How to get last minute Alcatraz tickets in San Francisco

por Postcards from IvI

Alcatraz Island is a must-see attraction while visiting San Francisco, California. The problem is that tickets to Alcatraz tend to sell out really quickly. If you think there are no tickets left for you, don’t worry, you can still get last minute Alcatraz tickets.


How to get last minute Alcatraz tickets in San Francisco Alcatraz is the most famous prison in the world, where many of the most wanted prisoners were locked. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories and movies from the famous prison and wanted to experience it in person. So I was really disappointed (and angry with myself for not booking my tickets earlier) when I tried to get my Alcatraz tickets online and found out they were sold out.

During my road trip through the West Coast, I wasn’t traveling with a fixed itinerary so I couldn’t exactly know when I was arriving to San Francisco. Luckily, there are ways to get Alcatraz tickets, even if they’re sold out on the official page.

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  • How to get regular tickets to Alcatraz

Alcatraz tickets are sold by Alcatraz Cruises which is the official concessioner to the National Park Service. The ticket price includes the ferry transportation service provided by Alcatraz Cruises, the entrance to Alcatraz and an audio tour.

You can buy tickets online, by phone or in person. As they sell out really quickly, you must secure reservations as early as you can so the best option is making advanced ticket reservations online.

The tour options you can buy are (prices updated June 2022):

  • Early Bird – $41 (adult price): First ferry of the day, which allows you to avoid the crowds.
  • Day Tour – $41 (adult price): Includes Round-trip ferry ride to Alcatraz, day access to the prison and audio tour.
  • Night Tour – $51 (adult price): Includes Round-trip ferry ride to Alcatraz, night access to the prison, audio tour and guided tours and talks.
  • Behind the scenes tour – $96 (adult price): includes Round-trip ferry ride to Alcatraz, access to private areas that people with regular tickets can’t enter on a guided tour.

All the tickets are sold online for a specific day and time

How to get last minute Alcatraz tickets in San Francisco

  • How to get last minute Alcatraz tickets when regular tickets are sold out

What happens if regular tickets are sold out? Don’t panic! There’s still a chance to get to Alcatraz if you didn’t get your tickets in advance. It requires more effort, but you still have a chance to get on the ferry if you buy last minute tickets.

Every early morning (really early) Alcatraz Cruises sells same-day tickets on a first come, first served basis. Alcatraz Cruises office is located at Pier 33 and opens at 7:30 am but people start queuing up way earlier, around 5 am. They sell a limited number of tickets (between 50 and 100).

So, if you really want to get to Alcatraz you need to be an early bird this time. Please note that you can only get 1 ticket per person, so anyone wanting a ticket has to be present in line.

The same-day Alcatraz tour tickets are usually for the morning tours, they will tell you the time of your tour once you have the ticket. You are not able to choose the time.

If you’re truly desperate to get to Alcatraz like I was, waking up early to get last minute Alcatraz tickets is the best option, but it’s not the only one. The other alternative is to buy a combo tour, as I explain next.

How to get last minute Alcatraz tickets in San Francisco

  • Last minute Alcatraz tours tickets

There are many companies that sell tickets to Alcatraz in combination with their other tours. So if you’re interested in any of the other tours offered, this option is perfect. Plus you won’t need to get up as early as with the last minute tickets.

There’s a great variety of Alcatraz combo tours. You can combine Alcatraz with Big Bus hop-on hop-off tour, Madame Tussauds museum, a trip to Muir Woods, and other San Francisco activities.

Here’s a list of some cool combination tours to check out:

  • 72-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour and Alcatraz Ticket. Tour San Francisco on a bus, see the city by night on a special 2-hour night tour and visit Alcatraz prison. Includes live narration by a guide or multilingual audio guide on each bus.
  • Alcatraz and City Segway tour Segways are a great way to tour a city!
  • Alcatraz, Muir Woods and Sausalito: A full day tour tour that combines three sightseeing highlights: visit Alcatraz Island on a morning tour and then take a guided tour to Muir Woods National Monument. End the day your experience with a scenic drive through the Marin Headlands and Sausalito.
  • Sunset Bike Tour + Alcatraz. Visit Alcatraz Island on day 1 and take a guided bike ride along a coastal route through the famous piers of San Francisco on the next 72 hours. This tour includes Alcatraz ticket, bike rental, tour guide and helmet.
  • Why not seeing Alcatraz from above? Fly over San Francisco in a helicopter and then take the ferry to explore Alcatraz.

There are many more Alcatraz combination tours available, check out the complete list at Alcatraz combo tours.

Any way you choose to get those Alcatraz tickets, I can assure you it’s worth it. The island has a lot of history and you’ll learn about it with the audio tour, which walks you on a fixed route with narration by ex-guards and convicts. It is a fascinating insight to what life was like on Alcatraz.

Visiting Alcatraz is a great experience and I think everyone visiting San Francisco should take the tour to the island.

Tips for visiting Alcatraz Island:

  • Bring a jacket. Even if it’s summer, San Francisco is a really windy city.
  • Get there early. Get to the pier at least 15 minutes before the departure of your ferry.
  • Listen the audio tour. All Alcatraz tickets include the audio tour which walks you on a fixed route through the prision.
  • Take your time. Once on the island, you can stay there as long as you want and take ANY ferry back to the city. The whole tour (ferry to the island, prision tour, ferry back to SF) will take you at least 2.5 hours.
Alcatraz last minute tickets

Wear warm clothes, even if it’s summer. This picture was taken in July and there’s a guy with a blanket

I hope this post helps you get your tickets to Alcatraz Island! If you have any questions please comment below 🙂

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you click on certain links within this post and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read more about it here.


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Luda January 30, 2016 - 4:38 am

Great photos! Yeah, getting tickets to Alcatraz is really tricky, especially because they sell out really quickly 🙁 But I’m glad you liked it! Looking forward to more posts about San Francisco 🙂


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