Alcatraz Island Tours vs Alcatraz Ferry Tickets – Which Should You Buy?

Posted on June 8, 2018 |

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 the abundant 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 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 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 are $38.35 for adults and $23.50 for kids (ages 5-11) from the official Alcatraz 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, you can revisit your favorite neighborhoods you discovered during your San Francisco tour.

Whether you want to explore San Francisco by bike, bus or electric tuk tuk — Dylan’s Tours 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 San Francisco electric bike tour. Or join a half day bus tour of San Francisco and Sausalito.

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 Cruises.

During the busy summer months, Alcatraz Island tickets through the official Alcatraz 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 to purchase them as far in advance as possible if you’re doing it directly through Alcatraz Cruises.   

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 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. 

Mow much is a tour of Alcatraz? It really depends on the tour company doing the Alcatraz combo tours. Our Day in the Bay tour that includes Alcatraz and a city tour all in one day starts at $159 for adults and $109 for kids. Our two-day Alcatraz and city tour is $159 for adults and $149 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.

If you only have single day to explore San Francisco and Alcatraz, you’ll need a one day combo tour. It will be a very long day, but it’s possible to see it all in A Day in the Bay — our one day San Francisco Alcatraz Tour.

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.

Note: this tour is only offered from March-September

Two Day Alcatraz and San Francisco Tour

San Francisco Alcatraz Tour at Golden Gate Bridge | Tours of Alcatraz

If you combine tours of Alcatraz with a San Francisco city tour, you can usually get around the fact that official Alcatraz ferry tickets are sold out.

Who is this for? Travelers who want to take their time exploring San Francisco, Muir Woods and Alcatraz over a couple of days. Also, for those travelers who maybe didn’t book far enough ahead of time for the ferry tickets and need Alcatraz tours last minute tickets. 

Experience the best of both worlds by splitting your time into a two day tour of Alcatraz, San Francisco and Muir Woods. This Alcatraz tour package is one of the best ways to see Alcatraz and San Francisco over a couple of days, so your time isn’t too rushed. 

On Day 1 you head to Pier 33 to catch the official Alcatraz Cruises ferry to Alcatraz Island. Then, on Day 2 you’ll join our most popular tour San Francisco, Muir Woods and Sausalito — the Famous Tour.

What’s the catch? This is a seasonal tour with Alcatraz tickets and a San Francisco bus tour that is only offered at select times throughout the year. Head to the links above for our full booking schedule and Alcatraz tour times. 


Still trying to find the right Alcatraz Prison tours for you? You can read all about who we think offers the Best Alcatraz Tours in San Francisco on our blog.

Not sure what’s the difference between an Alcatraz Day Tour or an Alcatraz Night Tour? We’ve also got a blog for you on that!

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.

[Featured Image by Mike Holloway via Flickr]

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