Here’s Why It’s Worth Taking A Helicopter Tour Over San Francisco

Ever wanted to see what makes the Golden State the “Golden State”? James Bond wannabes can do just that on this scenic flight tour of one of California’s most iconic destinations. Covering approximately 90 kilometers from San Francisco and the California coast, this unbeatable half-hour flight is the perfect way to explore this part of the Golden State the good old-fashioned way of the rich and famous – whether it’s your first time in San Francisco are or fiftieth.


Soaring through the skies like an A-lister in a state-of-the-art Bell Jet helicopter, flown by a Bell-trained, FAA-licensed pilot, travelers can enjoy an exceptional tour of the city’s most famous landmarks and grounds and beyond fly famous neighborhoods, top San Francisco attractions and the sensational coast from high above.

After you sit back and buckle up your seat belt, the helicopter flies over the Mission, Castro, Chinatown, and Presidio neighborhoods, pointing out world-famous landmarks like the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower.

The flight continues into the larger Bay Area, offering great views of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, as well as Alcatraz, the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Plus, the choreographed musical accompaniment and engaging in-flight narration from the tour’s experienced pilot are really the icing on the cake, teaching passengers all about San Francisco and its fascinating history as they fly past the sights they learn about.

Related: This San Fran Aquarium is home to the world’s oldest fish

About this helicopter tour in San Francisco

  • tour name: San Francisco Vista Grande Helicopter Tour
  • Schedule: Morning and afternoon flights
  • Transport: Pickup and drop-off at two central San Francisco locations – Fisherman’s Wharf at the Hotel Zephyr or Union Square at the Hilton Union Square
  • Duration: 25-30 minute helicopter flight (allow 2 hours total, including pickup and drop-off)
  • Number of passengers: The helicopter can accommodate four to six passengers
  • Discounts: There is a reduced fare for children aged 2 to 12 and infants fly for free

Book this tour

All passengers must present valid photo ID upon boarding the helicopter. Don’t forget to bring one!

Cancellation policy

  • Bookings can be canceled up to 24 hours before the tour for a full refund.
  • A minimum of 4 passengers is required per flight. Cancellation may occur if there are not enough passengers to meet requirements. In this case, customers will be offered an alternative or full refund.
  • This incredible experience needs good weather. If the tour is canceled due to bad weather, customers will be offered an alternative date or a full refund.

With the basic details of the trip now in place, it’s time to delve into the specific San Francisco sights, landmarks, attractions and world-famous areas that guests will see on this epic tour of the California sky.

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San Francisco Bay

On this one-of-a-kind tour of the city, gravity-trotters can experience the glorious San Francisco skyline and bay above mere mortals on the ground. San Francisco Bay is a large tidal estuary that lends its name to the San Francisco Bay Area, an expanse dominated by the massive cities of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. This neighborhood of the city has gained a revered status and every person on earth can recognize its distinctive bridge, historic cable cars and aesthetically pleasing Victorian architecture, known worldwide as one of the greatest cities in the world.

The Marin Headlands

On the helicopter list are the Marin Headlands and the California coast, which tourers can enjoy from above. Boasting rich historical histories and biodiversity, the Marin Headlands is an area famed for its amazing geology, misty coastal prairie ecosystems and rich history. The rolling peninsula at the southernmost end of Marin County also forms part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area – one of the most-visited attractions in this section of the region’s national park system.

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The San Francisco Presidium

The Presidio is a famous 1,500-acre park that sits on a former military post and now serves as a prolific outdoor recreation center for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Home to wooded areas, many miles of hiking trails, a golf course, and scenic lookouts, it’s a wonderful place to have your feet on the ground, let alone see its splendor from the sky. Other highlights in this area include the verdant and grassy Crissy Field complemented by views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Civil War-era Fort Point, the popular sandy beaches of Baker Beach, and many historic buildings, fortifications, and the oldest national cemetery in the world West Coast.

Golden Gate Park

You can’t beat seeing Golden Gate Park from a height – and most never see it that way. The third most visited park in the US, this urban park remains popular with Americans and consists of 1,017 acres of public land. This sizeable area is also home to the stunning Japanese Tea Gardens, the oldest Victorian glass and wood greenhouse in the Western Hemisphere and the renowned California Academy of Sciences.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Most California residents and visitors have been to Fisherman’s Wharf on the North Boardwalk. But how many have seen it as a point on the coast high above the ground? Not many, that’s for sure. This former site of the city’s port is one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist areas, a delightful spot filled with souvenir shops and food stands serving crab and clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. The postcard views of the bay aren’t bad either.

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Golden Gate Bridge

One of San Francisco’s top tourist attractions (and, of course, the most famous), this bright red bridge has featured on almost every single postcard in the city. The Golden Gate Bridge is also one of the most famous suspension bridges in the world, spanning the famous Golden Gate – the one-mile-wide strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. When completed in 1937, it was the tallest and longest suspension bridge in the world and was quickly revered as a symbol of the country’s power and progress. It’s also set a modern precedent for suspension bridge design around the world – and helicopter passengers on this tour get to enjoy their legendary status from a unique vantage point that few ever get to enjoy.

Coit Tower

Named for Lillie Hitchcock Coit — a wealthy eccentric and patron of San Francisco firefighters — Coit Tower is a recognizable white concrete flute rising from the top of Telegraph Hill in Pioneer Park. A landmark on the San Francisco skyline since its completion in 1933, it is one of the city’s most deafening buildings and commands attention as aviators soar overhead its imposing presence, marking the city’s distinctive horizon.

The Transamerica Pyramid

This 48-story, futuristic skyscraper was the tallest building in San Francisco’s majestic skyline from 1972 until 2017, after which Salesforce Tower claimed its crown. The Transamerica Pyramid is still an impressive feature to marvel at, the Transamerica Pyramid exudes the allure of the year 3000 and draws all eyes – especially when viewed in the sky.

Also see: Skyscraper Museum: Learn about them while seeing them in NYC

The Salesforce Tower

Formerly known as the Transbay Tower, this gargantuan 1,070-foot office skyscraper is located in the South of Market neighborhood of downtown San Francisco. The Salesforce Tower, which was completed in 2018 when it stormed in and earned the title of the city’s tallest building, surpasses the Transamerica Pyramid by 216 feet. In addition, it is not only the tallest skyscraper in the city, but also the seventeenth tallest tower in the United States.

The Embarcadero

The Embarcadero is the famous boulevard that runs along the San Francisco waterfront from the Bay Bridge, past the Ferry Building and down to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Considered one of the best hikes in San Francisco, admire the beautiful bay views, miles of sidewalks, and abundance of restaurants, shops, and attractions from the sky as you cruise over this iconic spot on the city map.

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The San Francisco Bay Bridge

Locally referred to as the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge is a famous bridge complex that spans the San Francisco Bay. As part of Interstate 80 and as a direct road between San Francisco and Oakland, approximately 260,000 vehicles cross its two decks every day. The bridge is indeed one of California’s most recognizable landmarks, and flight spotters on this epic San Francisco tour can see its mighty structure higher than any other.

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island State Park is the largest natural island in San Francisco Bay. Not only does it boast some of the best views in the surrounding Bay Area, but it also boasts 740 acres of pristine parkland, along with beautiful picnic areas, scenic hiking trails, and stunning beaches—so air travelers are guaranteed seeing all of this from above will be an excellent treat for the eyes.

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Alcatraz Island

Helicopter tours will also provide a bird’s-eye view of the tiny but world-renowned island of Alcatraz – a tiny speck in the sea with a big backstory just 1.2 miles off the coast of San Francisco. The island, developed in the mid-19th century, was equipped with lighthouses, a military compound and also a military prison. From 1934 to 1963, Alcatraz served as a federal penitentiary, housing some of the most dangerous civilian prisoners. Among the notorious prison’s most famous inmates were George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Al Capone, and Robert Stroud – known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” which formed the basis of the movie of the same name.

Why Book a Helicopter Tour Over San Francisco?

Why is this helicopter tour one of the best experiences in San Francisco? Simple answer: Passengers can experience the city’s best sights and attractions from a literally otherworldly perspective that most people never get to see – a bird’s-eye view. As the ultimate way to discover some of the Golden State’s most iconic areas in a short amount of time, soar through the sky, and enjoy the California landscape and mesmerizing coastline from a different perspective, this trip hits the bucket list list. To all you wannabe James Bond readers, this is for you!

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