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What do you do if Alcatraz Tickets are sold out during your trip to San Francisco? Read our guide below to find out how to score last minute Alcatraz tickets.

While there are many Alcatraz Bay Tours that will take you around the island, there is only one company allowed to take travelers onto Alcatraz Island and which sells official tickets.

Meet Alcatraz Cruises — the official ferry to the infamous former San Francisco prison. It’s also one of the only places where you’ll find Alcatraz tour times and official tickets, including Alcatraz night tour tickets.

If you’re wondering where to buy Alcatraz tickets, this is usually the first place that you come across on Google to purchase tickets.

So, how much are Alcatraz tickets? Prices start around $38 for Adults and $23.50 for children if you buy from the official Alcatraz site.

The first question a lot of people have about tickets to Alcatraz is how on earth can a National Park be so expensive? What exactly is included in these Alcatraz reservations to justify the cost?

Here’s the thing. Your state park pass to Alcatraz isn’t solely for entry on to the island, although that is included in the cost. The ticket cost also includes the amazing audio tour of the cell house on the California island prison. On top of that, most of the official Alcatraz tours costs goes to the for-profit Alcatraz Cruises. 

In short, Alcatraz ticket prices are high enough to cover entrance to the park, a fantastic self-guided tour, and a 20-minute ferry ride to and from the island. Since this is the one and only way of how to get to Alcatraz, it’s actually quite a good deal!

Did you know that Alcatraz Island is the most popular National Park to visit? This means that Alcatraz ferry tickets sell out fast!

If you’re planning on visiting the famous San Francisco prison island anywhere from March through October, chances are you’ll find that Alcatraz Island tickets are sold out. 

So, keep reading to find out the best ways to get last minute Alcatraz tickets! First, we’ll look at one thing to be sure to avoid when searching for tickets. Then, we’ll talk about our three favorite ways to book an Alcatraz tour during peak season.


Here’s our favorite way to get tickets to Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay if they’re sold out on the official site!

Book the #1 Alcatraz Combo Tour


Alcatraz Island tickets


Caution: Don’t Buy San Francisco Alcatraz Tickets from Scalpers

Once upon a time people used to try to escape from Alcatraz, now, they’re dying to get onto the island! And there aren’t enough Alcatraz tickets for sale. Even Justin Timberlake was turned away from the island when he showed up on the San Francisco Fire Department’s fire boat!

You might be tempted to turn to Craigslist or StubHub in search of a sold out ticket. However, it is illegal to re-sell tickets to Alcatraz. So, these sites aren’t a legal option for finding Alcatraz tickets last minute.

These sites are also not the best place to find cheap Alcatraz tickets, since sellers usually jack up the price to take advantage of the fact that tickets for the Alcatraz tour are sold out. Alcatraz costs enough on its own without prices being raised for profit!

Rumor has it that SFPD runs sting operations to nab anyone selling Alcatraz Tours’ last minute tickets on those sites. So, we’d strongly caution you against getting your Alcatraz cruise tickets this way.

Luckily, there are three legal options for getting tickets through official third-party operators!


What to do if Alcatraz Tickets are Sold Out


Try a Packaged Tour that Offers Alcatraz Tickets and San Francisco City Tours

While it is illegal to re-sell individual tickets to Alcatraz, there are official third-party operators who are allowed to package tickets to Alcatraz with San Francisco tours.

These third-parties are not allowed to sell Alcatraz tours tickets individually — only as a part of a package tour. So, Alcatraz combo tours are a great option if individual tours to the rock in San Francisco are sold out!

If you do a google search for “best tour of Alcatraz”, you’ll find that some of the most established Bay Area tour companies offer these Alcatraz combo tickets which include Alcatraz cruise tickets and a San Francisco tour.

Now, we might be a little biased, but we’re a big fan of our A Day in the Bay Tour. 

That’s our ultimate one day San Francisco tour that includes Alcatraz prison tickets, a tour of the city, and a visit to Muir Woods. This tour is the only Alcatraz tour package in the Bay Area that includes both of these national park sites in one day.

A Day in the Bay Tour is one part San Francisco tour and one part Alcatraz tour.

And you’ll have as long as you like to discover Alcatraz Island and do a self-guided tour of Alcatraz at your own pace! 

Whether you catch a packaged Alcatraz tour with us or a different company, there are a couple of things you need to know about these package tours of Alcatraz:

First, you must reserve these Alcatraz packaged tours at least four days in advance!

As much as third-party tour operators would LOVE to get you a seat on a last minute Alcatraz tour and San Francisco tour — Alcatraz won’t allow it.

Instead, all third-party Alcatraz ticket sellers need to submit all guest names for these Alcatraz San Francisco tours to Alcatraz Cruises four days in advance.

So, if you’re looking to buy Alcatraz tickets today or find a last minute spot on an Alcatraz Prison and San Francisco tour, you may be out of luck. It’s simply not possible to get tickets to Alcatraz Island that last minute if Alcatraz is already sold out.

Secondly, when purchasing third-party tickets for your Alcatraz excursion, double check — no, triple check — that your Alcatraz tour tickets actually go to Alcatraz Island! Some tour companies can be very misleading. Be sure that your Alcatraz tour goes to Alcatraz and includes park admission, and that your tickets for Alcatraz aren’t just a bay cruise that circles around the island.


Ready to score last minute Alcatraz tickets on sold out dates?

Learn More About our A Day in the Bay Tour here


 

Alcatraz Pier 33


Be the First in the Standby Line at 4am

Ah, yes. San Francisco’s favorite past time — waiting in line. We’ll wait in line for everything, from the newest food truck to trains during rush hour. Waiting in line for tickets to Alcatraz is no exception.

Now, we want to be totally transparent here. Waiting in the standby line for tickets to Alcatraz has absolutely no guarantee that you will actually end up with an Alcatraz ticket!

So, this is the ultimate last resort! Even though Alcatraz hours don’t start until 7:30am. the standby line can begin forming as early as 4am. The first ferry to Alcatraz doesn’t leave until after 9am, so it’ll be a long wait.

However, this is a viable option for one reason and one reason only: the ferry to Alcatraz waits for no one, especially when tickets are sold out.

So, when someone misses their scheduled ferry, Alcatraz Cruises will pull people from the standby line to take their place.

Here’s the kicker, you need everyone in your group to get the standby tickets for the prison boat. Remember, re-selling tickets to Alcatraz is illegal. So, this is how they can be sure you really are only getting as many tickets as you need to visit Alcatraz.

If you just send one person in your group to buy Alcatraz tickets, only that person will be able to get a ticket to the old prison in San Francisco! So if you’re hoping to get tickets to Alcatraz island via the standby line, it needs to be a family affair.

Since getting tickets to Alcatraz can be so difficult, take the easy route and reserve a seat on our A Day in the Bay tour for an unforgettable visit to Alcatraz!


Alcatraz cruise


Enjoy Alcatraz from a Distance on a Bay Cruise

Once the summer months hit, this unfortunately is often the only realistic way of “seeing” Alcatraz. Not visiting Alcatraz — just seeing it from a distance.

Because you don’t actually get to tour Alcatraz Prison, this isn’t the most satisfying way of experiencing the San Francisco jail island. However, it just might be the only way of getting close to the former San Francisco prison.

Taking a ferry around Alcatraz when tickets are sold out is a fun alternative because these cruises usually take you beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and sometimes out to AT&T Park if the Giants are playing a game.

This part of the Bay is usually filled with locals in row boats and fishing boats hoping to catch a fly ball out of the baseball park!

As long as you are aware that these ‘Alcatraz Island tours’ don’t actually take you onto the rock prison, then this will be a fun way of seeing the island when Alcatraz tickets are sold out.

We’re big fans of Adventure Cat’s catamaran sunset bay cruises. And not just because adults get a free cocktail during the evening sail!

Or, if you want to experience a bit of local flavor you can head down to Fisherman’s Wharf, like where the actual fisherman are. Yes, we still have fishermen at the Wharf!

As long as it’s not crabbing season, you can usually find local fishermen taking travelers out onto the water for a boat tour around Alcatraz to see the prison on the island. Check out Wacky Jacky on the Lovely Martha for a super unique Alcatraz island visit! 


20 Best Alcatraz Tours | Tickets for Alcatraz last minute


Purchase Tickets on A Day in the Bay Tour

We’ve already mentioned this option above. But, we’d like to take the opportunity to share a few more details about our A Day in the Bay tour since we think it’s a great option for nabbing an Alcatraz tour last minute and finding Alcatraz tickets for sold out dates!

This ten hour tour is one of the top rated Alcatraz TripAdvisor tours, and for good reason! Keep reading to find out how our Alcatraz combination tours work and why they’re our favorite solution for what to do if Alcatraz tickets are sold out.

We’ll start the day bright and early at 8AM outside of Fisherman’s Wharf. One of our local guides, wearing a Dylan’s Tours shirt, will meet you there and conduct a brief roll call. 

Then we’ll board the bus and start exploring! We’ll spend the morning visiting some of San Francisco’s most famous sights and neighborhoods like China Town, Haight Ashbury, the Presidio, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, you’ll hear interesting stories about the city’s history. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to step off the bus, take photos, and even wander around a bit! 

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful coastal town of Sausalito. We encourage you to grab a bite to eat at one of the local delis and spend some time taking in the beautiful waterfront views. Then we’ll board the bus again and head up to Muir Woods. Once we get to the park, you’ll have over an hour to explore the coastal redwoods.

Then, we’ll cruise back across the bridge where our minibus will drop you at the Alcatraz Pier 33, the departure point for official ferry rides to Alcatraz. This is great because it means you also don’t have to worry about the hectic Alcatraz tour parking! 

We’ll have taken care of your Alcatraz reservations in advance, so you won’t have to buy ferry tickets. You can just hop on the boat and prepare to enjoy your San Francisco prison tour!

Are you wondering how long is the Alcatraz tour? Generally, visitors going to Alcatraz spend two to three hours on the island. About forty minutes of that time will be spent on the ferry ride to Alcatraz, which lasts about twenty minutes each way. Once you get to the island you’ll have the opportunity to take a self-guided audio tour of the prison cells, explore the island of Alcatraz, and stop by the Alcatraz visitor center.

The best part about our Alcatraz combo tickets, is that you can stay on the San Francisco island prison for as long or short an amount of time as you’d like to. Whenever you’ve had enough, just hop back on the Alcatraz tour ferry to catch a ride back to Pier 33. If you’d like to plan your departure time in advance, you can check out the Alcatraz ferry schedule and find more information about tours and tickets on the official Alcatraz site.

You should also be aware that there aren’t any restaurants or cafes on the island, so we recommend grabbing a bite before your Alcatraz prison visit!

Still have questions about Alcatraz Cruises, Pier 33, or what to do if Alcatraz tickets are sold out? Check out our FAQ section below to learn all you need to know about tours of Alcatraz Prison!

Learn More About our Alcatraz Combo Tour


Alcatraz Ferry Schedule


FAQ’s

Is Alcatraz a National Park site?

Yes! The prison island in San Francisco became part of a national recreation area in 1972 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Where is Alcatraz Island?

The location of Alcatraz Island is in the San Francisco Bay, 1.25 miles offshore from San Francisco. 

Is Alcatraz open to the public?

Alcatraz is open to public tours. However, the Alcatraz docks are exclusively available to one ferry line, Alcatraz Cruises. So, the only way the public can visit this famous jail in San Francisco is to buy a tour and take one of the official Alcatraz ferries.

Can you go inside Alcatraz prison?

Absolutely! When you buy tickets to Alcatraz, you’ll be guaranteed a ferry ride across the bay and admission to the island and prison cells. You can even use the provided audio tour to take Alcatraz guided tours of this famous prison in SF.

How long does the Alcatraz tour take?

Touring Alcatraz prison can take anywhere from 1-4 hours. The ferry for Alcatraz lasts about 20 minutes each way. The self-guided audio tour takes about 45 minutes. On top of that, you have the opportunity to explore the island portion of Alcatraz park for as long as you’d like to before checking the Alcatraz return ferry schedule to catch a ride back to Pier 33.

How do you get to Alcatraz from San Francisco?

For those visiting Alcatraz Island, there’s only one way to get to the rock prison: the Pier 33 Alcatraz Ferry. If you’re taking a San Francisco tour including Alcatraz, chances are you’ll be dropped off right at the pier. If you’re planning to drive yourself, you may have to park a distance away and walk to the Alcatraz departure point.

What are Alcatraz tour hours?

The box office for tickets sales opens at 7:30. The Alcatraz early bird tour is the first tour to leave at 8:45, while tickets for the Alcatraz night tour leave as late as 6:30pm.

How long is the ferry ride to Alcatraz?

The ferries to Alcatraz usually take a little less than twenty minutes. Along the way, you can enjoy some fantastic views of both the island and the city!

What are the Alcatraz ferry times?

Day tour departure times: 8:45 AM, 9:00 AM, 9:30 AM, 10:00 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:00 PM, 12:30 PM, 1:00 PM, 1:30 PM, 2:00 PM, 2:30 PM, 3:15 PM, 3:45 PM

Day tour return times: 9:55 AM, 10:25 AM, 10:55 AM, 11:25 AM, 11:55 AM, 12:25 PM, 12:55 PM, 1:25 PM, 1:55 PM, 2:35 PM, 3:05 PM, 3:45 PM, 4:15 PM, 4:45 PM, 5:15 PM, 5:55 PM, 6:30 PM

Night tour departure times: 5:45 PM, 6:30 PM

Night tour return times: 8:40 PM, 9:25 PM

How much is the Alcatraz tour?

Adult Day Tour Price: $47.90 – Children Day Tour Price: $32.40 – Seniors Day Tour Price: $45.65

Adult Night Tour Price: $55.30 – Children Night Tour Price: $36.00 – Seniors Night Tour Price: $52.00

Note: All Alcatraz admission prices include the official Alcatraz tours ferry, an Alcatraz pass, and a self guided audio tour. Additional features, like a ranger-led tour of the California prison island, are included in the Night Tour.

Is there an Alcatraz military discount?

There is no Alcatraz tour military discount offered through the official site. However, Alcatraz tours tickets discounts are offered for children, juniors, and seniors.

Are there Alcatraz private tours?

Yes, there are semi-private Alcatraz tours known as the Behind the Scenes tours. Tickets for these private Alcatraz tours include a round-trip ferry ride to the island, a two hour guided tour with 30 or fewer guests, and access to all of the additional activities available during nighttime Alcatraz visiting hours.

Are there cheap Alcatraz tours?

Not really. The most budget-friendly way of getting to Alcatraz is by purchasing directly from Alcatraz Cruises. However, if the official Alcatraz tour is sold out, combo Alcatraz packages are the best way to buy Alcatraz tickets last minute. They offer great value because they allow you to visit multiple tourist destinations in the Bay Area.

What is the Alcatraz audio tour?

The Alcatraz Audio tour takes the form of an award-winning narrative presentation.  You’ll wear headphones and carry a mobile device that allows you to explore the Cellhouse at your own pace. Along the way, you’ll listen to the stories of life from former inmates and guards, and learn about famous escape attempts from the prison on the rock. 

The Cellhouse audio tour is available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

What is the Alcatraz Behind the Scenes tour?

The semi-private Behind the Scenes tour departs from Pier 33 Alcatraz Tours Landing on the last two Day Tour departure times and returns on either of the two Night Tour return times.

This tour is limited to thirty people and includes a two hour long guided tour of the island. Please note that this tour can be strenuous: the roads and walkways on Alcatraz are steep, and the tour covers a bit of ground. 

Where Can I purchase tickets to an Alcatraz night tour?

We recommend checking out the official website to see the Alcatraz tour schedule and buy tickets to Alcatraz for day, night, or behind the scenes tours.

Where is the Alcatraz Tours Parking location?

If you plan to drive yourself to Pier 33 for Alcatraz tickets, be sure to arrive early! Parking can be extremely difficult along the piers, so you may want to reserve a spot ahead of time with a service like Parking Panda. Remember, if you miss your scheduled time for the boat trip to Alcatraz, your ticket will be given to someone in the standby line. So make sure you give yourself enough time to find parking and walk to the pier!

Is there an Alcatraz & Angel Island combination tour?

Yes! You can purchase tickets for the Angel Island & Alcatraz tour from the official NPS Alcatraz website. This tour costs $78.65 for adults, $52.40 for children, and $76.40 for seniors, and departs from Pier 33 at 9:30am and 9:40am. 

How many tourists visit Alcatraz each year?

Each year, more than one million people flock to San Francisco to take tours of Alcatraz Island, see the inmates’ old cells, and listen to stories about the prison’s history.

What is the meaning of Alcatraz in English?

The full name of the island is “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which translates as “The Island of the Pelicans,”. So, the Spanish word “alcatraz”, translates to “pelican” in English.

Who owns Alcatraz?

Alcatraz State Park is considered part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and its facilities are managed entirely by the National Park Service. 


Now that you know how to get Alcatraz tickets last minute, let us help you make your trip to the prison on an island unforgettable!

Book the #1 Alcatraz Combo Tour


Need more inspiration for your upcoming trip to Alcatraz? Don’t miss out on our related blog posts below! 

Should You Buy an Alcatraz Ticket or an Alcatraz Tour?

10 Things You NEED to Know Before Going to Alcatraz

10 Best Alcatraz Tours 

Alcatraz Night Tour vs Alcatraz Day Tour