The best way to explore San Francisco is by hopping on a double-decker, open-topped bus with a human guide.
These SFO bus tours give you the flexibility of seeing the best San Francisco attractions and landmarks for as long (or as short) as you like.
Sometimes these bus tours are also combined with a tour to Alcatraz.
Tourists to the Fog City love these Hop on Hop off tours so much, that there are more than 100 such tours, offered by numerous tour operators.
With so many Hop on Hop off San Francisco tours, it gets very confusing for a tourist in SFO.
Please read this article before you book your Hop on Hop off bus tour.
San Francisco city tours – your options
There are many ways of exploring San Francisco. For instance –
1. You can hire a GoCar, the storytelling GPS enabled car which acts as a human guide.
2. You can hire a Helicopter to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city.
3. If you don’t fancy helicopters, you can hire a Seaplane for a 30-minute ariel tour of SFO.
4. If you prefer to be on land, you can book a San Francisco City tour on a Segway. Don’t worry, they will train you to use the self-balancing vehicle before the tour begins.
5. If you love a much slower pace, you can rent a bike and go on your San Francisco city tour.
6. The best, however, is the Hop On Hop off San Francisco bus tour which is detailed below.
Types of Hop on Hop off tours
Now that we have convinced you that the best way to explore the city of Golden Gate Bridge is the Hop on Hop off San Francisco tours, let’s tell you the different types of bus tour packages available.
Hop on Hop off San Francisco bus tours tend to be either one of the following or a combination of any of the following –
San Francisco City tours
A Hop on Hop off city tour takes you through the numerous landmarks and attractions in the city of San Francisco.
Each of these city tours has between 20-24 stops where you can get in or get out of the bus to explore.
These city bus tours are available for different durations – 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours.
Depending on the number of days you are in the city, you can make your choice.
Sausalito is a quaint seaside town on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
It is quite popular with the tourists because of its scenic, picture-postcard beauty.
The Sausalito bus tour is offered separately as well as in combination with the San Francisco city tour.
San Francisco night tours
San Francisco Hop on Hop off night tour has many of the attractions of the day tour.
Just that because you experience this at night – when the whole city is illuminated, it has a separate charm.
The night tours are also sometimes sold in combination with the day tours.
Our recommendation: If you have enough time and money, we suggest you try all three tour bus experiences available in San Francisco.
Best Hop on hop off San Francisco bus tours
Competition between these three bus tour companies is intense. This keeps the prices low and the quality of service high.
These three SFO bus tour companies offer single route tickets, and multi-day tickets to tour San Francisco.
Most tourists tend to gravitate towards the multi-day tickets because of the free additions, such as bike tours, walking tours, and discounts.
All three also offer night tours of San Francisco. These night tours can be purchased alone or in combination with the day tours.
If you haven’t already booked your Alcatraz Island tour, you can opt for one of the Alcatraz combo tours as well.
1. Big Bus San Francisco
Big Bus tours is an open top bus tour company operating in more than 20 top cities of the World.
In the Golden City (another name for San Francisco!) Big Bus offers 1, 2, or 3-day passes on its hop-on-hop-off bus tours.
These tours have 20 stops – only the best attractions in the city.
All tickets include free bike rental and walking tours of North Beach neighborhood and SFO Chinatown.
If you are short on time, the Big Bus tours are a great way to see San Francisco. Book Now
Big Bus also has a free mobile application, using which you can find bus stops and bus schedules.
Big Bus San Francisco tours review
Big Bus has got good reviews on Tripadvisor. Their service is rated 4 out of 5.
In fact, they have also received the ‘Certificate of Excellence’. Link
Based on what we could gather from Big Bus reviews on Tripadvisor, we can safely say that they are a reliable bus tour company.
Some of their Live Guides came for praise for their dry sense of humor and sarcastic narration of historical events.
Some tourists who took the Big Bus tours did leave negative reviews.
However, these were issues which the Big Bus Management can fix.
Hop on Hop off San Francisco tour by Big Bus
This tour helps you see the sights of San Francisco at your own pace from the top deck of a double-decker, hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus.
You have the option of dropping off and getting on at 20 key locations across San Francisco. On this tour, you can also cross the Golden Gate Bridge.
This HOHO San Francisco bus tour comes in three flavors – the Classic, the Premium and the Deluxe.
Classic ticket: You get 1 day of hop-on-hop-off ticket and 4 walking tours.
Premium ticket: You get 24 hours of unlimited hop-on-hop-off ticket, Panoramic Night Tour and 4 walking tours
Deluxe ticket: You get 48 hours of unlimited hop-on-hop-off ticket, Panoramic Night Tour, Sausalito Tour, and 4 walking tours
Classic tour’s ticket price
Adult (16+ years): USD 49.50
Children (5-15 years): USD 37.80
Premium tour’s ticket price
Adult (16+ years): USD 58.50
Children (5-15 years): USD 46.80
Deluxe tour’s ticket price
Adult (16+ years): USD 67.50
Children (5-15 years): USD 54
2. City Sightseeing San Francisco
If you are a regular traveler you must have seen a City Sightseeing bus sometime or the other.
After all City Sightseeing is the World’s largest open-top, double-decker sightseeing tour bus operator.
They are available in more than 150 cities all over the World.
In San Francisco, City Sightseeing offers 1-Day, 2-Day or 3-Day Hop on Hop off bus tours. Book Now
They provide a total of four tours, two of which are only available as combo tours when you book for multiple days.
Besides the regular, City Sightseeing also offers the Mega Pass. Wherein, you choose 3, 4 or 5 attractions (out of top 25 in San Francisco) you want to visit and use their tour buses to visit them over the next seven days.
CitySightseeing also offers a mobile app, which can be used as a live bus tracker. This feature helps hopping in the bus and hopping out of it easy.
City Sightseeing San Francisco Reviews
City-Sightseeing also has an overall 3.5 out of 5 stars rating on TripAdvisor. Link
One of the most often mentioned negative review for City Sightseeing is the fact that their buses are late.
We must wait and see if the ability to track the bus from the mobile app will help improve the experience for the tourists.
The good thing is, with intense competition these tour companies must take Tripadvisor reviews seriously and work upon them.
City Sightseeing bus tour customers who used them during peak seasons came back with raving reviews.
CitySightseeing bus tour
This HOHO San Francisco bus tour ticket gives you 48 hours to explore the city across all the three different loops.
Some of the highlights of this bus tour are the special 2-hour night tour of San Francisco, the drive across Golden Gate Bridge, and the visit to Sausalito.
The live guide keeps the narration going, and if you want the commentary in a different language you can always resort to the pre-recorded audio guide.
This tour operates all through the day and night.
Bus tour’s ticket price
Adult (12+ years): USD 66.99
Children (5-11 years): USD 44.99
San Francisco Gray Line tours
Gray Line is a Colorado-based company founded in 1910. They offer bus tours all over the World, and a good chunk of their buses ply on American soil.
In San Francisco, they offer Hop-on Hop-off bus tours in partnership with City Tour. Book Now
Gray Line bus tours in San Francisco happen on two kinds of vehicles – the usual double-decker open-top bus and trolleys (custom built buses with heating and air conditioning).
Gray Line offers three routes, which are offered by both Big Bus and City Sightseeing.
The first loop takes the tourists around the city of San Francisco, the second takes them over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, and the third route is the Night tour of the city.
City Tour (Gray Line) reviews
The Gray Line Hop On Hop off buses in San Francisco has a smaller customer base. And hence, there are not many reviews.
Tripadvisor has less than 2000 reviewers on Gray Line tours and they have rated it 3.5 out of 5. Link
The timing of the buses finds mention in some of the reviews. In some others, the quality of the human guides is being questioned.
Overall, tourists who opted for Gray Line went home satisfied.
SFO tours by City tours (GrayLine)
If you are in San Francisco and are looking for HOHO bus tours, you should choose between these two Grayline tours.
1. Hop-on Hop-off SFO Bus + Golden Gate Park Trolley
This ticket gives you 48 hours or 72 hours (whatever you choose) of the GrayLine Hop-on Hop-off Buses in San Francisco.
The first bus departs stop 1 at 9 am and the last bus departs stop 1 at 5 pm.
You can get down at any of the 24 interesting spots and explore at your own pace.
With this ticket, you can also get onto a double-decker Cable Car for a tour of Sausalito.
Once done, stop another GrayLine bus and show your ticket on your smartphone and get in again.
Bus tour’s ticket price
Adult (12+ years): USD 65 for 48 hours & USD 75 for 72 hours
Children (5-11 years): USD 43 for 48 hours & USD 48 for 72 hours
Book This Tour
2. Hop-on Hop-off Bus & Bike tour of San Francisco
The specialty of this tour ticket is the choice you have – of hopping onto a bus or onto a bike depending for your San Francisco sightseeing.
You can decide what you want to do depending on your mood and weather.
This ticket also allows for the cable car tour of Sausalito and two free walking tours of San Francisco.
Bus tour’s ticket price
Adult (12+ years): USD 70 for 24 hours & USD 80 for 48 hours
Children (5-11 years): USD 48 for 24 hours & USD 58 for 48 hours
Hop on hop off San Francisco with Alcatraz
Almost all tourists visiting San Francisco try and visit Alcatraz.
However, since Alcatraz is quite popular, getting tickets to see the infamous prison is very difficult.
Alcatraz tickets on Alcatraz Cruises website are known to vanish sometimes even two months before the visit date.
In such a scenario, the best bet is to book a combo ticket – a ticket which includes a visit to the Alcatraz as well.
And the most popular combination for such tourists is Alcatraz along with Hop on Hop off San Francisco bus tour.
Here are our two favourites-
Alcatraz entry + 1 day hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Book Now
72-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Bus tour + Alcatraz. Book Now
If you love walking, you must also take a look at this interesting walk-on-walk-off San Francisco tour.
Bus tours outside of San Francisco
The region around San Francisco is too good to be ignored. That’s why besides the hop-on-hop-off tours within the city, the tourists also opt for bus tours outside of San Francisco.
Three of the most popular tourist spots outside of San Francisco are:
1. Muir Woods
2. Napa Valley
3. Yosemite National Park
Muir Woods, Giant Redwoods and Sausalito tour from San Francisco. Book Now
Redwoods and Wine Country: Napa and Sonoma Full-Day Tour. Book Now
Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco. Book Now
San Francisco to Yosemite Park small group tour. Book Now
1-Day trip from SFO to Yosemite National Park, Giant Sequoias. Book Now