San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf tourist zone

This week I had my first ever stay at the Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. The hotel is across the street from the famous Pier 39 and restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf. This area has ferries for touring the San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Island.

Many of the Radisson hotel rooms face the San Francisco Bay waterfront which makes the hotel location one of the best in the city for a room with an ocean view.

SF-Alcatraz view

Alcatraz Island view from Fisherman’s Wharf. There are some rooms in the four story Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf with this ocean facing view and a balcony too.

My room view from the far left of the hotel when facing the Bay was set back from the Bay, overlooked the hotel parking and slightly obstructed by restaurant buildings. No balcony room upgrade either. Still, the Radisson is one of the few hotels in the Fisherman’s Wharf area with ocean views. Hyatt, Sheraton, Marriott, Best Western Tuscan Inn, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express are all one or two blocks farther away from the waterfront in the Fisherman’s Wharf area.

Radisson view

Tourists flock to the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the city. This is an area of the city where excitement is heard in many languages when seeing Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge and sea lions at the docks of Pier 39. 


SF Fishermans Wharf sign

There are dozens of restaurants in the Fisherman’s Wharf-Pier 39 area. The published rate for Dungeness crab at the stands outside the restaurants was $10.49 per pound. I have purchased eight pounds of fresh caught Dungeness crab this past week at Safeway at $4.99 per pound. Supermarkets will clean and crack Dungeness crab too for easy consumption.

SF Pier 39 sign

Pier 39 was developed in 1977 as a tourist destination with shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment. Pier 39 has a Hard Rock Café and many other dining places with bars. Aquarium of the Bay is located here.

Or just spend time watching hundreds of sea lions congregated on the docks off Pier 39 for free.

Pier 39 sea lions

Pier 39 sea lions have evolved from a harbor nuisance to a major tourist attraction. Sea lions are intelligent and social marine mammals. At sunrise I watched the young sea lions sparring each other with shoving contests to push the loser off the dock. The barking is loud and the smell is offensive to some people. La Jolla, California business owners have sued the city to get action on dealing with their sea lion odor and noise problem. San Francisco has learned to peacefully appreciate their tourist magnet sea lions in the boat harbor off Pier 39.

Sea Lion bull

Prior to Pier 39 the tourist scene was concentrated at Ghirardelli Square a few blocks west where there is a chocolate and ice cream shop. Fairmont Heritage Place is a residential all-suites hotel located at Ghirardelli Square and probably the top priced hotel in San Francisco with nightly rates in the $700 to $900 range.

SF Ghirardelli

The weather was hazy this week. Lack of rain in December and record high temperatures during the days in many locations with colder than average temperatures in the mornings has created some higher than normal air pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area. This was not a good week for panoramic photos in the city. The Golden Gate Bridge about five miles away was somewhat obscured by the haze.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

There is a historical park with seven old ships and other attractions at Hyde Street Pier near Ghirardelli Square. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park tickets for ship tour access are $5 for adults and free for children under 16 accompanied by an adult. You can walk on the pier and view the ships and some exhibits for free.

SF Maritime NHP

One of the attractions at the Maritime Park is the Balclutha three masted 1888 square rigger cargo ship.

SF Balclutha

Fisherman’s Wharf for hotel value

Locals tend to shy away from the neighborhood due to the abundance of high priced restaurants and tourist shops and crowds. All the chain brands are located here in a densely packed area with a Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Sheraton, Hyatt, Marriott, Kimpton Argonaut, Best Western Tuscan (hotel owned by Kimpton) and Radisson. I had Hilton on this list, until I just checked Google Maps to see the hotel rebranded November 1 to Pier 2620 boutique hotel affiliated with Preferred Hotel Group.

I find good value in hotels at Fisherman’s Wharf on weekdays when the rates tend to be lower than hotels closer to the business centers of Union Square and the Financial District a couple miles to the southeast. Weekends are the reverse with rates in the downtown San Francisco hotels offering discounts as rates at Fisherman’s Wharf peak.

google maps Fishermans wharf

San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf area highlighted on Google Maps.

Caesar’s, Kennedy’s and Indian Food

One of the gems of Fisherman’s Wharf/North Beach area was Caesar’s Italian Restaurant. This was a place for six-course meals at reasonable prices. Kelley and I stood outside the building checking my phone to see if I was standing on the wrong street corner. Caesar’s Italian Restaurant closed in August 2012.

This gave me an opportunity to try a place I have wanted to eat at the past few years, but never seemed to get around to for a meal and beers.

Kennedy's Pub

Kennedy’s Pub & Curry House with Happy Hour 3-7pm weekday $3 pints on a large selection of beers and a good priced Indian restaurant menu.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a touristy area that at times can be exceedingly crowded for comfort. The location is a good one though for walking along the waterfront or heading away from the shoreline of the Bay to the neighborhood streets of North Beach to experience one of the older residential areas of San Francisco.

SF dock Forbe's Island

Forbe’s Island Restaurant at the end of the dock near Pier 39.


Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

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About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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