Few people visit San Francisco without taking an excursion to Alcatraz, the infamous former federal prison once home to Al Capone – and for good reason. Today it houses one of America’s most fascinating museums, taking you on an illuminating journey through the island’s history via audio tour.
Unsurprisingly, the number of tours available is vast, with many operators offering visits in tandem with other activities. We’ve picked out three of the best Alcatraz Island tours, which you can find below.
FROM $192.50 PER PERSON
Hopping aboard one of the first ferries out to Alcatraz on a famously foggy and atmospheric San Francisco morning is the ultimate way to explore this notorious former prison. At this time it’s extremely quiet and you’ll get to arrive before any of the larger tour groups, providing a far more intimate experience. After an early morning cable car ride around the city, you’ll board a ferry and get taken to Alcatraz where you’ll gain priority entry. Here, you’ll explore its confines, touring the cellblock and other areas independently while listening to words spoken by former inmates and guards on an award-winning audio guide. On your return to San Francisco, you’ll board the cable car once more for a final high-flying whizz around town before your return drop off to continue your day at your leisure.
FROM $103 PER PERSON
This is a hugely popular package that lets you sail on beautiful San Francisco Bay by day and night. In the afternoon, head to Pier 33 on San Fran’s waterfront to board the ferry to Alcatraz. Enjoy views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline during the ride across the bay, and then disembark on the island to start your independent tour of ‘The Rock.’ With your provided headset on, explore the cellblock while listening to ‘Doing Time,’ the award-winning self-guided audio tour that includes narration by former prisoners and staff. You’ll learn about the history of the prison and some of the escape attempts while you peer into individual cells and you can also explore the grounds and look for wildlife like Brandt’s cormorants, Canadian geese and other birds. When you’re ready to go back to the city, just hop on one of the regular ferries. After returning, walk along the waterfront to Pier 43 at Fisherman’s Wharf to start your next on-the-water adventure—a 2-hour sunset or twilight cruise with a provided glass of wine, beer or soft drink.
FROM $65 PER PERSON
Kick off the weekend in style by sailing across San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Island on this Friday-only tour. During the excursion you’ll learn about the island and its fascinating history as a federal penitentiary and you can even do so with a beer, wine or just an Irish coffee in hand while enjoying the scenic San Fran Skyline, including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Why not spice things up by plotting your own “escape” from Alcatraz during the trip? On your return to the sailboat’s home port in Sausalito, you’ll be close by to some of the area’s best restaurants – the perfect way to wind down from a day’s adventure.
FROM $213.89 PER PERSON
See Alcatraz from up high and explore the island prison on foot with this fantastic seaplane flight and Alcatraz combo tour. During a 30-minute aerial tour from Sausalito, you’ll see San Francisco’s famous landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Trans-America Pyramid. Then take the Alcatraz Island ferry across San Francisco Bay, where you’ll tour the cellblock via an included audio tour. As you walk through the former prison, you’ll hear commentary from authentic inmates and staff about the history and living conditions of this infamous institution.
FROM $145 PER PERSON
This intimate combo tour for groups of up to 12 people starts with a ferry ride to Alcatraz Island, departing from Pier 33 in San Francisco. When you arrive, you’ll be given an audio headset for the self-guided ‘Cellhouse’ tour, which leads you through the former prison and illuminates what life was like as an inmate. After your Alcatraz tour, return to the water on an enthralling 90-minute RIB cruise, which takes you past familiar sights such as the Ferry Building, the Presidio, Alcatraz, and the waterfront. Cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, and visit the beloved Pier 39 sea lions for an up-close look. With narration by your captain, you’ll learn plenty about this historical area, and get to view the waterfront in a truly unique way. The tour ends with a souvenir from the San Francisco Chocolate Factory.