Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Historic Sites • Islands
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Park rangers conduct tours by recounting the prison's thrilling history along with intriguing anecdotes about Al Capone and other legendary figures that made a "home" here.
Suggested duration
2-3 hours
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  • Cindystar858
    Ramsey, Minnesota540 contributions
    Book Ahead So You Don't Miss This Tour!
    We booked the night tour. We got to the pier early and the line waiting to board was already very long. If you want to get the best seats on the ferry I'd recommend getting there more than 45 minutes early. They are requiring you to wear masks even while waiting in line. We forgot one mask, they charge $2.25 for a mask! (Don't forget yours!) I wasn't happy being told we had to wear a mask the whole time but when we got to the island I saw a sign that masks were required inside and recommended outside. We spent a lot of time outside and lots of people left their masks off. The audio tour in your preferred language was awesome. Besides telling us what we were seeing they had voices from inmates and guards in the audio. There were no restrictions on what you could take photos of. Read the stories on the walls in the solitary confinement and in the mess hall where you return the audio players. Very educational about the men locked up there and how they were treated. I get motion sickness easy but was prepared. I'm glad I was ready with ginger candy, dramamine and sea bands. They had no ginger ale on board which surprised me as that can help too. I avoided motion sickness! Perhaps the short ride helped too. If you have never been to Alcatraz it is not to be missed!
    Written June 20, 2022
  • publiussulla
    Seattle, Washington220 contributions
    Great place to visit!!!
    This is someplace that has been on my bucket list for a number of years. So a few things I like to know about someplace before I go is the tour self guided or by guided tour only? This was a self guided tour with lots of displays with more info for each place you stop along the audio guide route. The boat trip only took I think 15 to 20 mins and the boat was crowded and was the dock when we got to the island. The prison is on top of a steep incline took about 15 mins to get to the top and we went in to start our tour. It took about an hour to get through the whole audio guide and there are a few steps but the area being seen is flat and on one level. There are several places that are closed off and not viewable by the public. The gift shop was very picked over on the way out of the prison block they were either out of stock or did not restock otherwise I would have picked a tshirt for sure. Overall was a great visit and would highly recommend this informative and visually stimulating experience (stunning views of the bay and San Francisco) to anybody in the bay area with half a day that needs to be filled.
    Written October 17, 2021
  • TravelSouthGA
    184 contributions
    Hard Time, Now Historic
    The prisoners who were once on Alcatraz were doing hard time and the worst of the worst. Now, you can see and learn about what life was like for those men and the men who guarded them. Surprisingly, the wardens had an actual mansion on the island and the guards lived in apartments on the island with their families! The ferry boat ride over and back is definitely a big part of the experience as you approach and leave the island and can see the bay and San Francisco also. Once on Alcatraz, the Park Service ranger gives you an overview and then you can tour the main prison building (cellhouse) and other limited areas. I definitely recommend the included audio tour, where you hear the voices of some actual prisoners and guards describing what life was like. They also explain and there is a current exhibit about the American Indian occupation that took place after the prison closed. It too was an important piece of American history to know about. We booked through the authorized (by the Park Service) provider, Alcatraz CityCruises via their web site. Reservations in advance are recommended and they leave out of Pier 33 in the Fisherman's Wharf area. They recommend arriving 30 minutes or more early. We did and were actually able to get on a boat that was just getting ready to leave (otherwise we would have had to stand in line for 30 minutes for our scheduled departure).
    Written August 15, 2021
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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55,874 reviews
Very good

London, United Kingdom157 contributions
Apr 2022
We went on a 9:10am sailing to explore Alcatraz island. We booked direct through the cityexperiences website (don't book elsewhere and risk 3rd party markup). Went on a sunny Friday morning, queued up about 8:45am and were fairly near the front, but you don't need to worry, there's a ton of space on the boat. Its very well organised, easily signposted where to queue and how to get on ferry etc. Once arrived you get a quick welcome to the island and a few rules (bird protection etc) and then you're off. We wandered slowly up the hill looking at all the side venues before heading to the main event of the jailhouse audio tour. I'd recommend downloading the app on your phone before you get on island, as all you get in the venue is a phone in a wallet to listen to anyway for the tour. Only downside is on phone you have to wait for the chapter to end on audio tour before taking pictures, else the audio restarts at the beginning of chapter if it hasn't finished that chapter when you go back to continue audio. If its between chapters it pauses till you click again and it's fine and goes on to next chapter fine. Don't start the tour before you get there it doesn't have a back button, and download the audio files before you get on the island as mobile data speeds isn't brilliant there despite good phone reception.
The wildlife is surprisingly abundant and the islands gardens and planting is beautiful and just as interesting as it's buildings and history. I would recommend the tour to anyone, theres a mini tram service to get to top of hill if needed. Dress for all weathers and layers as its quite the walk to top hill wise. Ferry back is similar funnel queue system but being every 30mins you wont be waiting long in line.
Written April 26, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Barry B
Sidcup, UK33 contributions
Aug 2022
If you go to San Francisco, Alcatraz Island should be on your bucket list of places to visit.
However, I would strongly recommend to pre book the tour as tickets can sell out well in advance. We pre booked the late morning ferry over two months before we arrived.
There is only one Ferry Company (Alcatraz City Cruises) that actually stops at the Island. All others just sail past or around.
Some parts of the Island were fenced off so we were not sure if this was because of Covid rules, safety reasons or a permanent feature as we were advised beforehand that you could walk all around the island. However, this did not spoil the time we were there.
The audio cell phone part of the tour was great as it went into great detail about the history of the prison, the inmates over the years, living conditions and attempted escapes.
A bonus are the spectacular views of the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco from the ferry and Alcatraz Island.
Written September 21, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

6 contributions
Aug 2022
One of the worst NPS/historical sites I've ever visited. Welcomed to the queue by a woman YELLING at people standing outside about masks (then charging $2.25 USD to anyone needing one). Constant, consistent yelling. Welcome, indeed (not). Arrived at the island to find, well, not much. Two cells open, no 're-created' historical update, nothing really to even walk through. We love history and would have loved to see some real/re-made version of cells even. More space dedicated to a politically-charged 'exhibit' about how bad it is to incarcerate criminals. Not to mention the absolute lack of care on the landscaping throughout, the bird poop literally everywhere ('its fly season' (fly season is every day when birds are pooping all over).
There was just nothing to it, we were all disappointed and it was a waste of time and money. NPS should close this site and redirect our tax dollars (or give them back).
Written August 8, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Glasgow, UK26 contributions
Apr 2022 • Couples
So disappointed , my son lives in San Francisco and I've wanted to go visit Alcatraz since he moved there but Covid prevented us doing that .
Booked the cruise over this time , cruise line went in very quick and was run very efficiently . No food or drink allowed other than bottled water which is a shame they are missing huge revenue from not even having a coffee shop !
We didn't go to eat or drink though so wasn't an issue and it clearly stated on the email that there is no where to buy food or drink .
We wandered around the buildings outside the main jail reading the boards as we did so , they were informative enough . The whole place looks derelict though , now I know it's meant to look less than polished but this wouldn't be the way it looked while a working hail so I was disappointed to see weeds everywhere faded into boards crumbling walls etc There seems to be little maintenance going on to preserve it to be honest so I wonder for how long it will be open !
When you board the ferry there is a model of the whole island and it's buildings but what's accessible is a small fraction of this model , the rest is shut off with signs up saying it was too dangerous to go there !

There was a really interesting exhibit about the Indians that occupied the island after the jail shut but unfortunately the info was faded also , there were some letters hanging on a line from the children who had lived there at the time of the occupation but most were barely legible due to fading but then they had been badly preserved in laminate and hung right in front of a sunny window !!

The audio tour itself was easy to follow and very interesting at parts but very generic in others .

I live in Scotland , we are no stranger to ruins that aren't maintained the difference is we don't have to pay £50 + a head to see them , we do have to pay for any that are maintained for preservation and rightly so .
One of the staff on the island said there was little funding other than tourist revenue for the island but the island was mobbed hundreds of people were there and the ferry's ran constant all day every one full . It seems a huge shame then if that revenue isn't enough to help maintain the island given its their biggest tourist attraction !

All in all I'm glad I finally went but I wouldn't be in a hurry to return unless they improved the tour area and exhibit
Written April 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Caerphilly, UK21 contributions
Sep 2022 • Couples
A must do for San Francisco tourists, the ferry across gives brilliant views of the city and we did the night tour so had the sunset on the island and the city lights view on the way back.
As for the tour itself, it was very brief, only around 40 minutes and could have gone into a little more depth but definitely gave you a good feel for the prison. Was a little crowded to be able to get into the cells etc (we booked the night tour as it was supposed to be quieter) so will probably be a lot busier in the day tours.
Overall a good experience and would recommend.
Written September 1, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Two Rivers, WI822 contributions
May 2022

The boat ride to the island was easy and quick. Get your reservation a day before as there is limited access on a given day.
Return is open ended so you can come back at your leisure.

There was a quick introduction outline by the park ranger as we arrived and thus got us going in the right direction, so we held off to view some of the side attractions.

The Island when named it for the Albatross birds, when Spain settled the area in 1776).
We entered the facility along the same path that all 1,545 prisoners arrived, first into a large shower facility, where the prisoners would also receive their prison cloths / shoes / toiletries.
We were then given most EXCELLENT audio guides which took us on a narrative path through the entire facility (nice format).
We entered and explored cellblock A/B/C, where each cell is only 6 ft wide 10 ft tall and 11 ft deep. Each contained a basic bed, a toilet, a sink and two shelves.

Prisoners were allowed out each day for their three meals in the large common mess area and into a large exercise area. They were given 3 packs of cigarettes a week.
We did view the three cells in B block where the famous escape was made from = that you may have heard about in movies or the history channel.
Lots more about this place, including the time in 1969 where the abandon prison was taken over by an Indian group for 9 months, ending up with a fire that destroyed the function of the lighthouse, and the fire consumed the warden’s house.
Written December 29, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

London, UK185 contributions
Aug 2022 • Family
I wonder if those of us of a certain age who have heard of/seen The Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape from Alcatraz and The Rock see a greater mysticism and sense of legend in this place than it merits.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite an interesting tour and you certainly get a sense of the foreboding the prison must have had over inmates but I’m really not sure it’s worth the time, money or effort - although you do get trip out into SF bay on a boat included of course which can give a different perspective on the city in itself.

Of all the things we did over 5 days in SF, (H&A, cycle the bridge, baseball game, Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars and museum, Alcatraz is the one that I thought would be unmissable but with hindsight is the one I’d drop if I had to and had my time again.

I think for my kids (3 all in early 20s) it was a bit of a mystery as to why we visited an old prison on an island at all.
Written August 18, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK336 contributions
Mar 2022
The Rock is always worth a visit when in the area. However this visit was a bit sub par compared to other visits. They were still asking for masks, after they had been dropped everywhere else. The tour guide was not as good as usual, we felt like we were on a drama school trip, being asked questions a bit too much and condescending when no one was replying. Felt like we did not see as much as in the past, even with the extra add on tour, the tour felt like it was all about the guides dramatic performance, not actually seeing the island! Maybe five visits are enough? Always a must see for the first time visitor that has nothing to compare with. Gift shop was not great, the on land shops have a much better range with better prices too!
Written August 18, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Cancun, Mexico391 contributions
Dec 2021
This is a must to see attraction in San Francisco, you can't visit the city withour taking the ferry from Pier 33 and watch the prision of Alcatraz.
The price for the Tour cost around $ 50 USD per person, include acces to the island and the ferry, which takes 15 minutes to get there.

Once you get off the boat, you can stay in the island for as many time you want to walk arouind and visit all the areas, like the cells area, dinning room, D block.
The main patio for excersice was closed unfortunately. The boats are going back and forth every 40 minutes or so.

You can get an audio device to listen all the history about Alcatraz and the people who was locked down there like Alcapone or Frank Morris who escaped.

You can get also good pictures from here of SF bay and the golden gate.
I highly recomend the Tour!!
Written November 13, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Gill B
Christchurch, UK56 contributions
May 2022
What can you say about visiting such a worldwide place? Interesting, atmospheric and so pleased to have been there. We were told in height of summer there is a high stench of bird poo from the local inhabitants, mainly gulls, and even in May this can be detected but it's all part of the experience. You can spend as much time as you want because the return ferries are frequent. Book a timed ferry to depart and queue up but ferries are large and crossing takes about 20 min.
Written May 31, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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