Visit Alcatraz

Get ready for a hair-raising visit to the world's most famous prison - here's how to get tickets!

Alex Grande

Alex Grande

6 min read

Visit Alcatraz

Alcatraz emerging from the water in the bay | ©Nikolay Tchaouchev

You do not always have the opportunity to visit a prison as iconic as Alcatraz: within its walls Al Capone served his sentence while playing the banjo for other prisoners, among whom there was no one who managed to escape from this prison despite the various escape attempts scattered throughout its history.

How to buy tickets for Alcatraz

Alcatraz Prison Cell Gallery| ©Carles Rabada
Alcatraz Prison Cell Gallery| ©Carles Rabada

Visiting Alcatraz is something you can't miss on your trip to San Francisco. I tell you how to get the best Alcatraz tickets and some tips and tricks to visit it.

Tour of San Francisco with visit to Alcatraz

Golden Gate Bridge with Alcatraz in the background| ©David Maunsell
Golden Gate Bridge with Alcatraz in the background| ©David Maunsell

This San Francisco bus tour includes tickets to Alcatraz with the official audio guide, making it a highly recommended two-in-one experience. You will start the day visiting the main points of San Francisco, take a one hour tour through the beautiful redwood forest of Muir Woods, and in the afternoon you will take the ferry to the famous prison.

Tour route

  • Fisherman's Wharf: the old wharf famous for its sea lions.
  • Muir Woods National Monument: a redwood forest for which San Francisco is famous.
  • Chinatown: the largest and most colorful Chinatown in the U.S.
  • Pacific Heights: San Francisco's poshest residential neighborhood with panoramic views of California
  • North Beach: an area with lots of charm and Italian heritage
  • Mission District: San Francisco's lively Latin Quarter
  • The Castro: the city's LGBT area with plenty of bars and restaurants
  • Twin Peaks: here you will see the most beautiful views of the city and its skyline
  • Haight-Ashbury: the neighborhood where the hippie culture started in the '60s
  • Fort Point: a military fort located under the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Bridge: an architectural marvel that is synonymous with San Francisco
  • Alcatraz: the prison on an island in San Francisco Bay

As you can see, this is a fairly comprehensive and complete tour, with 10-15 minute stops at each site and a one-hour walk in Muir Woods. The only disadvantage of this tour is that the entrance to Muir Woods is not included (it costs $15 per person, about 13 euros).

Duration: 10 hoursPrice: 160Recommended: If you want to combine a complete tour of San Francisco and a visit to Alcatraz.

Book the tour of San Francisco and Alcatraz

Muir Woods and Sausalito tour with visit to Alcatraz

Muir Woods National Monument| ©Matthew Dillon
Muir Woods National Monument| ©Matthew Dillon

This Muir Woods and Sausalito tour with visit to Alcatraz is another option to visit Alcatraz if you have already toured San Francisco or prefer to do it on your own, where you will take a tour of Muir Woods National Monument and its surroundings, where you will be amazed by the majestic redwoods of this natural park.

Then you will visit Sausalito, a coastal town across the bay from San Francisco, famous for its fishing pier, its floating houses on the water and its charming atmosphere. On your return to San Francisco, you will head to Pier 33 where you will board the ferry to Alcatraz. With the entrance ticket included in the tour and the official audio guide, you will be able to explore the island at your leisure and discover the impressive history of this famous prison.

Tour route

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Muir Woods National Monument
  • Sausalito
  • Alcatraz Island

Duration: 7 hoursPrice: 167Recommended: If you prefer to see San Francisco on your own and book the additional tours for a guided experience

Book the Alcatraz, Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour

What is the Alcatraz tour like?

Alcatraz Lighthouse| ©David Trainer
Alcatraz Lighthouse| ©David Trainer

The famous Alcatraz prison ceased to function as a penitentiary in 1963, was abandoned for a few years and in 1972 the island was declared a U.S. National Park. Upon arrival at "The Rock", you will receive a brief informative talk about the history of the prison and its importance today, and then you are allowed to start the tour up the small hill to the entrance of the prison.

Inside the prison, you will be given the official audio guide in which ex-convicts and prison guards narrate part of the tour through the cells, which gives the tour an authenticity and interest far beyond that of a conventional audio guide.

The self-guided tour lasts about 45 minutes and takes you through the entire prison, where you will see the cells, guards' sentry boxes and common areas, while hearing the mind-blowing story of Alcatraz's most dangerous inmates and how they lived in this prison.

Highlights

  • The Courtyard
  • Seabird colonies
  • Ruins of keepers' houses and officers' clubhouse
  • The oldest lighthouse on the West Coast

Duration

The visit to Alcatraz usually lasts between 2 and 3 hours, plus the ferry ride (a total of 30 minutes combined round trip). If you go on an organized tour, the length of the tour will depend on the itinerary, and if you visit Alcatraz on your own you can extend the experience as much as you want.

Schedule

In case you are going to visit Alcatraz on a tour or a complete experience, Alcatraz is always visited in the afternoon, which in my opinion is the most beautiful time (but also the most touristic).

Book the tour with visit to Alcatraz

How to get to Alcatraz on your own

Pier 33| ©S. Rae
Pier 33| ©S. Rae

If you are visiting Alcatraz on your own, please note that the first ferry to Alcatraz from Pier 33 leaves at 8:45am and runs every 30 minutes until the last departure at 6:30pm. Please note that the last ferry is always full as the sunset tour is a popular activity.

The last ferry back from Alcatraz to San Francisco is at 21:25. You'll have to swim back to San Francisco. Just kidding, there are some independent boaters and water cabs that will take you back to the city, but they may charge you pretty steep prices.

How to get to Pier 33

The ferry to Alcatraz departs from Pier 33. In case you are visiting Alcatraz on your own, these are the best ways to get to the pier:

  • By tour bus: one of the San Francisco tour bus stops is Pier 33, so you can combine a bus tour with a visit to Alcatraz quite easily in one day.
  • By streetcar: The Powel-Mason and Powel-Hyde lines terminate at Pier 45, from which you can walk in about 20 minutes to Pier 33.
  • By City Bus: The F bus line is the most direct bus to Pier 33, getting off at the Bay Street stop. Buses 8, 39, 82x and 88x also drop you off a short walk from Pier 33.

Book the San Francisco and Alcatraz tour

Tips for visiting Alcatraz

Alcatraz Pier| ©Markus Lauff
Alcatraz Pier| ©Markus Lauff
  • First of all, take a jacket or something light and warm if you visit Alcatraz in the summer, even if it is sunny it is usually breezy and cool on the island.
  • From the ferry there are beautiful views of the bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge, so you know it's going to be a perfect spot to upload a couple of Instagram stories.
  • If you want to avoid most tourists and still see Alcatraz in a nice light, go on the first ferry instead of in the afternoon.
  • Book your tickets or your combined tour in advance, as it's a very popular attraction and seats sell out quickly.

Book the San Francisco and Alcatraz Tour

Other activities that may interest you

Sightseeing bus tour through the streets of San Francisco| ©megabus13601
Sightseeing bus tour through the streets of San Francisco| ©megabus13601

Visiting Alcatraz on your trip to San Francisco is a must, but don't forget to discover in depth the city, its most beautiful corners and its surroundings. For this I recommend you to read about the best tours and excursions from San Francisco, and book an experience to make the most of your vacation.

I also recommend you to take a tour of San Francisco by Hop On Hop Off bus. Does it sound like something for tourists? That's because you don't know all the advantages of doing this kind of tours. Read more about them and you will learn a couple of tricks to get around San Francisco like a pro.

Book the tour bus with tickets to Alcatraz