Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco: What to Expect During a Visit to this Gorgeous Attraction

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: March 11, 2024

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is a beautiful and relaxing setting on the eastern side of Golden Gate Park. It's the oldest Japanese Tea Garden in the United States.

It's open for visitors 365 days a year. Inside, you will find beautiful blooming flowers, a gorgeous drum bridge, a historic pagoda, a Zen garden, and so much more.

You can also spend extra time enjoying some delicious tea or a meal in the on-site teahouse.

Once you enter the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, you'll see trails that lead in several directions. All of the trails weave through and circle around the park so that each one will take you by its many attractions.

Here are a few of my favorite things to see and additional tips for visiting the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.

Cherry Blossoms in the Japanese Tea Garden

Table of Contents

History of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

It was originally built in 1894 for the California Midwinter International Exposition. After the exposition, Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant, continued to care for and expand the garden.

Over the years, many landscape architects and others added to and cared for it also. Today, it covers more than five acres of land.

Entrance gate to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

Before you even enter the tea garden, you'll see its first masterpiece - the entrance gate. This gate sits at the location where the original gate was built in 1894.

However, it fell into disrepair, so the city of San Francisco renovated this gate in 1985.

High Arching Drum Bridge

A bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco

The high arching drum bridge is part of one of the trails. It has wooden planks that allow you to climb up and over it. Many people love to take their picture on top with the beautiful trees in the background.

If you prefer not to climb over, you can also hop on another trail and walk around either side.

It was moved here shortly after the exposition ended because it was so beautiful, and they wanted to keep it for others to enjoy.

Five Story Pagoda

The large red Pagoda in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

This five-story Pagoda is another one of my favorite attractions in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. It was originally built for the Japanese Exhibit at the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco.

It was moved here shortly after the exposition ended because it was so beautiful, and they wanted to keep it for others to enjoy.

Dwarf Tree Collection

The Dwarf Tree Collection in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

The Dwarf Tree Collection sits on Waterfall Hill. Originally, this collection was privately owned for many years. It was then gifted to the park and moved here in 1965.

You will see several varieties planted on the hill. Each has an unusual shape, which was created using specialized training techniques developed by the Japanese over several decades.

Zen Garden

Zen Garden in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park San Francisco

The much beloved and relaxing Zen garden was added to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco in 1953.

These types of places were originally created with a religious or mythological meaning in mind. They were designed to help aid those in search for enlightenment.

While you can't enter it, there are several benches and places to enjoy it along the walking path.

Jack Hirose Teahouse

My green tea latte from the cafe in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

I love ending my time at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco with a visit to the Jack Hirose Teahouse. The teahouse sits right in the heart of the tea garden and is the perfect place to continue to soak in its beauty.

Here you can have some lunch or enjoy a beverage. The one in the picture above is a Green Tea Latte - my favorite item on their menu.

Additional items you will find on their menu include a variety of teas, Matcha, tea sandwiches, miso soup, green tea cheesecake, and edamame.

More Fun Things to Do in Golden Gate Park

Best Time to Visit & Hours

This SF gem is beautiful all year long. If you are lucky enough to visit during March or April - you will see it at the most beautiful time - when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom!

Cherry Blossoms in the Japanese Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is open every day - and does not have any holiday closures.

You can visit anytime between 9 am to 5:45 pm from March to the end of October.

From November to the end of February, you can visit between 9 am to 4:45 pm. Pets are not allowed in the garden.

Ticket Prices

The price of tickets to the Japanese Tea Garden in Japan change depending on the season and day for adults. For all ages, the prices stay the same.

  • Adults: Weekends are $18; Weekdays $15 (February - November); $12 (December to January)
  • Seniors ages 65 and up, and teens ages 12 - 17 are $7.
  • Children ages 5 - 11 are $3.
  • Children under 5 are free
  • Free admission days on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 am to 10 am
  • Free admission to all San Francisco residents with proof of residency. 
The open hours sign at the entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden San Francisco

Japanese Tea Garden Map

Here is a map of its location within Golden Gate Park. It is located right on Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive - just steps from the Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum.

A map showing the location of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park

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

Tours of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco 

The Japanese Tea Garden does not officially offer tours, but you can visit on a tour with the SF City Guides. Their tour is free and is offered daily at 9:30 am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. 

They also offer tours at 1 pm seven days a week.

Admission is free for the 9:30 am tours. However, even though the 1 pm tour is free, you must pay for the admission price for them.

Note: I suggest leaving a donation with the tour guide since the program is non-profit and, and they depend on donations for it to continue. I usually leave about $15 as that is what is suggested on the SF City Guides website.

However, if that is too expensive, just give what you can afford.

Getting Here

The three best ways to get here are by taking public transportation, driving, or taking the Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour.

Public Transit: The two best options on public transit are either the N-Judah light rail train or the 5-Fulton Bus. Both have stops just a few blocks from the tea garden entrance.

Hop On/Hop Off Tour: The Hop On/Hop Off bus tour is another great option. This bus has a stop directly outside the California Academy of Sciences - which is about a block away from the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco entrance. Learn more about all the stops and pricing details for the Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour.

Driving & Parking Nearby

A visit to Golden Gate Park and the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco is one of the few times I will recommend driving. It's easy to get to by car with plenty of parking options nearby.

Street Parking: If you are visiting during the week, you should be able to find parking two to three blocks away. Two of the best places to look are on John F. Kennedy Drive and Martin Luther King Dr. Both options offer parking for a limited time.

Music Concourse Parking Garage: You will also find a parking garage under the Music Concourse between the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Fine Arts Museum. The garage is open until 7 pm and sometimes later for events. You enter at 10th Avenue and Fulton.

Hotels Near the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

Stanyan Park Hotel

When you first walk up, you might not even believe this is a hotel. However, this 3-Star hotel is just that. The Stanyan was renovated and refurnished so that it looks like a classic and stylish apartment building.

The hotel offers paid parking at a lot, complimentary breakfast, and a complimentary wine and cheese hour each weekday.

It is listed on the This hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is about a 20-minute walk to the Japanese Tea Garden directly through the Golden Gate Park. 750 Stanyan Street.

>> Read reviews and book your room at the Stanyan Park Hotel.

Sea Rock Inn

Just a few blocks away from the old Cliff House and Sutro Baths, you have the cool and stylish Seal Rock Inn. Unlike the Stanyan Park, it is hipper and more futuristic looking.

There are excellent views which look out over the bay or back towards the city. There are private patios and some of the rooms even have fireplaces in them!

An added benefit compared to most hotels in San Francisco is that they have free parking.

Fun Fact: The famous writer, Hunter S. Thompson wrote about and stayed here during his life.

It is a 15-minute drive or a 30-minute bus ride to the Japanese Tea Gardens. 545 Point Lobos Avenue.

>> Find guest reviews and get the best deals for Sea Rock Inn.

The Laurel Inn, part of JdV by Hyatt

Originally built in 1963, the Laurel Inn is very fun and inviting from the moment you come in it.

It is a 3-Star hotel, and each room is decorated in a very distinctive way from another, so you’ll always have a new experience every time you stay here.

They have a bar and lounge, paid parking off-site, and are pet friendly. It is 20 minutes by car or bus and 45 minutes if you walk. 444 Presidio Avenue.

>> Learn more about The Laurel Inn, part of JdV by Hyatt and get the best deals on rooms.

Restaurants Near the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco

Pacific Catch

Just a quick 8-minute walk away from the Tea Gardens is one of our favorite local chain restaurants. Unlike most chain restaurants, it is local, and it is great.

It is in the perfect location to people watch as you eat your meal. Some of the choices here include burgers, tacos, fish & chips, and if you want to try something different, check out their pokes, ceviche, or their grains and greens bowls.

They also have loads of great drinks, including cocktails to-go if you don’t want to go into the Golden Gate Park and eat there instead. It is about a 10-minute walk to the Japanese Tea Garden.

1200 9th Avenue

Jenny’s Burger

Also just a quick 10 minute walk to the Tea Gardens is this great little burger joint. Everything they make is perfectly cooked and totally yummy.

We love all their hamburgers and their fries and onion rings also. There are a decent number of options to add on to your burger too.

If you want something else, check out their hot dogs or sandwiches. Along with most soft drinks, they also make shakes. It is about a 10-minute walk to the Japanese Tea Garden.

1233 9th Avenue

The Richmond

Known for being a nice intimate restaurant, this is a great place to go if you want a little quiet from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The burgers are delicious, the fries are hot and crispy, and the sandwiches are great (one of my favs is the prime rib sandwich).

The price of the food is more than in other places here, but the burgers are pretty large, and you get loads of fries. They also do a 4-course prix fixe menu.

I personally love that sometimes you will be greeted or have the chef come out and talk to you. It is a great experience. It is about a 15-minute walk and bus ride to the Japanese Tea Garden. 

615 Balboa Street

Additional Things to Do Nearby

Botanical Garden: Right next to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, you will find SF's Botanical Garden. This 55-acre attraction houses more than 55,000 plants and flowers from around the world. It's one of my favorite places to visit in Golden Gate Park!

Blue Heron Lake: Behind the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, you will find Blue Heron Lake. At this manmade lake, you can do a little hiking, visit the Chinese Pavilion, or take one of their paddle boats out for a spin.

Beach & Park Chalet: On the western side of Golden Gate Park, you will find the Beach and Park Chalet restaurants. Both offer a fun selection of New American meals as well as their own beers. You can watch the ocean from the Beach Chalet or opt for something a little more casual at the Park Chalet at ground level.

Pictures inside the Japanese Tea Garden, Pinterest pin

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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