The Best Kept Secret of the Bay Area: The Panoramic Views from Angel Island

Trip length

Day trip

Metropolitan area

SF Bay Area Trip Highlights


There are so many beautiful areas to explore in the Bay Area that most locals never get to experience all of them in their lifetime. Most of us will visit the Napa Valley, the Presidio, or the Golden Gate Bridge multiple times in our lives and never think twice about what we might be missing. But with weather this beautiful and so many free weekends to fill up this summer, I had to search for the best outdoor activies. When I discovered that some of the best panoramic views of the Bay Area are from the perspective of Angel Island State Park, a small island off the coast of Tiburon, I immediately added the desination to my summer bucket list. 

Angel Island has such an amazing history and, sadly, most of us are not aware of it. Known as the "Ellis Island" of the West Coast, many immigrants were held on the island before entering the U.S to undergo interrogrations and exams. Alcatraz isn't the only island off the coast of the Bay with a dark past. Though it may be beautiful now and the sights from it as well, its history is not so bright.

How to get there and get around

You have the option of taking a ferry from Tiburon or Pier 41 using the Blue & Gold Fleet in San Francisco. Both service the island seven days a week during the spring and summer with a handful of departures per day. It takes around 40 minutes via San Francisco and cost $17 while it takes 20 minutes from Tiburon and costs $13.50.

Best Restaurants (or places to eat) in the area

The Angel Island Cafe serves all the right foods to nourish you before or after an active day of hiking or biking around the island. Choose from a selection of sandwiches, salads, and soups or even indulge in the Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Board. Don't want to sit in a restaurant? You can reserve a boxed lunch to be picked up at specific meeting times around the island so you can continue your explorations.

On weekends, it converts to the Angel Island Cantina where the menu switches to Latin American dishes such as tacos and ceviche. You can even hear live music on weekends starting at 2PM!  

SF Bay Area Neighborhood Characteristics

If you decide you don't want to head home immediately, there are a few hotels quite close to the pier in Tiburon. Both the Waters Edge Hotel and The Lodge at Tiburon are TripAdvisor favorites.

Additional Links

Local hangouts, Shopping spots

The history behind Angel Island is that it is essentially the Ellis Island of the West Coast. The U.S. Immigration Station on the island was in operation from 1910 to 1940 as a result of the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Many immigrants, mostly Asians, were held on the island to undergo interrogations and exams solely because of their national origin. Now the U.S.I.S. is a museum as it is a National Historic Landmark where you can see the Chinese poems etched in the barracks.

The island has a handful of hiking trails. If you're a beginner, take the hike along the Perimeter Road. It is a paved path all around the island and it's five miles long. You will get to see a lot of the old military buildings such as the hospital, chapel, mule bar, and the Immigration Station. As the hike comes to a close on the north side, you will get a view of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and then a view of Tiburon.

Looking for a moderate hike? This is where you'll get the best view on the island. Take the Sunset Trail to the Mt. Livermore/Northridge Trail, a four-and-a-half-mile loop. Along the Sunset Trail, you'll see lots of eucalyptus, cypress, and Monterey pine trees. Once you cross a fire road, you get a panoramic view of San Francisco and the central part of the bay. About a half-mile later, you'll approach the summit and get more views of the bay as well as the island around you.

For those who are advanced, try the Angel Island Loop which combines the Perimeter as well as the Northridge and Sunset Trails.

Pic by @timedcapture

A photo of Belvedere.

Pic by @bubbles4lisa

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the island.

Pic by @_swaggykmo_

A family hanging out at the cove.

Pic by @pipnpooper

A photo of people camping on the island.

Pic by @vutacular

A couple at the summit of the island.


Angel Island

Pic by @thenamespaul

Along on the hikes on the island.


Some of the buildings on Angel Island.

Pic by @himetenshi

A few views from the island.


Top of Angel Island

Pic by @ohmyjei

A woman close to the summit of Angel Island.

Pic by @cameraon

A view of the Golden Gate.

Pic by @msbautista

A group hiking on Angel Island.

Pic by @nikkilinc

A handful of views from two visitors' day hike.

Pic by @oki_san99

The entrance to the Adminstration Building on Angel Island.


Angel Island

Pic by @cameraon

A couple resting along the cove.

Pic by @aileenchany

One of the views from the summit.

Pic by @pipnpooper

A nightime view close to the summit of the island.


Top of Angel Island

Pic by @donniewang

Another angle of the view from the summit.


The cheese plate from Angel Island Cafe.

Pic by @peek

A view of the cove.


A view from the ferry going to Angel Island.


An amazing view from the summit of Angel Island.