Alcatraz Island

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Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA, USA

Alcatraz Island San Francisco Reviews

irenem irenem
153 reviews
Alcatraz Island Jan 25, 2017
We pre-booked out trip to Alcatraz, as all the advice told us to do so and I think it was probably right. We were there in February - not peak season - and it was still a very popular and busy trip.

Boats leave from Pier 33. You are advised to be there at least thirty minutes before departure. Again this is good advice as you will arrive to find a long queue.

You can choose to visit by day or at night. We opted for the day time tour. I'd imagine the island is quite atmospheric and creepy at night.

You can sit in or out on the boat. Inside there is a cafe selling soft drinks and snacks. It sells alcohol on the return journey.

We sat outside to get views over San Francisco and views as we arrived at the island. The trip only takes 15 minutes. You book a set time for going and can take any boat back.

Alcatraz was originally named "La Isla de los Alcatraces," or "The Island of the Pelicans," by Spaniard Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775. It is located in San Francisco Bay - 1.5 miles offshore from the city of San Francisco.

Alcatraz was home to the first lighthouse built on the American west coast and to an early U.S. built fort. It was used as a military prison from 1868 and as a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. In November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of North American Indians from San Francisco who wanted more rights for Aboriginal people. Alcatraz became a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Alcatraz is most famous for being the site of a federal prison from which escape was almost impossible.

The price of your ticket to Alcatraz includes a 45 minute audio tour of the prison buildings. On the tour you will visit the main cell block, the library, the kitchens, the dining room, the prison officers' rooms.

You will learn about the escape attempts from this island and the prison's most notorious inmates.

The most notorious criminals ever to be imprisoned on Alcatraz include: gangster Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud - also known as the Birdman of Alcatraz, gangster Machine Gun Kelly, and gangster Alvin Creepy Karpis - who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate.

In its twenty-nine years as a prison a grand total of thirty-six prisoners made fourteen escape attempts. Two inmates even tried twice. Of those who tried to escape twenty-three were caught alive, six were shot and killed, two drowned, and five are missing, presumed drowned.

The most violent escape attempt occurred from May 2nd to May 4th, 1946 when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners resulted in the Battle of Alcatraz. Two guards and three inmates were killed in this battle. Eleven guards and one uninvolved convict were injured. Two of the would be escapees were later executed for their roles in the battle.

On June 11th 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin carried out an escape attempt. They tucked papier-mâché heads into their beds, broke out of the main prison building through an unused utility corridor, and sailed away an improvised raft. If they survived, their escape attempt was the only successful one ever, but their fate remains unknown.

Despite its rather gruesome history, Alcatraz is a surprisingly beautiful place with wonderful flower filled gardens and lots of sea-birds. When we finished the prison tour, we took a stroll around.

On the introductory film we listened to in building 64 when we arrived, a woman who was the daughter of a former prison officer ,recalled her idyllic childhood growing up on Alcatraz and playing on the parade ground almost unaware of the dangerous prison inmates living nearby.

Alcatraz is a good place for views. You can enjoy looking back towards the skyline of San Francisco or towards the Golden Gate Bridge or the Bay Bridge.

The best views of the island fortress that is Alcatraz are from the parade ground when you look at the prison and the lighthouse clinging to the edges of the rock up above you.

On November 20th, 1969, eighty-nine Native American Indians sailed from Sausalito on a five-mile trip across San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island. When they landed, they declared the former prison Indian land “by right of discovery".

Their aim was to gain funding from the U.S. government to turn it into a Native American cultural center and university. They occupied Alcatraz for more than 19 months before being finally removed in June 1971. Their demands were not met, but their actions gained a lot of publicity for the Native American cause.

Wandering around the island you will see some reminders of their occupation. You can also learn about it in the museums in building 64.
Boat to Alcatraz
davejo says:
Very informative review
Posted on: Jan 25, 2017
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garry718 garry718
1 reviews
Visit to the Rock May 08, 2013
Got a chance to visit Alcatraz Island over the weekend. I personally think it's a great tour, audio tour was very informative and interesting. Tour guides knew their stuff, and kept the crowd entertained. The place has a long history, and it's a great half day tour, time well spent. You get to visit the cells, check out the dining hall, see the control room, uniforms, etc. Great historical site! Definitely a must! You will learn about the history of the island, prior to it being a federal prison, if you are a military history buff, it's a great site to check out!
sandman29t sandman2…
4 reviews
THE ROCK! Feb 16, 2012
Got to visit the "ROCK" while in San Francisco. It was an experience. Just being on the island and being able to visualize being stuck on that island looking across the water and seeing San Francisco full of life had to have a major effect on those inmates. The Audio tour was great showed you the cells of certain inmates there stories and also layed out the escape attempts. Its a great part of American history. I went in Jan and the water was ruff on the ride over, Cold and windy also. No one ever told me it got that cold in San Fran.
jiggady_wig jiggady_…
6 reviews
The best island I've been to Jun 16, 2011
I visited this island when I was only 11, but the experience was so amazing it has stuck with me ever since. We caught the ferry over and did an audio tour of the prison. It was so interesting, especially seeing how prisoners had escaped. I don't actually remember what the pricing was like, but I would imagine that even at a high price, it would be worth it for those interested in the history of crime.
sophie1735 sophie17…
4 reviews
Alcatraz May 03, 2011
If anyone plans on visiting San Francisco, I recommend the Alcatraz tour. It may seem a bit "touristy", but trust me it is worth it. I have been countless times with family and friends that come to SF for holiday, and I always enjoy. It is a self guided audio tour. You go at your own pace. Plus the views of SF from the bay are awsome. Be aware that you must make reservations in advance. It sells out quick. Also, it gets windy and cold out there, so bring a jacket. Have fun!
tbb345 tbb345
3 reviews
Alcatraz at night Mar 12, 2011
I think this is one of the must do trips in the city for adults--would not take little children as it might frighten them. the trip and the history and seeing the dungeons and the area where the prisoners lived is really interesting as well as the history of it all, I find it more fun at night as you can really get into the feel of the place, which is both awesome and scary. The short boat ride over is nice and add to the experience
zuurbier zuurbier
2 reviews
Impressive May 28, 2011
A visit to the Alcatraz Island is something you shouldn't miss when visiting San Francisco.

The audio tour is very impressive, you hear the stories of people who have been imprisoned there. A walk around the island makes you understand how it must have been like for the prisoners....
travelgirl7 travelgi…
3 reviews
Great tour Mar 08, 2011
The tour of Alcatraz island was well worthwhile. The audio tour is great and gives a lot of historic information. I really enjoyed this attraction in San francisco
timhardin timhardin
5 reviews
Do the night tour May 26, 2010
I booked the tour since I thought it was a must visiting SF. Didn't have that high expectations and was pleasantly surprised. The night tour had less of a crowd, you got to see the sunset and a few other extra things in the prison as opening and closing doors. Well worth the extra dollars.

Remember that the boat can be pretty cold and bring something to stop the wind.

The only thing that could be better would be a more access to the island for photos.
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
camwilde camwilde
163 reviews
Alcatraz Island Mar 27, 2010
When I learned I was heading to San Francisco, I immediately started researching Alcatraz. Ever since The Rock (with Sean Connery), I have been interested in seeing the island. I booked tickets about a week before going ($26 a head). They are timed for departure. You can stay until you are done and then catch a boat back.

I enjoyed the island, especially the Audio tour. It was extremely informative and I found Alcatraz and its history extremely informative. Some of the criminals and their escape attempts really create some intriguing legends.
Alcatraz from a distance
View of San Francisco from Alcatraz
AggieRockStar AggieRoc…
41 reviews
Informational Jan 17, 2010
This was way better than I anticipated. Listen to your free audio tour and you will learn so much.
WalterC WalterC
389 reviews
The Rock Must Be Seen Sep 27, 2009
Known as “The Rock”, Alcatraz is probably the most well-known and one of the most notorious prison in the world, located on an island in the bay.

Alcatraz has been a prison as early as the 1860’s. And became a federal prison in 1933, holding the worst criminals in the nation, including Al Capone himself. Being on an island, escape was impossible. Even if they got out of the prison building, they would have to go across the freezing bay, which was rough and long. The prison closed in 1963 due to high costs, and was briefly taken over by Native Americans a year later. It later became an historical landmark, and a tourist attraction, that people can visit, to this day.

Getting tickets can be tricky, as you will need one to ride the ferry to the island. They sell out very quickly during the busy season, and sometimes, a few days at a time. I ended up buying a ticket on a Friday, for a ferry ride on Sunday.

Once at the island, you will be given an audioguide, which is very informative and interesting. It is narrated by a former prison guide, with some commentaries from other former guards and prisoners as well. You can get to see the main prison building, as well as other buildings on the island. And even get to go inside one of the isolation cells. Plus some nice views of the city and the 2 bridges.

Plan to spend at least a couple hours on the island, and get tickets ahead of time. You can probably buy them online as well, which should be done before arriving into San Francisco. And the mornings are when the prison is the least crowded.

Needless to say, this is a must-see for any visitor to San Francisco.
Building 64
inside Building 64
military chapel
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
reikunboy says:
Great review, I have always wanted to visit here
Posted on: Aug 29, 2013
S-Jay S-Jay
44 reviews
Educational Tourist tour, that takes you back in time. Feb 16, 2009
No way out!

A prison in the middle of the ocean. What a clever idea! Or so i thought.

Alcatraz Island, sometimes referred to as simply Alcatraz or locally as The Rock, is a small island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California. In the past it has served as a lighthouse,a military fortification, then a military prison followed by a federal prison until 1963. The US then turned "The Rock" into a national recreation area in 1972 and it received its landmarking designations in 1976 and 1986. It is now a MUST DO if you take a trip to San Fran.

Having very little knowledge of Alcatraz or "The Rock" as its known, the trip to the island and the audio tour (thats free!) around was simply the best tour of a "museum" as such I have ever had in all my life. It is a detailed tour around the complete facility that takes you through each section stated above, telling you stories of not only inmates (like Al' Capone & The Bird Man) but also the work force situated on The Rock and once they had departed, the stories move on the The Rock being taken over by the Indians.

From the island, there are views of San Fran all around that can be seen, including the Golden Gate bridge, this was a sight to see, however it must have made life hell for the inmates knowing that their home(s) where only 1.2miles away. Thus they did have the occasional break out, that more often than not never worked due to the currents of the sea & the weather conditions. However, 3 men managed to escape, where they are? No one knows. But I would sure love to!

For those who enjoy wildlife like myself, Alcatraz, originally called ALCATRACES, was named after the Brown Pelican seen in the area by Spanish explorers.Today the Western Gull and the Brandt's Cormorant are the most common wildlife found on Alcatraz Island. Nesting all year round, they provide a vocal note, to let visitors know that this is now their home.

** A little note that just made my day when I went to Alcatraza. In front of the Main Entrance to the "Wardens office" on the grass frontage, you will see on the bottom of the left hand side, a concreate square, that was a time capsual inside placed there by an inmate or Indian (no one knows?). On the concreate the inmate/Indian, engraved his name, the date he placed the capsual there & the date he wants it to be opened. When I spoke to a park ranger, (lovely man) stated they would open the capsual the day & year the inmate requested :) I just thought that it was amazing!.

They do tours to Alcatraz all year around, throughout they day & also in the evenings. In the night tours the charge is higher, however it still only amounts to $30-$40. A normal day trip, is $25, this includes your ferry fee and the entrance fee to Alcatraz. They do OAP prices, Child fees & family fees. Sadley no student fees.
A view from a far
The "Warning" as you take the boat…
Me & the Audio Tour
The Time Capsule, or the "Time Box…
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
Koralifix says:
Nicely written review! Sounds like a cool experience!
Posted on: Mar 05, 2009
Africancrab Africanc…
777 reviews
Former Federal Maximum Security Prison May 22, 2009
Alcatraz Island is home to the famous Alcatraz Prison, formerly a maximum Federal security prison. It is also part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. I booked a trip on the Alcatraz Cruise to the Island in 2009. The entire Island really housed this prison alone; known as the 'Rock' tt was long known as the place of no return because once there the prisoners never left. It was known as the prison that no one can escape from. Movies have been made and books written about this place.

Alcatraz is a must see while in San Francisco, the Audio tour and free movement in and out of the prison walls is worth every penny.
2 reviews
the rock Nov 30, 2009
The visit was perfect the audiotour was awesome and even scary sometimes, the voices are supposed to be from the real prisioners that were there.

I simply love it!
mkarinaa mkarinaa
48 reviews
Alcatraz Sep 06, 2009
Pretty cool place.

Its definitely a must do while in San Francisco.

Lovely boat ride there and back plus once you get done with your audio tour you can just hang out around the prison and explore. Plus you can get some great pictures from the island.
Adrian_Liston Adrian_L…
156 reviews
Dec 01, 2007
Alcatraz was built in 1853 as a military fort to protect San Francisco during the gold rush, was used as the most uselessly placed fort during the Civil War, and then the military prison was converted to a civilian prison in 1934. Only 1545 prisoners ever served time on Alcatraz, there were 14 escape attempts (one possibly successful), five suicides and eight murders before it was closed in 1963. It cost more than three times the amount to run per prisoner per day than other maximum security Federal prisons, and was never filled to capacity.

Alcatraz is an interesting half-day trip from San Francisco. The National Parks service run multiple tours out from Fisherman's Wharf every day, including evening tours. The evening tour involves the twenty minute ferry trip to the island, a beautiful trip across San Francisco Bay followed overhead by gull, and a tour of the island. Most of the tour is self-guided with an audio guide, but the audio guide is actually quite good, and includes recordings of ex-inmates and ex-guards talking about their experience on the island. Short talks are also given on escape attempts and famous prisoners, a film is shown in the theatre, and demonstrations are made of the door locking mechanism giving the infamous clanging shut of prison doors.

The island also has deer mice and one of the largest colonies of western gulls in northern California.

Boycotts have been called against Hornblower, the company with an exclusive contract to run the ferry service to the islands, for their anti-Union crusading.

Tickets are around $20 and can be bought online.
jolandalentink jolandal…
1 reviews
Aug 17, 2007
San Francisco is een leuke gezellige stad. Wij verbleven in Saulsolito een klein plaatsje aan de andere kant van de Golden gate brug.
TamaraSimons says:
Yeah, San Francisco is a great city! One of the nicest city I have visited in the US. I have been there too last year.
Posted on: Aug 17, 2007
peterbarkley peterbar…
30 reviews
Sep 01, 2006
On Friday we took the ferry out to Alcatraz Island, the famed federal penitentiary. We wandered around the island and went up to the prison at the top to take the tour. The audio tour was well worth getting. The tour explained the cell blocks, the isolation rooms, the mess hall and described several escape attempts and riots. We got to go into one of the isolation cells and had the door shut behind us. We were in utter darkness - you couldn't see people one foot in front of you. On our way back the ferry offered a nice view of the bay and of the Golden Gate bridge.
andrewcsikes andrewcs…
19 reviews
Jun 23, 2005
Alcatraz was a unique experiance. We learned a lot about the prison and how the convicts were treated. We took the audio tour and found it very educational. I would recomend the experiance to everyone, a do not miss.
andrewcsikes says:
They did not talk about the indian take over on the Audio tour, but the Alcatraz tour guide (the person that greeted you when you stepped off the boat) did.
Posted on: Jun 25, 2007
petrarchanprincess says:
Did they talk about the Indian takeover at Alcatraz in the audio tour at all?
Posted on: Mar 28, 2007

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