Alcatraz Island

Vacation Travel Guide
Alcatraz Island showing island views and a coastal town

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.

Top things to do in Alcatraz Island

Top Hotels Close to Alcatraz Island

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
4 out of 5
750 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $136 per night from Nov 21 to Nov 21
Located in Downtown San Francisco, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Ferry Building, Lombard Street, and Pier 39. Oracle Park and Palace of Fine Arts are also ...
3.8/5 Good! (3,220 reviews)
"This hotel was in a great location with easy access to the wharf and lots of dining too!"

Reviewed on Oct. 25, 2021

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
4 out of 5
2500 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $152 per night from Nov 16 to Nov 16
Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39, and Ghirardelli Square. Lombard Street and Alcatraz Island are ...
4.1/5 Very Good! (3,256 reviews)
"Location to the wharf"

Reviewed on Oct. 26, 2021

Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
4 out of 5
1300 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $171 per night from Nov 24 to Nov 24
This family-friendly San Francisco hotel is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco Maritime Museum, ...
4.4/5 Excellent! (715 reviews)
"This is just a short walk to the wharf restaurants and activities. The beds are comfortable the room clean and the bathroom clean and big. I appreciated the bar downstairs, perfect after a long day of sightseeing. Great place to stay, highly recommend it."

Reviewed on Oct. 25, 2021

Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

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Best Lodging Options Near Alcatraz Island

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
4 out of 5
750 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $136 per night from Nov 21 to Nov 21
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
4 out of 5
2500 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $152 per night from Nov 16 to Nov 16
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
4 out of 5
1300 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $171 per night from Nov 24 to Nov 24
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco
Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco
4 out of 5
555 N Point St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $167 per night from Nov 3 to Nov 3
Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco
San Francisco Marriott Marquis
San Francisco Marriott Marquis
4 out of 5
780 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $192 per night from Nov 20 to Nov 20
San Francisco Marriott Marquis
The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square
The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square
4.5 out of 5
335 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $210 per night from Nov 20 to Nov 20
The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
4 out of 5
250 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $199 per night from Nov 24 to Nov 24
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman's Wharf, an IHG Hotel
Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman's Wharf, an IHG Hotel
3 out of 5
550 N Point St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $163 per night from Nov 28 to Nov 28
Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman's Wharf, an IHG Hotel
Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel
Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel
4.5 out of 5
495 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $258 per night from Nov 1 to Nov 1
Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.