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Hop on Hop off San Francisco Bus Tours

Updated: December 20, 2023
 By Britt

If you're trying to decide which of our many free San Francisco walking tours to take, one of the best ways to figure that out is to take a hop-on hop-off bus tour.

Currently, there are two companies offering this type of tour:

These services offer stops at most of the popular attractions in the Bay Area, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Lombard Street, and Haight-Ashbury.

For more details on the locations included, check the San Francisco hop-on hop-off bus map below.

Each hop-on hop-off company also offers a night bus tour and Alcatraz packages. There are also several ways to save money on these tours.

While we do our best to provide an unbiased perspective, we also have a San Francisco Travel Tips group on Facebook which we use to get a sense for what locals and travelers think about these services.


If you’re looking for an open-top bus tour that will allow you to jump off and explore a specific area in the San Francisco area, then a hop-on-hop-off tour may be your best bet.

These buses stop at locations along set routes. You hop off where you like and explore the area on your own, and work great in tandem with our pay-what-you-like guided walking tours

Here are some of the more notable famous neighborhoods and historic landmarks that you can expect to see on a San Francisco hop-on hop-off bus tour:

  • Pier 39
  • City Hall
  • Chinatown
  • Civic Center
  • Presidio Park
  • Alamo Square
  • Painted Ladies
  • Lombard Street
  • Haight Ashbury
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Embarcadero Center
  • And more!

Since their main route usually goes through Golden Gate Park, you'll also have easy access to the following sites:

  • de Young Museum
  • The Japanese Tea Garden
  • San Francisco Botanical Garden
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • And more!

Two companies in San Francisco run hop-on, hop-off bus tours: Skyline Sightseeing and Big Bus.  

Both offer one-day single route tickets as well as multi-day tickets.

Multi-day tickets get you the most for your money as they include free additions, such as bike tours, walking tours, and discount coupons.  

Both also offer night tours, which can be a stand-alone purchase but are usually included in multi-day tickets at no additional cost.

They also offer combo packages that include both multiple-day hop-on-hop-off bus service and entrance to major attractions, such as Alcatraz Island.  

San Francisco Alcatraz

Expect to pay anywhere from $35+ per adult and $25+ per child for stand-alone routes to $70+ per adult and $55+ per child for multiple-day tickets.  

Competition is fierce and tour offerings and prices in this segment change frequently, so be sure to double-check what is currently on offer with each company.

We have listed the companies in the order that we feel offer the best combination of reviews, options, and prices. 

How long is a hop on hop off San Francisco bus tour?

The full circuit for an open-top bus tour is between 1-2 hours depending on which route you're taking.

Are the hop on hop off San Francisco bus tours 24 hours?

No, neither company offers 24/7 bus service. While you can purchase admission that is active for multiple days, the buses only run during certain hours.


Big Bus offers 2 and 3-day passes on its hop-on-hop-off bus tours, with 25 stops (see the route map) in the city.

Their tours are a great way to experience San Francisco in a short amount of time.  

Big Bus also offers a free app, which you can use to find bus stops and schedules.

This company usually offers a 10% discount on most of their tickets when you purchase them online. The prices below are before said discount is applied.

Discover Ticket


  • $63 Adult
  • $53 Child (5-15 years)

Essential Ticket 

  • 24 hours of hop-on, hop-off service in San Francisco
  • Bike rental - buy 1 hour, get 1 free with Blazing Saddles
  • Guided San Francisco walking tour


  • $73 for Adult
  • $63 for Children (ages 5-15)

Explore Ticket 

  • 24 hours of hop-on, hop-off service in San Francisco
  • Panoramic Open-Top Night Tour
  • Guided San Francisco walking tour
  • 1 Hour Bike rental - buy 1 hour, get 1 free with Blazing Saddles OR USS Pampanito admission


  • $85 Adult
  • $75 Child (5-15 years)

Panoramic Open-Top Night Tour 

1-hour tour of the city's top sights such as Golden Gate Bridge, Embarcadero, Nob Hill, and more. Includes a Courtesy Shuttle back to Union Square


  • $49 Adult
  • $39 Child (5-15 years)
  • Includes courtesy shuttle back to hotels
  • Included with both Premium and Deluxe tickets.

Note: Big Bus also offers an Alcatraz Ticket Package. See below for more information.

Big Bus San Francisco Map

As of December 2023, Big Bus is currently only offering two hop on hop off San Francisco routes, but that could change in the near future.

In the past, they offered a Sausalito route, but at least for the winter, this option is not available at the moment.

Their main route is the Red Route, and it includes the following stops:

  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Lombard Street
  • Haight Ashbury
  • Chinatown
  • Pier 39

They also offer a night tour which takes you to Treasure Island for excellent views of the skyline after dark.

For more details, please read our post covering the Big Bus San Francisco map in greater detail.

Click here for larger map.

TIP: Go City sells two tourist attraction discount passes (the Go City All-Inclusive Pass and the Explorer Pass) that include a 1-day Downtown Loop ticket for free (with the purchase of the pass).

These passes can save you between 20% - 50%, depending on which pass you choose. Learn more here.

Big Bus Tours San Francisco Reviews

Big Bus has just over a 4 out of 5-stars rating on TripAdvisor and Get Your Guide (read the reviews).

It’s safe to say that Big Bus Tours offers a reliable service. Most guests report that their buses are safe and their guides are very knowledgeable.

Some reviewers have had a negative experience, but there are no frequently reported complaints.

In order to avoid any problems, make sure to get on the bus early and pick the stops you are most interested in before leaving.  

SAN FRANCISCO SKYLINE SIGHTSEEING TOURS (formerly City Sightseeing San Francisco)

You probably have seen a Skyline Sightseeing bus before. They are orange, open-top double-decker vehicles found all over San Francisco. 

CitySightseeing Bus San Francisco

In addition to all their offerings at great prices, they have a convenient live bus tracker app so you can check when the next bus will be arriving. 

Skyline Sightseeing offers 1-Day and 2-Day tickets. They also offer a stand-alone night tour as well as an Alcatraz Ticket Package.

Below the route map, we list their most popular tours that get you a lot for your money. They have many other options, so look at their website to see what is best for you.

1-Day Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour 

  • Unlimited access to the City Tour Hop-on, hop-off tour for 24 hours
  • Discount on a bike rental

Prices when purchased online:

For $8 more you can buy the Premium 1-Day Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour which offers the same as above, as well as the Night Tour.

2 Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour

  • Unlimited access to the City Tour Hop-on, hop-off tour for 48 hours 
  • Night Bus Tour 
  • One hour free bike rental with the purchase of an hour

Prices when purchased online:


City Tour (Red Route): 

  • Full City Loop duration - 2.5 hours long
  • Hop-On Hop-Off at any of the stops along the route
  • Departs daily between 9 am- 5 pm every 15-20 mins
  • Departs from 99 Jefferson St (corner of Mason Street)

SF Night Tour (Blue Route): 

  • Loop duration - 1.5 hours
  • The night tour is not a hop on hop off
  • Departs 6:30 pm and 7:30 pm year-round
  • Departs from 99 Jefferson St (corner of Mason Street). 

Reviews of Skyline Sightseeing

Skyline Sightseeing also has an overall 4 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor. Although there are some common complaints, they are few and far between.

Some reviewers said that buses can be late and also that it is sometimes hard to find them again once you’ve jumped off. 

Skyline Sightseeing added a live bus tracker app that should prevent that problem from occurring.

Many double-decker buses have a similar appearance, and this service is no different. As long as you remember which bus tour you’re on, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Most positive reviews came during the summer months, indicating that this certainly a good time to consider this option. 


One of the best ways to experience San Francisco is by discovering the skyline at night.

This city changes dramatically once the sun goes down, so consider taking a night tour to get a taste of the bay area’s nightlife.

Many of the companies we have already covered in-depth above offer night tours. They are mentioned here again.

TIP: Before you pay full price, keep in mind that many of these night tours are included for free in each companies multi-day ticket options.


Night Tour of the Golden Gate Bridge & Skyline

  • $49 for Adults
  • $39 for Children (ages 5-15)
  • One Departure nightly: 6:30 pm
  • Note: This tour is included in their Deluxe Tour

SKYLINE SIGHTSEEING TOURS (formerly City Sightseeing San Francisco)

Tour of the Golden Gate Bridge & Skyline

  • $43.99 for Adults
  • $34.99 for Children (5-11)
  • Free for Infants (0-4)
  • Tours depart at 6:30 pm


Many of the tour companies listed here offer packages that include a trip to Alcatraz.

The intriguing history behind this high-security prison is best experienced during one of their notorious tours.

If you’ve ever wanted to visit this location, these packages are an excellent way to save money while experiencing as much of the bay area as possible.

Read our full post on Alcatraz tours and tickets.

While you will save some money with these packages, many are purchased simply for the convenience, especially when tickets on Alcatraz Cruises' website are sold out, and these packages may be your only way to get tickets to the prison.


This package is a very good deal considering what you get for your money. 

Alcatraz Package

  • Alcatraz Ferry and Entrance Ticket
  • Big Bus Explore Ticket (good for 2 days of hop-on-hop-off bus service)
  • One hour free bike rental with the purchase of an hour
  • Night Bus Tour 


SKYLINE SIGHTSEEING TOURS (formerly City Sightseeing San Francisco)

Though the price might seem high at first, you get quite a lot for your money. It comes with a night bus tour ticket as well!  A great value package! 

CitySightseeing San Francisco Alcatraz Combo

Alcatraz + Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Package

  • A full tour of Alcatraz Island, including the award-winning cellblock audio tour
  • 48 hours unlimited access to the hop-on, hop-off City Bus Tour 
  • Night Bus Tour 
  • A self-guided walking tour 
  • Discounts on a bike rental

Prices when purchased online:


Combining more than one tour into a trip is a great way to save money and experience more of the area.

These bus tour combinations are usually held over multiple days, so make sure that you have the time to experience all of them.

If you want to discover more about San Francisco than just the downtown area, you might want to consider one of the following packages.


This company currently offers both an all-inclusive pass and an explorer pass (pick your own attractions) in San Francisco.

Both tourist passes include the Classic Big Bus Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour.

In addition to this service, you can also use either pass to save money on a variety of other activities and attractions including the following:

  • Madame Tussauds
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • California Academy of Sciences
  • Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center
  • GoCar San Francisco Rental
  • Walt Disney Family Museum
  • K1 Indoor Karting

For more details on how much you can save and how to use a Go City San Francisco Pass, please read our post covering San Francisco Tourist Passes.

If you want to get some exercise, you can take a look at one of our own self-guided tours of the city, such as our North Beach Walking Tour or our Chinatown Tour.

Whether by bus or on foot, you can’t go wrong when exploring the city by the bay!


In addition to their Alcatraz combo deal, this company also offers packages which include their hop-on hop-off bus tours and one additional activity.

Currently, there are two combo deals:

City & Woods: Hop-on Hop-off & Muir Woods Tour

City & Wine: Hop-on Hop-off & Half-Day Wine Tour

Tips From Locals and Travelers

While we try to provide an unbiased perspective, it's always a good idea to get a more diverse sense of what people actually think about services such as these.

Luckily, members of the San Francisco Travel group on Facebook frequently discuss hop-on hop-off bus tours.

We also have a Facebook group known as San Francisco Travel Tips where you can ask about these and other tours in the Bay Area.

The following post is an excellent example of how you can use these groups to get a better idea of what to expect:

As you can see, many travelers will ask simple questions such as this about whether or not a specific attraction is included as a stop with the hop-on hop-off tour.

While there is a stop nearby the Painted Ladies and the house from the sitcom Full House, you'll have to walk a bit to get there.

Another popular question travelers seem to have is whether to use a hop-on hop-off bus for transportation or an uber/go car.

There's a reason we recommend this type of service to get a sense for which free San Francisco walking tours you want to take, and that's because it's not necessarily the most effective way to get around town.

While the main loop can be a great introduction to the city, some travelers feel it isn't an excellent way to get from point A to point B.

That said, some travelers disagree with that sentiment, insisting it's actually easier than using Ubers, because there are a lot of notable attractions on the main route of San Francisco hop-on hop-off bus tours.

Katherine makes an excellent point here, noting that if you wanted to use an Uber to visit multiple locations included on this tour, it would actually cost a lot more.

If you think about the cost for each individual rideshare from one attraction to the next, it's easy to see how the cost could easily pile up to well over the cost of a hop-on hop-off ticket.

It's also worth noting that, as Bonnie suggests, there are San Francisco tourist passes that can help you save money on these services.

They also offered some pretty helpful advice about how to use the pass and get the most out of it!

For more useful recommendations, make sure to visit either the San Francisco Travel group or our own San Francisco Travel Tips group on Facebook.


About The Author


Britt is a San Francisco Bay Area native, and has spent 25 years in this magical city. He has traveled to over 30 countries, and has never found a place he loves as much as this one! If you come to San Francisco, you might join one of Britt's tours of the city. A graduate of the University of Maryland and University of Southern California, he has been leading tours for Free Tours by Foot since 2015.
Updated: December 20th, 2023
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