Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: March 9, 2024

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco are a great way to see the best of what the city has to offer. On this page, you will find information on the different ticket options with distinct routes and durations.

This guide will allow you to compare all of these city tours and make an informed decision on which one is right for you.

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours in San Francisco

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

How the Hop-On Hop-Off Tours in San Francisco Work 

Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours in San Francisco are narrated bus tours around the city with set routes and several designated stops at the most popular tourist attractions and neighborhoods.

They make it easy for you to hop off at whichever stops you'd like, explore those sites for as long as you'd like, and then hop back on the next bus in the circuit when you're ready to continue. 

This is a great option for people who want to enjoy their preferred attractions at their own pace, but appreciate the convenience of being transported from one to the next, while learning fun facts about the city.


The buses typically run from 10 am to 6 pm along their route, and are spaced about half an hour apart. I recommend checking their detailed timetable to see the first and last departure points for each stop as they do vary by location. Find the full timetable here

Keep in mind that the ticket is only valid on the day you activate it. So if you hop on later in the day, you can only use it for the rest of that day (NOT for 24 hours, which is how it used to work). The last bus begins its circuit at 6 pm.

Free Mobile App

To make things easier to navigate, download the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour app to your smart phone.

You can use this to track live buses around town and see when the next one will arrive at the stop closest to you. That way, you won't waste too much time waiting to get back on the tour route.

The app also includes detailed maps, pictures of the stops, walking directions, and information about famous landmarks and attractions. 


Should you buy online in advance or just buy in the streets? You will usually get a discount if you buy in advance, so that is what I recommend.

Essential Ticket: One Day

Price: Adults $73, Children (ages 3 - 12) $63. Online purchase prices only (it's usually a little more when you purchase on the street)

Tickets: Find all ticket options on their site, For a limited time, you'll also find these tickets at a discount on Groupon

The Big Bus Tour Company calls this their "Essential Ticket."

It includes:

  • 1-Day Ticket: The ability to ride the bus for one day.  The bus doesn't run the full 24 hours, so it's best to start first thing in the morning and then use it as much as possible that day.
  • 20+ Stops: Bus stops at places such as the Big Bus Tours Visitor Center, North Beach/Chinatown, the Embarcadero Center, Ferry Building, Union Square, Hilton Hotel, Civic Center, Alamo Square Painted Ladies, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park (at the Academy of Sciences), Golden Gate Bridge (North Vista Point), Palace of Fine Arts, Marina/Cow Hollow, Lombard Street, Pier 35 (Cruise Terminal), and Pier 39. This one is my favorites because you get the chance to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Free Walking Tour: From stop 2, you can head to Chinatown for their free one-hour walking tour. Departs daily at 1 pm.
  • Free Bike Rental: If you rent a bike for one hour with Blazing Saddles, you'll get a second hour free.
  • Pre-recorded Commentary: This audio tour is offered in six languages and you can tune in through complimentary headphones available when you board the bus. 

Explore Ticket: Two Days

Price: Adults $85, Children (ages 3 - 12) $75. Find tickets.

If you want a little more time to explore, consider the two-day Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours in San Francisco, which allows you to divide your chosen stops among two full days and dedicate a little more time to each one. 

In addition to what's offered on the 1-Day Essential Ticket, this one also includes:

  • One Additional Day: One more full day of being able to use the Big Bus Tour buses.
  • USS Pampanito or Blazing Saddles (your choice): Tickets for either admission to the historic submarine USS Pampanito or a Blazing Saddles bike hire. 

Details on Top Stops for Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco

You will find that all of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco offer stops at some of our most popular attractions. You will find information below about what to expect at some of these stops.

Alamo Square/Painted Ladies

The Alamo Square/Painted Ladies are a famous set of historic Victorians that have drawn in crowds for years. The most famous are those that appear in the opening credits to Full House. They sit across from Alamo Square Park on Steiner Street.

If you walk to the top of the hill in the park, you will get a gorgeous photo of the Painted Ladies with a view of downtown San Francisco as the back drop. 

>> More about visiting


All of the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco have a stop at or near Chinatown. This historic and colorful district is one of the most densely populated in all of SF.

Here you can find great discounts when you shop, visit some ancient temples, check out the Chinese Historical Society, or enjoy some Dim Sum.

>> What to see when you visit

Civic Center/City Hall

The Civic Center area is home to a few fun places to visit. It's another popular stop on the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco.

Here you can visit the Asian Art Museum (one of my personal favorites), City Hall (open from 8 am to 8 pm weekdays), and several performing arts buildings.

>> Learn more about what there is to see and do here

Ready to Purchase? Find tickets for all Big Bus Tours options.

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf offers dozens of things to do. It's a popular place to spend the night and one of the places many people start their Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco.

You will find museums, restaurants, shops, Pier 39, and the ferries to Alcatraz.

>> Top things to do in Fisherman's Wharf

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is home to several top attractions including the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Botanical Gardens, and the Conservatory of Flowers. 

>> More about what you can see and do in Golden Gate Park

Haight-Ashbury District

The Haight-Asbury District is the hippie district that was home to much of the city's action in the 60s. In this colorful neighborhood, you can do some shopping at vintage stores and costume shops, walk by addresses that many famous people used to call home, and see where much of the Summer of Love took place.

>> What to see in the Haight-Ashbury

Ready to Purchase? Find tickets for all Big Bus Tours options.

North Beach

North Beach was originally settled by Italian immigrants and their influence is still noticeable in this district today. It was also home to the Beat Generation in the 50s and 60s.

Today, you can do some shopping, eat mounds of pasta, visit Coit Tower, spend time in the City Lights Bookstore, and explore the Beat Museum.

>> More on visiting North Beach

Palace of Fine Arts

The Palace of Fine Arts is another great place to stop. The original building was built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Expo. This free attraction offers you the chance to stroll on its lovely sidewalks as you admire the details of its beauty.

It's also a great place to have a picnic (several shops are just a couple of blocks away) and get some classic San Francisco photos.

>> Pics of and details about visiting the Palace of Fine Arts

Union Square

Another one of the most popular stops on the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours in San Francisco is Union Square. It's home to the largest concentration of hotels in SF and where many tourists stay during their visit.

You can also do some shopping, learn about this district's history, or spend time in the square having a coffee and admiring some of the famous hearts of SF.

>> More about visiting Union Square

Hop On & Off Tours: My Top Picks in San Francisco

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

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