A Different Way to Explore the City – By Boat
They don’t call it the City by the Bay for nothing. Surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco is a city best explored by boat. A gateway to the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay offers an unparalleled combination of natural beauty and urban inspiration. Whether you’re here for the history or just want to appreciate the fresh air, there are boat tours for every type of visitor.
Blue & Gold Fleet (PIER 39) – Buy tickets now.
There’s a lot to experience in San Francisco, so why not make the most of your time? To pack in as much a possible, use Blue & Gold Fleet. Their hour-long Bay Cruise Adventure will sail you past the shoreline, offering dramatic views of the city to one side and the rolling hills of Marin County to the other. Their longer Escape from Alcatraz tour gives you all that, as well as taking you under the Golden Gate Bridge and around “The Rock.” All tours feature narration from guides available in multiple languages.
Red & White Fleet (Pier 43 1/2) – Buy tickets now.
There’s also the Red & White Fleet if you want to see the highlights. Their one-hour Golden Gate Bay Cruise, which has frequent departure times, is a good baseline package. The longer Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise offers a little more bang for your buck, as it takes visitors under both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, and past landlocked landmarks such as Coit Tower and AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. For something a little more relaxing, you can enjoy spectacular views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline, accompanied by live music, drinks and light appetizers, on the Red & White Fleet’s California Sunset Cruise.
Bay Voyager (PIER 39) – Buy tickets now.
If you desire a more custom tour experience, Bay Voyager might be right for you. Offering small tours on their 12-person rigid inflatable boat, your trip with Bay Voyager can be easily customized to your wishes. In addition to the main sights, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the sea lions at PIER 39. If you’re lucky, you might even appear on the Jumbotron at AT&T Park!
Bay Lights Charters (Pier 40)
Bay Lights Charters is another customizable tour operator on the water. Their historic 72-foot schooner Gas Light is a peek into San Francisco history. Although it is outfitted in luxurious trappings, this ship is fashioned after the “scow” schooners that sailed during San Francisco’s boom from the mid- to late 1800s.
S.F. Bay Whale Watching (PIER 39)
San Francisco Whale Tours (PIER 39)
Nature-lovers can also charter ships for private whale watching excursions. Both S.F. Bay Whale Watching and San Francisco Whale Tours offer private wildlife-viewing voyages beyond the Golden Gate, where you might find elephant seals, dolphins, porpoises and sea bird colonies in addition to sightings of blue, humpback and gray whales.
California Spirit and Yacht Lady
Bet you didn’t know that you could get out on the water with the San Francisco Giants, did you? These two yacht options, perfect for a private experience on the water, come courtesy of Giants Enterprises. The 100-foot yacht California Spirit offers sleek and modern interiors, and can cruise onto the open ocean. The 80-foot motor yacht Yacht Lady offers a more intimate experience, with capacity for 12 people, but with same charter route availability on the bay.
AC Sailing SF (PIER 39)
AC Sailing SF gives landlubbers the chance to sail the bay on a world-class racing yacht, the USA 76. A thrilling adventure, this two-and-a-half hour excursion gives you the opportunity to help crew the boat, from hoisting the sails to taking the helm. Large groups can even “race” a comparable yacht also owned by the company!
RocketBoat (PIER 39)
If the sturdy vessels of the Blue & Gold Fleet are too tame for you, try their sleek and speedy RocketBoat. This wild ride is only 30 minutes long, but because the vessel is so incredibly powerful, you’ll see a lot of the bay in that short time. Operating seasonally from May to October, RocketBoat is a rocking, rolling, guaranteed-to-get-splashed adventure on the bay.
Adventure Cat Sailing Charters (PIER 39)
Zip around the bay aboard a spacious catamaran with Adventure Cat Sailing Charters. With multiple departures each and every day, Adventure Cat offers customizable experiences that grant you spectacular views of some of the region’s most iconic attractions.
City Kayak (Pier 40)
Want to steer your own ship? City Kayak offers you the chance to rent kayaks, canoes, and even paddleboards. Instructors and guides can accompany you on established routes around the bay or create customizable journeys for you.
Alcatraz Cruises (Pier 33)
Of course, where else but San Francisco can you cruise to a former prison and take a tour inside? It might be our most popular attraction, but there’s no denying that a cruise to Alcatraz is about as unique as it gets! With Alcatraz Cruises, you’ll combine a cruise with a walking tour of the legendary landmark. Park rangers lead you from the pier to a tour of the former jailhouse, with a supplementary audio guide (available in 11 languages).