Alcatraz Island
Vacation Travel Guide

Alcatraz Island showing a coastal town and island images

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 $118 per night from May 24 to May 24
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! (2,372 reviews)
"Very clean and great location too. So happy and relieved to see that take extra precautions during the pandemic, made our stay much more comfortable. Its literally across the street from the Warf, so we didn't have to go on our car to check our the Pier and Fishermans warf. We definitely enjoyed ..."

Reviewed on May 7, 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 $101 per night from May 12 to May 12
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! (2,585 reviews)
"The hotel room walls are very thin, but they DO provide a white noise machine to help with that. Overall most amenities are closed due to COVID, but the location is very prime very close to chinatown and walkable to a lot of great food."

Reviewed on May 7, 2021

Hilton San Francisco Financial District
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
4 out of 5
1300 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA
The price is $119 per night from May 10 to May 10
This family-friendly San Francisco hotel is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco Maritime Museum, ...
4.2/5Excellent! (205 reviews)
"Hotel was very nice"

Reviewed on May 4, 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.

Top Alcatraz Island Flight + Hotel Deals

Budget Inn of Hayward
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Hyatt Place San Jose/Downtown
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