Guide to Visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco

Photo of Guide to Visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco by naman singh

The most infamous former maximum-security jail in America is located in San Francisco Bay. The old federal prison, which housed America's most notorious inmates such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly, was deactivated in 1963 and is now a public museum.

Have you ever wondered what Alcatraz Island is like after seeing the iconic movie "Escape from Alcatraz" or after watching one too many documentaries?

A visit to Alcatraz Island should be at the top of your to-do list while in San Francisco, even if it isn't your average gorgeous holiday site. The famed Alcatraz is worth a visit solely for its history, even if it lacks the natural beauty of some of the other islands.

Alcatraz provides magnificent views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge on clear days. You may save time and money by purchasing tickets in advance and online. A day tour, a night tour, or even a combination tour of Alcatraz and Angel Island are available.

Here are a few things you should know before visiting Alcatraz in San Francisco.

1. The late afternoon and evening tours are slightly more expensive than the day tours and may sell out sooner. Some ranger-led excursions or access to portions of the island that are closed during the day may be available in the evenings.

2. Many visitors prefer the evening tours because they are more picturesque and the tours offer views of the sun sinking over the bay and Golden Gate bridge. If you time it correctly, the lighthouse end of the cellblock on the western side of the island affords a great sunset vantage point for that perfect photo.

3. Because the weather on Alcatraz is unpredictable and susceptible to change at any time, dress in layers. To properly explore the steep and rocky island, bring a light jacket or sweater and comfortable shoes.

4. Alcatraz Island is only accessible via ferry. Alcatraz Cruises is the firm that now operates the boat. Pier 33 is where they run all of their ferries. Pier 33 is near Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf on Embarcadero Street. Piers with odd numbers are north of Pier 1 and those with even numbers are south of Pier 1.

5. The time on your ticket is the time the ferry departs from the Pier, therefore arrive no later than 20 to 25 minutes before departure. At Alcatraz Landing, a sign indicates which ferry is currently boarding.

6. You will discover different places open depending on the time of year you come. You can visit the lighthouse at any time of year to take photographs.

7. While on the island, food and drinks are not available for purchase. You may buy snacks and drinks for a reasonable price on the ferry, and you can even bring food onto the island for a picnic. Large suitcases, hampers, iceboxes, and other similar items are prohibited, and there are no lockers on the island or at Pier 33.

8. A free audio tour is included in the entrance fee. When you enter the lower door of the cellblock, you will be given audio players and headphones. The audio tour takes you on a set route around the main cell block, with ex-guards and convicts providing narration. It's extensive, providing detailed insights into the lives of both staff and convicts on the island, as well as the more infamous escape attempts.

9. There are no loan wheelchairs available on the island. If a visitor is physically challenged, the island offers golf carts available to transport those with limited mobility from the dock to the hilltop cellblock; however, these are in limited supply, so they have to let the ranger staff know as soon as you get on the island if you need mobility help.