Alcatraz Island Tours vs. Alcatraz Tickets – Which is Better?

With how fast Alcatraz ferry tickets sell out, you might wonder if it’s worth it to book months ahead of time for the Alcatraz Ferry or to go on one of the many combo Alcatraz Island Tours instead. Let us help you choose the right option!

One of the most common questions we get is whether travelers should go on the best Alcatraz Island tours they can find — or if they should just do a San Francisco bus tour one day and book Alcatraz tickets for a different day to tour Alcatraz.

We don’t think either option is bad — it really just depends on how much time you have for fun things to do in San Francisco. Let’s take at who should be taking a San Francisco Alcatraz tour and who should be booking a ferry ticket to Alcatraz.

Official Alcatraz Tickets from Alcatraz City Cruises

Official Alcatraz Tickets
If you have more than just a couple of days in SF, purchasing Alcatraz Tickets on their own can be a good option. You can find Alcatraz tickets for sale via Alcatraz City Cruises. Photo by Kim Holland via Flickr

Who is this for? If you have more than one day in San Francisco — this will be an amazing option for how to get to Alcatraz.

How much are Alcatraz tickets?

Tickets for the Day Tour range from approximately $25 to $42 dollars depending on age. Get the most accurate pricing info from the official Alcatraz City Cruises website.

We always suggest that travelers take a comprehensive San Francisco bus tour their first day in the city. This allows you to familiarize yourself with the most popular neighborhoods (and if you have a 100% local guide, you’ll walk away with some incredible restaurant suggestions around town).

On your second day, especially if you were able to snag tickets for the Alcatraz Night Tour, and then head over to Pier 33 to get on the Alcatraz Ferry.

Whether you want to explore San Francisco by bike or bus — Dylan’s has the perfect tour for your first day in the city. Our very popular Famous Tour explores San Francisco and Muir Woods by bus.

We also have the only combination San Francisco bike tour and Muir Woods shuttle for those who prefer to explore without a tour guide. If you’ve already checked Muir Woods off your bucket list, there’s also an option to zip around town on our guided San Francisco electric bike tour.

What’s the catch? If you’re wondering where to buy Alcatraz tickets, there’s only one official company that sells Alcatraz ferry tickets on their own – Alcatraz City Cruises.

During the busy summer months, Alcatraz Island tickets through the official Alcatraz City Cruises website can sell out months in advance.

This means that if you were hoping to buy Alcatraz tickets at the pier the day of, or even the day before your tour, it’s likely Alcatraz sold out already. If you’re questioning when to buy Alcatraz tickets, we honestly recommend purchasing them as far in advance as possible if you’re doing it directly through Alcatraz City Cruises.   

We sum up your best options to score last minute Alcatraz tickets in this video.

Be sure to check out our blog on what to do if Alcatraz tickets are sold out for some ideas on how to get around a sold out Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island Tours from the Best San Francisco Tour Companies

Who is this for? If you only have one day to spend in San Francisco — then your best bet of seeing as much as possible in a day will be with a combo one day San Francisco Alcatraz Tour, where you don’t have to worry about making Alcatraz reservations on your own. This way you will see all the best parts of the city as well as Alcatraz.

Mow much is a tour of Alcatraz? It really depends on the tour company doing the Alcatraz combo tours. Our 1-Day Alcatraz Experience includes an Official Alcatraz Tour and a San Francisco city tour all in one day. The full-day experience starts at $179 for adults and $119 for kids. This is a pretty standard Alcatraz tour cost in San Francisco.

Even though we usually suggest that people reserve Alcatraz tickets separate from their SF tour, sometimes that is just not possible.

What’s the catch? Both Muir Woods and Alcatraz are outside of San Francisco proper, so it is a very long day when you squeeze all these classic sites into one day. Unless you really only have one day in San Francisco, it’s better to split your Alcatraz and Muir Woods visits into two days.

Book your tickets to Alcatraz through this tour here

Still interested in learning more about Alcatraz? Check out our related blog posts below!

How to Get to Alcatraz

What to Do if Alcatraz Tickets are Sold Out

Alcatraz Night Tour vs Alcatraz Day Tour

We’re happy to answer any of your Alcatraz questions, especially if it involves how to get Alcatraz tickets when they’re sold out because we’re experts on that — just shoot us a message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Discover San Francisco like never before! Join our Explore S.F. group on Facebook, your ultimate guide to the city’s best-kept secrets. From local tips to monthly adventures, this is where your journey begins. Click here to join and start exploring!

[Featured Image by Mike Holloway via Flickr]