San Francisco parking is a constant headache for both locals and visitors. It's not easy to find spots - and most options are quite pricey.
Here you will find some of the best options and pricing estimates for popular spots such as Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown and Union Square.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
San Francisco parking garages are your best bet if you plan to drive around or into the city for the day. Street parking can be difficult to find, and you will often spend up to an hour looking for a spot.
Below, I've outlined some of the best options by district and/or attraction. This will help you quickly find a place to park and know exactly where to go when you arrive.
Most parking garages in San Francisco are expensive and the rates can increase at times due to special events. I've included parking prices for each one below to give you an idea on what to expect. However, make sure to double check the prices before you pull in so you know the full price for your visit as these prices can (and do!) change at any time.
Jump ahead to the district or attraction that interests you most.
If you plan to drive to the Golden Gate Bridge, you will want to do a little research about the parking situation before you arrive. You will find a few "official" lots near the bridge that many people try to find spots in. The challenge with these is they are small and very crowded. They are also often closed during the summer months on weekends and holidays.
To help you find some better alternatives, I created this list with six of my most recommended spots. In addition to my recommendations, I also talk about a few other options and when you might want to use each one.
Either way, make sure you have a list of at least two to three places before you arrive, so you don't end up driving around and around for a long time to find parking.
Union Square is one of the busiest districts. It's where you will find some great shopping and many of our largest hotels. It's also close to the Yerba Buena district, which is home to some of our top museums. If you plan to park in this district, here are a few recommendations.
Location: 333 Post Street
Size: Large garage with 985 spaces, goes underground about four stories
Perfect for: Those looking for a San Francisco parking garage near the stores in Union Square
Access: Enter from either Post or Geary Streets
Hours: Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Hourly rate: $2.00 to $6 an hour
Daily maximum or lost ticket: $36
Location: 123 O'Farrell Street
Size: Large garage with 925 spaces
Perfect for: Anyone going shopping or to the theater
Access: Entrances from both O’Farrell (6'2" clearance) and Ellis Streets (8'2" clearance)
Hours: Opens every day at 5:30am; closes at 1am Sunday - Thursday and 2am Friday - Saturday
Hourly rate: $2 to $6 an hour
Daily maximum or lost ticket: $42
Weekday Early Bird discount: Flat rate of $20 when you enter before 8:30am and exit before close
There are some other San Francisco parking garages for those wanting to find something in a different part of downtown San Francisco.
The most convenient parking is the Pier 39 Garage, which is located directly across the street from the Entrance Plaza.
There are several lots for those visiting Alcatraz Island for the day. The Alcatraz Island ferries leave from Pier 33. You’ll find one parking lot located just across the street on the Embarcadero at Bay Street.
If that one is full, there is a larger parking garage just a couple blocks away at 80 Francisco Street (at Kearny). You can find out more about these parking lots and other Alcatraz information on my tips to prepare for Alcatraz page.
If you don’t want to park in one of the San Francisco parking garages, you can also look for a spot on the street. However, the cost to park in the street is often just as much as the garages during the day, and for a limited amount of time.
Most meters have a two-hour time limit. They can be paid by coin, phone, or credit card.
Meter rates vary by zone, with downtown and Fisherman's Wharf being the most expensive. Most are between $2.00 and $4.50 per hour.
With new "smart" technology, there are some SFpark areas based on demand, where rates incrementally adjust by quarter and can range from $0.50 to $6.50 per hour.
Hours of operation for most meters are 9am - 6pm Monday - Saturday. The meters in Fisherman's Wharf run from 7am - 7pm daily. Some of the meters in the busier areas and the Port of San Francisco run until 10 or 11pm.
Most allow you to park without moving your car for 1 to 4 hours. After your time runs out, you are supposed to move your car to a new spot instead of just feeding the meter again.
Most meters are NOT in effect on Sundays, except in the Fisherman's Wharf area, the Embarcadero, off-street parking lots, and the Special Events Area near Oracle Park.
All metered spots are free on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
After you park, always read the meter to confirm days and hours of operation, time limits, and rates.
If you find a parking spot on the street that is not metered, check to see if the curb is painted, and look for signs posted about time limits and street sweeping hours.
Most areas of the city have parking permits for local residents. If you do not have a parking permit, you will only be allowed to park for a certain amount of time. Two hours is the standard although some are only one hour and some as much as three. Look for the signs near your car to find out the regulations for San Francisco parking on the street.
Here are some other street parking guidelines:
Your best bet for parking is to choose one of the San Francisco parking garages. Overall, parking in the city is pretty expensive unless you are lucky enough to get a decent spot on the street.
If you don't want to hassle with driving and using one of the San Francisco parking garages, you can also take public transportation or one of the San Francisco taxis. Both options make it pretty easy to get around the city.
Many of the motels throughout the city offer free parking. You are allowed to park there during your stay and only hotel guests are offered this privilege. If you do plan to drive into SF and stay, this is a great way to save on your visit.
Are you still searching for a hotel room for your visit? Here are some of my favorites based on price, amenities and neighborhood.