Is the Trip to James Bond Island Worth it in 2024?

Is James Bond Island worth it? It’s a question most visitors to Phuket ask themselves. I know we did, and then when we decided to go it was hard to choose between a long tail boat tour or a speedboat trip. This thorough guide explores everything you need to know about the visit from standard itineraries, crowd situations, unique packages, cost, and even how to go it alone. Let’s help you decide if this dramatic and iconic Thai destination is your cup of tea.

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Do you want to feel like 007 and bask in the breath-taking views of Khao Phing Kan, aka James Bond Island when you are visiting Phuket but you have heard it’s very busy these days so you are not sure if you should?

This iconic limestone rock in Southern Thailand became a popular tourist attraction after featuring in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun.

This impressive rock is surrounded by turquoise blue waters and tropical views. It certainly looks like a piece of paradise you need to see , but then you wonder, how many other people are having the same thought? And will the island be overrun by fellow tourists, instead of your serene escape into film history?

James Bond Island Thailand
We visited on a sunny August day on an early speedboat tour – very few others there.

James Bond Island is one of the most popular day trips from Phuket, and for good reason. This island is impressive not only because it once shared the same frame as Roger Moore but also for its natural beauty.

While it does attract a lot of visitors each year, there are luckily many ways to see it without the huge crowds. This article will give you the rundown on a James Bond Island trip so that you can get the most out of your tour.

Before we get into the details of what to expect on a standard visit here are our quick picks if you have already decided and just want to know which tour will be best for your situation.

In a hurry? Here are 3 great options.

Best James Bond Island visit for families – This tour with V Marine visits James Bond island at the start of the day and includes a decent lunch stop with a chance for the kids to see life on a floating village.

Best James Bond Island experience party people – enjoy the beach club concept out at sea on your way to and from the island.

Best James Bond trip for avoiding the crowds – This sunrise tour is a must for anyone wanting the best chance of avoiding other travellers.

First, let’s start with what you can expect to get out of a typical James Bond Island tour so that you can know whether this is something for you or not. These tours are typically done as a full-day trip (6-10 hours) as most operators will take you kayaking through limestone caves in Phang Nga Bay and stop off at several small islands along the way. These stops are not time fillers but are every bit as beautiful as James Bond Island itself.

It is possible to visit this popular tourist destination in a half-day for those who are less active and not keen on kayaking or are travelling with little ones.

Very few tours do not involve some form of kayaking however on most tours you have a guide padding for you and you sit back and enjoy the view so no experience is necessary!

What stops do most James Bond tours make?

On your way to the main attraction, you will pass through the stunning Phang Nga Bay National Park. Phang Nga Bay is well-known for its gorgeous limestone cliff landscape. In fact, unless your tour visits James Bond Island up front, the first stop along the way will typically be a kayak excursion around several limestone caves.

As your guide paddles you across the tranquil, blue Thai sea, the water below will look very inviting in the blazing Thai sun! If you fancy a dip, your guide won’t mind making a quick stop whilst you enjoy a swim.

Pro tip: Bring cash with you so that you can tip the guides you meet along the way. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, but even small amounts are greatly appreciated in Southeast Asia.

Other places you may visit on your trip include:

  • Koh Panyee – This extraordinary manmade village floats entirely on the sea and is a popular place for lunch stop when you visit Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island. There are 2 large buffet style restaurants. We really enjoyed our wander around the village and our lunch here. 
Aerial landscape view of Koh Panyee village, Thailand, Asia
Aerial view of Koh Panyee – a popular lunch stop
  • Hong Island – Hong Island boasts a calm lagoon encircled by towering limestone cliffs. You either walk or kayak in depending on the tide. The island is renowned for its clear turquoise water, abundant marine life, and peaceful ambiance. On our visit, the tide was out, so no fish, but it was still an interesting experience.
  • Panak Island – Panak Island is renowned for its extensive limestone caves, formed over millions of years under the influence of wind and water. The island is covered in lush, tropical vegetation, lending it a primeval charm. As you navigate through the island’s exciting network of caves, you’ll likely see several species of bats and birds.
kayaking on James bond Island tour
I took this photo when we went kayaking with our guide.
  • The Ice Cream Cave – The Ice Cream Cave is an eye-catching natural formation. This geological wonder, which isn’t part of most standard tours, is adorned with stalactite formations resembling drips of melting ice cream. 
  • Naka Island – Naka Island offers unspoilt natural beauty, sparkling white sands and sapphire blue water. It’s ideal for snorkelling, swimming, and unwinding on the beach.
Naka island
We stopped here for a swim and a few drinks on the way home

Not all tours make all of these stops, so if one of these is important to you, then check the itinerary before you book.

James Bond Island Itself

When visiting James Bond Island, your boat will land on a small beach at the back of Khao Phing Kan (the main island) and then, from there you can walk down to the beach that faces Ko Tapu, the iconic rock formation that you’ll recognise from the film.

James Bond Island Thailand
I found many chances to snap the rock on my walk from the landing beach

Tour operators will typically give you 60-90 minutes to explore and enjoy the island. In this time, you’ll be able to take a walk between the beaches and look out at the rock at one of the island’s many viewpoints – these viewpoints are the perfect place to get that Thailand holiday picture that’ll make all your friends back home jealous!

The waters around the famous rock are as turquoise and as picturesque as you would imagine, however, it’s worth noting that the water sometimes looks slightly murky close to the shoreline – just to manage your expectations!

small stalls for items for sale at James bond
Buying a small souvenir or snack can help these local vendors make ends meet

The island has a few vendors from nearby islands selling fruit shakes and some touristy knick knacks. If you can afford to, it’s a nice gesture to buy a snack, drink or trinket. As always, when in tourist hotspots, these vendors won’t have the cheapest of souvenirs, but if you want to support local businesses and buy yourself something to remember your trip to the 007 island, then you’ll be able to find something there.

Now, it’s time to answer the golden question about the golden gun island. Is James Bond Island overcrowded?

Well, like all popular tourist destinations, particularly ones that have featured in internationally known films, of course there is a chance that there’s going to be quite a few other tourists that had the same idea to go. However, the good news is that it doesn’t really spoil the view.

The beauty of this impressive rock formation being out at sea, is that the rock itself, and the view of it, will not be surrounded by people – you can get a tourist-free photo of it! The only place that could get a little crowded would be the main island, Khao Phing Kan. However, luckily, there are ways to avoid the crowds!

One way to avoid the crowds at James Bond Island is to travel to Thailand during the low season (Jun-Oct). Travelling to Thailand during the low season (aka, the rainy season) is a high-risk, high-reward type of situation, so it’s better to do it only if you’ll be visiting for at least a few weeks.

Although there may be a chance of rain on a low season trip, if you do manage to catch a dry day, you’ll be able to experience this landmark and many others with almost no visitors!

If you plan to travel to Thailand during the peak season (Nov-Feb), then it may be a little harder to miss the crowds, but it’s still possible! Some tour operators offer “off-peak hour” trips to the islands. These tours will either start first thing in the morning, or a bit later in the afternoon, in order to avoid the major waves of tourists in the late morning and early afternoon.

What’s great about these off-peak hour tours is that you typically get to see either sunrise or sunset whilst on the tour, so it’s truly a win-win!

Depending on what type of person you are, you may opt for a very active, full-on day trip to James Bond Island, or you’re less active, or travelling with your children, you may want to choose to keep it low-key with your own private longtail boat.

The tours will differ based on the type of activities you want to see, as well as the time of day you want to go – this will depend on the tour company and package you choose.

Pro tip: if you opt for a sunset tour, your tour operator may offer the chance to see bioluminescent plankton as this is something that is visible in Thailand. Bioluminescent plankton is most visible after a new moon or when there is little moon visible, so you may want to take that into consideration when planning your trip!

You may be wondering – do I have to go with a tour operator when visiting James Bond Island, or can I visit the island by myself? The answer to that is – technically, yes, you can hire a private long-tail boat and make your own way to the island.

However, your ability to do this tour by yourself will heavily depend on how much Thai you speak, as the longtail boat drivers can’t typically speak much English.

Typically, speedboats and long tail boats are used for these trips, although a small number of operators use larger boats like catamarans.

  • Speedboats are quicker and usually provide a smoother journey, which is ideal if you often get seasick. They move rapidly across the water and typically feature shaded areas for protection against the sun and weather. 
  • Conversely, long tail boats are slower, meaning the trip to James Bond Island can take a bit more time. The slower speed can cause the boat to sway with the sea waves, which may cause seasickness in some people.

If seasickness tends to trouble you, opting for a bigger boat or a speedboat tour may be the wiser choice.

Option 1– Full-day, first stop at James Bond Island

Duration: 9 hours l Number of guests: Max 15 l Rating: 4.6/5

If you’re looking to get the island before the crowds and get the most out of your day trip to James Bond Island, then this is going to be the tour for you!

This tour will have fewer stops but give you more time at the places it visits, resulting in a more relaxed day than some. On this speedboat tour, you will depart from the Royal Phuket Marina and arrive at James Bond Island an hour later.

Option 2 – Longtail Boat James Bond Tour

Duration: 10 hours l Number of guests: Max 15 l Rating: 4.6/5

If you prefer to enjoy a more traditional experience, consider a longtail boat tour. On this full-day tour You’ll still be taken to many of the best places around James Bond Island, including Koh Panyee and a kayaking excursion around the limestone cliffs.

Longtail Boat
For this tour you ride in traditional long tail boats

On this tour, you drive closer to the islands you will visit and stop at Tham Sawan Kuha Temple, also known as the temple cave. The cave features a 15m gold reclining Buddha similar in style to the reclining Buddha at Bangkok’s Wat Pho.

After lunch at Ko Panyi (the floating village) you visit the pristine Ko Thalu Ok, where you can swim, kayak or explore the island. Your last stop of the day is James Bond Island by which time the bulk of the crowds have gone.

Option 3 – Sunrise Off-Peak Hours James Bond Island Tour

Duration: 8 hours l Number of guests: Max 4-8 l Rating: 4.9/5

If you’re looking to beat the crowds and enjoy a tourist-free James Bond Island, then this Phangnga sunrise tour is perfect for you!

Sunrise in Phang Nga gulf

You’ll start the day off with a spectacular sunrise over Phang Nga Bay before jetting off to James Bond Island before any of the other visitors get there – a true one-of-a-kind experience!

If you are staying at Khao Lak there are a number of tours that travel directly to James Bond Island.

Final Thoughts

So, is James Bond Island worth visiting? We definitely, it is! Whether you’re a die-hard James Bond fan, or someone who simply appreciates a breath-taking landscapes you will be left in awe of the stunning views that surround this small island. Although it can sometimes get a little crowded, there are still plenty of ways to beat the crowds and enjoy this serene, tropical landscape on your trip to Phuket!

About the author: Paula Morgan first visited Thailand in 1999 and has been returning regularly ever since. This year she has spent 3 months discovering what’s new. She loves exploring its less visited spots, not just the iconic landmarks and historic temples, but the hidden alleys, family run cafes and food stalls and the small communities in the islands of the south and the lush forests and mountains of Thailand’s north.