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By Karen

Updated August 16, 2023.

The Best 15 Bay Cruises in San Francisco

A local's guide to cruising on San Francisco Bay

Going out on the water on one of the San Francisco Bay cruises is the best way to see the stunning beauty of San Francisco Bay!

There's a San Francisco Bay boat tour for just about any taste.

How do I know which are the best San Francisco boat tours? Having lived in San Francisco for 30 years, I’ve been on a lot of these bay tours.

We also like to take our out-of-town visitors on a San Francisco Bay cruise..always a hit!

I’ve included my own experiences and my insider tips so you can pick the best San Francisco Bay cruise for you.

And I've checked the ratings and reviews so I know other people really enjoyed them, too.

There are so many San Francisco boat tours, but which one to choose?

Here's my list of the what I think are the best ones...

This article contains affiliate links and I get a small commission if you book through them, at no additional cost to you. See disclosure policy. This helps me provide all the free information on the site. Thank you!

hornblower landing paddleboat

Don't want to read the whole article? Book this Champagne Brunch Bay Cruise. Lots of fun, highly rated! 2 hour weekend cruise.

You'll see incredible views of the San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island that you can't get on land.

The San Francisco boat tours sail past Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Ferry Building, and Coit Tower. 

You can often get a close look at the sea lions, and sometimes porpoises and whales, and you'll see the San Francisco waterfront from a very different perspective.

My Top 3 Picks: San Francisco Bay Cruises

Champagne Brunch Cruise

  • Unlimited (yes) Mimosas & Sparkling Wine 
  • Bountiful brunch
  • See both bridges

Bridge to Bridge Bay Cruise

  • Sail under both bridges
  • Narrated tour
  • Skip the line 

Catamaran Cruise

  • Sail under the Golden Gate
  • Sail around Alcatraz 
  • See wildlife

I’ve listed what I think are the top 15 San Francisco Bay cruises so you can choose the one that works for you (plus some bonus extras at the end).

  1. Premier Champagne Brunch Cruise
  2. Bridge to Bridge Cruise
  3. Catamaran Sailing Cruise
  4. San Francisco Bay Sailing Cruise
  5. Sunset Catamaran Cruise
  6. Fishing Boats at Fisherman's Wharf
  7. Wine Therapy Tour
  8. Straight to the Gate Access: Golden Gate Bay Cruise
  9. San Francisco Bay Twilight or Sunset Cruise
  10. America's Cup Day Sailing Adventure on San Francisco Bay
  11. Premier Dinner Dance Cruise
  12. Straight to the Gate Access: San Francisco Escape from the Rock Cruise
  13. Adventure Boat (RIB) Sightseeing
  14. Alcatraz Island Tours
  15. Sausalito Ferry           And some extras...

Jump to maps showing the typical routes the bay cruises use.

1. San Francisco Premier Brunch Cruise

San Francisco skyline from a bay cruiseCity Skyline View from the Ship

Rating: 5/5 stars.  2 hours.  See current availability & rates

Sail around San Francisco Bay while sipping mimosas and sparkling wine (Champagne, unofficially) and enjoying a sumptuous brunch. Treat yourself to a lovely weekend cruise.

This is a super fun boat ride all around the Bay, sailing under both the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridges, past Alcatraz Island and along the San Francisco waterfront. 

Enjoy great views of the San Francisco city skyline, Chrissy Field, Aquatic Park, and the Palace of Fine Arts, while listening to live music, from the comfort of a classy ship.

Because it goes under both bridges, you also cruise past the Ferry Building and McCovey Cove (Oracle Park baseball).

2. San Francisco Bridge to Bridge Tour

Sailing under the Golden GateCruising under the Golden Gate

4.5/5 stars.   1.5 hours.  Check prices.

This Straight to the Gate Access bay cruise takes you all around the San Francisco Bay and under both bay bridges, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge.

Most of the boat tours don't go under the Bay Bridge, so it's an extra treat. This route also gives you a spectacular view of the downtown San Francisco skyline, and sails past the Ferry Building and Oracle Park (baseball). 

They sail close to Alcatraz Island so you get a good look at it.

There's an popular audio tour included that tells you about all the landmarks you're passing. Available in multiple languages (16).

Tip: ask for the headphones to use with the audio tour because the boat and wind can be noisy.

You can ride inside (if cold and windy!) or outside for the ocean air. 

Snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board from the full bar (you can even bring your own food if you want).

It's an open ticket, so if something comes up (rain, fog, schedule change?), you can go on another day. Why buy the ticket in advance? Skip the ticket line!

Provided by the Red & White Fleet. Leaves from Pier 43½ at Fisherman's Wharf. 

   ➡️ Book Bridge to Bridge Cruise

Oakland Bay Bridge sailing under in sunlight Sailing under the Oakland Bay Bridge

3. San Francisco Catamaran Day Cruise

Adventure Cat cruise out on the BayAdventure Cat Cruise out on the Bay

Rating: 5/5 stars.  1.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

Sail around San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island, in a catamaran, the Adventure Cat.

Gliding over the water with just the sound of the wind and the gulls, the spectacular views, with only a few other people, is the ultimate SF Zen experience!

You can ride on the outside, or go in a wind-protected area. Limited to 12 guests.

This is a good choice for a real sailing experience without the tilting deck of a traditional sailboat. The catamaran stays level, so it's better for younger children and less able sailors. Better for the queasy stomach, as well; smoother ride than a sailboat.

Snacks and drinks are available onboard, plus an audio tour in 8 languages.

From Pier 39

 ➡️  Book the Catamaran Cruise  

4. San Francisco Bay Sailboat Cruise

Sailboat cruise on San Francisco BayThe sailboat cruise on San Francisco Bay

Rating: 5/5 stars.  1.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

One of the prettiest things to see in San Francisco are the white sailboats on the blue waters of the bay. Going out on one of them is even better!

The San Francisco Sailing Company runs several bay tours on their sailboats that I highly recommend.

We went out on their 90-minute sailing tour on the Privateer sailboat...what a treat! It's like being on a private yacht, fun and relaxing, with a mellow crew and free wine and beer. 

Better for adults and older children, since you'll need to hang on at times when they're tacking back and forth. 

They also do a two-hour version and a sunset cruise.

See our photos of the cruise, and details about the trip, at our sailboat cruise.

Leaves from Pier 39.

 ➡️  Book the Sailboat Cruise  

5. SF Bay Sunset Catamaran  Cruise

Sunset SF Bay view from AlcatrazView of San Francisco Bay at Sunset

Rating: 5/5 stars.  1.5 hours. Check availability and rates.

The Catamaran Sunset Cruise is one of the most romantic boat rides in San Francisco, out on the Adventure Cat catamaran.

You get a great view of the San Francisco Bay just as the sun is setting on the city and the bridge, out on the Sunset Catamaran Cruise.

This cruise is similar to the daytime catamaran cruise, same route, except it includes one free drink.

Sail along the San Francisco waterfront and city skyline, out under the Golden Gate Bridge, past Angel Island, and around Alcatraz Island.

You can purchase snacks and more drinks on board, and listen to the audio tour in 8 languages. Limit of 12 guests.

Leaves from Pier 39.

 ➡️  Book the Sunset Catamaran Cruise  

6. San Francisco Fishing Boats Cruise

 No ratings.  1 hour.  $20.

You can also hop on one of the small fishing boats docked at the marina on the main street of Fisherman's Wharf (Jefferson Street at Jones).

They'll take you out on the Bay for an hour's tour, out under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.

Chucky's Pride fishing boat at Fisherman's Wharf San FranciscoChucky's Pride, ready to head out.

What's different from the other tours? Fewer people, lively wave action, and salt spray if you sit in the front!

There's live narration from the skipper on board (though it was hard to hear in the front).

No snacks are supplied, but you can bring your own refreshments, including alcohol. Bathroom on board, always good. 

No advance reservations, just sign up at the dock on Jefferson Street for the next trip. They leave about every hour.

Fishing boat rady to leave Fisherman's Wharf for tour.The front's a good spot. Some folks brought wine.

We went out on Chucky's Pride, one of several fishing boats available for the cruises.

I think it's more exciting to sail out under the Golden Gate in a smaller boat than in one of the much larger ferries.

You really feel the waves and the ocean seems mightier, especially just outside the protection of the gate.

The boat goes all the way around Alcatraz, so you see the other side that's not visible on the actual Alcatraz ferry ride.

Also, it's a real bargain - only recently went from $15 to $20, cash only.

On fishing boat returning from the Golden Gate BridgeComing back from the bridge on a fishing boat

7. SF Bay Wine Therapy Cruise

Wine Therapy Bay Cruise  and the Golden Gate Bridge

Ratings: 5/5 stars.  1.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

Combine wine tasting and a sunset bay cruise; very mellow!

This is a family-run business that takes you out for a tour of the Bay and provides a large selection of California wines for you to try.

Good, close views of Alcatraz and passes by the Pier 39 sea lions coming and going.

Friendly atmosphere, quaint and homey boat. Small group, limited to 15.

Leaves from Pier 39

   ➡️  Book the Wine Therapy Cruise  

8.Straight to the Gate Access: Golden Gate Bay Cruise

Red and white Ferry crossing San Francisco BayThe Golden Gate Bay Cruise heading home.

Ratings: 4.0/5 stars.  1 hour.  Check availability and rates.

If you only have a short time in San Francisco, or can only do one thing at the Wharf, this is the San Francisco Bay cruise to do!

This is a good basic cruise. A one hour tour of the Bay, along the San Francisco waterfront, out to the bridge, under the Golden Gate, past Alcatraz, and back to Fisherman's Wharf.

The Red and White Fleet in San Francisco is a family-owned business that started offering this cruise in 1939. The audio tour is available in 16 languages. 

It's particularly good if you have limited time, or young kids that get restless. You can see all the sights of the San Francisco Bay on a quick San Francisco cruise tour, for a very reasonable fee.

Leaves from Pier 43 ½ in Fisherman's Wharf.

There are two ferry services that run these one hour Golden Gate Bridge boat tours: the Red & White Fleet and the Blue & Gold Fleet. They are very similar tour operators and both leave from Fisherman's Wharf with frequent departures.

This Straight to the Gate Access lets you skip the line and get right to the boat. It's an open ticket good for a year, so you can be flexible using it.

 ➡️  Book the Golden Gate Bay Cruise  

Back view of Alcatraz Island from bay cruise.The other side of Alcatraz Island

The Alcatraz Ferry doesn't go around the island, except on their night tours.

This is the view from the other side, which you can see on most of the bay cruises, but not from the city.  Like the dark side of the moon?

9. Golden Gate Twilight or Sunset Cruise

Red and White Ferry and seagull, Fisherman's Wharf San FranciscoRed & White Ferry at Fisherman's Wharf

Ratings: 4.5/5 stars.  1.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

The Golden Gate Sunset Cruise in San Francisco goes out on the Red & White Fleet. This is a fun way to get out on the bay and see the city as the sun goes down, with all the lights coming on. 

Amazing views of the San Francisco skyline after dark, very sparkly. The sun setting behind the Golden Gate is something to see!

The Sunset Cruise sails during the summer and the Twilight Cruise sails during the winter. A very romantic way to cruise the bay!

They sail past Alcatraz, Angel Island, the San Francisco waterfront, Sausalito and under the Golden Gate Bridge (very cool at sunset). You can purchase snacks and drinks at the full bar on board. 

Bring your jacket even if it's summer (especially if it's summer, haha); it's cool and windy out on the water.

This San Francisco harbor cruise can sell out, so it's good to book it in advance.

Skip the line tickets. Go right to the boat. Leaves from Pier 43½ at Fisherman's Wharf.

 ➡️  Book Twilight or Sunset Cruise  

10. America's Cup Sailing Adventure

America's Cup sailboat on San Francisco BayAmerica's Cup Sailboat out on the Bay

Ratings: 5/5 stars.  2.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

This is for the more adventurous sailors! You can go out on a high-speed racing yacht of the type that was used in the America's Cup competition and follow the same route the race took in 2013 when it was held in San Francisco.

The crew lets you help with the sails and the steering if you want (you don't have to, though). I haven't done this trip but it looks exciting.

Limited to 20 people. They say you should have a "moderate physical fitness level" for this Bay Area cruise.

  ➡️  Book America's Cup Sailing Cruise  

If this cruise isn't available, the 90 minute sailboat cruise is a fun substitute.

11.  Premier Dinner Dance Cruise

San Francisco skyline at night from Hornblower dinner cruiseDowntown skyline and Bay Bridge from the dinner cruise

Ratings: 4.0/5. 3 hours.  Check availability and rates.

City Experiences, a classy company that provides sailing trips on their yachts, has a San Francisco Bay dinner/dance cruise that is a lot of fun.

This may be the most romantic boat ride in San Francisco.

A nighttime extravaganza: a delicious four-course meal, and stunning views of the city and the bridges all lit up. Amazing!

Sail around the bay on a yacht, dancing to a live band or DJ, and savoring a tasty meal.

Enjoy dinner selections like watermelon and feta salad, crab gazpacho soup, chicken cordon-bleu, or maybe glazed salmon, with key lime pot de creme and macaroons, or perhaps berry parfait with Gran Marnier.

I've been on several of their San Francisco evening cruises - a very professional outfit.

My son and I went on this dinner cruise. For all the details on our dinner cruise experience, plus photos and maps, see my page on our dinner cruise in San Francisco.

It's magical to be out on the water at night with the city lights twinkling in the distance.

The views of the city and the bridges at night were incredible, and the food was great! A fun San Francisco experience.

  ➡️  Book Dinner Dance Cruise  

12. Escape from the Rock

bay cruises blue and gold alcatrazBlue and Gold Ferry heading towards Alcatraz Island

Ratings: 4.0/5.  1.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

This cruise is a bay tour that focuses on Alcatraz, but it also goes out under the Golden Gate and around the bay. This tour is given by the Blue and Gold Fleet.

The boat goes around Alcatraz Island a couple of times up close while you can listen to the audio narrative about the history of Alcatraz and the prisoners and their escapes.

What is the difference between the Golden Gate Bay Cruise and the Escape from the Rock Cruise? This is similar to the one hour Golden Gate bay cruises in that it does a complete tour of the bay along the same route, but this tour also spends extra time at Alcatraz Island and provides a lot of information about Alcatraz history during the cruise. 

In order to hear the audio, you will need a smart phone with wifi enabled; also, it's best to bring some ear buds or a headset to hear it over the sound of the boat.

Most of the negative reviews were about problems accessing the audio, or misunderstandings about whether the tour goes onto the island. It does not go onto the island.

To see Alcatraz Prison and explore the Island, see my articles on visiting Alcatraz.

 ➡️  Book Escape from the Rock Cruise  

Sea lions on buoy San Francisco BaySea Lions on a Buoy on a Blue and Gold Ferry Cruise.

13.  RIB Boat Tour

Ratings: 5/5 stars.  1.5 hours.  Check availability and rates.

This is a newer addition to the boat rides in SF Bay. The RIB boat (Rigid Inflatable Boat) is the more extreme version of the Rocket Boat (which I loved, but it disappeared in 2019):

...90 minutes zooming around SF Bay on an inflatable boat, and a lot wetter (they provide you with rain gear).

This cruise also includes a guided tour of the bay, narrated by the captain. 

Sail by the Ferry Building, Fort Point, the sea lions, and the Presidio.

Go under both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, around Alcatraz, and past the SF skyline. Sometimes the whales are out there.

Limited to 12 people. I haven't tried this one yet, but I've seen it out on the Bay and it looks pretty wild and fun! 

 ➡️  Book RIB Boat Tour  

14. Alcatraz Tours

Alcatraz Island old buildingOn Alcatraz, looking at Angel Island

The only way to actually get onto Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz cruises are in class by themselves. Only one company, City Experiences, at cityexperiences.com, runs ferries out to Alcatraz where visitors can get off the boat and explore the island.

If you have several hours and have any interest in the history of the island prison, take one of the City Experiences tours to Alcatraz.

Not only is the building fascinating to explore, the views of the city and bay are wonderful.

All the other bay cruise companies sail around the island, which is fun, too, but they don't stop at the island to let you off.

The Alcatraz Island tours aren't really bay tours, but on the 15 minute ride out to Alcatraz Island, you get a great view of the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, plus a view of Angel Island nearby.

You don't sail out to the Golden Gate, though. For that you have to take one of the other cruises.

The Alcatraz tours are well-worth doing for their own sake. Probably one of the most interesting things to do in San Francisco.

The Alcatraz Ferry leaves from Pier 33 and only goes to Alcatraz, but getting Alcatraz tickets is the only way to get out to the island and get off the boat there. The ticket includes all the tours on the island. Very cool!

Should you take the day tour or the night tour? To learn more about the Alcatraz Island tours available and the best ways of getting tickets for Alcatraz, plus what to expect out on the Rock, see my article on Alcatraz tours.

Alcatraz tickets aren't discounted, but you may be able to save a little on tours if you get a combination tour, Alcatraz plus another attraction or activity you're interested in.

Sometimes the combos are a little more than buying them individually, but may be the best chance of getting a ticket when Alcatraz is sold out.

Is Alcatraz sold out for the date you want? Here's how to get those tickets.

The link below will take you to a list I made of the more popular Alcatraz combination tours available.

    ➡️  Check Alcatraz Combo Tours  

15. The Sausalito Ferry

Couple on the Sausalito FerryOn the Sausalito Ferry

The best ferry ride in San Francisco! One of the cheaper, but no less beautiful, ways to see San Francisco Bay is to take the ferry across the bay from San Francisco to the seaside town of Sausalito. 

The ride across San Francisco Bay on the Sausalito Ferry was named the second best ferry ride in the world by the society of American Travel Writers in 2009 (second only to the Starr Ferry ride in Hong Kong).

It's a gorgeous ride, with great views of the city skyline, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. Highly recommended, and a bargain to boot!

Around $28 round trip as of July 2023.

Once in Sausalito, you can explore this charming little town with houses climbing up the steep hills.

Check out the art galleries and shops and have some great seafood at one of their highly-regarded restaurants (e.g. Trident, or Scoma's).

And try the ice cream at Lappert's. Everything is on Bridgeway, the main street in Sausalito.

Outdoor cafe Sausalito CaliforniaSausalito Cafe

When you're done, you can catch the next ferry back to town. The ferry landing is right in the town.

Taking the Sausalito Ferry. You can take the Blue and Gold Ferry from Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf or the Golden Gate Ferry from the Ferry Building downtown. The ride over is about 30 minutes.

These are big ferries; no reservations are needed. You can buy the tickets on your phone, online, or at the ticket booths at the Ferry Building or the Blue and Gold ticket booth to the left of Pier 39 on the Wharf.

Tip: buy a round trip ticket in San Francisco. There's no ticket booth at the Sausalito ferry terminal, which is basically a parking lot (though you could still buy a return ticket on your phone if you needed to).

Want to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, and take the ferry back? This is a great way to see the bridge and bay scenery.

See my guide to biking the bridge: how to rent the bikes, what the ride is like, tips for taking the ferry, plus maps of the route and photos of the trip, at biking the bridge.

Should you worry about being seasick on the San Francisco bay cruises?

If you have problems with seasickness, it might encourage you to know that I've never felt sick on one of these San Francisco boat tours. And that is coming from someone who can't even watch the Teacups at Disneyland.

SF Bay Cruises Route Maps

Where do the boats go on the San Francisco Bay Cruises?

There are two basic routes that the San Francisco bay tours use. These aren't exact, but they will give you a good idea of where most of the boat cruises go.

There are two basic varieties of San Francisco boat tours:

  1. Bay cruises that go to both bridges (the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge) 
  2. Bay cruises that only travel to the Golden Gate Bridge

Both types of cruises do a circuit of the Bay, along the San Francisco waterfront, out under the Golden Gate, around Alcatraz Island, then back to the wharf.

The difference: the two-bridge cruises head south after going around Alcatraz, and sail past the downtown skyline, the Ferry Building, the Bay Bridge and Oracle Park.

The one hour cruises generally just see one bridge, the Golden Gate. Some of the 1.5 hour and longer tours see both bridges. Check each tour description for route details.

Most SF bay cruises leave from Fisherman's Wharf or Pier 39 as shown, but some cruises (brunch, special events, & dinner cruises) leave from Pier 3 near the Ferry Building (close to the Bay Bridge).

Route to the Golden Gate only

Map of San Francisco Bay Cruise route to one bridge

Route to both Golden Gate and Oakland Bay Bridges

San Francisco bay cruises route to both bridges

Map of San Francisco Bay Ferry Destinations

map sf ferries

SF Ferries leave from the Ferry Building, Pier 33 (Alcatraz Landing), Piers 39, 41, & 43.

Heading to Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island, Alcatraz, and the bridges. 

Tips for saving money on SF bay cruises

  1. The San Francisco City Pass includes a one hour bay cruise with admission to the California Academy of Sciences, plus two more attractions from a list.
  2. Do a bay cruise combined with a one-day Hop On Hop Off city bus tour. See the city and the bay. Check HOHO City Tour & Bay Cruise for times and availability. $10 off if booked online.

More ideas for special bay cruises

Whale Watching Tours

Kitty Kat whale watching boat San Francisco Pier 39The "Kitty Kat" Whale Watching Boat at Pier 39

Again, this isn't designed as a tour of San Francisco Bay, but on a whale watching tour you travel across the bay, past Alcatraz and through the Golden Gate, and go further out to sea than the other boat tours.

They sail through the channel outside the Golden Gate, past Lands End PointBaker Beach, and China Beach, and out into the open ocean a bit (where the whales are likely to be).

On our whale tour we sailed down the coast a little way, past the Sutro Baths and the Cliff House, to the beginning of Ocean Beach, which faces the Pacific Ocean, before heading back to San Francisco.

Alcatraz view from SF whale watching tripView of Alcatraz from our SF Whale Watching Tour

It was a gorgeous, sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed the trip, even though we never saw any whales. But they said 95% of the time they do see them!

I was worried about being seasick but I was fine. I'd had a really rough whale-watching trip off Monterey years ago and was reluctant to try this one, but I'm glad I did.

That earlier trip went pretty far out to sea to see the enormous Blue Whales; they were truly amazing, but once was enough. An hour straight out to sea in a heaving small boat each way! :(

This tour sticks close to the coast. Also, it was a pretty calm day on SF Bay when we went.

Bring a warm jacket, sun glasses, and a sun hat; it can get chilly out there farther away from land.

So I highly recommend this cruise, whales or no whales!

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien Liberty Ship

SS Jeremmiah O'Brien liberty ship in San FranciscoThe SS Jeremiah O'Brien at Pier 45

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien is one of the few surviving liberty ships that delivered supplies to the troops in Europe during World War II.

It's been lovingly maintained over the years and is available for cruises around the bay on special occasions. 

I haven't sailed on it but my friends have and they had a great time. 

See the Jeremiah O'Brien website for their scheduled trips.

Exploring the ship...

The ship is also open for do-it-yourself tours at the dock. 

I went on board and explored it; very interesting! You can climb up and down through the different decks and look at the exhibits and sample staterooms open to the public. 

The boiler room scene on the film Titanic was filmed on this ship and you can climb down deep into the ship's hold to see the spot.

SS Jeremiah O'Brien stairs in the holdClimbing down into the hold

The Jeremiah O'Brien spent decades at Fishermans's Wharf next to Musée Mécanique at Pier 45 but it's recently moved to new quarters at Pier 35.

One of their more popular cruises is the SF Fleet Week cruise.

SS Jeremiah O'Brien sailing the bay during Fleet WeekSS Jeremiah O'Brien sailing the bay during Fleet Week.

See my article on Fleet Week in San Francisco for information on the event and all the bay cruises available for the air show. A boat on the bay is a great spot to watch the Blue Angels!

Rent a sailboat or a yacht (and crew)

Want a Private Cruise?

Through the SAILO company, you can rent a sailboat or yacht and sail the bay with a group of friends or family.

There's a big selection of sizes and prices of boats to rent. Nice looking boats, too. Not as expensive as you might think, based on the number of guests splitting the cost.

Quite a range, for example from $960 per day for 6 people, up to huge boats holding 350 guests for a lot more. They provide the captain and necessary crew.

Take a look at all the boats they have available for San Francisco Bay; pretty cool.

Family on boat outing

They are offering a 7% discount, now until August 2024.

Special Event SF Bay Cruises

As you might guess, there are popular San Francisco bay cruises for special events, like Christmas, New Year's, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.

They come and go as the year goes by. The City Experiences company does a lot of them. 

One big event with a number of cruises is Fleet Week in San Francisco.

This is a great way to watch the Blue Angels perform, right out on the bay, where the boat stops for the show.

I have an article about Fleet Week in San Francisco which includes cruise recommendations. These book up so plan ahead if you want to do one of these. 

Parking for the Bay Cruises

Where to park for the San Francisco bay cruises and boat tours?

Parking, yes. Always an issue in San Francisco!

For the cruises that leave from Fisherman's Wharf (Piers 41, 43 ½ & Pier 39) as well as Alcatraz cruises (pier 33), I recommend using Spot Hero.

There are a number of parking garages and lots around the Fisherman's Wharf area, but they can be very expensive and sometimes full.

Rather than driving around trying to find a spot in Fisherman's Wharf (not fun), the stress-free and usually much cheaper way is to book a spot in advance through Spot Hero.

That's what I use when I'm trying to park in the more congested areas of San Francisco.

Check with Spot Hero to see what's available and book parking.

The City Experiences cruises (brunch, dinner, and special events) leave from Pier 3 near the Ferry Building at the end of Market Street. There's a parking lot at Pier 3 that they make available for cruises leaving from there.

It's pretty reasonable ($10 when we went) and staffed, so people are around, therefore less likely for break-ins. It's not reserved, but you have a good chance of getting a spot if you get there a bit early. We parked there for our dinner cruise.

Advice for everyone parking in San Francisco: leave nothing of value and nothing visible in the car! Sorry.

San Francisco Bay Cruises: FAQ

What is the best time of day for a San Francisco bay cruise?

During the summer months, June, July and August, the San Francisco fog tends to roll in mid afternoon, though it's not always predictable.

So the best time to take a San Francisco boat tour during the summer would be in the morning or early afternoon, or later in the early evening, when the fog often rolls out again.

In the winter months, it's hit or miss with rainy days interspersed with sunny ones. It generally warms up a bit in the afternoon. There does tend to be a lot less fog in winter.

What's the best time of year to do a San Francisco bay tour?

The best time of year to go on a bay cruise in San Francisco is during September or October. Those are our months of great weather, warm and sunny, and the fog and rain are pretty much absent. But it's weather, so there's no guarantee.

Which San Francisco bay cruises go past Alcatraz Island?

Just about all the San Francisco boat tours sail past Alcatraz Island. Read the description to be sure, but it would be hard to find one that doesn't.

What is the difference between the Golden Gate Bay Cruise and the Escape from the Rock Tour?

Both tours sail past the San Francisco waterfront, go out under the Golden Gate Bridge and then sail around Alcatraz Island.

The difference between the tours is that the Escape from the Rock Tour also circles Alcatraz a couple of times while providing lots of information on the history of Alcatraz Island and the prison, and stories about the prisoner escapes. 

Are there bathrooms on the San Francisco boat cruises? Food and drink?

Yes, all the boats on the San Francisco bay cruises have bathrooms, even the small fishing boats!

And most of them, except the fishing boats, have food and refreshments on board available to purchase. The Privateer sailboat has beer and wine, but no food.

How long is the ferry ride from San Francisco to Sausalito?

The ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito takes about 30 minutes.

How long is the bay cruise in San Francisco? 

The Golden Gate bay cruise in San Francisco is one hour.

Both the Red and White Fleet and the Blue and Gold Fleet in San Francisco do one hour cruises of the bay.

The shortest San Francisco bay cruises are one hour, but many SF bay tours are 1.5 hours, and others are 2-3 hours.

What should you wear on a San Francisco bay cruise?

The most important thing to wear on a SF bay cruise or boat tour is layers!

Even on a warm, sunny day in San Francisco, it can be windy and chilly out on the water. Bring a jacket onboard even if you don't need it on shore.

Also, the fog can roll in while you're out there and it can be downright cold!

Will you get seasick on a San Francisco bay cruise?

Some get seasick no matter what, but generally, it's not rolling enough on the bay for most people to get sick. Out on the open ocean is another matter.

I've been on many of the bay cruises and I've never felt seasick. 

What is across the bay from San Francisco?

The main cities and towns across the bay from San Francisco are Sausalito and Tiburon in the North Bay (in Marin County), and Vallejo, Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda in the East Bay.

Are there great white sharks in San Francisco Bay?

Yes, and no. Yes, they do come into San Francisco Bay on rare occasions, but most of the time they stay out of the bay. Great whites are not considered a danger in San Francisco Bay. But there are 11 other species of sharks living in the bay.

At certain times of year (mainly in October), there are lots of great white sharks swimming up and down the coast past San Francisco.

Their hunting ground stretches from Half Moon Bay, south of SF, up to Stinson Beach in Marin County, and out to the Farallon Islands, 30 miles straight west of SF.

This area is sometimes called the Red Triangle (!) because of the frequency of great white shark attacks there.

Since the waters are too cold and rough for most swimmers, it's the surfers and divers that are usually the targets. Scientists suspect it's the wetsuits worn year round that cause the sharks to occasionally mistake humans for their usual prey, the sea lions and harbor seals.

Related Articles

dinner cruise dining room

Read about our experience on the dinner dance cruise.

Enjoy a delicious 3-course meal while sailing past spectacular views.

Sailboat cruise San Francisco Bay

Here's our experience on the Privateer sailboat cruise on the bay.

The perfect way to see San Francisco Bay with a glass of wine!

Alcatraz ferry at Pier 33

Take the Alcatraz ferry over to the island where you can explore the prison and the rest of the grounds. Audio tour and guided tours included in the ticket. See all my info on tours, booking and best way to get tickets.

Alcatraz sold out? Never fear. See my tips on getting those elusive Alcatraz tickets at last-minute Alcatraz tickets.

More Attractions in San Francisco:

What if it's foggy in San Francisco?

Golden Gate Bridge in the fogIt's still cool to see the bridges!

Heading for the Golden Gate Bridge...

San Francisco bay cruise heading for foggy bridgeUh oh. Well, it's an authentic San Francisco experience!

Why is San Francisco so cold? Check out my article on San Francisco weather.

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