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Due to coronavirus (COVID-19) travel advisories, some destinations may be unavailable for certain dates. Find out more.
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Alcatraz Island

Now a National Park, this rocky island was once home to one of the most feared prisons in the United States.

Between 1934 and 1963, the prison on Alcatraz Island housed criminals such as the likes of Al Pacino, Alvin Carpis and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Standing on the mainland and gazing out to the rocky island, it’s not difficult to see why Alcatraz law-breakers of the day were filled with such dread at the utterance of its name, with its stormy weather and bleak isolation.

You can get to Alcatraz Island by ferry. Taking 15 minutes, the Alcatraz Cruises ferry leaves Pier 33 at the Embarcadero. Included in the price of a round-trip ferry ticket is a cell house audio tour, but it’s also worth joining one of the free tours run by the Alcatraz National Park volunteers and guides. Alternatively, just pick up a brochure at the ferry landing and see the island in your own time.

Head to the penal colony to peer into the cellblocks that once held some of the most notorious criminals of the day. In the walled exercise yard, the apparent proximity of San Francisco must have been both frustrating and tempting for the inmates. The island is also home to the first lighthouse on the USA’s West Coast, originally constructed in 1854 and then rebuilt in 1909.

An escape from Alcatraz was pretty much an impossible task, but that didn’t stop 36 people from trying during the 29 years that the prison was in use. Of those 36, 23 were caught, 6 were killed and the rest were believed to have fallen victim of the icy waters and dangerous currents of San Francisco Bay.

A year before the prison closed in 1963, three inmates managed to dig through their cell walls and escape, leaving dummies in their beds to trick the authorities. Although their bodies were never found, they were all presumed dead after attempting to swim through the treacherous waters to the mainland.

You’ll easily spend a couple of hours on the Rock, and you can stay on the island until the last ferry of the day, which departs at 4.25 pm. It’s a good idea to buy your ferry tickets in advance, particularly in summer, as the island is a popular tourist attraction.

Travel is always so much more than just seeing new places. It's all about the adventures you can have while you're there.

Kick-start your trip to Alcatraz Island by trying one or two of these things to do:

Have a little time on your side? Go to our Alcatraz Island things to do page for a full list of activities.


Guide to Exploring Alcatraz Island


Top Alcatraz Island Hotel Deals

See all 1,569 Properties near Alcatraz Island
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf
Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf

Hotel Riu Plaza Fisherman's Wharf

     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    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 also within 3 mi (5 km). Beach St & Mason St Stop is only a 2-minute walk and Jefferson St & Powell St Stop is 3 minutes.

    InterContinental San Francisco SG$170
    InterContinental San Francisco

    InterContinental San Francisco

    888 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA
       
      4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Downtown San Francisco, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Westfield San Francisco Centre. Warfield Theater and SHN Curran Theatre are also within 15 minutes. Market St & 5th St Stop is 5 minutes by foot and Powell St. Station is 7 minutes.

      Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco SG$230
      Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

      Hyatt Centric Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco

         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, Ghirardelli Square and Lombard Street. Pier 39 and Van Ness Avenue are also within 15 minutes. Jones St and Beach St Stop and Beach St & Mason St Stop are within a 5-minute walk.

        Wharf Inn SG$170
        Wharf Inn

        Wharf Inn

        2601 Mason St, San Francisco, CA
           
          2.5 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in North Beach, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Ghirardelli Square and Lombard Street are also within 15 minutes. Beach St & Mason St Stop and Jefferson St & Powell St Stop are within a 2-minute walk.

          Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf SG$237
          Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf

          Marriott San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf

             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            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 15 minutes. Hyde St & North Point St Stop and Taylor St & Francisco St Stop are within a 5-minute walk.

            Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel
            Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel

            Argonaut Hotel - a Noble House Hotel

            495 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA
               
              4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

              This family-friendly San Francisco hotel is located in the historical district, within a 5-minute walk of Hyde Street Pier and Ghirardelli Square. Lombard Street and Pier 39 are also within 15 minutes. Hyde St & Beach St Stop is only a 2-minute walk and Hyde St & North Point St Stop is 3 minutes.

              Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf
              Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf

              Hotel Caza Fisherman’s Wharf

                 
                3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

                This family-friendly San Francisco hotel is located in the historical district, within a 10-minute walk of Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco Maritime Museum and Lombard Street. Aquarium of the Bay and Pier 39 are also within 15 minutes. Jones St and Beach St Stop and Hyde St & Beach St Stop are within a 5-minute walk.

                Hotel Zephyr San Francisco
                Hotel Zephyr San Francisco

                Hotel Zephyr San Francisco

                250 Beach Street, San Francisco, CA
                   
                  4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in North Beach, this boutique hotel is within a 5-minute walk of USS Pampanito and Pier 39. Ghirardelli Square and Lombard Street are also within 15 minutes. Beach St & Mason St Stop is only a 2-minute walk and Beach St & Stockton St Stop is 2 minutes.