Before 1974, the island was a rarely visited indigenous area. However, it was chosen as one of the locations for the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun as the hideout for Bond’s antagonist, Francisco Scaramanga. After the movie release it turned into a popular tourist destination that has gradually contaminated Khao Phing Kan with household litter.
In 1981, the island became the most famous part of the newly established Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park. Since 1998, it is forbidden for tourist boats to approach Ko Tapu. This measure aims to stop erosion of the limestone rocks on and near the islet that might eventually result in its collapse.
Khao Phing Kan consists of two forest-covered islands with steep shores. They lie in the northwestern part of Phang Nga Bay, some 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the mainland, amid a group of a dozen of other islands. Its western part is about 130 metres (430 ft) in diameter whereas the eastern part is about 240 metres (790 ft) long and 140 metres (460 ft) wide and is elongated northwards. The island has a few caves and two sandy beaches, in the southwest and between the twin islands. The former hosts the government office where every visitor has to pay a tax. The latter is used as the port for the tourist boats arriving from the mainland and has several souvenir shops selling items like coral and shells and plastic-encased butterflies, scorpions, and spiders. Beaches and caves are regularly flooded with the tides, which have an amplitude of 2–3 metres (6.6–9.8 ft), so access to some caves is only possible during low tide.The Thai name for Khao Phing Kan reflects the particular shape of the island which appears as if a flat limestone cliff tumbled sideways and leaned on a similar rock in the center of the island.
Waters around the island are only few metres deep and are pale-green in colour. The bottom is covered with silt which is brought to the Phang Nga Bay by several rivers from the north.