The Official Tour of Alcatraz Island and Prison

Step back in time and experience the legendary island that has been a Civil War fort, a military prison and one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history. This memorable tour includes: 45 minute audio presentation “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour,” featuring actual correctional officers and prisoners who lived and worked on the Island; orientation video by Discovery Channel; ranger and docent tours; historic gardens and abundant wildlife.

CELLHOUSE AUDIO TOUR

No one can tell the Alcatraz tale like the men who actually lived it. The captivating Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour brings history alive through the actual voices of the correctional officers and inmates who lived on the island during the infamous Federal Penitentiary era.

Hear both sides of life in the island prison including such famous events as escape attempts, “The Battle of ’46”, food riots, and surviving solitary confinement.

The Cellhouse Audio Tour is available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

GARDENS OF ALCATRAZ

From the military to the penitentiary era, plants softened the Rock for those who called Alcatraz home. Through gardening, island residents created beauty in a place focused on defense, punishment, and confinement. The families of the guards enjoyed tea parties in the gardens, and gardening became a welcome pastime. For trusted inmates, the gardens were an escape from daily prison life. Even today, the thriving gardens are a stark contrast to the somber prison.

After closure of the prison in 1963, many plants survived decades without care. These survivors are excellent choices for gardeners in the Bay Area or other Mediterranean climates. Since 2003, The Garden Conservancy has been working in partnership with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service to restore these wonderful gardens and to share the stories with visitors.

Join a garden docent for an up-close look at the restored historic gardens of Alcatraz. Learn about the softer side of the Rock and how gardens made life tolerable for residents of the barren island. Tours leave the Alcatraz dock at 9:30 am every Friday and Sunday.

GUIDED TOURS

Join the island staff for a guided walking tour of Alcatraz Island. Programs are offered throughout the day and generally start either at the dock or lighthouse. Topics may include Famous Inmates, Escapes, Hollywood’s Rock, 200 Years of Alcatraz History, and Fortress Alcatraz. Some programs even take visitors into restricted areas of the island.

Guided tours generally last 45 minutes to an hour, and may involve walking moderate distances.

Tours and times vary daily, so check the Program Board when you arrive on the island dock. No reservations are required, and all programs are free.

ALCATRAZ: STORIES FROM THE ROCK

Alcatraz: Stories From the Rock takes viewers on a journey through the Island’s many chapters: its early role as a military fortress, the famous federal penitentiary years, the Indian occupation that altered the course of history, and finally the popular National Park and wildlife refuge it is today.

Alcatraz stands as a powerful symbol of protection and change. The film explores Alcatraz as it began, as it evolved, and as it stands today and allows viewers to discover the many layers that make it an incredible time capsule of history and human drama.

VIDEO: WE HOLD THE ROCK

The occupation of Alcatraz Island from 1969 to 1971 by “Indians of All Tribes” changed the course of U.S. and American Indian history, and brought world-wide attention to the plight of American Indians. The award winning video/exhibit, “WE HOLD THE ROCK,” produced by the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, is shown continually in the China Alley exhibit behind the main theater area near the dock.

ALCATRAZ AND THE AMERICAN PRISON EXPERIENCE

“Alcatraz and the American Prison Experience,” a major interpretive exhibit, explains the place of Alcatraz in the evolution of prisons in America from Colonial days to the present. Produced in partnership with the federal Bureau of Prisons, the exhibit also looks at family life on Alcatraz and trends in American penology. The exhibit is housed in two historic fortress storerooms in the China Alley display area near the dock.

Group of Friends Visiting Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

Alcatraz Day Tour

Dylan’s famous tour with muir woods and alcatraz.

See it all in one day! Explore San Francisco, Muir Woods, and take the official Alcatraz tour with tickets included at the end of your tour with Dylan’s.

  Time & Duration

Tour starts at 8:00 AM Returns approx. 5:30 PM

Adult $189 Child $129 (12 & under)

  Tour Includes

  • Explore the top neighborhoods with your local guide and learn the stories, history, and diversity of San Francisco.
  • 12 locations, 7 amazing photo stops, including Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, and more!
  • Enjoy a relaxing lunch in Sausalito, where you will have time to soak in all the views of the Bay.
  • The Official Alcatraz Tour ferry will depart Pier 33 at approximately 3:00 PM during the summer months and 2:00 PM during the winter months.
  • Please contact us directly if you are interested in a hotel pickup.
  • We offer a 100% refund with at least 4 days notice prior to departure.
  • Please note this tour will sell out throughout the year, especially during the spring and summer seasons. We highly recommend booking early to guarantee your spot.
  • We offer hotel pick-ups all over the Bay Area to our departure location for $20 per group.

Explore San Francisco, Muir Woods, Sausalito, and Alcatraz All in One Day!

dylan's famous san francisco tour

This is not your standard hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Groups stay with the same bus for the entire trip with several breaks and iconic photo stops along the way. Our smaller buses offer an intimate experience without sacrificing personal space or comfort. We make sure every person on our city tour feels seen and accounted for.

muir woods tour from san francisco

After exploring San Francisco, marvel at the redwoods on a walk through Muir Woods National Monument. This is the perfect nature escape just a stone’s throw away from the city. We’ll spend over an hour here, giving you ample time to experience one of the last remaining coastal redwood forests in the world!

Sausalito tour

After Muir Woods, we will stop in the quaint little town of Sausalito on our way back to San Francisco for a lunch break. You will have numerous choices for lunch in this beautiful bayside town.

alcatraz day tour

In the afternoon, you will board the ferry for the Official Alcatraz Day Tour. This former federal prison was once home to infamous criminals Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and it is a must-do while visiting San Francisco.

Tour Itinerary

7:45 AM — Meet at Fisherman’s Wharf                                        

Plan to arrive by 7:45 AM to the meeting point at 710 Beach St. in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood.

8:00 AM — Depart Fisherman’s Wharf                                        

Our guide meets you at our departure location shortly before 8:00 AM. After a brief roll call, we board the bus and begin our adventure. Our first stops include all the most famous neighborhoods in San Francisco!

8:00 AM–10:00 AM — Explore San Francisco’s BEST neighborhoods!

During this time, you are treated to entertaining stories about the neighborhoods, as well as the history, diversity, and geographical nuances that make San Francisco one of the most unique cities in the world!

We exit the bus several times (10-minute breaks) to soak in the neighborhoods and capture amazing photos! Please see “neighborhoods visited” (below) for details on each neighborhood, as well as where we stop for photos.

10:00 AM–11:15 AM — Explore Muir Woods (75 minutes)

After exploring San Francisco, we head for Muir Woods. Here, you will have over an hour to walk amongst some of the last remaining coastal redwoods in the world! This is an unforgettable photo opportunity. Many of our customers consider Muir Woods the highlight of the entire day!

11:45 AM–12:30 PM — Lunch Break in Sausalito

Enjoy lunch in the beautiful town of Sausalito.

2:00 PM–3:00 PM* — Depart for the Official Alcatraz Tour at Pier 33

After enjoying your city and Muir Woods tour with us, we will drop you off at Pier 33 to depart for Alcatraz. Upon arriving at Alcatraz Island, you will take the official Alcatraz tour and have the opportunity to explore additional exhibits at your convenience.

*winter and summer Alcatraz departure times vary

5:30 PM — Return to Pier 33 You will return by ferry from Alcatraz back to Pier 33 where you are free to enjoy the rest of your evening!

Neighborhoods & Photo Stops

* Photo Stops

Fisherman’s Wharf —One of San Francisco’s most popular destinations. From old shipyards to Boudin’s Bakery and the smell of fresh clam chowder, Fisherman’s Wharf has it all.

North Beach —Voted as one of the USA’s “ten great neighborhoods,” North Beach is best known as the home of Little Italy. From delicious restaurants to authentic sidewalk cafes and bakeries, you will feel the charm of San Francisco as soon as you arrive.

Chinatown —Boasting the largest Chinatown in the United States, this 24-block mecca is bustling with energy, amazing food, and unique and colorful shops that give this area its charm.

Nob Hill — Home to some of our most famous hotels, Nob Hill offers some of the best cocktail lounges and views in the city.

* Pacific Heights —Offering one of the most scenic outlooks in all of Northern California, Pacific Heights is home to Billionaire’s Row, featuring the estates of politicians, tech titans, and other San Francisco celebrities (includes the Mrs. Doubtfire house!).

Presidio —Former military base, now a beautiful park that includes Crissy Field, Fort Point, Lucasfilm’s (George Lucas) headquarters and the Walt Disney Museum.

* Fort Point —Located just beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point gives you a front-row seat to the Bay and is a great photo stop. This former military fortification was used during WWII.

* Palace of Fine Arts — Inspired by Roman and Greek architecture, the Palace of Fine Arts was originally constructed to celebrate San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake. Surrounded by a peaceful garden, it is great for photos.

* Golden Gate Bridge —Declared “one of the 10 wonders of the modern world,” the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognized symbols of San Francisco. Simply stunning!

** Marin Headlands —Offering a stunning perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge with downtown San Francisco in the background, this awe-inspiring view is the perfect place to capture a memorable photo.

** Only available on private tours .

Customer Reviews

  • If you only have 1-day to visit San Francisco take this tour! "Our cruise had 1-day in San Francisco and this was really the best way to see it all. In the morning we covered some of the best-known San Francisco neighborhoods, along with tons of photo stops along the way. Our guide had plenty of fun stories and history along the route, which dropped us right back in Fisherman’s Wharf. My family grabbed a quick lunch and enjoyed Pier 39’s sea lions before our afternoon Alcatraz Tour. My kids loved the Alcatraz ferry and the audio tour; I loved the fact that I didn’t have to worry about any of the logistics - Thank you Dylan’s!” Kate S.
  • The most amazing 1-Day tour package, beautiful scenery, perfectly organized! "Everything was exactly as advertised. Our bus was waiting, on time and ready to go. Our tour guide was absolutely awesome. Tons of photo ops. You get to see a lot of the key points in the city, like the bridge, Haight-Ashbury, Little Italy, etc., so much history. After enjoying lunch in Fisherman’s Wharf we explored Lombard Street by foot (as our guide told us the best way to see it), before heading to Alcatraz. No line-ups, no hassle and tickets were ready for us when we arrived. Worth every penny! Total class act!” Moe T.
  • Comprehensive and interesting, 5 Stars "We chose this tour because we only had 1 day in San Francisco as part of a honeymoon tour of the USA. It was perfect, great weather, and our guide was so friendly and knowledgeable and made the whole tour very casual. Lunch in Fisherman’s Wharf was excellent per the recommendation of our guide. Alcatraz was also highly enjoyable. Overall a wonderful way to get a feel for the Bay Area and know where to come back to. We also took plenty of memorable photos!” Andrea T.

Tour Specific FAQs

What does the official alcatraz island visit include.

The visit includes round-trip ferry and the 90-minute audio tour of the island. You can also see additional exhibits on the island as well. We find most of our visitors spend 2.5-3 hours during their stay.

What time do we meet for the tour?

Can i just take the alcatraz tour without going on a tour.

Unfortunately not. All companies offering Alcatraz tickets must offer a tour package, per our contract with Alcatraz Cruises.

How far in advance should I book a tour that includes Alcatraz?

During summer season and holidays we recommend booking as soon as you can as these tours will sell-out!

What is Muir Woods?

Muir Woods National Monument is located 20 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge and is home to some of the oldest and tallest living trees in the world.

This popular destination is part of the United States National Park Service and is considered to be one of the most peaceful destinations in the Bay Area.

Where does the minibus tour pick-up and drop-off?

Pick-ups: Our minibus tours pick-up in a convenient location in Fisherman’s Wharf, across from 710 Beach Street.

Drop-offs: Depending on your tour we can drop you off in Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, North Beach, or Chinatown.

Is there a parking garage near the starting point?

Yes, there are several parking garages located near our meeting point.

How does the hotel pick-up work?

Please contact us directly if you are interested in a hotel pickup at [email protected] or call (415) 932-6993 . Please be ready 45-minutes prior to your tour time if you do opt-in for the pick-up option.

What is the value of my Alcatraz ticket?

Can i make changes to my reservation.

There are many websites across the internet where you can book a tour with us. They all have different terms. When possible, we request that you book directly here on our website. This enables us to not only provide you the best pricing available, but it also enables us to provide a much more customized level of service. Please note Alcatraz tours must be changed 4 days in advance due to the booking system with the the official Alcatraz tour provider. 

What is your cancellation policy?

Payments: Please note our site is secure and offers SSL security on all credit card purchases.

Cancellations: We offer a 100% refund with at least 4 days notice prior to departure. For tours with at least 24 hours but less than 4 days notice, we offer a 100% refund less the cost of the Alcatraz ticket ($60).

Important Tour Details

  • Duration: 9+  hours 
  • Meeting Time: 7:45 AM
  • Departure Time: 8:00  AM
  • Return Time: 5:30  PM
  • Additional Muir Woods Entrance Fee: $15/person (16yrs+)
  • Departure Location: Fisherman’s Wharf, 710 Beach Street
  • Tour ends at Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing
  • Adult (13 yrs+) $189
  • Child (0-12 yrs old) $129
  • We offer a 100% refund with at least 4 days notice prior to departure. For tours with at least 24 hours but less than 4 days notice, we offer a 100% refund less the cost of the Alcatraz ticket ($60).
  • Tour price includes Alcatraz entrance fee. Anyone over 18 must have a government-issued ID for ferry.

How We're Different

We are not a big bus company! It’s very common to see large hop-on, hop-off buses around San Francisco, but we take a much more personal approach. Our guides not only have intimate knowledge and unmatched enthusiasm for the Bay City, but we also use specialized minibuses which are built specifically for city tours. We can literally take you where the big buses can’t go.

Our minibuses have large windows for full view of the city as we conduct the tour and are climate controlled with plenty of room for everyone. We stop several times and provide many photo opportunities. 

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Alcatraz Island Tour Tickets

Alcatraz island is open come see sf's #1 attraction..

Book Alcatraz DAY Tix  Book Alcatraz NIGHT Tix

These tickets sell out weeks in advance because of limited capacity -- Book your tickets early! We have the biggest selection of options to tour Alcatraz. If tickets are sold out on the date you want to go, we have several options for you.

Have a question?

Click here to chat live with one of our reservation agents.

Recommended Tours and Activities

...

Alcatraz Day Ticket

*Face coverings are required at all times in boarding areas, onboard vessels and in all indoor spaces on Alcatraz Island.   Please bring your face mask with you or you may purchase one at the ticket booth.

From: $41.01 US Dollars

More Info Add to cart

...

  • Alcatraz Night Tour

The Alcatraz Night Tour is a unique program limited to just a few hundred visitors per evening. It includes special programs, tours, and activities not offered during the day. Roundtrip ferry transportation, a live boat narration, a guided tour from Dock to Cellhouse, the Cellhouse Audio Tour, a keepsake souvenir brochure, recreation use fee, and a variety of special programs and presentations offered only at night. *Face coverings are required at all times in boarding areas, onboard vessels and in all indoor spaces on Alcatraz Island.  Please bring your face mask with you or you may purchase one at the ticket booth.

From: $47.36 US Dollars

  • Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour

Get tickets to Alcatraz Island and cruise on the San Francisco Bay. Tour Alcatraz, the infamous and notorious former federal prison, which is home to the likes of Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelley, and Robert "The Birdman" Stroud. *Face coverings are required at all times in boarding areas, onboard vessels and in all indoor spaces on Alcatraz Island.  Please bring your face mask with you or you may purchase one at the ticket booth.

From: $89.36 US Dollars

...

Alcatraz Ticket & Angel Island Combination Island Hop Tour

BEST OPTION WHEN ALCATRAZ TICKETS ARE SOLD OUT - This tour goes inside Alcatraz! The Alcatraz & Angel Island Combination Tour showcases two of San Francisco Bay's most famous and historically rich islands. Take this tour and you will not only see two amazing sites, but you will travel on the first hybrid ferry in the United States. This vessel is a working demonstration of alternative energy in operation, utilizing wind, solar, electricity and diesel. *Face coverings are required at all times in boarding areas, onboard vessels and in all indoor spaces on Alcatraz Island.  Please bring your face mask with you or you may purchase one at the ticket booth.

From: $78.66 US Dollars

Tours and activities from our partners, tour & activity types.

We have a number of tours and activites to pick from. Use the list below to find the type of tour you are looking for.

  • Alcatraz is Sold Out
  • Alcatraz Day Tours
  • Alcatraz Night Tours
  • Alcatraz Tours
  • Angel Island Tours

Popular Tours and Activities

Your reservations cart.

Your cart is currently empty

Print your E-Ticket

You will receive an E-Ticket for your tour/activity within 72 hours (if your tour/activity is in less than 10 days). If your tour/activity is within the next 72 hours, your E-Ticket will be processed as quickly as possible.

Copyright 1999 - 2024 City Info Experts LLC - Powered by Tour Beaver. All Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement and Privacy Policy GA License Number TKBK00007 Fla. Seller of Travel Ref. No. ST38607

City Info Experts logo

Travel Today Work Tomorrow

The Best Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco: A Locals Guide

affiliate link and privacy policy

Living in Oakland, California, and having toured Alcatraz three times, I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s a popular destination, yet far from a tourist trap. Everyone I’ve introduced to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco finds it an extraordinary and unforgettable experience.

Choosing the right Alcatraz tour can be daunting with so many options, and not all offer good value.

To help you avoid disappointment, this guide provides essential tips for selecting the best Alcatraz tours in San Francisco. You’ll learn how to secure last-minute tickets and which tours to skip for a memorable experience.

A local’s tips for booking the best tour of Alcatraz:

  • To book a solo Alcatraz Island tour without additional Bay Area attractions, opt for Alcatraz City Cruises. This is the official website and will be the cheapest price.
  • For the ultimate tour of the main sites in the city, the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz is the best Alcatraz tour in San Francisco . Also, it boasts many 5-star ⭐ reviews, so you can’t go wrong!
  • It’s essential to secure your tickets well in advance! Tip tickets are released 90 days in advance.

Best Alcatraz Tours San Francisco 2024

The ferry port at Alcatraz Island

I’ve curated a list of the top Alcatraz Island tours and combo tours, offering you the best experiences to book.

Keep in mind, Alcatraz tickets sell out fast, so early booking is key! If you’re looking for last-minute tickets, don’t worry – I’ve got some handy tips to help you secure them.

Plus, at the end of this post, I’ve included a comprehensive FAQ section about Alcatraz, covering topics like tours to avoid, whether you can visit Alcatraz without a tour, ticket costs, recommended attire, and much more.

Alcatraz City Cruises

To book a solo Alcatraz Island tour without additional Bay Area attractions, opt for Alcatraz City Cruises. This is the most affordable and direct way to get your tickets for Alcatraz Island and Prison.

Alcatraz City Cruises provides three tour options: Alcatraz Day Tour, Alcatraz Night Tour, and Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour. Each includes ferry transportation, an audio-guided tour of the island and cell house, access to historic outdoor spaces, and views of San Francisco.

1. Alcatraz Day Tour

Discover Alcatraz Island’s rich history with an Alcatraz Day Tour. I have done this tour before, and I recommend it for a comprehensive and enjoyable visit. However, day tours tend to be busier than night tours. So I suggest you plan to arrive early for the ferry and expect a wait for the Cellhouse Audio Tour to minimize crowding.

The Day Tour is popular for being the most affordable and frequently available option. Tip, you can book the Early Bird Tour, departing at 8:45 or 9:10 am, to experience the island before it becomes crowded.

2. Alcatraz Night Tour

The Alcatraz Night Tour is one of the more popular options of tours offered at Alcatraz, and will typically sell out quicker than the day tours because they are limited to only a number of people per night and offer many perks that the day tour does not.

It offers exclusive perks, including special programs and activities not available during the day. Additionally, it provides a stunning upfront view of the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge and 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.

explore the prison at Alcatraz with audio guided 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

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.

Also, a combo tour is a great option if the official tickets to Alcatraz Island are sold out.

Below 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.

Best Overall Tour 4. One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz

on your best alcatraz tour visit other must see locations in san francisco like Fisherman's Wharf

As a Bay Area local who has visited Alcatraz multiple times, I find the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz to be the best combo tour. It’s a comprehensive, well-rounded experience, covering numerous incredible Bay Area locations in a single day.

Your One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz includes a guided city tour, visiting landmarks like Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. You’ll stop in Sausalito for lunch with bay views, then visit the enchanting Muir Woods, famous for its towering redwoods. The tour concludes with a ferry trip to Alcatraz Island for a historic exploration of the 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

on your best alcatraz tour visit other must see locations in san francisco like muir woods national monument

The Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour offers a similar experience to the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz, featuring three top Bay Area attractions.

The key differences are a shorter duration, lower price, and exclusion of the San Francisco neighborhood tour. This tour suits those looking for a full day’s exploration with a smaller group (maximum of 11 people) and without the guided tour of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

The tour begins in San Francisco, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, and first stops at Muir Woods for over an hour of hiking among the redwoods. Next, you’ll visit Sausalito for lunch and exploration, including options like my favorite spot Lappert’s Ice Cream.

The day concludes with a ferry trip to Alcatraz Island, including an audio-guided tour detailing the history of infamous inmates like Al Capone and James “Whitey” Bulger.

  • A packed day of touring three must-see Bay Area locations
  • Extra time to spend at each location compared to other Muir Woods, Alcatraz, and Sausalito tour
  • You do not get a tour of San Francisco neighborhoods.

✅ Book your Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour here

Best Sightseeing Tour of San Francisco 6. Official Alcatraz Tour + 2 Hour City Bucket List Excursion

on your best alcatraz tour visit other must see locationd in san francisco like golden gate bridge

The Bucket List Excursion is ideal for adding a shorter activity to your Alcatraz visit. This approximately 5-hour tour combines a trip to Alcatraz Island with a guided exploration of San Francisco’s most popular neighborhoods.

Starting at Alcatraz Landing, you’ll take a ferry to the island for a self-guided audio tour that vividly recounts its history as a federal prison. The tour includes the prison cells and stories of notorious inmates and escape attempts.

After Alcatraz, you’ll join your guide for a city tour, visiting key San Francisco sites like the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Chinatown, and Pacific Heights, with lots of opportunities for photos.

  • 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

Most Unique Tour 7. San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz

book a food tour at the ferry building along with your best alcatraz tour in san francisco

For a tour that is different and unique, I love this San Francisco Combo: Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz . It is especially great if you’ve already explored San Francisco and want a differnt experience.

This 90 minute food tour starts at the historic Ferry Building, a bustling marketplace full of restaurants, specialty food stores, coffee shops, artisan meat and cheeses, specialty wine, and more.

Sample offerings from popular vendors and visit the renowned farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, known as one of the world’s best.

the port at Alcatraz island

After your food tour, head to Alcatraz Landing, a short Uber ride or 20-minute walk from the Ferry Building, to catch the ferry to Alcatraz Island, a must-see San Francisco attraction.

On “The Rock,” you’ll use an audio guide to explore the former maximum security prison, learning its history and enjoying panoramic views of the Bay and San Francisco.

  • Unique combo tour
  • 4 hour 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

hillside in Sausalito, California.

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.

Day one features a guided bike tour through iconic spots like the Palace of Fine Arts and Fisherman’s Wharf, culminating in a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. There, enjoy lunch with stunning views of the Bay and San Francisco. You can choose to bike back, return the bike in Sausalito, or ferry back with the bike.

Day two is dedicated to Alcatraz, including ferry transport and a 2.5-hour audio-guided island tour.

  • 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
  • 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

sailing in the San Francisco bay

One of our favorite things to do is cruise 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.

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. 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

Views of san francisco from sausalito

The Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise is one of the best Alcatraz tours in San Francisco. You can book a thrilling and adventurous tour and 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 tour starts with a ferry to Alcatraz Island for a self-guided audio tour, exploring prison cells and historic outdoor spaces. After Alcatraz, return to land and head to Pier 39 to join the Voyager Adventure Cruise. Your captain-guide will share insights about the area during this unforgettable sightseeing tour of San Francisco’s main attractions.

  • 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.
  • There are two separate cruises, the voyager does not drop you off at Alcatraz

✅ Book The Alcatraz & Bay Voyager Adventure Cruise here

discover the best alcatraz tour 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.

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

Choosing the right Alcatraz combo tour can be tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with San Francisco or the specific tour, you could be getting ripped off. Some tours significantly mark up prices, and in my experience, they may not offer value for the money.

An adult ticket to Alcatraz costs $45.00, and all tours include the same audio-guided experience. When considering tours with added extras like walking tours or restaurant discounts, ensure the additional cost is justified and provides good value.

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.

tour the prison cells of the famous prisoners at Alcatraz Island

Adult & Junior: $ 45.25 Child: $27.55 Junior: $45.25 Senior : $42.65 Family Pack: $131.85 (2 adults 2 children)

Night Tour:

Adult: $56.30 Junior: $55.10 Child: $33.00 Senior: $52.25

Behind the Scenes:

Adult: $101.30 Junior: $97.10 Senior: $94.25

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.

The Alcatraz Ferry with Alcatraz Island in the background

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, I 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.

Related Posts:

  • Ultimate Day Trip Itinerary to Sausalito
  • Is Muir Woods Worth Visiting: Why You Should or Should Not Visit
  • 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 Or you can check out my California Travel page for all of my California content including Death Valley National Park , Paso Robles , Palm Springs , & more!

' src=

Alisha Rose is the founder of TTWT and has lived in California since 2016. She is a Registered Nurse, but loves exploring her beautiful home of California every chance she gets with her family and two Golden Retrievers. Also a world traveler, she has traveled to over 21 countries, a total of 5 continents, and 27 states in the US.

  • Skip to global NPS navigation
  • Skip to this park navigation
  • Skip to the main content
  • Skip to this park information section
  • Skip to the footer section

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Exiting nps.gov

Alerts in effect, fees & passes.

Last updated: June 1, 2023

Park footer

Contact info, mailing address:.

Alcatraz Island Golden Gate National Recreation Area B201 Fort Mason San Francisco, CA 94123

415-561-4900 United States Park Police Dispatch: Non-Emergency: 415-561-5505 Emergency: 415-561-5656

Stay Connected

City Experiences™

  • Search Experiences
  • Manage Booking
  • Phone # SMS #

Plan Your Trip – Alcatraz

Plan your trip.

Plan ahead for an enjoyable and comfortable experience by following these links to learn when to purchase your Alcatraz Island tour tickets, what to wear for a comfortable experience, how to get to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing, typical weather, food & drink options, and fun things to do after your tour!

Ticketing & Tour Information Preparing To Visit Alcatraz Island Your Visit To Alcatraz Island 

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Tour Tips & Information

Maximize your Alcatraz experience and enjoy the process beginning with purchasing your tickets and understanding a couple Island restrictions.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Public Transportation

Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing is conveniently located along San Francisco’s waterfront promenade, The Embarcadero, with many transportation options from trains, ferries, buses, & historic streetcars.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Driving Directions

Maps and directions to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing from the North, South, and East side of San Francisco Bay area.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Know your parking options before you come to the busy waterfront area.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Accessibility

Plan out your trip in advance for accessible options to comfortably experience Alcatraz from parking to exhibits to ferries.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Alcatraz Island sits in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, and the climate is unpredictable…check out our recommendations.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

San Francisco Bay Ferry Services

Connect to routes and schedules for ferry service across San Francisco Bay. Ferries terminate at the historic Ferry Building or Fisherman’s Wharf with convenient access to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Food & Beverage

Plan ahead for an Island picnic or enjoy a last-minute healthy snack on board any of the Alcatraz City Cruises vessels.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

What to Wear

Stay comfortable all day and be prepared for a change in the weather.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

After Your Tour

Walk to nearby San Francisco cultural and culinary sites, then explore wine country and oceanside destinations.

Shopping Cart

Find your experience.

AUDIO TOUR AVAILABLE

Adventure Cat Sailing Charters

Sail & Jail: Alcatraz Island Sail Package

DURATION: 90 MINS

Double your fun on the Bay with our Sail ‘n Jail package! Join an exhilarating Bay Cruise on Adventure Cat and add a separate trip to world-famous Alcatraz! Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to the Rock. The presence of infamous inmates like Al “Scarface” Capone, and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud helped to establish the island’s notoriety. To this day, Alcatraz is best known as one of the world’s most legendary prisons.

$120 (all ages)

Departure times vary throughout the season, please see our booking calendar for the latest times.

Additional information

alcatraz cruises san francisco

OUR MOST POPULAR SAILS

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Sail & Jail: Alcatraz Island Tour Package

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Sunset Sail San Francisco Bay

Privacy overview.

Alcatraz Day Tour

Alcatraz night tour.

  • Bay Discovery Cruise
  • Alcatraz Behind The Scenes Tour
  • Book Your Tour Now!
  • About Alcatraz
  • Park Programs
  • Alcatraz History
  • Alcatraz Ferry Schedule
  • Before You Visit
  • Accessibility & Parking
  • Alcatraz Tours

Accessibility Advisory: The distance from the dock to the Cellhouse is approximately 1/4 mile, and the elevation change is a steep 130 feet. There are several places to rest and take in the views. Athletic or comfortable walking shoes are recommended. If you have mobility concerns, please see Accessibility for Sustainable Easy Access Transport (S.E.A.T.) Tram information.

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Ferry to Alcatraz Island. Tour the Inside of the Cellhouse. Explore Alcatraz Island.

  • Approximately 2 ½ Hours
  • Daily departures: 8:40 AM to 3:50 PM
  • Mobile E-Ticket Check-in
  • Alcatraz Island roundtrip ferry
  • Access Inside Alcatraz Prison
  • Cellhouse Audio Tour
  • Orientation video
  • Ranger and docent tours
  • Adult Price: $53.25
  • Seniors: $50.65
  • Children: $35.55  

Back to Top

alcatraz cruises san francisco

The Complete Alcatraz Tour

  • Tuesday thru Saturday. Until March 9th: 3:50 PM check-in. Beginning March 12th: 5:55 PM, 6:30 PM and 7:05 PM check-in.
  • 45-minute Cellhouse Audio Tour
  • Onboard narration
  • Guided tour
  • Other special activities
  • Adult Price: $64.30
  • Seniors: $60.25
  • Children: $41.00  

Alcatraz Behind the Scenes Tour

alcatraz cruises san francisco

The Ultimate Alcatraz Experience

  • 4 to 5 Hours
  • Tuesday thru Saturday, Check-In Time: 2:15 PM and 2:45 PM until March 9th. Spring/Summer: 4:20 PM and 4:50 PM Check-in.
  • Ferry ride to and from Alcatraz Island
  • Two-hour Park Ranger guided tour with small group of 20 people or fewer tour guests
  • Award-winning Cellhouse audio tour
  • Additional programs and exhibits
  • Docent guided tours and talks
  • Adult Price: $109.30
  • Seniors: $102.25
  • Age 12-17: $105.10  

Thank you for visiting www.alcatrazislandtickets.com . Reservations and E-tickets are genuine for the tour which includes the ferry service. We also provide extended around-the-clock customer care seven days a week, including holidays. We're a private Customer Service and Booking company. Our goal is 100% customer satisfaction. Please share your experience with us at: Customer Care . This website isn't affiliated with any government entity and isn't the official box office. Total at checkout may exceed face value.  

  • Plan Your Visit
  • Frequenty Asked Questions
  • Accessibility
  • Check Confirmation

We accept Visa, MasterCard and Discover

alcatraz cruises san francisco

Want to Visit Alcatraz? Here is What You Need To Know

D o you want to roam the halls of a prison that once held some of the world’s most dangerous criminals? Would you like to spend time on a mysterious island? Do you enjoy haunting history and natural beauty? You can experience all this and more at Alcatraz Island, a national park site unlike any other. We will outline everything you need to know to visit Alcatraz. 

At First Sight, No Second Guessing

The first thing most visitors to San Francisco Bay recognize is the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Shortly after, an island catches your eye a mile and a quarter from the bustling city’s shoreline. 

With a fortress and a towering lighthouse, there is something strange yet appealing about the island. It is a rare combination of natural beauty and haunting history. The island disturbingly beckons you.

Alcatraz Island is renowned for being a maximum security federal prison. Some bristle at the thought of touring a prison. Is it odd to want to see a place where feared villains lived? Probably. 

Do not let fear keep you from such a fantastic experience. It is creepy yet exhilarating and educational. Touring Alcatraz is one of the best things to do in San Francisco and a unique national park site experience. You will be glad you answered the call.

Essential Information for Your Alcatraz Visit

The National Park Service (NPS) manages Alcatraz Island, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is one of many national park sites in and near San Francisco .

Hours of Operation

The park is open daily from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Days.

Alcatraz Island Location

Alcatraz is an island that sits 1.25 miles from San Francisco’s vibrant shores. Its address is Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, CA 94133.

How to Get There: Alcatraz Landing Location

There is only one way to reach the island: by ferry. The Alcatraz Ferry Terminal, also known as Alcatraz Landing, rests on the Embarcadero near the intersection of Bay Street at Pier 33. 

Its exact location and the more critical physical address for you is Alcatraz Landing, Pier 33, Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94111.

To give you another reference point, Fisherman’s Wharf sits at Pier 39, less than a 0.5 mile away. It is a short, easy walk between the two iconic locations.

Although all tours depart from and return to Alcatraz Landing, the area does not have parking. Nearby commercial parking lots typically fill up quickly. Due to limited parking, the NPS suggests visitors use public transportation .

Would you expect the weather to be perfect on a mysterious island that housed convicted felons? Of course, the weather is unpredictable, almost sullen, and moody. The only thing predictable about the weather is that it suddenly changes regularly.

Mornings are often cold and foggy. When the fog clears, visitors usually experience sunlight. However, blustery winds and fog often return. 

Spring and fall typically offer the most pleasant weather, while summers are cool and foggy. Winters tend to be gloomy and rainy. No matter when you visit, we suggest a light jacket.

Throughout the year, temperatures rarely exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit or dip below 38. Dress accordingly and embrace the weather. It is all part of the experience, setting the tone for your adventure.

Internet and Cellular Access

WiFi is not available. Most guests find cell reception very limited on the island. Again, it is all part of the theme.

Entrance Fees and Passes

Alcatraz Island does not charge an entrance fee per se. What does this mean? 

Although the park technically does not have an entrance fee, you must purchase a ticket for a park tour and ferry rides to and from the island. In other words, a national park pass does not grant you free access to Alcatraz.

To visit Alcatraz, you must secure a reservation by purchasing a ticket. The NPS strongly recommends visitors make reservations in advance. Tours can and do sell out, especially in summer and around holidays.

The NPS partners with Alcatraz City Cruises , the only approved vendor, to provide ferry services for all tours. Please click on the provided link to check availability by type of tour, day, and time and to purchase Alcatraz tickets. Or, you can call them at (415) 981-7625.

Tour Options

Alcatraz tours come in three flavors, all beginning and ending at Alcatraz Landing. Let’s review your ticket options.

  • Adult: $45.25
  • Child (ages 5-11): $27.55
  • Junior (ages 12-17): $45.25
  • Senior (ages 62+): $42.65

Note that prices may change at any time. 

The day tour provides access to the island’s open areas, including exhibits, gardens, the historic cellhouse, dining hall, and recreation yard. It includes a self-guided cellhouse audio tour where you hear from prisoners, guards, and wardens as you make your way through the cold, damp halls. The audio tour provides some fascinating history, transporting you back in time as the cells and corridors practically come to life.

  • Adult: $56.30
  • Child (ages 5-11): $33.00
  • Junior (ages 12-17): $55.10
  • Senior (ages 62+): $52.25

The night tour delivers more of a personal touch. Groups are smaller, and park rangers provide information and tell exciting stories. Like the day excursions, you will take a self-guided cellhouse audio tour. Visitors at night get to explore an unannounced area that is not typically open during the day. And the icing on the cake is your spectacular sunset views of the city skyline, bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Behind the Scenes Tour

  • Adult: $101.30
  • Junior (ages 12-17): $97.10
  • Senior (ages 62+): $94.25

The behind-the-scenes tour provides the most intimate outing, with group sizes capped at 30 people. Best of all, you gain access to areas not available to the public on the other tours, such as tunnels, underground jails, and unique gardens.

Eating and Smoking

The island has one area near the dock where visitors can eat and smoke. Consuming food and tobacco products is prohibited in all other parts of the island. Why is this? The rule is to help protect the island’s seabird populations. Note that you can purchase and eat food on the ferry.

How Long is the Tour?

Plan on 2.5 to 3 hours for the entire experience, including the ferry rides and tour. Each ferry ride is about 15 minutes.  

Your ticket shows the ferry departure day and time. Plan to arrive before your scheduled ride so you can catch your ferry.

If you take a day tour, ferries return from the island about every half hour. Return trip departure times are posted on the ferry and at the island dock. You have an assigned ferry time to the island but may ride on any returning ferry.

Accessibility

The Alcatraz Landing entrance has an accessibility drop-off zone. Nearby commercial parking lots provide accessible spaces, operating on a first-come, first-served basis. Those with a valid disabled parking permit may park in the area at blue-painted curbs or blue zones .

Accessible features at Alcatraz Landing and Alcatraz Island include a tactile model of the island and Pier 33, accessible restroom facilities, an audio-described tour with Braille posts for wayfinding, assistive listening devices, and a Braille transcript of the cellhouse tour.

The prison sits atop a steep hill, about .25 miles from the dock, with an elevation change of 130 feet. Visitors requiring mobility assistance can ride an electric shuttle, Sustainability Easy Access Transport (SEAT). The tram meets each arriving ferry at the dock and makes regular return trips from the prison to the dock throughout the day.

Wheelchair-accessible areas include:

  • Alcatraz Landing
  • Alcatraz dock
  • The main floor of the prison
  • Museum displays
  • Island theater

Deaf visitors can watch an American Sign Language (ASL) version of the cellhouse tour on a handheld digital device. Upon arrival, a park staff member can provide you with a handheld device for the ASL tour.

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Alcatraz?

Your primary goal will impact the answer to this question. The best weather occurs in April, May, September, and October. If summer fits your schedule, prepare for bigger crowds and surprisingly cold, foggy weather.

For those who want to avoid crowds, the following windows offer the best experience:

  • First two weeks of November
  • First two weeks of December
  • January through March (rainy season)

The best time to observe nesting seabirds is February through August. April and May bring nest building and egg laying, with chicks beginning to hatch around mid-June.

Best Time to Go

Based on your perspective, the best time to go is a matter of opinion. However, if you aim to escape crowds, morning is the best time. For those who seek the possibility of some warm sunshine, midday is best. Consider the night tour if you love sunsets or desire a unique excursion.

What to Expect When You Visit Alcatraz

Now that we have discussed essential information, what can you expect on your visit to Alcatraz Island?

The ferry ride to the island takes approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Water can get choppy sometimes, but the boat is large enough to absorb the waves, making it reasonably smooth. Along the journey, you gain fantastic views of the island, city skyline, and Golden Gate Bridge. Savor the vistas and enjoy!

Arrival and Exploration

After disembarking the ferry, a park ranger will greet you and deliver a brief orientation talk. If you are taking a day tour, you can freely explore the island after your briefing. A park ranger escorts visitors to the prison during the night tours. The behind-the-scenes tour is a ranger-guided tour with additional time for visitors to explore independently.

Attractions

The park is considerably different from most national park sites. So, what can you do on the island? Alcatraz is primarily about walking and exploring an island with a fascinating history. That history is disturbing, yet it leaves you feeling exhilarated and educated.

The park houses a museum, bookstores, theater, and exhibits to explore. You will encounter information placards throughout the prison and its grounds. The two primary exhibits are:

  • Red Power on Alcatraz: Perspective 50 Years Later
  • The Big Lockup: Mass Incarceration in the U.S.

Understandably, the prison is the main attraction for many visitors. The self-guided audio tour takes approximately half an hour, leading you through the prison corridors, dining hall, and recreation grounds. You have an opportunity to step into a jail cell if you dare.

The audio tour is a fantastic way to experience Alcatraz as you hear the voices of former guards, wardens, and prisoners. Even if you do not enjoy audio tours, I highly recommend this one. The combination of the audio and exhibits gives you a glimpse of the harsh conditions and hopelessness the prisoners must have felt. Walking through the prison without the audio is excellent, but the commentary gives you historical information and perspectives you would otherwise miss.

Park rangers hand you the audio device, which includes headphones and a neck strap, leaving your hands free to take pictures with your phone or camera. The tour is available in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Mandarin. You can request a transcript if you prefer. An English Braille version of the transcript is available as well.

Where many national park sites fill your soul with beauty, Alcatraz floods your mind with vivid images of its past. Seeing it firsthand is oddly rewarding.

I want to ensure your visit is well-spent by giving away only a little information on the history. Alcatraz was a military fort protecting San Francisco Bay in the 1850s. It was an army prison beginning in 1859. Alcatraz gained its fame as a maximum security prison for the worst of criminals from 1934 to 1963. Most inmates got transferred from other prisons after proving to be troublemakers or escape risks.

“The Rock” was believed to be inescapable, located on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, resting atop a large rock. Notorious inmates include Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Robert Stroud, “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis.

The inmates’ history and escape attempts are essential to its lore. Thirty-four men made fourteen separate escape attempts from the federal prison. The infamous escape attempt in 1962 saw Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin make it to the bay. The trio was never found, presumably drowning.

American Indian political activists occupied Alcatraz three times in the 1960s and early 1970s. Congress created the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1972, resulting in Alcatraz being under the organization and part of the NPS.

Rock Gardens

When most people envision Alcatraz, they picture a drab facility with harsh conditions. Surprisingly, despite this haunting history, the Rock harbors beautiful gardens of lush plants and colorful blossoms. In 2003, the NPS, Garden Conservancy, and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy began collaborative efforts to restore and preserve the historic gardens. 

The island contains a beautiful trail that is widely unknown. You can visit Alcatraz almost any day of the year. Still, the Agave Trail, a short path between the dock and Parade Ground, is typically open only from late September through January. The path skirts along the island’s edge, delivering exceptional views of the island and bay. It is closed for the rest of the year to protect nesting birds.

Alcatraz Birds

Although not a highlight for some visitors, many beautiful waterbirds call Alcatraz Island home. Accordingly, park rangers close some parts of the island for your safety and theirs.

Due to abundant birds, early Spanish explorers named the island after alcatraces or seabirds. Most birds disappeared for years while the island was a military fortress, prison, and federal jail. 

When the prison closed in 1963, the seabirds returned. The National Historic Landmark now harbors more than 5,000 nesting birds, including western gulls, cormorants, black-crowned night herons, snowy egrets, and pigeon guillemots. 

Park rangers first spotted a pair of peregrine falcons on Alcatraz Island in 2019. The NPS announced the birth of four peregrine falcon chicks in early April 2023.

The historic Alcatraz Lighthouse, lit in 1854, was the first built on America’s west coast . It has gone through many changes over the years. The current 84-foot concrete tower was built in 1909, replacing the original. Shortly after the prison closed in 1963, the lighthouse was automated. It is not open to the public for tours. However, the beacon adds a touch of beauty and mystery to the island.

Is Alcatraz Haunted?

Guests have reported hearing moans or cries from empty cells. Legends say an inmate from the infamous cell 14D died after incessantly screaming that a ghost was after him. Many visitors report feeling cold when passing that same cell. Perhaps ghosts roam the halls, or maybe it is the wind blowing through the corridors, or just wild imaginations or fears getting the best of us. I will let you decide for yourself.

Tips Before You Visit Alcatraz

We suggest you reserve your Alcatraz Island tour tickets in advance. Attempting to purchase last-minute tickets is risky since many tours fill up days or weeks before.

Plan to arrive twenty to thirty minutes early for your scheduled ferry ride. Your spot is reserved for a specific day and time. Once on the island, you can take your time and catch any returning ferry.

Wear comfortable but sturdy shoes due to the park’s uneven and steep walking surfaces. Your initial climb from the dock to the prison is steep.

The park does not offer storage facilities of any kind. Although we suggest packing layers, including a light jacket, only bring what you can comfortably carry.

Since the island only allows food in a small area near the dock, plan to eat shortly before your tour. Or, you can eat a snack during the ferry ride. 

Bring your camera to capture views from the ferry and Alcatraz Island. While touring the island, do not focus solely on the prison. Remember to savor the spectacular views of San Francisco Bay, the city skyline, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wrap-Up: How to Visit Alcatraz

With an odd combination of haunting history and natural beauty, Alcatraz Island delivers a riveting experience, unlike any other national park site in America . Use our guide to plan your Alcatraz escape!

Featured image credit: Rodrigo Soares

More Articles from Miles with McConkey

  • Redwood National Park  
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park

The post Want to Visit Alcatraz? Here is What You Need To Know appeared first on Miles with McConkey .

View of Alcatraz Island from the ferry. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

IMAGES

  1. Golden Gate & Alcatraz Island Cruise San Francisco 票券

    alcatraz cruises san francisco

  2. Respect Our Planet

    alcatraz cruises san francisco

  3. Alcatraz Cruises (Official Provider)

    alcatraz cruises san francisco

  4. San Francisco Bay Cruise Includes Alcatraz

    alcatraz cruises san francisco

  5. Alcatraz Cruises

    alcatraz cruises san francisco

  6. Golden Gate & Alcatraz Island Cruise San Francisco Tickets

    alcatraz cruises san francisco

VIDEO

  1. PowWow 2011: Alcatraz Cruises

  2. Wedding day at the Turks and Caicos Shore club

COMMENTS

  1. Alcatraz Cruises (Official Provider)

    1934 - 1963. Alcatraz and history go hand in hand. Once home to some of America's most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to "The Rock". The presence of infamous inmates, like Al "Scarface" Capone and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud, helped to establish the ...

  2. Alcatraz Tours & Tickets (Official Provider)

    Family Packs. Family Packs are available for Day Tours only. The Family Pack includes 2 Adult and 2 Child (ages 5-11) tour tickets. Group Tours. If booking a group of 20 or more people, please contact the Alcatraz City Cruises Group Services Department at 415.438.8361; or e-mail [email protected]. Ticket Price.

  3. The Official Tour of Alcatraz Island and Prison

    Tours leave the Alcatraz dock at 9:30 am every Friday and Sunday. GUIDED TOURS. Join the island staff for a guided walking tour of Alcatraz Island. Programs are offered throughout the day and generally start either at the dock or lighthouse. Topics may include Famous Inmates, Escapes, Hollywood's Rock, 200 Years of Alcatraz History, and ...

  4. Alcatraz Day Tour

    City Cruises - Alcatraz / Alcatraz Tour Options / Alcatraz Day Tour. Alcatraz Day Tour. ... Pier 3, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94111 Alert

  5. Alcatraz City Cruises

    Alcatraz Cruises is the official National Park Service concessioner serving visitors to Alcatraz Island. Open seven days a week, with several daily departures, Alcatraz is a place to experience for locals and visitors alike. Alcatraz Island is truly an inescapable experience. San Francisco, California. Contact.

  6. Alcatraz: Visit San Francisco's Iconic Island

    Alcatraz is located in San Francisco Bay, approximately 1.25 miles (2.01 km) from the northern shore of San Francisco. To get there, take an Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing, located along San Francisco's northern waterfront promenade, on The Embarcadero near the intersection of The Embarcadero and Bay Streets, located ...

  7. San Francisco: Inside Alcatraz Tour with Bay Cruise

    Those are 2 separates tours. Includes. Round-trip ferry to Alcatraz Island from Pier 33. 45-minute award-wining audio tour on Alcatraz Island. Entrance/admission fee to Alcatraz Island (valued at $45.00 USD) 60-minute San Francisco Bay Cruise. Transportation to and from the Pier 33 or Pier 39 (make your own way there)

  8. Alcatraz, San Francisco

    Prebook this Alcatraz Tour with Ferry Transport and San Francisco Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour to guarantee your trip to Alcatraz Island and inside the cell blocks. You'll also enjoy a hop-on hop-off tour of San Francisco onboard an open-top bus that stops at the city's main attractions. 2 to 3 hours. from. $169.10.

  9. Alcatraz City Cruises

    1199 reviews and 2616 photos of ALCATRAZ CITY CRUISES "Last night was one of those mysterious social coordination miracles that went off to perfection. Everyone made the boat on time, the weather held and was unusually warm, the tour was unbelievably excellent, and no one puked on the ride over or back. Book reservations in advance.

  10. Official Alcatraz Island Tour + San Francisco City Tour

    The Official Alcatraz Tour ferry will depart Pier 33 at approximately 3:00 PM during the summer months and 2:00 PM during the winter months. Please contact us directly if you are interested in a hotel pickup. We offer a 100% refund with at least 4 days notice prior to departure. Please note this tour will sell out throughout the year ...

  11. Alcatraz Tickets & Tours

    Location: Alcatraz Duration: Approximately 2 1/2 hours. Get tickets to Alcatraz Island and cruise on the San Francisco Bay. Tour Alcatraz, the infamous and notorious former federal prison, which was home to the likes of Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelley, and Robert "The Birdman" Stroud. *Face coverings are required at all times in boarding ...

  12. Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Cruise

    Pier 33. San Francisco, CA 94133, USA. The time you select at checkout is the time of your Alcatraz ferry. The ferry will leave on time at your specified departure time. Please arrive at Pier 33 at least 30 minutes prior to your departure time. For the Bay Cruise, exchange the voucher at the Blue and Gold Fleet box office at Pier 39.

  13. Plan Your Visit

    Plan on spending at least a few hours on Alcatraz exploring the exhibits, checking out the video presentations or audio tours. Jr. Ranger books and programs are often available, and ranger tours are available every day! ... Alcatraz Landing at Pier 33 in San Francisco is fully accessible. There is limited accessible parking at Pier 33 ...

  14. Alcatraz, San Francisco

    Alcatraz: Our most recommended tours and activities. 1. San Francisco: Golden Gate Bay Cruise. Cruise around the Golden Gate Bay on a boat tour. Enjoy informative commentary, see sights like Alcatraz Island, and purchase food and drink from the onboard bar. Launched in 1939 as part of the Golden Gate International Exposition, this 1-hour cruise ...

  15. Departure Schedule

    5:15 PM. 5:55 PM. 6:30 PM. Buy Day Tour Tickets. The official Alcatraz ferry departure and return schedules. Check out times for your next Alcatraz adventure with City Cruises.

  16. Official Alcatraz Island Prison Tour and San Francisco Bay Cruise

    Round-trip ferry rides to the Alcatraz Island. Admission to the Alcatraz Island & Prison Cellhouse. Award-winning audio tour in multiple languages. 60-minutes Bay Cruise Tour that goes under the Golden Gate Bridge! Official Alcatraz ticket, including ferry ride to the island (Value $45.25) Entry/Admission - Alcatraz Island.

  17. The Best Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco: A Locals Guide

    The Alcatraz with Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour offers a similar experience to the One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz, featuring three top Bay Area attractions.. The key differences are a shorter duration, lower price, and exclusion of the San Francisco neighborhood tour. This tour suits those looking for a full day's exploration with a smaller group (maximum of 11 people) and ...

  18. Fees & Passes

    The ticket price includes the ferry transportation service provided by Alcatraz City Cruises, the cellhouse audio tour provided by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act fee. ... San Francisco, CA 94123 Phone: 415-561-4900 United States Park Police Dispatch: Non-Emergency: 415-561-5505 ...

  19. What to Expect on the Updated Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco Bay

    There is no fee to visit Alcatraz, but you need to take a ferry service provided by Alcatraz City Cruises for the 15-minute ride to the island from Pier 33 along San Francisco's Embarcadero ...

  20. Alcatraz with San Francisco Bay Cruise

    Round-trip ferry to Alcatraz Island from Pier 33. 45-minute award-wining audio tour on Alcatraz Island. Entrance/admission fee to Alcatraz Island (valued at $45.25 USD) 60-minute San Francisco Bay Cruise. Transportation to and from the Pier 33 or Pier 39 (make your own way there) Food and Beverage. See 1 More.

  21. Plan Your Trip

    Maps and directions to Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing from the North, South, and East side of San Francisco Bay area. Parking. Know your parking options before you come to the busy waterfront area. Accessibility. Plan out your trip in advance for accessible options to comfortably experience Alcatraz from parking to exhibits to ferries.

  22. Alcatraz Tickets

    News + Information. Alcatraz - Friday, April 12 Current Conditions: Mostly Cloudy and 59°F; Experience Alcatraz: The Day Tour, the Night Tour, or if you have 4-5 hours: the Behind The Scenes Tour - See areas of Alcatraz previously unavailable to the public. Open a hidden doorway, go through a secret tunnel, visit an underground jail.

  23. Alcatraz Cruises in San Francisco Bay » Adventure Cat Sailing Charters

    Arrive 30 minutes early to find parking and to locate us on Pier 39, Gate J, next to the sea lions. ADVENTURE CAT. DEPARTURE TIME. June: 4:30pm September: 3:30pm. WEAR. Warm jacket and soft-soled shoes. INCLUDED. 90 min Adventure Cat Bay Sail. Audio Tour in English, French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish (bring your ...

  24. Alcatraz Island Tickets

    Tuesday thru Saturday, Check-In Time: 2:15 PM and 2:45 PM until March 9th. Spring/Summer: 4:20 PM and 4:50 PM Check-in. Includes: Mobile E-Ticket Check-in. Ferry ride to and from Alcatraz Island. Two-hour Park Ranger guided tour with small group of 20 people or fewer tour guests. Award-winning Cellhouse audio tour.

  25. Want to Visit Alcatraz? Here is What You Need To Know

    Alcatraz was a military fort protecting San Francisco Bay in the 1850s. It was an army prison beginning in 1859. Alcatraz gained its fame as a maximum security prison for the worst of criminals ...