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By Karen

Posted June 2, 2024.

 SF Embarcadero Parking
The Best and Safest Places to Park in 2024

It's no fun trying to find a parking space along San Francisco's Embarcadero in heavy traffic!

I've collected some Embarcadero parking tips so you can pick out some potential parking spots beforehand. I've parked down here myself, many times, so these suggestions can come in handy for visitors.

There is a large assortment of parking lots and parking garages spread out along the whole Embarcadero area; some are shockingly expensive, but others are relatively reasonable (by SF standards).

Many of the garages and parking lots on the Embarcadero charge a lot by the hour (typically $3 for each 15 minutes), and can charge up to $60 per day. So it helps to know in advance which garages to focus on.

I also want to let you know the safer places to park on the Embarcadero, so you can reduce the chances of having your car broken into. Way to ruin a good trip, coming back to find broken glass and missing belongings!

I've included are some suggestions for parking near Pier 33 for the Alcatraz tours. There is no parking at Alcatraz Landing itself, but there are some good choices nearby.

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Best way to save money parking

Spot Hero is an app that allows you to reserve a parking place at numerous San Francisco garages and lots. You can often get good discounts by using them, which is handy given how expensive parking in the city is.

I use Spot Hero a lot when I park in the more congested areas of the city. And in the event that a garage or lot is full when you get there, they will give you a refund.

Car break-ins in San Francisco are still epidemic, even though they dropped significantly in the first few months of 2024.

Unfortunately, some of the most popular places for parking on the Embarcadero have become popular for thieves as well. 

See my article on crime in San Francisco, with stats on which areas locations are the worst for car break-ins and other crimes.

I compiled these lists from my personal experiences of parking on the Embarcadero, plus I waded through 100s (yes, 100s!) of reviews on both Google and Spot Hero (a popular parking app) to check others' experiences, so you wouldn't have to.

Important parking tips:

  • Never leave anything valuable in your car.
  • Never leave anything visible in your car. 
  • Check with Spot Hero for parking discounts and to reserve a spot.

Caveat: the only really "safe" place to park in San Francisco is a locked garage! I personally experienced multiple car burglaries when parking overnight on the street, until I moved and got a garage!

However, there are some public parking places that have a much lower risk of break-ins (not zero risk), while others practically guarantee a break-in. 

Fun fact: the Marina Motel has individual garages for some of its rooms; pretty cool! And very unusual.

Best Embarcadero Parking Places

The information on hours and rates, and other features, was current when I wrote this (June 2, 2024), but of course those things are subject to change.

Map of recommended parking garages SF Embarcadero
(Map data (c) OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA)

Best Embarcadero Parking Garages

  1. ParcTel Garage
  2. Levi Plaza Garage
  3. Pier 39 Garage
  4. Embarcadero Square Garage
  5. 55 Francisco Garage
  6. 80 Francisco Garage
  7. Two Embarcadero Center Garage

I've included the ratings from reviewers from both Google and Spot Hero, a popular parking app., on a scale of 1 to 5. I put the number of reviews that the rating is based on in (parentheses).

Below is my list of the parking garages I recommend, based on safety and convenience:

1. ParcTel Garage

People say the attendants are pleasant, and there is only one entrance, with an attendant present, adding to the security. You leave your keys with the attendant in case they need to move it. Overall, a well-liked garage, though one person complained that their car had been scratched when the attendant moved it. No break-ins reported by reviewers.

Open weekdays only, M-F 7 am-7 pm. Reasonably priced ($16 for the day, before 10 am), compared to the competition.

Rated: Google 4.6 (8), Spot Hero 5.0 (218). Spot Hero booking available also.Height restriction 6'4".

1603 Montgomery Street. Short walk to Alcatraz Landing (Pier 33).

2. Levi Plaza Garage

This is a nice garage in Levi Plaza. Short walk of several blocks to Pier 33 and Alcatraz ferries in one direction, and to Pier 15 and the Exploratorium in the other direction.

Open M-F, 6 am-10 pm, Sat/Sun 8 am-10 pm. Expensive ($3 every 20 minutes, 12 hours $25). Early bird: in before 10 am, $18 if out before 6 pm. Own website says it's closed on weekends??

Book on Spot Hero for discounts and reservations. EV charging available. 6'6'' height restriction.

No Google ratings, 4.7 Spot Hero (237).

1426 Sansome Street. Entrance between Greenwich and Lombard Streets.

3. Pier 39 Garage

This garage is reportedly pretty safe and is extremely convenient for exploring Fisherman's wharf, and of cours,Pier 39. It's also only about a five minute walk to Pier 33 and the Alcatraz ferries.

Drawback: it tend to be quite expensive. But Pier 39 offers validation at some of their restaurants and they give you a substantial discount if you reserve a space in advance ($20 per day weekdays and $25 per day weekends) compared to $10 per hour, $50 per day M-F and $12 per hour, $60 per day weekends!

See Pier 39 discounts and reservations.

Rated: Google 4.0 (305), Spot Hero 4.9 (1000).

Open 24/7, but no overnight parking (could get towed).

Entrance on 175 Beach Street.

4. Embarcadero Square Garage

This is a garage in an attractive area, with valet assisted parking, attendants present. No reported break-ins in the reviews, some rudeness reported, but that was 5 years ago. Make sure you get your car out before closing, especially on Fridays; they don't open until the next morning, and not at all on weekends.

Convenient, only two blocks to the Embarcadero, short walk to the Exploratorium.

Google rating 3.6 (18). Spot Hero rating 4.9 (1.4K)

Open weekdays only, M-F 7 am-7 pm. Height restriction 6'8".

750 Front Street.

5. 55 Francisco Garage (Waterfront Plaza)

Very convenient for Pier 33 and Alcatraz ferries, also short walk to Pier 39. On Waterfront Plaza, which is directly across from Pier 33.

Reasonably priced ($20 for the day).  Fairly tight turns on the ramps. Appears to be fairly safe. Only one report of a break-in in reviews, lots of people report parking here safely. Closes at 7 pm, so pick up your car before them.

Google rating 4.1 (236). Doesn't appear to be on Spot Hero, but can book through Spot Angels app (spotangels.com). 

Open M-F 6 am-7 pm, Sat/Sun 8 am-7 pm.

55 Francisco Street. 

6. 80 Francisco Garage (Impark Public Parking)

Just across the street from the 55 Francisco garage, also at Waterfront Plaza, so convenient for Alcatraz Landing (Pier 33) and Pier 39.

Google rating 5.0 (2). Appears to have attendant. Also used for long-term cruise passenger parking. No reviewers reported break-ins.

Open M-F 6 am-7 pm, Sat/Sun 8 am-7 pm.

80 Francisco Street.

7. Parking at Embarcadero Center? Try Building #2

What about all the Embarcadero Center garages? The four Embarcadero Center Buildings that line up between Sacramento and Clay Streets have underground parking garages inside them. They are all conveniently located for the Embarcadero's attractions, but the reviews aren't great.

The only Embarcadero Center Garage that didn't have reviewer comments about break-ins was Two Embarcadero Center. 

They are outrageously expensive without validation. Normally $6 for 30 minutes (without validation). Some restaurants, health clubs, and medical/dentist offices validate for up to 3 hours in daytime. Evening $2 for 0-4 hours with validation.

Sometimes you can get a good deal on Spot Hero

See the Embarcadero website for list of validating restaurants and current hours and prices.

Google rating 4.2 (13 reviews).

Open M-F only, 5 pm-9 pm. No overnights.

Address is 2 Embarcadero Center.

Embarcadero Parking Lots

Sorry to say, there aren't any parking lots near the Embarcadero that are safe enough for me to recommend, with one exception.

Hornblower Landing, at Pier 3, is a great place to park but it's only available for people taking one of the Hornblower cruises (now run by City Experiences). We parked there for our dinner cruise; only $10, and there's an attendant on duty, so it seemed very secure.

Three of the lots on the Embarcadero are very convenient for popular attractions, and I have parked at all three of them without mishap, but others have reported lots of break-ins in these lots. 

  • 2 Bay Street lot. This is the most convenient lot for trips to Alcatraz. It's right across the street from Pier 35, which is next to Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing, departure point for the Alcatraz ferries.
  • Big Triangle Lot. This is right across from the Exploratorium, at Pier 15, but lots of break-ins have been reported there, even in the daytime. I've parked there a couple of times, and it was okay, but it's chancy. 1040 Front St.
  • Pier 27 lot. This is a large lot that the cruise ships use when they're in dock. When there's a cruise ship there, they restrict parking to passengers. But lots of break-ins have been reported there as well.

Lots of people park at the 2 Bay Street lot when they go to Alcatraz, and so have I.

The only time I saw break-ins there was one time when I came back from doing the Alcatraz night tour. One family's SUV was broken into. It was the only car broken into in the lot at the time, but what a heartbreak for them to come back and find that! But lots of people have reported break-ins in that lot, so it's risky to park there.

The Pier 27 lot is a quick walk to Alcatraz Landing for the ferries to the island, but I say park there with caution. I've parked there, too, a few times and I didn't see any break-ins, but it's a gamble, apparently.

Tip: the attendant told me you always pay by machine here, never pay a person. They've had some crooks pretending to work there and collecting the fees from unsuspecting visitors!

She also said they haven't had many problems with break-ins there (but still don't leave anything visible in the car). Some reviewers said otherwise, however.

Pier 27 parking lot San Francisco EmbarcaderoPier 27 parking lot (view from Coit Tower)

Warning: this lot at Pier 27 isn't available when there is a cruise ship at the terminal. Mostly there isn't a ship at the pier, but check the schedule if you plan to park here: SF cruise ship schedules

Also, cars must be out by 6 pm if a cruise ship is scheduled for the following day.

Cruise Ship Parking

There are two places on the waterfront that offer special long-term parking deals for cruise ship passengers.

Parking on the street

Street parking is not pretty in this area of town. However, there are some possibilities along the Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge.

Look for Cupid's bow and arrow; I've found places there. The parking meters charge $3.50 an hour.

Tip. Check out a great app that shows all the street parking possibilities, including free street parking areas: spotangels.com. Plus parking reservations. They even give warnings about street cleaning days and other pitfalls.

my car parked at embarcaderoI found a spot here, right on the Embarcadero

Where not to park on the Embarcadero

Years ago (like 10 or so) the piers that had cavernous spaces inside them for parking were good choices for parking on the Embarcadero. No more!

I'm talking about you...

  • Pier 19 ½ garage
  • Pier 23 garage

These two garages are now notorious for some of the highest numbers of car break-ins on the Embarcadero. Avoid them.

Also, the parking lots I mentioned above that are notorious for break-ins:

  • 2 Bay Street lot (near Pier 33, Alcatraz Landing)
  • Big Triangle lot, 1040 Front Street (near the Exploratorium)

The Pier 27 lot is a "maybe".

Cheat sheet for Embaradero attraction parking...

  • Best parking for Alcatraz (Pier 33): 55 Francisco garage, 80 Francisco garage, Parctel garage, Levi's garage, Pier 39 garage. Avoid 2 Bay Street lot.
  • Best parking for Exploratorium (Pier 15): Levi Plaza garage, Embarcadero Square garage. Avoid Big Triangle lot.
  • Best parking for Pier 39: Pier 39 garage, 55 Francisco garage, 80 Francisco garage, Hotel Zoe parking garage, 333 Bay Street garage.
  • Best parking for Coit Tower: free lot at the tower, Levi's garage, ParcTel garage. For the Filbert steps and Greenwich steps, also.
  • Best parking for the Ferry Building: Embarcadero Square garage, Embarcadero Center 2.

More local parking tips...

Check out my overall guide to parking in San Francisco. How the meters work, parking boo-boos, and best places to park (or not park) near popular tourist areas.

And which 10 San Francisco attractions have big, free parking lots.

Plus, the best free places to park at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Parking Apps for SF

A number of parking apps are available to find and book spaces in San Francisco. It can be a bit overwhelming figuring out which ones to use; I checked out the major ones out and found several I liked. See SF Parking apps for my review of nine of them, or check out my current favorites:

Best app for good deals on booking spaces:

Best app for finding a spot right now, also booking spaces:

Exploring the Embarcadero

The Embarcadero is a popular spot for strolling and admiring the views. Some of the piers stretch out into the bay for cool, city-skyline vistas, the Alcatraz ferries leave from Pier 33, and the Exploratorium is at Piers 15 & 17.

The cruise ships dock at Pier 27, and the Ferry Building is at one end of the Embarcadero. And of course, Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf are here.

For more info on what to see and do along here, see The Embarcadero.

What's at the San Francisco Piers?

For a list of the San Francisco Piers and to find out what is at each one, see The SF Piers. Maps with the piers numbered, and photos.

San Francisco travel tips

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