8 Recommended Tours in San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge stretches across the mouth of the bay to the Marin Headlands
The Golden Gate Bridge stretches across the mouth of the bay to the Marin Headlands | © Anton Ivanov / Alamy Stock Photo
K Santos

From restaurant-hopping in the Mission to cruising on a boat under the Golden Gate Bridge, there are plenty of tour options in San Francisco to create the most memorable itinerary.

The San Francisco area is home to beautiful beaches, urban ruins, historic landmarks, scenic forests and some of the best restaurants in the country – which is why booking a trip to tour the sites can seem exhausting. Thankfully, the city is also home to more than a dozen organized walking, boating or biking tours. In a compact city with plenty to offer, guided tours can help visitors make the most of their trip.

1. California Sunset Cruise in San Francisco

Natural Feature

California Sunset Cruise
Courtesy of Get Your Guide

Word of advice to anyone visiting San Francisco: Always carry a sweater. While mornings can be foggy and chilly, temperatures tend to rise in the afternoons only to fall again at sunset. This is why the California Sunset Cruise allows for the choice of indoor or outdoor seating. Beginning at the meeting point at Fisherman’s Wharf, the two-hour sunset boat trip includes views of Alcatraz, Tiburon, Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge. As the sun sets over the Marin Headlands, the boat takes you west towards the bridge and back to Fisherman’s Wharf. The price of tickets also includes musical entertainment, an appetizer buffet and a complimentary drink.

2. Teas, Temples and Beatniks

Historical Landmark, Monastery

Chinese red lanterns in Chinatown, San Francisco.
© KURLIN_CAfE / Alamy Stock Photo

Two of the city’s most historic (and fun) neighborhoods, the Italian enclave North Beach and colorful Chinatown, are side-by-side near the Financial District in San Francisco. The Teas, Temples & Beatniks tour provided by San Francisco Urban Adventures explores the food, history and culture found in both neighborhoods. Beginning at the Chinatown Gate, the itinerary includes the chance to make a fortune cookie, listen to traditional Chinese instrumentals and sample authentic Chinese pastries. As the two-and-a-half-hour tour makes its way into North Beach, visitors can explore the haunts of beatnik poets including the famous City Lights Bookstore. The tour, which is guided by a local, ends at North Beach’s Washington Square Park amid numerous pasta restaurants and espresso cafés.

3. Mission District Walking Tour

Historical Landmark

A view of the San Francisco skyline from Mission Dolores Park
© Mélanie Lacroix / Pixabay

Historically a Latino neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mission District is brimming with affordable taquerias, restaurants with Michelin stars and one of the most popular parks in the city, Dolores Park. This three-hour walking tour includes a visit to five beloved dining establishments in the city. The itinerary sometimes includes tastings at Mission Chinese or Tartine Bakery. As visitors travel to various tastings, the guide describes cultural and historical landmarks throughout the Mission, starting at meeting point The Pirate Store, located at 826 Valencia Street.

4. Muir Woods tour

Natural Feature

Muir Woods tour
Courtesy of Get Your Guide

North of San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument is a redwood forest with numerous winding trails. One of the most popular tourist destinations for San Francisco visitors, the coastal forest (named after famed naturalist John Muir) can get crowded during warmer months. Beginning at the meeting point at 288 Beach Street, the half-day trip – which features a one-and-a-half-hour tour through the woods – takes visitors on a stroll among the 200-foot (60-meter) coastal redwoods, many of which are 500 to 800 years old. From Muir Woods, the tour drives through Sausalito back to San Francisco.

5. SF Bike Tour

Architectural Landmark

Woman on bicycle looking at skyline of San Francisco
© Andriy Blokhin / Alamy Stock Photo

Biking through San Francisco, a city famous for its ultra-steep hills and winding roads (including the famous Lombard Street) can be a fun physical challenge. For those looking for a more leisurely bike ride with sweeping views of the city, the SF Bike Tour is a self-guided tour that leads visitors over the Golden Gate Bridge. The mostly flat bike path begins at the 501 Bay Street location, where guests are given a personal itinerary based on their desires. With sweeping views of the bay below, the bike ride is a unique San Francisco experience.

6. SF Cable Car Tour

Archaeological site

Cable car driving downhill in San Francisco
© Robin Runck / Alamy Stock Photo

Beginning in the heart of Union Square (at the heart-shaped sculpture near 375 Powell Street), the SF Cable Car Tour takes tourists through many of the city’s best attractions. The tour’s first stop is at City Hall, an American architectural masterpiece in the Beaux-Arts style. The next stop takes visitors through Lower Haight to Alamo Square Park. From there, the tour travels through Golden Gate Park all the way to the coastline to the last stop at Golden Gate Bridge. On the way back, riders can enjoy the scenic views in Presidio, North Beach, Chinatown and back to the starting point in Union Square.

7. AT-and-T Ballpark Tour

Park, Stadium, Historical Landmark

AT&T Ballpark, San Francisco.
© Dave Newman / Alamy Stock Photo

Once called the AT&T Ballpark, Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco major league baseball team the Giants, is a waterfront baseball park built in 2000. Located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza in the SoMa neighborhood, the park has hosted World Series games and become an integral part of the city. The AT&T Ballpark Tour takes MLB fans behind the scenes through the clubhouse, dugout and even the batting cages used by players. A chance to set foot on the field used by the three-time World Series champions, this tour is a great experience for the entire family.

8. Golden Gate Whale Watch Tour

Natural Feature

Sighting of mother humpback whale and baby swimming inside San Francisco Bay
© Pete Niesen / Alamy Stock Photo

A two-and-a-half-hour boat ride through San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Whale Watch Tour is a great way to see the shorelines and natural beauty of the coast. Passengers can spot wildlife from the boat, including dolphins, seabirds and humpback whales. A knowledgeable captain leads the boat trip and guides whale watchers through the Bay on this great photographic opportunity. The meeting spot and time are announced via email before the tour.

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