Few people visit San Francisco without taking an excursion to Alcatraz, the infamous former federal prison – and the number of tours available to the iconic landmark is vast.
Once home to notorious gangster Al Capone, today Alcatraz houses one of America’s most fascinating museums, taking you on an illuminating journey through the island’s history via audio tour. Unsurprisingly, there’s a wide assortment of tours available, with many operators offering visits in tandem with other activities. We’ve picked out five of the best Alcatraz Island tours, which you can find below.
Waterfront Guided Tour and Alcatraz Ticket
Organised and hosted by renowned tour company ExperienceFirst, this fun and engaging experience packs plenty into half-a-day of San Francisco sightseeing, combining a walking tour of the city’s famous waterfront with a visit to Alcatraz Island. Starting mid-morning at Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll meet your friendly guide for the day who will start by pointing you towards some of the best vistas the city has to offer. As you soak up the views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, you’ll hear how San Fran evolved from a sleepy village to a booming port city during the mid-19th century gold rush. You’ll stroll along the waterfront and the Barbary Coast trail before making your way to Pier 39 to marvel at the historic ships in the harbour. Later, you’ll board a ferry to Alcatraz where you’ll discover the history of the cell house and its former residents thanks to an acclaimed audio tour, returning to the mainland mid-afternoon to bring things to an end. From $99 per person.
Alcatraz and Ferry Building Food Tour
One thing’s for sure – the food you try on this tour is guaranteed to be better than the fare served up at Alcatraz during its years as a penitentiary. Run by well-regarded local tour company Edible Excursions, the 5-hour adventure invites guests to immerse themselves in San Fran’s diverse culinary scene before an equally engrossing trip to Alcatraz. The tour begins outside the Ferry Building Marketplace, now home to a famous food hall, where you’ll meet your knowledgeable guide who’ll proceed to lead you on a journey of the building’s local artisan cuisine, with plenty of opportunities to sample delectable dishes and snacks served up by some of the area’s best food purveyors. With your bellies full, you’ll move on to Pier 33 ready to board your ferry for the short voyage to Alcatraz. Here, you can enjoy a self-guided tour of the island and the prison confines at your own pace while listening to the site’s famous audio narration to bring your experience to a close. From $174 per person.
Escape from The Rock Bay Cruise
If you’d like to visit Alcatraz but don’t quite have the time for the full experience, this 1.5 hour tour with premier ferry and water excursion providers Blue and Gold Fleet could be just the ticket. After skipping the box office line with your pre-purchased ticket, you’ll board your large, well-equipped vessel before setting sail. Against the backdrop of a fascinating narration packed full of facts and tales about the area’s long and rich history, you’ll navigate the pristine waters of the bay, passing underneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge before circling Alcatraz Island itself. Listen to accounts of the daring escape attempts from the maximum-security prison and the infamous criminals who called it home before cruising back to the ferry terminal to close off your tour. From $42 per person.
The One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz
Combining a sightseeing tour of San Francisco with a trip to Alcatraz Island, this full-day experience by Dylan’s Tours is a great way to see the city’s main attractions in one fell swoop. Meeting your guide in the morning at Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll be driven by comfortable bus around San Fran, through its most charming neighbourhoods and stopping off at a number of spots for photos and exploration. After lunch in the quaint town of Sausalito (own expense), you’ll visit Muir Woods where you can hike among the stunning redwood trees. Next, you’ll return to the city to pick up your ferry to Alcatraz. Here you’ll enjoy the prison’s fascinating audio tour as you explore the cellblock, and then return to Pier 33 on the ferry to end your day tour. All transport and Alcatraz entrance is included in the tour price. From $175 per person.
City Sights, Muir Woods & Alcatraz Day Tour
Join a comprehensive, full-day tour of San Francisco that also includes visits to Muir Woods, famous for its redwood trees, and Alcatraz. In the company of a local guide you’ll discover a total of 15 different sights, landmarks and places of interest, with plenty of photo stops along the way. Your guide will regale you with stories about the culture, history and architecture of the city and you’ll also stop for lunch at a renowned eatery. The Alcatraz leg of the tour will include a ferry ride and an official tour of the famous former prison. Transport will be by comfortable bus and is included in the tour price, along with your Alcatraz Island tour ticket, your guide, water and granola bars to keep the hunger away. From $169 per person.