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Which San Francisco Bus Tour Is Best?

Updated: December 21, 2023
 By Britt

As tour guides, we do our best to provide a helpful and interesting experience in San Francisco, but there's a lot to see in this city, and we usually can't cover all of it by foot.

The Bay Area is perhaps one of the best in the country for bus tours, because you won't have to worry about walking up any steep hills!

There are two main types of bus tours in San Francisco:

While hop-on hop-off bus tours allow you to jump off at various popular attractions, the basic city bus tour typically only offers stops for photo opportunities.

There are also a few city bus tours at night, allowing you to see the skyline as it is all lit up after dark.

If you're interested in getting out of the city for a while, there are also bus tour packages that include a trip to Alcatraz and other day trips you can enjoy by bus.

While we do our best to provide useful information about these tour companies, we'll also include a selection of comments from locals and travelers who use San Francisco Travel groups on Facebook.

Disclosure: Our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.


There are currently two different hop-on hop-off bus tours in San Francisco: Big Bus Tour and Skyline Sightseeing.

These open-top bus tours make stops at all the most popular sites and attractions in the city, so you can jump off and explore at your own pace.

CitySightseeing Bus San Francisco

Once you're done looking around at one location, you can hop back onto the bus and head to your next destination.

If you're looking for a convenient way to get around town, these services are an excellent option to consider.

For more information, make sure to read our full post covering San Francisco hop on hop off bus tours.


Unlike hop-on-hop-off bus tours, these full-service tours take you on a guided journey of the city making some stops for photo opportunities.

Some of these tours take you to one or two destinations in and around the city, while others will have several stops. 


One of the most popular tour companies in the city, Dylan’s Tours offers several different combo tours which include an exploration of the city and surrounding areas such as Sausalito, Alcatraz, and Muir Woods.

Most of their services are offered via minibus, but they also have electric tuk-tuk tours and bike tours you can take in and around San Francisco.

Depending on which tour you choose, you can expect to see sights in North Beach, the Mission, the Castro, Pacific Heights, and more.

The local guides and small group size really set these tours apart. Hop on hop off San Francisco bus tours only include audio commentary, so the live commentary from local guides is definitely a nice touch.

San Francisco, Muir Woods, and Sausalito Tour

  • $129 Adults | $69 Children 
  • Additional $15 entry fee for Muir Woods for guests 16 years or older.
  • Departs daily at 9:30 am
  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

San Francisco, Muir Woods and Alcatraz Tour

  • $189 Adults | $129 Children
  • Additional $15 entry fee for Muir Woods for guests 16 years or older.
  • Departs daily at 8 am
  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

Reviews of Dylan's Tours

There’s a reason why Dylan’s Tours is ranked as the #1 Outdoor Activity in San Francisco (read the reviews).

Guests report back with very positive reviews, saying that the tour is an “awesome way to see the sights.” A few negative reviews can be found, but not many.

The intimacy of the tour, as well as the high quality of the guides, is repeatedly praised by visitors who traveled with Dylan’s Tours.


Tower Tours offers a wide range of trips throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

You can take a trip through San Francisco, head up north to California Wine Country to see their wineries, take a boat to Alcatraz, or even go far inland to explore Yosemite!  

One really convenient feature bonus is that Tower Tours offers free pick-up from most San Francisco hotels.  

See their full list of San Francisco tours. We recommend that you start with their Grand City Tour.

You can expect to see sites such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown, The Castro, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and other iconic landmarks or famous neighborhoods.

Their tours are not technically hop-on, hop-off tours since the buses don't stop at all the main attractions.

However, on some tours (such as their trips to Muir Woods or Yosemite Valley), you can get off the bus to walk around for a while, experience the outdoors, and snap some pictures.


Grand City Tour  

  • $65 for Adults (Ages 12 - 59)
  • $45 Child (Age 5 - 11)
  • Free for kids under 5.
  • Tour departures: 8:40 am (April to October) and 2 pm (November to March)
  • Duration is 4 hours.
  • More info and to book.

Reviews of Tower Tours

Tower Tours has received a 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor for its high-quality service.

As with many other highly rated services on this list, most of the complaints from customers are too random to even be worthy of mention.

Most reviewers had a blast on this bus tour, so chances are that you’ll have a good time as well!  

Tower Tours also offers combo packages and tours outside of San Francisco.


For those who didn't experience San Fran's Summer of Love in 1967, San Francisco Love Tours takes you on a ride to the past.

This 2-hour tour brings you back to the era when Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead were playing in the Bay area. 

Learn about beatniks like Alan Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac who sipped drinks at Vesuvio Cafe across the street from City Lights Bookstore.


Reviews of the Magic Bus Tour

The Magic Bus is one of the highest-rated tours on this list. They have received an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars on both TripAdvisor and Viator.

There are very few negative reviews, and those that are negative typically complain that it simply wasn’t the kind of tour they would enjoy.

This really is an eclectic option, so make sure you’re actually interested in the concept of traveling back to the ’60s before you get your tickets.

For those of you who lived through those interesting times, this is a fantastic way to relive your experiences.

Alternatively, if you just want to take a trip back in time, sign up and enjoy the ride!

Lucky Tuk Tuk Tours

If you’re looking for a unique tour of the city, these outings are an interesting alternative to other San Francisco bus tours.

A Tuk Tuk is essentially a modified electric motorcycle that has been extended to provide seating for up to 5 people (on average). Think of it as a modern rickshaw!

These zippy vehicles can get around the city with ease, and thanks to their size you can rest assured that each Tuk Tuk tour will include more personalized attention from your guide/driver.

Each tour includes multiple opportunities to jump off and take a close look at important landmarks in the city, so they’re actually very similar to a hop-on-hop-off service.

The Lucky Tuk Tuk Tour company offers two tours either as public or private outings in San Francisco.

You can expect to see sites such as:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Haight-Ashbury
  • Alamo Square
  • The Painted Ladies (Victorian Homes)
  • Union Square
  • North Beach
  • Chinatown
  • Lombard Street
  • City Hall
  • and more

Private VIP San Francisco Tuk Tuk Tour

  • Tickets (Jun - Aug): $380 per Tuk Tuk
    • Per Person Average: $76
  • Tickets (Sept-May): $380 per Tuk Tuk
    • Per Person Average: $76
  • Availability: Daily at 9 am, 1 pm
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.


When it comes to full-service bus tours, few are as good of a value as San Francisco Shuttle Tours.

This company prides itself on offering premium shuttles to many major landmarks and locations in the Bay Area.

Although this is not a hop-on-hop-off tour, the bus stops at various locations such as The Palace of Fine Arts, The Grace Cathedral, and Lombard Street. 

Each stop lasts for between 10 and 30 minutes, giving you plenty of time to explore the area with the help of a guide.

In addition to their city shuttles, they also offer trips to Wine Country, the Muir Woods, Alcatraz, and Yosemite.

This is a great option for anyone who wants an excellent guided tour of the San Francisco area.


  • 5-Hour Premium City Tour

Reviews of San Francisco Shuttle Tours

San Francisco Shuttle Tours has a 4 ½ out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor.

Of the negative reviews that exist, most of them take issue with scheduling problems.

Aside from these complaints, it would appear that most of the other concerns about this service are too random to represent enough of a pattern that it would be worth mentioning.

Most guests absolutely adored their Shuttle Tour, and it’s safe to say that this is one of the higher-rated bus tours in San Francisco.


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

In addition to the options listed below, both hop on hop off San Francisco companies offer night bus tours as well.


This 2-hour tour may be more expensive than the others, but it is sure to be an experience you won't forget. 

The tour bus is a 1970s Volkswagen Bus, decked out as it would have been in the era of hippies. 

The tour is a very small group of just 6 guests so you'll get to know one another as you get to know the city. 

You will cover all the major sights of the city: 

  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Marina District
  • The Presidio
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Park
  • Haight & Ashbury
  • The Castro District
  • Mission District
  • Chinatown
  • Little Italy
  • North Beach
  • and more

Best of all, because this is a small vehicle, you will get to drive down Lombard Street, the curviest street in the world!

Price: $85 per person. You must have a minimum of 2 people in your group but no more than 6.

Tours run every night at 7:30 pm. Purchase tickets here.


Many of the tour companies listed above also have packages that include a ferry ride to Alcatraz Island.

If you’ve ever wanted to visit this historic high-security prison, these combo deals are a good way to save some money while seeing as much of the Bay Area as possible.

In addition to the options below, there are also a few hop on hop off San Francisco bus tour combo deals that include admission to Alcatraz.  

Read our post covering Alcatraz tours for more details about the attraction.

These combination packages are mostly useful for convenience, especially when tickets on the Alcatraz Cruises website are sold out.

At times, these packages might even be the only way to get tickets!


If you are looking for a premium package, or are looking to avoid a hop-on-hop-off bus, this might be the package for you.

When you consider what you get in this package, it's another good deal.

Grand City 3 Hours + Alcatraz (full duration 7 hours)

  • Alcatraz Day Tour
  • Grand City 3-Hour Tour 
  • Cellhouse audio tour (available in 11 languages)
  • Dining voucher to a San Francisco staple restaurant for breakfast or lunch 
  • Price: $144 per person (3 and under free)


One Day in San Francisco Tour with Alcatraz

  • 9-hour full-day tour of San Francisco, Muir Woods, Sausalito, and entrance to Alcatraz
  • Includes a ferry ride across the San Francisco Bay
  • Prices:
    • $169 - Adult
    • $109 - Child (0-11) 


Premium City Tour + Alcatraz

  • 5-Hour Premium Bus Tour of San Francisco
  • 2-Hour Tour of Alcatraz
  • $150 per person
  • Currently Inactive.


Many of the bus tour companies we have discussed also offer tours to various locations that are just outside of San Francisco.

Whether you’re interested in discovering Yosemite or want to do some wine tasting in Sonoma, these tours will take you outside of the city for a wonderful excursion.  

For more in-depth detail about particular day trips, be sure to read our posts on: 

Tips From Locals and Travelers

Although we do our best to give you unbiased views of these services, the reality is that we inherently have a bias because we are tour guides.

As such, this section will include some of the more helpful advice and suggestions from both locals and travelers who use either the San Francisco Travel group or our very own San Francisco Travel Tips group on Facebook.

When it comes to city bus tours, a lot of travelers swear by the San Francisco Love Tours.

One of the best things about these groups is that members are usually willing to share their own personal thoughts and experiences with various activities and attractions in the city.

As Janene points out, the Love Tour allows you to spend some time at Haight-Ashbury, and it sounds like you can also make special requests to focus on areas of interest if you go with their private tour.

While it costs more to get the VIP treatment, it might be worth it to have a more personalized experience!

Dylan's is also quite popular, and several travelers recommend their tours for day trips to nearby locations such as Sausalito and Muir Woods.

While Dylan's Tours does offer a city bus tour with most of their packages, it is worth noting that most people who sing their praises specifically mention their day trips outside of the city.

One thing that tourists note about Dylan's Muir Woods tour is that it does give you some time to explore the woods on your own.

While that might seem daunting, especially given the size of the National Park, there are a lot of well signposted trails that aren't too complicated to walk.

For more details, make sure to read our post covering Muir Woods hiking trails.

If you're looking for even more advice about Bay Area bus tours, make sure to check either the San Francisco Travel group or our very own San Francisco Travel Tips group on Facebook.

And much, much more

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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 21st, 2023
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