Alcatraz Tours - San Francisco Travel Guide

Traveling to San Francisco and trying to understand how Alcatraz tours work? Don’t worry, we have everything you need. The infamous Alcatraz Island was home to the maximum security prison that used to hold the toughest and worst criminals in the country.  Notorious prisoners include Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alvin Karpis (the first “Public Enemy #1”), and Robert Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”). Designed to be “escape proof,” it’s located approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) offshore from San Francisco Bay, California.

Today, it’s a popular tourist attraction with one of the best tours in the city. This post has everything you need to know about Alcatraz tours.

How to get to Alcatraz Tours

The only company that operates Alcatraz tours and actually stops on the island is Alcatraz Cruises. The boat leaves from Pier 33 on the San Francisco Embarcadero near Francisco and Beach Streets.

Note that parking in the area can be difficult, so it is advisable to get public transport. Both the BART (F-Line) and #10 Townsend Bus stop near Pier 33.

The ferry departs every 20 – 30 minutes from 8.45am to 3.50pm and returns roughly every half hour. The last boat leaves at 6:30pm- you are at leisure to choose a return trip, but make sure you don’t miss the last ride home!

They also provide Alcatraz Tours at night, Thursday through Monday, departing at 5:55pm and 6:30pm.

Ticket prices for Alcatraz Tours

Tickets are best bought directly from the Alcatraz Cruises website.  The ticket price includes the trip to and from the island, and an informative and entertaining audio tour of the prison – with stories and voices from former Alcatraz prisoners and guards. The Alcatraz Night Tours also include a guided tour and other activities.

It is important to book tickets ahead, as they can be booked out weeks in advance. Last minute tickets may be available, but you are better safe than sorry!

Alcatraz Day Tours
Adults             $31
Ages 5-11        $19.25
Under 5           Free
62 +                 $29.25
Family             $94.25
(Family = 2 adults and 2 children ages 5-11.)

Alcatraz Night Tours
Adults             $38
Ages 5-11        $22.75
Under 5           Free
62 +                 $35.25

Alcatraz & Angel Island Tours
Adults             $64.50
Ages 5-11        $43.75
Under 5           Free
62 +                 $62.75

Tips & other info for Alcatraz Tours

  • Bring photographic ID: you will need it to pick up your tickets and as you are boarding the ferry.
  • Wear appropriate clothing including closed shoes and bring a jacket, even if it seems warm. It often gets cold and windy on the island.
  • No eating or drinking (except for bottled water) is allowed on Alcatraz. Therefore, it’s recommended to eat before arriving.
  • If you are only exploring Alcatraz, make sure to leave at least 2.5 hours to properly explore the island. If combining with the Angel Island tour, leave at least 5.5 hours for the two.
  • If you want an offline map of the city with audio guides for Alcatraz and other top San Francisco sites, make sure to download the TripScout app.

Alcatraz Tours
Image sources: Flickr