to Alcatraz landing and begin the catamaran cruise. The catamaran provides an exciting and fun way to see San Francisco and the surrounding sights. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions and other marine life during your cruise.
The experienced captain and crew onboard will make sure everyone enjoys their time and will even let you steer the boat. Even on a sunny day, bring a jacket with you. The Bay can get very chilly and windy.
- Unique tour and way to see the city
- Get the opportunity to sail on the Bay with an experienced captain and crew
- There are two separate cruises, the catamaran does not drop you off at Alcatraz
- The exact time of the Alcatraz ferry departure may vary and you won’t be notified until 10 days before the tour.
- Weather dependant
✅ Book the San Francisco Bay: Sail & Jail Boat Cruise & Alcatraz Ticket here
10. San Francisco: Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise
The Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise is one of the best Alcatraz tours in San Francisco. You can book a thrilling and adventurous tour with Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise. Similar to the Sail & Jail tour, the San Francisco: Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise allows you the opportunity to tour Alcatraz and see San Francisco by boat tour.
However, instead of a catamaran, you will explore the waters by a high-powered Rigid Inflatable Boat. The inflatable boat provides a more exciting journey and the chance to get up close to wildlife and many iconic sights.
The Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise will begin at Alcatraz Landing, where you will catch your ferry to Alcatraz Island. At our own pace you can discover Alcatraz Island with your self-guided audio tour. You will have plenty of time to walk through the prison cells, access the outdoor historic spaces, and see the iconic vistas of San Francisco.
After your tour of Alcatraz, you will return to the official Alcatraz Ferry. Once you hit land, you will take a short walk to Pier 39 to meet your crew of the Voyager Adventure Cruise. Your captain will be your guide and share his wealth of knowledge about the area.
On your boat tour, you will have the opportunity to see many of San Francisco’s main attractions on a unforgettable sightseeing tour.
- You can get an up-close view of sights and marine life
- An adventurous and exciting way to see the Bay.
- Weather-appropriate gear is provided
- Numerous 5 star reviews
- Not suitable for pregnant women, people with back problems, or children under 5 years of age.
- Weather dependant
- There are two separate cruises, the voyager does not drop you off at Alcatraz
✅ Book The Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise here
Is The Alcatraz Tour Worth It
Alcatraz Island is a one-of-a-kind location, it may be touristy, but it is absolutely worth visiting! The Alcatraz Tour provides a unique experience back in time with its award-winning Cellhouse Tour.
The audio tour does an incredible job transporting you to when Alcatraz Island was a maximum prison for some of the most famous criminals in the United States during that time.
I have personally done the Alcatraz tour numerous times with friends and family, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and interesting tour to do in San Francisco.
Why You Should Book a Combo Tour to Alcatraz
There are some benefits of booking a combo tour with a tour company. You get to see Alcatraz along with other top San Francisco locations. Planning a combo tour is perfect if you are visiting San Francisco for a short period of time and would like to do and see as much as possible.
Another perk of booking a combo tour is securing a ticket to Alcatraz. The tickets to Alcatraz sell out very quickly, and you typically need to book them months in advance. However, a tip for getting last-minute tickets to Alcatraz is by booking your tickets through an official Alcatraz partner.
Guides to Help You Plan Your Combo Tours
Some of the Alcatraz tours include other Bay Area locations. Such as Sausalito and Muir Woods. I have already written posts on both of these destinations. If you are planning on visiting Sausalito, you can find the top things to do, where to eat, and other tips here.
Not sure if you should add Muir Woods to your tour? Check out my post Is Muir Woods Worth Visiting: Why You Should or Should Not Visit here for all of the details.
Tips for Booking Alcatraz tickets for Sold-Out Days
If you are looking to see Alcatraz on a sold-out day there are some tips for scoring a couple of tickets. However, do not buy your tickets from a scalper.
It is illegal to resell Alcatraz tickets, but also at the departure gate, they may check to see if the name on the ticket matches yours. So to avoid all of this, I do not recommend buying your tickets from a scalper.
- Check for canceled tickets: You can do this by checking Alcatraz City Cruises
- Book a combo tour: Book one of the tours that I have listed above with a tour company
- Night tour standby tickets: Purchase a standby ticket at the box office during the day. It’s first come first serve. After they board the passengers for that night’s sailing, they allow the standbys on if there is room. You will be refunded if you do not go to Alcatraz.
What Tours I Wouldn’t Suggest
There are so many combo tours to Alcatraz it can be difficult to choose the right one. Especially if you are not familiar with San Francisco or the specific tour, you could be getting ripped off. There are some tours that really jack up the price, and I honestly feel like you will not get your money’s worth.
Keep in mind, when choosing your Alcatraz Tour in San Francisco that one ticket to Alcatraz Island for an adult is priced at $41.00. No matter what combo tour you choose, you are getting the same exact Alcatraz tour, which is the audio-guided tour.
If you are looking at tours that include Alcatraz and maybe a walking tour or a restaurant discount, make sure that the prices make sense and are worth the extra money.
How Much is an Alcatraz Tour
The cost of an Alcatraz Tour varies upon which tour you decide to do. Here is a breakdown of how much it is to book a tour to Alcatraz. This does not include any combo tours, only the cost of the Alcatraz Tour itself.
Adult & Junior: $ 41.00
Family Pack: $119.60 (2 adults 2 children)
Behind the Scenes:
What is The Best Website to Buy Alcatraz tickets
If you are looking to book tickets to only Alcatraz Island, the best website to buy tickets is Alcatraz City Cruises. If you want to book a combo tour with a tour company, I personally like to use Viator, Get Your Guide, or Trip Advisor. I have booked directly with each of these booking sites and have had a positive experience.
Can I Visit Alcatraz Without a Tour
No, you cannot visit Alcatraz without a tour. Alcatraz Island is open to the public, but Alcatraz Cruises is the only commercial boat service authorized by the National Park Service to carry passengers back and forth to Alcatraz Island.
To visit the famous Alcatraz Island and prison, you must book a tour in advance either with Alcatraz City Cruises or an approved tour company.
What to Wear Visiting Alcatraz
Even if the forecast calls for sunshine and clear skies, always bring layers and warm clothes when visiting Alcatraz Island. The ferry ride and standing outside on the island can be very chilly and windy.
Also, the tour does require walking up some hills and walking up stairs. I suggest wearing a pair of comfortable and sturdy shoes for your visit to Alcatraz as well.
In Conclusion: Best Alcatraz Tours San Francisco
I hope that my list of best Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco will help you decide on which epic tour to book to see the famous Alcatraz Island. If you are looking for other day trips from San Francisco, I have plenty of guides to some incredible locations. Some of my favorites are:
- 18 Awesome Things to Do in Pescadero, CA
- Day Trip to Napa Valley, CA
- Best Way to Get to Muir Woods From San Francisco
- Top 12 Monte Rio CA Restaurants & Where to Eat Nearby