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Alcatraz Island

Escape to “The Rock,” home of the infamous and abandoned island prison, and discover how it earned a reputation as a cold and unforgiving place.

For decades (between 1934 and 1963) the name Alcatraz uttered in a courtroom brought up fear, terror and visions of being sent to this austere island fortress. Even from the mainland the rocky island, now a National Park, still evokes powerful images of bleak isolation. It is a foreboding place that once held some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, including Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. 

Alcatraz Island, located in San Francisco Bay, is accessible by a 15-minute ferry ride operated by Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33 at the Embarcadero. The round trip ticket price includes an informative cell house audio tour. On the island, take a free tour with one of the National Park volunteers or guides, or pick up a brochure at the ferry landing for a self-guided tour.  

Unlike the former inmates, you’re free to roam the island. Discover the site of the first lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast, which was originally erected in 1854 and rebuilt in 1909. Your tour within the walls of the notorious penal colony passes through cellblocks that once held the worst of the worst, and into the walled exercise yard where you’ll see just how tantalizingly close San Francisco appears to be.  

During Alcatraz’s 29 years of operation as a maximum security prison, 36 people attempted to escape. Six were killed, 23 caught and the rest are presumed to have drowned, victims of the icy waters and treacherous currents. 

The most famous escape attempt occurred in 1962 after three inmates managed to dig through their cell walls with crude materials including spoons. They left lifelike dummies of themselves in their beds to act as decoys. Presumably they made a swim for the mainland and their bodies were never found. A year after the escape the prison closed.

You can stay on the Rock until the last ferry of the day departs at 4:25 p.m., and most people spend two to three hours here. In summer, a night tour is also available. It’s a popular sightseeing destination, so be sure to buy your ferry tickets in advance.

Popular Activities at Alcatraz Island

There's no place anywhere on the planet quite like Alcatraz Island. To help you make the most of your visit, we've created a list of some of the best things to do:

For many more things to do, peruse our San Francisco things to do page.


Guide to Exploring Alcatraz Island


Map

Top Hotel Deals

See all 898 Properties near Alcatraz Island
Hotel Zoe Fisherman's Wharf ¥18,935
Hotel Zoe Fisherman's Wharf

Hotel Zoe Fisherman's Wharf

425 North Point, San Francisco, CA
     
    4.2
    of 5, from 6,896 reviews
    4.0 out of 5.0

    Hotel Zoe Fisherman's Wharf is 2 blocks from Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and the Alcatraz Island ferry.

    Hotel Zephyr ¥13,717
    Hotel Zephyr

    Hotel Zephyr

    250 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA
       
      4.1
      of 5, from 3,948 reviews
      4.0 out of 5.0

      Located in North Beach, this boutique hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum and Pier 39. San Francisco Bay and Ghirardelli Square are also within 15 minutes. Ferry Building Station is 29 minutes by foot.

      Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf ¥18,925
      Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf

      Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf

      2620 Jones Street, San Francisco, CA
         
        4.2
        of 5, from 5,471 reviews
        4.0 out of 5.0

        Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Fishermans Wharf Cable Car Turnaround, Hyde Street Pier, and Ghirardelli Square. Lombard Street and Pier 39 are also within 15 minutes.

        Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel ¥22,296
        Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel

        Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel

        495 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA
           
          4.6
          of 5, from 6,633 reviews
          4.5 out of 5.0

          Across the street from San Francisco Bay, this boutique hotel occupies a creatively converted 1909 brick warehouse; fun-filled Fisherman's Wharf is right outside; the Alcatraz ferry is 6 blocks away.

          Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel ¥20,055
          Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel

          Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel

          2500 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
             
            3.9
            of 5, from 4,648 reviews
            4.0 out of 5.0

            This smoke-free San Francisco Sheraton is within 2 blocks of the cable car turnaround and Pier 39, 5 blocks from Ghirardelli Square, and within 1 mile of Lombard Street and Chinatown.

            Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco ¥16,685
            Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

            Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

            555 N Point St, San Francisco, CA
               
              4.1
              of 5, from 2,509 reviews
              4.0 out of 5.0

              Guests can hop a cable car right outside this hotel; stroll 2 blocks for fun on Fisherman's Wharf; explore the delights of Ghirardelli Square, 3 blocks away; and walk 5 blocks to the Alcatraz ferry.

              San Remo Hotel ¥10,532
              San Remo Hotel

              San Remo Hotel

              2237 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA
                 
                4.2
                of 5, from 1,956 reviews
                2.0 out of 5.0

                Located in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, San Remo Hotel is just 5 blocks from the steaming sourdough chowder bowls of Fisherman’s Wharf. Lombard Street and the ferry to Alcatraz Island are both within a half-mile, and guests need only walk 1 block to hop a cable car to Union Square.

                Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman's Wharf ¥17,021
                Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman's Wharf

                Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman's Wharf

                550 N Point St, San Francisco, CA
                   
                  4.2
                  of 5, from 2,584 reviews
                  3.0 out of 5.0

                  This San Francisco hotel is within 2 blocks of Fisherman's Wharf and less than 2 miles from the Union Square District.