Note: Some tour providers on this list may have limited or ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
Whether by air, by bike, by boat, by bus or even by vintage Volkswagen, there are so many different ways to take in the beauty of San Francisco and experience its top attractions. To help you decide which method is right for you, U.S. News compiled 19 of the city’s top tours, considering traveler sentiment and expert opinion. Foodies, history buffs, adventurers and everyone in between will find a tour on this list.
Red and White Fleet – Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise
Take in San Francisco’s two most famous bridges on this 90-minute boat trip through San Francisco Bay. In addition to sailing beneath both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, tourgoers will see Alcatraz, Treasure Island and the city skyline, among other landmarks. Red and White Fleet provides an audio guide available in 16 different languages that details the city’s history. Reviewers say they enjoy the views, the helpful commentary, and the clean and comfortable boats. Tours are available Thursday through Sunday at 11:30 a.m., 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m., depending on the day. Cruises depart from Fisherman’s Wharf. Tickets start at $48 for adults and $36 for youths ages 5 to 17. Children 4 and younger can ride for free, but require a ticket. Short on time? Red and White Fleet also offers an hourlong Golden Gate Bay Cruise, among other tours.
Vantigo – San Francisco City Tours
Instead of a traditional tour bus, Vantigo transports up to seven passengers in a vintage Volkswagen van to see all the city has to offer. The three-hour tour highlights 15 points of interest, with plenty of opportunities for photos and views of Haight-Ashbury, the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks and more. Reviewers love the Volkswagen, which they say is roomy and comfortable, and describe the guides as fun and informative. Tours leave multiple times throughout the day from Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square. Tickets start at $65 per adult or $45 per child ages 5 to 11. Children 4 and younger are not permitted on public tours. Combo tours to Alcatraz are also available, as are brewery tours.
Seaplane Adventures – SF City Sites Tour
After you’ve walked the city streets and sailed the bay’s waters, your next step should be an air tour. On this 20-minute flight from Seaplane Adventures, you’ll depart from Sausalito – a charming town located across the Golden Gate Bridge – then fly over downtown and above Alcatraz and Angel Island before landing back in Sausalito. Reviewers describe the trip as amazing and one of the best activities they did while visiting San Francisco. Tickets cost approximately $179 per adult and $155 per child ages 3 to 11. Seaplane Adventures conducts several other air tours, including a 45-minute Greater Bay Area Tour.
Avital Food Tours – Mission District Food Tour
Eat your way through one of San Francisco’s most famous neighborhoods with Avital’s Mission District food tour. The three-hour tour offers a culinary history of the Mission District, which is recognized for both its Mexican cuisine and colorful murals. Along the way, enjoy four courses (two appetizers, an entree and a dessert) at four area restaurants. Tastings vary with each tour but may include cheeses, tacos, churros, burritos, quesadillas or salted caramel ice cream. Reviewers say the tour is fun, well-paced and educational. Tours are limited to eight people. Tickets start at $99 per person. Foodies 21 and older can choose to upgrade their tour to include three alcohol pairings for an additional $26 per person. Children are allowed on the tour, though there is no discount, and Avital advises that its outings are best suited for older children. Tours are offered Sundays at 10 a.m. The company also offers tours of North Beach.
San Francisco Love Tours – The Love Tour
Drive through 15 neighborhoods in a classic Volkswagen hippie bus during this two-hour tour. As you drive around to sites like Lombard Street and Haight-Ashbury, you’ll hear all about San Francisco history and listen to music. You’ll also make two stops for photos to capture the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline. Reviewers rave about the knowledgeable guides and the nostalgic music choices. Tours, which start and end at Fisherman’s Wharf, are generally available daily at 8:30 and 11 a.m. as well as 2 and 5 p.m. The van can accommodate up to six passengers. Tickets start at $69 per person. Children 4 and younger are only permitted on private tours.
Eat your way through North Beach with Local Tastes of the City Tours.(Getty Images)
Local Tastes of the City Tours – North Beach/Little Italy Walking Food Tour
According to reviewers, this tour is a must for food and history lovers thanks to experienced guides who are engaging storytellers. Along the three-hour tour, you’ll explore seven to eight blocks of North Beach (or “Little Italy”). Samples of the neighborhood’s best pizza, pastries, coffee, chocolates and more are all included in the cost of the tour. Travelers say the portions are generous and recommend arriving to the tour hungry. Tours are generally offered daily at 10:30 a.m. with an additional noon tour available on select days. Tickets cost approximately $70 for adults, $40 for youths ages 12 to 16 and $15 for children ages 2 to 11; infants 1 and younger can tag along for free. Still hungry? Consider the company’s Chinatown tours.
Big Bus San Francisco Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
If you’re looking for a convenient way to visit the city’s top attractions in one day, this hop-on, hop-off tour may be just the ticket. Big Bus lets riders disembark at any of its stops, explore the area and catch another bus when they’re ready. Big Bus operates every 30 minutes and visits more than 20 locations, including Presidio Park, Chinatown, the Embarcadero and even includes a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. The entire tour lasts a little more than two hours, if you don’t choose to disembark. All buses have open tops, Wi-Fi access and prerecorded commentary available in 10 languages. Reviewers enjoy the educational commentary and the opportunity to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge in the open top bus, but many warn that buses get crowded quickly. If you buy your tickets online, pricing starts at approximately $50 per adult and $45 per child ages 3 to 12 for the classic one-day ticket. Big Bus San Francisco also offers night tours of the city, as well as upgraded tickets that include free bike rentals and tours of Muir Woods.
Electric Tour Company – Official Golden Gate Park Segway Tour
Riding a Segway can be a fun and expedient way to see a number of top attractions in a short amount of time. The Electric Tour Company offers you a chance to see dozens of sights in the iconic Golden Gate Park in the span of 2 1/2 hours, visiting the Conservatory of Flowers, the Shakespeare Garden, the California Academy of Sciences and the Spreckels Temple of Music along the way. The tour begins with a 30-minute training for first-time riders. All riders must be at least 12 years old and weigh between 100 and 250 pounds. Reviewers praise their guides, who they say are helpful and descriptive, and describe the Segways as easy to ride. From June to August, tours are offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., with an additional 3 p.m. tour on the weekends. The rest of the year, tours are available to book Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets start at $79 per adult and $65 per youth ages 12 to 17. Bike and electric scooter tours of the park are also available.
Gray Line San Francisco – Muir Woods and Sausalito Tour
This four- to six-hour excursion from Gray Line San Francisco takes you to Muir Woods National Monument to see its beautiful redwood trees up close. After exploring the forest, the tour continues to Sausalito, a charming town across the bay full of waterfront dining, shopping and art galleries. To enjoy more time in Sausalito, you can opt to return to the city by ferry for an additional cost. Reviewers say the tour bus is comfortable and describe the driver as engaging and knowledgeable. Many recommend this tour if you do not want to navigate the traffic and parking headaches at Muir Woods. Ticket prices start at $89 for adults and $59 for children ages 5 to 11 and include admission to Muir Woods National Monument. Gray Line offers a variety of daytrips from San Francisco, including trips to Sonoma, Napa Valley and Monterey.
Bay City Bike Rentals and Tours – Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
See San Francisco by bike on this tour that guides you from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito. The trip takes two to three hours and covers 8 miles. After making your way along the waterfront, you’ll pedal across the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping for photo-ops along the way. At the conclusion of the tour, you can either bike your way back to the city or opt to take the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco for an additional fee. Tourgoers say guides are friendly and informative and the sights are beautiful. Tours are open to all ages. Ticket prices start at $55 for adults; prices for children vary. From March through October, tours are available daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; tours are available daily at 10 a.m. the rest of the year. The company also offers a Streets of San Francisco Electric Bike Tour, among other options.
See magnificent whales and the classic Golden Gate Bridge as you tour the San Francisco Bay with San Francisco Whale Tours.(Courtesy of San Francisco Whale Tours)
San Francisco Whale Tours – Golden Gate Whale Watch
Head into San Francisco Bay to catch sight of some of the many whales that pass through its waters with San Francisco Whale Tours. On the 2 1/2-hour cruise, riders may see humpback whales, harbor seals, dolphins, porpoises and seabirds. You’ll also get a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The tour does not include food, though you can bring your own, and you should bring warm clothes, including jackets, hats and gloves. Many tourists report seeing both gray and humpback whales and describe the crew as very friendly. Tickets start at $120 per person. The company offers its Golden Gate Whale Watch from March through October Thursday through Sunday at noon and 3 p.m.
Extranomical Tours – Yosemite National Park and Giant Sequoias Tour
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the city, trek to California’s incomparable natural wonders with a daytrip to Yosemite National Park. On the approximately 15-hour tour, you’ll stop at Tuolumne Meadows to see the 2,000-year-old giant sequoia trees, then hit top stops like El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall. Buses, which pick up from most hotels, are equipped with tour guides who provide commentary along the way. Tourgoers appreciate the information provided by the guides and rave about the scenery. The trip departs every day of the year. Tickets start at $179 for adults and $165 for children 11 and younger if purchased online. Tickets do not include meals, but do over the park entrance fee. Extranomical Tours offers a variety of city tours, as well as excursions to wine country and Monterey.
San Francisco Movie Tours – San Francisco Movie Sights City Tour
Many movies and TV shows have been filmed in San Francisco, and this tour highlights all the top filming locations. Actors-turned-guides lead the interactive tour, which takes you to filming locations for productions, such as “Full House,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Ant-Man.” Throughout the three-hour trip, you’ll see clips on big screens with surround sound of each movie or show as you arrive. Tourgoers describe it as a fun way to see the city and say guides are entertaining. Tickets cost approximately $60 for adults, $35 for children ages 5 to 17 and $50 for seniors. Tours are generally offered daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. or 2 p.m., though availability may vary by month. San Francisco Movie Tours also leads a “Dirty Harry” tour, among others.
Wild SF Walking Tours – Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour
According to reviewers, Wild SF’s Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour is full of intriguing and spooky information told by engaging guides. The nighttime walking tour, which lasts up to 90 minutes, unveils the darker side of San Francisco history, including stories about the old red-light district, serial killers, haunted hotels and more. Tours meet at Union Square and traverse a little more than half a mile of downtown San Francisco.. Guides are all performers who’ve been leading tours for more than four years. Tickets start at $33 per person. Wild SF recommends this tour for travelers 10 and older. If you didn’t get your fill of the paranormal, consider the company’s ghost hunting tour.
Dylan’s Famous Tour includes time in Muir Woods.(Getty Images)
Dylan’s Tours – Dylan’s Famous Tour with Muir Woods
If you’re hoping to see the best of the Bay Area in one day, consider this six-hour excursion. You’ll travel by minibus to some of San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods and landmarks, including North Beach, Chinatown, Pacific Heights and the Painted Ladies before enjoying a snack in the charming town of Sausalito. From there, you’ll spend more than an hour in Muir Woods. The tour starts and ends at Fisherman’s Wharf and includes multiple photo stops. Reviewers describe tour guides as insightful and funny, and say the bus is very clean. The tour departs daily at 8:30 a.m. and tickets cost approximately $99 for adults and $69 for children 12 and younger. Combo tours to Alcatraz and electric bike tours are also available.
San Francisco Helicopters – Vista Grande Helicopter Tour
Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of San Francisco on this 30-minute helicopter tour. You’ll fly over top sites like Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Sausalito, while enjoying musical accompaniment choreographed to the flight and narration from the pilot. Tourgoers describe the flight as spectacular, a trip of a lifetime and one of the best helicopter tours they’ve ever taken. The tour departs three times daily. Tickets start at $280 per adult and $210 per child ages 2 to 12. The company also conducts wine country tours by helicopter, among a variety of other options.
Adventure Cat Sailing Charters – San Francisco Bay Sail
To feel a bay breeze and see San Francisco from a new perspective, climb aboard Adventure Cat’s sailing catamaran. The 90-minute cruise allows you to see the sights from inside the protected cabin or outside on a netted deck trampoline where you can feel the waves crashing beneath your feet. While you can’t bring drinks on board, snacks, beer and wine are available for purchase in the cabin bar. The company also provides an audio tour, which offers listeners information about key attractions as they sail by. Reviewers describe the cruise as fantastic, with many lauding the tour as their top experience in San Francisco. Others appreciate the excellent service provided by the crew. Prices start at $60 for adults and $30 for kids ages 6 to 12; kids 5 and younger ride for free. The company also offers sunset sails and Alcatraz combo tickets.
Edible Excursions – Ferry Building Food Tour and Alcatraz Excursion
Combine two of the city’s most iconic landmarks on this unique daylong excursion. The day starts with a tour of the top purveyors at the Ferry Building Marketplace and includes tastings of artisan cheese, bread and chocolates, followed by a cruise to Alcatraz and a self-guided tour through its historic prison. Tourists are welcome to stay as long as they’d like at Alcatraz before hopping on the return ferry. Participants say they unexpectedly enjoyed the food portion of the tour, which they describe as both delicious and informative. Tickets start at $165 per person, which includes the Alcatraz entrance ticket. Tours are offered four days a week. Prefer to explore a different area of the city? Edible Excursions offers tours through Japantown, the Mission District and more.
Explore the city at your own pace with this GPS-guided car that provides directions and historical and cultural commentary as you follow the designated route or branch off on detours, stopping for photo-ops or breaks as you please. A maximum of two people can fit inside the three-wheeled car and you must be at least 21 years old to drive it. Reviewers describe riding in the car as lots of fun and a great way to see the city, but they warn that the experience can get pricey if you keep the car past your allotted time. One-hour rentals start at $65, but a variety of routes and rental periods are available (the car features commentary on more than 500 attractions and points of interest).