Travel Tour Reviews

The 7 Best Alcatraz Tours Reviewed For 2018

See "The Rock" with these Top Rated Tours of Alcatraz

Alcatraz, the notorious prison situated on an island in San Francisco Bay, is a must-see for Bay Area visitors. Tour operators offer visitors unique experiences by combining a visit to Alcatraz with additional outings.

Each of these tours includes the self-guided audio tour offered by the National Park Service, plus the addition of an exclusive adventure.

Adding extra excitement to your Alcatraz trip isn’t just fun. There’s another benefit – accessibility. Tickets to Alcatraz are in high demand, and waiting until the last minute to reserve may leave you in the lurch.

If you find yourself in this situation, booking a combo tour will ensure you get to see this legendary icon of American History and have some extra fun in the process.

Be sure to see our reviews of wine tours to Napa & Sonoma Valley. Yosemite Tours and Muir Woods tours.

Quick Answer: The 7 Best Alcatraz Tours For 2018

  1. San Francisco Helicopter and Alcatraz Tour
  2. San Francisco Urban Adventure and Alcatraz Tour
  3. Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Twilight Bay Cruise
  4. Alcatraz and Walking Craft Beer Combo Tour
  5. Alcatraz Tour plus Muir Woods and Sausalito Day Trip
  6. Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay Adventure Sightseeing Cruise
  7. Viator VIP: Early Access to Alcatraz and Cable Car

We have reviewed the 7 top rated Alcatraz tours, providing overviews and highlighting the details of each. We also make recommendations on staying in San Francisco, based on your own preferences and needs.

Best Alcatraz Tours

 

San Francisco Helicopter and Alcatraz Tour

San Francisco Urban Adventure and Alcatraz Tour

Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Twilight Bay Cruise

Departure Point:Zephyr Hotel at Fisherman's WharfDowntown San Francisco hotelsAlcatraz Ferry - Pier 33
Departure Times: 10 a.m.9:05 a.m. and 9:40 a.m.12:00 - 1:05 p.m
Duration:Flexible7 hours (approx.)6 hours (approx.)
Tour Includes:Helicopter flight, in-flight narration, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, audio walking tour of AlcatrazHotel pick-up, sightseeing tour, professional guide, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, audio walking tour of AlcatrazRound-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, admission to Alcatraz Island, sunset/twilight cruise, light appetizers, one drink ticket
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Alcatraz Tour Reviews

#1 San Francisco Helicopter and Alcatraz Tour

San Francisco Helicopter and Alcatraz Tour

San Francisco Helicopter and Alcatraz Tour at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Zephyr Hotel at Fisherman’s Wharf or Hilton Hotel on Mason Street at the corner of Ellis
  • Departure Time: 10 a.m.
  • Duration: Flexible
  • Includes: Helicopter flight, in-flight narration, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, audio walking tour of Alcatraz

We recommend this well-organized tour for someone who is looking for an exhilarating addition to your visit to Alcatraz. This tour is limited to a total of five people, so if you prefer a small-group setting, you’ll appreciate the careful attention helicopter pilot/guide gives. (Of note, to book this tour your party must include a minimum of two people.)

Get a bird’s eye view of San Francisco and its most famous landmarks as you soar above the Bay area for a 20-minute flight. Some of these landmarks include the Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, Treasure Island, Coit Tower, Angel Island, and the Sausalito waterfront. The helicopter ride offers a unique perspective for snapping some once-in-a-lifetime shots of San Francisco.

After your helicopter tour, a short ferry ride will transport you to “The Rock” where the infamous Alcatraz prison is situated. The ferry ride for Alcatraz departs from Pier 33. The intriguing audio tour of Alcatraz runs approximately 2.5 hours and goes into detail about some of its most notorious inmates and their crafty attempts to escape the well-guarded penitentiary.

This tour is well-organized and runs smoothly. The pick-up and drop-off feature is an added plus, making it super convenient, especially for visitors who haven’t quite gotten their bearings.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#2 San Francisco Urban Adventure and Alcatraz Tour

San Francisco Urban Adventure and Alcatraz Tour

San Francisco Urban Adventure and Alcatraz Tour at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Downtown San Francisco hotels
  • Departure Time: 9:05 a.m. and 9:40 a.m.
  • Duration: 7 hours (approx.)
  • Includes: Hotel pick-up, sightseeing tour, professional guide, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, audio walking tour of Alcatraz

We recommend this tour for those who want to make the most of their day. You won’t waste your time figuring out what’s worth visiting; and you won’t have to deal with public transport or fighting for a parking space because this tour offers hotel pick-up and drop-off.

This outing is limited to a maximum of 10 people, so if you enjoy individualized attention, this is definitely a tour to consider.

This tour is great for adults and kids alike. The guides are skilled at adapting their tour to captivate and inform everyone in the group. If you’re the adventurous type who’s interested in getting the inside scoop on all things San Francisco, as well as touring Alcatraz, this tour will definitely exceed your expectations.

The initial leg of this tour begins with a 4-hour tour of San Francisco in an open air jeep- safari style. You’ll be sure to enjoy all the must-see areas like the Golden Gate Bridge and Twin Peaks. During the jeep portion of the tour you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask your driver/guide about insider tips for restaurants and entertainment.

This safari-styled urban tour of will keep you entertained while your guide shares wacky facts about the area, driving you through quirky neighborhoods, and taking you off-the-beaten path into areas only the locals know about.

During your city tour, you’ll stop for lunch (not included in price of tour) at a locals-approved locale, such as Gus’ Market.

After finishing the city portion of your tour, you’ll be dropped off at Pier 33 where the 15-minute ferry ride will deliver you to Alcatraz Island. Before starting your 2.5 hour audio tour of Alcatraz, you’ll be given a brief history of the Island.

When you finish the Alcatraz tour, you’ll take the ferry back to Pier 33 where the jeep will pick you up for a convenient hotel-drop off.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#3 Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Twilight Bay Cruise

Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Twilight Bay Cruise

Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Twilight Bay Cruise at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Alcatraz Ferry – Pier 33; Sunset/twilight Cruise – Pier 43 ½
  • Departure Time: Alcatraz Ferry time range 12:00 – 1:05 p.m.; Sunset/twilight Cruise – 6:00 p.m.
  • Duration: 6 hours (approx.)
  • Includes: Round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, admission to Alcatraz Island, sunset/twilight cruise, light appetizers, one drink ticket (wine, beer, soda)

We recommend this tour for couples looking for a romantic night on the water or for those who want to unwind with great food, a wide variety of drinks, and live music. This tour is geared more toward adults than for families with younger children.

On this excursion, you’ll first take the ferry (around noon) to Alcatraz island, where you’ll enjoy the self-guided audio tour. After finishing up there, you’ll have some time to meander around the waterfront and grab a snack. Around 6:00 p.m, you’ll head over to nearby Pier 43 ½ to board for the sunset cruise part of your tour.

Once on the ship, you’ll cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge, which offers amazing angles for unique pictures. You won’t need to worry about feeling packed in by other passengers.

You’ll have plenty of room to move around the boat and appreciate the sun as it drops below the horizon. Having said that, if you want to grab a seat on the top deck, make sure to arrive 45 minutes or so early!

Live music and a delicious and generous selection of food is available.  Live music will accompany you throughout your cruise. The boat’s staff is attentive to the passengers’ needs and you can tell they are committed to ensure passengers have a lovely time while on board. The tour is well- organized and the attention to detail is obvious.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#4 Alcatraz and Walking Craft Beer Combo Tour

 Alcatraz and Walking Craft Beer Combo Tour

Alcatraz and Walking Craft Beer Combo Tour at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Part 1 – Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing ticket booth; Part 2 – Depends on day of the week. Check with tour operator.
  • Departure Time: Please choose available time upon booking.
  • Duration: 8 hours 30 minutes (approx.)
  • Includes: Beverages and snacks/dinner (snacks vs. dinner depends on time of year), experienced local guide, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, self-guided audio tour of Alcatraz

We recommend this tour for fun-loving beer aficionados. For those who appreciate the personal attention of a smaller group, this tour has a max of 12 participants. You must be 21 years of age or older to enjoy this tour.

The craft beer portion of this tour is on foot and covers up to 6 miles, so keep that in mind before booking. For those who find a craft beer tour intriguing but don’t feel up to the walk, check out this alternative option where you’ll explore craft beer establishments on bike rather than on foot.

On this combined Alcatraz and craft beer tour you will visit craft beer locales in the Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach area (three total), during an informative tour lead by a friendly guide.

This isn’t merely an experience in exploring local craft beers. Your guide will share his knowledge about everything you could want to know about beer making and interesting facts about the Bay area. Take advantage of the time with your guide to get the inside scoop on what to explore and where the locals go to dine and have fun.

Your day will start out in the morning with a ferry ride to Alcatraz Island, where you will enjoy the self-guided audio tour that lasts about 2.5 hours. After finishing that portion of the tour, you’ll take the ferry back to the pier where you’ll have time to grab a quick bite for lunch on your own.

After lunch, you’ll meet up with your tour group to start the craft beer walking leg of your adventure. Beer tastings are included in the price. It’s worth mentioning here that you won’t be given miserly samples of each beer. The servings are generous, so go easy if you’re a lightweight!

After you complete the craft beer tour, you and the group will enjoy a dinner or snacks together (dinner versus snacks depends on the time of year). Between the beer tastings, snacks at each establishment, and the final dinner/snacks, you will leave more than satisfied.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#5 Alcatraz Tour plus Muir Woods and Sausalito Day Trip

Alcatraz Tour plus Muir Woods and Sausalito Day Trip

Alcatraz Tour plus Muir Woods and Sausalito Day Trip at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Part 1 – Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing; Part 2 – Union Square
  • Departure Time: Please check with the operator.
  • Duration: 8 hours (approx.)
  • Includes: Admission to Muir Woods, transport by coach to Muir Woods and Sausalito round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, audio walking tour of Alcatraz

We recommend this tour for those who are short on time but want to see as much as possible during their stay in the Bay area. It’s also a good choice for those who don’t mind larger groups.  The Muir Woods/Sausalito leg of your tour will include transport by coach (free wifi and restroom on board).

Make the most of your day by consolidating three different experiences into one day. Tour Alcatraz, see the spectacular redwoods of Muir Woods, and make a stop to explore the picturesque town of Sausalito. The three legs of this tour can make for a long day, so if time isn’t a consideration during your stay, consider breaking this into a 2 day venture.

Please note, this isn’t a tour in the tradition sense, as you won’t be picked up and dropped off at your hotel by a guide, or in between the ferry and bus. It involves more DIY action than most.

This excursion starts with your arrival at the ferry to Alcatraz. After enjoying the audio tour there, you will then make your way to Gray Line Buses at Union Square for departure to Muir Woods and Sausalito. When you return to San Francisco you will arrange your own transport back to your lodging/hotel.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#6 Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay Adventure Sightseeing Cruise

Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay Adventure Sightseeing Cruise

Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay Adventure Sightseeing Cruise at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Beach Street, and The Embarcadero
  • Departure Time: Varies per your preference
  • Duration: 5 hours (approx.)
  • Includes: 90-minute adventure cruise, wet-weather gear, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, self-guided audio tour of Alcatraz

We recommend this tour for those adventurers who like to go fast and don’t mind a little sea spray on their face (Don’t worry. The captain has weather-proof gear for you to use!). Space is limited on this boat, so you’ll be having fun in the company of a relatively small group. This tour is fun for families, but keep in mind that the minimum age for passengers is 5 years old!

 You’ll start this tour by taking an exciting 90-minute ride around San Francisco Bay in a RIB boat, all the while being entertained by your amusing and well-informed captain. The captain will wow you with his breadth of knowledge about San Francisco and keep you laughing throughout your boat ride.

He’ll make sure you get up close to the sea lions that love to sun themselves on the docks. If you’re lucky and it’s the right season, you may spot some whales gliding by as an extra bonus. While riding under the Golden Gate bridge you’ll have a unique vantage point and fantastic photo ops.

While this tour feels like a carefree escapade, be assured the Captain of this boat has your safety in mind throughout the 90 minutes on the water. After the boat portion of your tour is finished, you’ll head over to Alcatraz Landing where you’ll take the ferry to Alcatraz Island and enjoy the self-guided audio tour.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


#7 Viator VIP: Early Access to Alcatraz and Exclusive Cable Car Sightseeing Tour

Viator VIP: Early Access to Alcatraz and Exclusive Cable Car Sightseeing Tour

Viator VIP: Early Access to Alcatraz at a Glance:

  • Departure Point: Pier 33
  • Departure Time: 8:00 a.m.
  • Duration: 7 hours (approx.)
  • Includes: Transport and sightseeing tour by cable car bus, boxed lunch of your choice, mixed refreshments, professional guide, round-trip ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz Island, audio walking tour of Alcatraz

We recommend this tour for adults and families alike, and for those who feel comfortable touring with a larger group of fellow visitors. Participants explore the city in an open-air vehicle, because this cable car bus ride is completely open, allowing for better views of the sites. Since lunch is included and enjoyed during the tour, you won’t need to cram that into your itinerary.

Enjoy being a very important person during this full-day tour. Beat the crowds with an early entry to Alcatraz and enjoy the prison and its surroundings, minus the commotion that can come with hordes of tourists

During your early-entry tour of Alcatraz you will wander around the legendary prison and its grounds with an audio tour that gives great detail about his history and some of its most infamous inmates. After you wrap up the Alcatraz portion of this tour, you’ll head over to a cable car that rides on wheels. Sit comfortably while you make your way through the windy streets of the city.

The animated tour guides are well-versed in the offbeat details and history of the area, and they really seem to enjoy sharing this knowledge with visitors. They make sure to tailor your experience to the group, including kids, if you’ve got your little ones along for the ride.

This 2 to 3-hour tour is well-organized and helps you to pack in all the key sites without having to waste time planning an itinerary and parking a car. Some of the areas you’ll visit visit are Nob Hill, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Chinatown, to name a few.

A boxed lunch (various options available) is provided which you will enjoy while touring on the cable car bus.

There is an array of options for touring Alcatraz, lots of them offering combinations with other fun activities. These combinations offer the opportunity to spend time with a local tour guide who can give insider tips and share interesting information about the area.

This makes trip-planning simpler and helps you make the most of your time in San Francisco. We hope our reviews of the top 7 Alcatraz tours helps you to make a decision on the best and most entertaining tour during your trip to San Francisco.

For tour prices, transportation and availability:


Your Guide to Visiting San Francisco

alcatraz tour reviews

Airports & Entry

Located just 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco, the San Francisco International Airport, receives flights from all over the world; making the city highly accessible to would-be visitors.

There are multiple options for transport from the airport to the city. BART is a rail system that offers service between the airport and the city, as well as to the surrounding Bay Area.

San Mateo County’s transit agency, SamTrans, provides bus service from the airport to Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco.

A taxi or other car-for-hire service such as Uber or Lyft are other options.

Planning Tips

Consider what you’d like to do before packing your suitcase. Do you plan to head to the beach, expect to dine in an elegant restaurant, or attend the symphony while you’re in San Francisco?

Not only should your plans guide you in what to pack, you should also purchase tour tickets and make reservations in advance, for those things you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

Restaurants & Eating Out

The San Francisco food scene will please the picky eater and foodie alike. Whether you prefer basic American grub or are into international cuisine, there’s a huge selection to choose from.

For cheap eats you may consider a deli like the popular Molinari Delicatessen. For a slice of pie on the go, check out Golden Boy Pizza.

If you’d like to treat yourself to an evening of fine dining, Kokkari Estiatorio offers a delectable Mediterranean menu; and Seven Hills is superb for seafood.

As far as moderately-priced establishments go, give La Ciccia, an intimate Italian restaurant, a try. Other great mid-range places include Hog Island Oyster Company for delicious seafood or Roam Artisan Burgers for, well, burgers (vegan options available).

Nightlife & Entertainment

There is no lack of after-hours entertainment in this active city. The performances at the Marrakech Magic Theater combine magic, illusion, and comedy for a thoroughly entertaining experience.

A great place to relax with an adult beverage is the Cityscape Bar & Lounge, which has gorgeous nighttime views of the city.

If you plan to make room for some culture during your visit to San Francisco, both the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera give outstanding performances in their respective artforms.

Getting Around

San Francisco has an excellent public transport system, so there’s no reason to go the rental car route. Public transport options include buses, streetcars, cable cars, light rail, and trolley coaches. Of course, taxis and services like Lyft and Uber are available as well.

If you do plan to go with a rental car, rental agencies abound. Depending on the neighborhood and time of day though, you may find it challenging to find available, affordable parking.

Accommodations

San Francisco offers accommodations for all budgets- from basic camping sites in Angel Island and Samuel P Taylor State Parks for those who okay with roughing it, to ultra-exclusive hotels like Fairmont Heritage Place in Ghirardelli Square.

Economically-minded travelers might want to check out area hostels like the highly-rated Green Tortoise Hostel, or a mid-range option such as the chic Scarlet Huntington boutique hotel or the Victorian-styled Queen Anne Hotel.

Weather

As a general rule, the Bay Area doesn’t get much rain, with very little rainfall from May to September. The area’s average temperature remains moderate throughout the year, with highs in the 60’s and 70’s and lows ranging in the 40’s and 50’s, year round.

Attractions

A trip to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without snapping a selfie with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as your backdrop. Other must-sees include the notorious Alcatraz prison; Fisherman’s Wharf for sightseeing and shopping; Lombard Street, known as the “crookedest street” in the world; and a ride on the city’s world-famous cable cars.

Other fun things to do include the San Francisco Zoo and the Sea Lion Center. There are loads of parks and gardens where you can meander or enjoy a picnic lunch, such as the unique Japanese Tea Garden and the seaside park Land’s End.

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Rich Remick

I work part time as an IT security consultant. Luckily I can work from anywhere so I go back and forth between Colorado and Florida. I get my fix of skiing, hiking and camping in Colorado in the Dillion area, and when I am in Florida you can usually find me on the water either paddleboarding or kayaking. My recent passion is scuba diving, I got certified a few years ago and "get wet" as frequently as I can.

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