Famed for its beauty, fringed by city-covered hills, center-pieced by an inescapable prison island and spanned by bridges known the world-over, San Francisco Bay is a special place to explore. And there’s no better way to see it than to get out into the water on a sailing tour. While there are many types of boat tours from San Francisco, such as ferry cruises and even adventure speedboat tours, throwing three sheets to the wind and sailing from San Francisco is the most romantic way to go about it.
Expect to have around 90 minutes out on the San Francisco Bay on a sailing tour, regardless of the option you choose. There are plenty of different tour options available but the following are five of the best when taking into account factors like the itinerary, health and safety, on-board comfort and value for money. We’ve also put a couple of other types of boat tour on this list, beyond sailing, so you can compare what’s on offer.
From $38/per person
The classic, and by far best-value, boat tour of San Francisco Bay is this trip beneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Although it does not utilize a sail boat (rather a standard small cruise ferry), you get the chance to see all the Bay’s highlights during the hour-long trip, including the San Francisco city waterfront, the Golden Gate Bridge and a loop around Alcatraz Island. This immensely popular cruise has been running since 1939, with multiple departures daily suggesting that they’re doing something right.
From $60/ per person
For a smaller, more bespoke San Francisco Bay sailing experience, jump aboard this lovely catamaran as the sails are unfurled and get the true waterfront experience. You’ll be closer to the water and often able to get closer to the major sights too, like the sea lions in their bevy of favored spots around the bay. You can even stand on the canvas trampoline nets and watch as the water rushes by beneath you. This cruise lasts around 90 minutes and you can purchase refreshments on board.
From $75/ per person
The company who run the tour mentioned above – Adventure Cat Sailing Charters – run plenty of alternative San Francisco sailing tours too. This option takes one of their catamarans out at sunset to admire the Bay during the golden hour. This option is especially moving when there’s not too much sea mist. Sit on the deck and watch color warm over the city before returning to shore for after-hours revelry. This tour is usually available daily. Times change to fit the sunset.
From $99/ per person
For a trip out onto San Francisco Bay in a traditional sailboat, this is the ultimate option. Cruise the Bay in style, sipping complementary beverages as you go. The cruise starts and ends at Pier 39, heading for Marin County and Sausalito, offering great photo opportunities of the Golden Gate Bridge. This 28-passeger Privateer sailboat is available for 90-minute tours three times a day, while there are also two-hour sunset tours and two-hour champagne tours to the Golden Gate Bridge for $129 each.
From $198/ per person
There’s a lot more to see around San Francisco Bay than can be accessed on a 90-minute sailing tour. That’s why this final entry is all about speed over sails, meaning you can travel farther and experience more. Strap on a life jacket and skip over the water from Pier 39, past the sealion colony, past Alcatraz, under the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond. This tour runs four times a day and while capacity is limited to eight people, the price per person drops to just $99 each if your group numbers four or more.