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Alcatraz Island
Vacation Travel Guide

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

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 $138 per night from Mar 7 to Mar 8

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 ...

4.1/5Very Good! (2,185 reviews)

"Really clean and staff were very friendly. You have to pay 45 for parking however"…"

Reviewed on Mar. 4, 2021

Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
4 out of 5
750 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $102 per night from Mar 26 to Mar 27

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 ...

3.8/5Good! (2,450 reviews)

"stuff in the hotel was nice clean and nice hotel..."…"

Reviewed on Mar. 4, 2021

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
4 out of 5
1250 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA
Free cancellation
The price is CA $171 per night from Mar 6 to Mar 7

Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, and Van Ness Avenue. Pier 39 and Fort Mason are also within ...

4.3/5Excellent! (969 reviews)

"Very nice staff up check in and check out. They were very helpful in letting me know what restaurants were open to outside dining."…"

Reviewed on Mar. 4, 2021

Marriott San Francisco 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

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 $138 per night from Mar 7 to Mar 8
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
4 out of 5
750 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $102 per night from Mar 26 to Mar 27
Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf
4 out of 5
1250 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $171 per night from Mar 6 to Mar 7
Marriott San Francisco 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 $171 per night from Apr 4 to Apr 5
Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco
Fairmont San Francisco
Fairmont San Francisco
5 out of 5
950 Mason Street Atop Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $307 per night from Mar 7 to Mar 8
Fairmont San Francisco
Wharf Inn
Wharf Inn
2.5 out of 5
2601 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $126 per night from Mar 7 to Mar 8
Wharf Inn
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
3.5 out of 5
1300 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA
The price is CA $159 per night from Apr 1 to Apr 2
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
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 $203 per night from Apr 4 to Apr 5
Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
4 out of 5
250 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA
Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
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.