Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Jctravel1983 on December 11, 2010

If you go to San Francisco, then you can hardly not make any visit to Alcatraz. Except a piece of history, Alcatraz is also a very impressive place to visit.

The history of Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay. In 1775 the island was discovered by the Spaniards. Between 1850 and 1906 the island was used as a military fortress. Then it became a military prison and remained so until 1933. Only then was the island of Alcatraz that we know best: a maximum security prison. This has been in use until 1963. A few famous inmates were Al Capone and Robert Stroud.

It was said that none of the island could escape. The monitoring was awful stern and the flow of water in the bay is very strong. Yet there were many escape attempts. In 1963 there were three men who were able to break out from prison. These were the brothers John and Clarence Angel and Frank Morris. It is still not known whether the men survived their escape or not. A year later the prison closed his doors. Today, Alcatraz is appointed as a national park and visits by tourists.


For a visit to Alcatraz, you need a minimum of 2.5 hours. Longer is always better, because there is so much to do. Before you go exploring, it is wise to see when the last boat goes back and what the departure times, so you're not waiting twenty minutes since you had just missed the last one.

Suitable for

The island is ideal for wheelchair users. Everything is pretty steep on the island itself, but there is this special buses. The prison itself is one level. On the second floor you cannot come. Also on the boat there are enough facilities for wheelchairs available. Children will also enjoy themself on the island and during the ride to the island. Only I doubt that the tour of the prison is really suitable for children.

By boat to Alcatraz

Alcatraz can only be reached by boat, will goes about every half hour. The boat leaves from Pier 33 at Fisher Mann's Wharf. The ticket for the boat is also your admission ticket to Alcatraz. The price of a ticket is about $ 26, but you can also get special discounts for groups or when you book a ticket early. You can order your ticket online at

Before you get on the boat, a photo of you is taking with Alcatraz in the background. When you come back you can get the picture. I myself have not. It was quite expensive and I did not really thought it was worthwhile.

The trip to the island takes only fifteen minutes. You can sit inside or on the deck enjoying the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline of San Francisco.

The island

On the island you can already see a lot of history. You see the houses where the guards and their families lived and you can see the lighthouse. This is the oldest working lighthouse in the Western United States. You can also have a beautiful hike. Anyway you have to go up, because there is the prison. The walk is quite heavy, but you can see many unusual things from Alcatraz, including some buildings that are almost completely collapsed. Some buildings you can enter, for example to see a movie or to see how it was once lived.


If you are entering the prison, you get a headset. You must indicate to the staff which language you would like to hear. On the tour you can hear the real guards and prisoners say things. The tour itself is very interesting. You get a lot about the prison and highlights things you probably would not see. Take a look inside the cells, the kitchen, the library and see where the clothes were for the prisoners. Of course you also can look in one of the cells of one of the escaped men were, where you can see the hole where the man went trough. You also see the cell of Al Capone.

A drawback to an audio tour in several places that you should remain here for the story to hear. Therefore at many places it was crowded and chaotic, because many people are listening in the same place. Luckily you have a pause button on your headphones, so you can wait until the crowds a bit away.

It is required to get a headset. Here you do not have to pay. It is highly recommended to actually listen to what is being said. Especially when you hear how tough everything was in prison and how the prisoners had to live.

Souvenirs / Gift Shop

At the end of the tour you will visit the souvenir shop where you can buy all sorts of things that have to do with Alcatraz. Also there are many things to do with Al Capone. You can find interesting books but also souvenirs. Of course you can also find DVDs of "Escape from Alcatraz and The Rock.

My opinion

Alcatraz is a special place, you definitely must see if you're around. I got goosebumps, because it's all so exciting. Alcatraz to get a piece of history to see that goes beyond the pictures and images. You actually feel like you are in the past and the stories you hear on your headphones, it is even more real and realistic. A visit to San Francisco is non-complete without Alcatraz.
Alcatraz Island/The Rock
San Francisco Bay
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, 94133
(415) 705-5555

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