Reviews of San Francisco Hop-On-Hop-Off And Other Bus Tours

This post compares the different San Francisco bus tours available, including hop-on, hop-off tours, themed tours, combination packages and more. 

 

 

Consider one of these awesome bus tours and complement your experience by taking one of our pay-what-you-like walking tours


HOP-ON, HOP-OFF SAN FRANCISCO BUS TOURS

If you’re looking for a 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

Two companies in San Francisco run hop-on, hop-off bus tours: City 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 a 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. 


CITY SIGHTSEEING TOURS

You probably have seen a City Sightseeing bus before. They are red, open-top double-decker vehicles found in most major cities of the world. 

 

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. 

City Sightseeing offers 1-Day, 2-Day or 3-Day tickets. Although they provide a total of four different tours, two of them are only available through the multi-day tickets.

Both the Official City Tour and the Sausalito Tour are included with either ticket, but the 2-Day + passes also come with their Parks and Beach Tour and Night Tours.

For only $10 more, you get 2 additional bus tours, 2 walking tours, a 1-hour free bike rental, a free ticket to 7D Experience and more over the course of two days.

City Sightseeing also offers a stand-alone night tour as well an Alcatraz Ticket Package.

Additionally, City Sightseeing offers the Mega Pass that allows you to choose either 3, 4, or 5 activities to combine for a discounted fixed rate.

Choose from their Hop-On-Hop-Off Official City Tour, Sausalito Tour, Hop-On Hop-Off Parks, and Beach Tour, or a number of other tours/activities to combine. 

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.


City Sightseeing’s Most Popular Tours

1-Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour 

  • Unlimited access to the City Tour Hop-on, hop-off tour for 24 hours
  • Walking tour

Prices when purchased online:

For $10 more you can buy the Premium 1-Day Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour which offers the same as above, as well as the Sausalito Tour and a one-hour free bike rental with the purchase of an hour.


2 Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour

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

Prices when purchased online:

 


BUS ROUTES

 

Map of Citysightseeing Bus Routes in San Francisco

Click here to see a larger map 

 


City Tour (Red Route): 

  • 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)

Sausalito Tour (Green Route): 

  • Loop Duration – 1 hour long
  • Departs daily, 9:30 am – 4:00 pm every 30 mins (seasonal variations apply)
  • Transfer from Red Route at Stop 12 (Green Stop 1) 

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)

TIP: City Sightseeing also offers 2 tourist passes that combine hop-on-hop-off bus service with discounted entry to many of San Francisco’s most famous tourist attractions. 

Click here for more information


Reviews of City Sightseeing

City 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. 

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

Many hop-on-hop-off 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. 

 


BIG BUS TOURS

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, that you could use to find bus stops and schedules


 

 


Big Bus’s Most Popular Tours

Classic Ticket 

  • 24 hours of hop-on, hop-off service in San Francisco
  • Walking Tour of Chinatown
  • Included for free with the purchase of the Go San Francisco tourist pass.

Prices (online):

  • $49.50 for Adult
  • $37.80 for Children (ages 5-15)

Premium Ticket 

  • 24 hours of hop-on, hop-off service in San Francisco
  • Sausalito Tour
  • Walking Tour of Chinatown
  • Bike rental buy 1 hour, get 1 free with Blazing Saddles 
  • Included for free with the purchase of the Go San Francisco tourist pass.

Prices (online):

  • $58.50 Adult
  • $46.80 Child (5-15 years)

Deluxe Ticket

  • 48 hours of hop-on, hop-off service in San Francisco
  • Sausalito Trolley Tour
  • Panoramic Open Top Night Tour
  • Walking Tour of Chinatown
  • Bike rental buy 1 hour, get 1 free with Blazing Saddles 
  • Free ‘Pint and Play’ Voucher ($10.50 value) at Players Arcade on Pier 39

Prices (online):

  • $70.20 Adult
  • $55.80 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

Prices (online):

  • $35 Adult
  • $25 Child (5-15 years)

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

 

Big Bus San Francisco Route Map

 

Click here for larger map.


TIP: Smart Destinations sells two tourist attraction discount passes (the GoCard 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.


Reviews of Big Bus

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.  

 


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SAN FRANCISCO CITY 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. 


DYLAN’S TOURS

One of the most popular tour companies in the city, Dylan Tours offers a 2.5 hour San Francisco and Sausalito Tour.

This tour goes through famous neighborhoods such as North Beach, the Mission, the Castro, Pacific Heights, and more.

 

 

You will then cross the Golden Gate Bridge and are dropped off in Sausalito. After spending as much time as you want in where you can take the scenic ferry back to San Francisco.

The open-air bus allows lots of opportunities for photos as it takes you around the city. The tour also stops at Fort Point for close-up photos of Golden Gate Bridge.  

The local guides and small group size really set this tour apart.

You will learn all about San Francisco’s unique history and culture as you venture through some of the most iconic areas of the city. They also have a combination ticket to Alcatraz.

Prices:

San Francisco and Sausalito Tour

  • $79/Adult and $59/Child (0-11)
  • Daily departures at 10 am
  • 2.5 hours in duration
  • Does not include the cost of ferry ride back to SF
  • More info and to book.

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

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, 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 toursWe recommend that you start with their Grand City Tour.

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.

 

 

 

Prices:

Grand City Tour  

  • $50 for Adults (Age 12 – 59)
  • $28 Child (Age 4 – 11)
  • $48 Senior (Age 60 – 99)
  • Tour departures: 9 am (April to October) and 2 pm (November to March)
  • Duration is 3 hours and 30 minutes.
  • More info and to book.

TIP: You could save at least 20% off the full price of this tour if you purchase at least one other tour or attraction through the Smart Destination Build Your Own tourist discount pass.


Reviews of Tower Tours

Tower Tours have received a 4 out of 5-stars rating on TripAdvisor for their 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.


THE MAGIC BUS

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

This 2-hour tour brings you back to the era of 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.

Price:  


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 (read the reviews).

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!

 


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SAN FRANCISCO SHUTTLE TOURS

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.

Tickets: 

  • 5-Hour Premium City Tour
    • $79 for Adults
    • $74 for Seniors 65+
    • $65 for Children

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.

 


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NIGHT BUS TOURS OF SAN FRANCISCO

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.


CITY SIGHTSEEING TOURS

Tour of the Golden Gate Bridge & Skyline

  • $34.99 for Adults
  • $24.99 for Children (5-11)
  • Free for Infants (0-4)
  • Tours depart at 6:30 pm and 7 pm

BIG BUS TOURS

Night Tour of the Golden Gate Bridge & Skyline

  • $35 for Adults
  • $25 for Children (ages 5-15)
  •  3 departures nightly: 6:30 pm, 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm
  • Note: This tour is included in their Deluxe Tour

THE LOVE NIGHT TOUR

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: $65 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.

 

 

 


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ALCATRAZ TOUR PACKAGES

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.

The one arrangement where you would save considerable money would be with the Alcatraz + Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Package offered at discount on Smart Destinations’ GoCard.


CITY SIGHTSEEING TOURS

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

 

CitySightseeing San Francisco Alcatraz Combo

 

Alcatraz + Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Package (+ Madame Tussaud ticket)

  • 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 
  • Sausalito Tour 
  • Night Bus Tour 
  • Madame Tussauds ticket (a $25 value!)
  • a walking tour 
  • an hour of bike rental free with a purchase of another hour 

Prices when purchased online:

  • $139.99 for Adults
  • $104.99 for Children (5-11)
  • Free for Children under 5

BIG BUS TOURS

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

Alcatraz Package

  • Alcatraz Ferry and Entrance Ticket
  • Big Bus Premium Ticket (good for 1 day of hop-on-hop-off bus service)
  • Sausalito Tour 
  • walking tour of Chinatown
  • free hour bike rental when you buy one hour with Blazing Saddles 
  • free ‘Pint and Play’ Voucher at Pier 39

Prices:

  • $110 for Adults (age 12 and up)
  • $85 for Children (5-11)

TOWER TOURS

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 Hour + 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: $120.00 per person (3 and under free)

TIP: Save at least 20% off these prices with Smart Destinations GoCard.


DYLAN’S TOURS

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) 

SAN FRANCISCO SHUTTLE TOURS

Premium City Tour + Alcatraz

  • 5-Hour Premium Bus Tour of San Francisco
  • 2-Hour Tour of Alcatraz
  • $129 per person

 


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COMBO AND DISCOUNT PACKAGES

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.


SAN FRANCISCO MEGA PASS (City Sightseeing)

This new pass allows you to select between different options: Mega Pass Pick 3Mega Pass Pick 4, or Mega Pass Pick 5. 

With each, you can choose from 25 different attractions, including a San Francisco Bay Cruise,  Escape the Rock boat tour of Alcatraz, and many others.

Their hop-on, hop-off Official City Tours are also included as options to choose. 

When it comes to bus tours, this might be one of the biggest and best passes in San Francisco. With this tourist pass from City Sightseeing, you get so much for your money!

You can explore the entire Bay Area with ease. You can ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, discover the aquarium, or visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, and so much more!

Other tourist passes are typically focused more on attractions than on tours. This company offers a lot of their own bus tours, so it’s easier for them to provide a wide selection with this pass.

There are plenty of popular locations to visit in San Francisco, but if you want to see all of the landmarks, bus tours are definitely one of your best options.

Although Big Bus has a combo package of their own, their Deluxe Ticket (see above) offers far fewer activities than the Mega Pass.

25 Attractions to Choose From: 

Things to Consider

If you were to pay for each tour individually, it would cost almost twice as much to experience every bus tour provided by the San Francisco Mega Pass.

When you factor in the additional attractions and activities, this deal becomes even more impressive.

As you can see, City Sightseeing offers one of the most affordable tourist passes in the city.

If you’re trying to save money while experiencing as much as possible, this pass is definitely worth consideration.

 


SAN FRANCISCO GO PASS

If you build your own Go Pass, you can actually save money by combining tours and attractions.

Simply add two or more attractions to your pass in order to save 20% on the total price.

 

 

Why rely on combo packages from each individual company when you can build your own combo package with the San Francisco Go Card?

The following bus tours are available at a discounted rate with the Go Pass:

No matter what you’re looking for in San Francisco, chances are you can find a bus to take you there!

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!

 


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TOURS OUTSIDE OF SAN FRANCISCO

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 you 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: 

 


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