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Exuma's Most Adventurous Day Trip: Thunderball Grotto

Island Life
March 18th 2022
Exuma's Most Adventurous Day Trip: Thunderball Grotto
Cover photo credit: Danita Delimont/

It’s natural to want to go see what Thunderball Grotto has to offer once you’ve heard the name of this attraction. It really does sound like the title of an epic movie - probably because Thunderball Grotto has quite the cinematic history!

Before we get into any of that though, let’s talk about where you can find Thunderball Grotto. This popular tourist attraction is located in the Exumas – a stand-out group of islands in The Bahamas that are known for their idyllic beaches, and definitely worth visiting the next time you’re in the region.

Exuma Bahamas

Image credit: 2M media/

Now that you know where it is, let’s get into what Thunderball Grotto is and why it makes for such an amazing day trip while in The Bahamas!

Expert tip: In addition to Thunderball Grotto, stunning beaches, and friendly swimming pigs, Exuma is also known for being home to one of the best golf courses in The Bahamas, the oceanfront Greg Norman-designed course at Sandals Emerald Bay!

What exactly is Thunderball Grotto?

Thunderball Grotto is an underwater cave system in the islands of The Bahamas. This natural treasure is so wonderfully intricate that it is possible to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive at this incredible location.

Thunderball Grotto The Bahamas

Image credit: Danita Delimont/

At Thunderball Grotto, you can expect a serene setting for swimming with crystal clear waters that are ideal for snorkeling. When you first lay eyes on this attraction, you’ll see right away what all the hype is about as anticipation builds for exploring the underwater cave system and getting familiar with the marine life. The appeal of snorkeling at Thunderball Grotto extends past the unique tropical fish you’re likely to see. The location was once the backdrop of the famous James Bond movie, ‘Thunderball’, hence the name of this stunning attraction.

Thunderball Grotto in pop culture

Thunderball Grotto was once a hidden gem, with not many other people outside of The Bahamas knowing about its beauty. Fortunately for all of us, news of its allure spread to the rest of the world as the attraction started being featured on the big screen. Hollywood had heard about this dreamy destination and its blow-up was inevitable.

Then it started … the movie crews started arriving with celebrities in tow and before you knew it, Thunderball Grotto was a star of its own. Some of the Hollywood movies that have been shot on-location at Thunderball Grotto include ‘Splash’ starring Tom Hanks, ‘Into The Blue’ featuring Jessica Alba and Paul Walker, and most notably, ‘Thunderball’ – the James Bond film starring Sean Connery (1965).

Thunderball James Bond Sean Connery

Image credit: Stefano Chiacchiarini '74/

James Bond was the one that did it! The Thunderball movie actually influenced the name of Thunderball Grotto, and deservedly so. The two will forever be intertwined, which makes Thunderball Grotto and anyone who decides to visit this attraction while in The Bahamas a sure winner as well.

Where is Thunderball Grotto and how do I get there?

Thunderball Grotto is one of the famous features of the Exumas in The Bahamas. To get there, you’ll have to venture to the west of Staniel Cay, a little south of the popular Pig Beach (more on that later) in The Bahamas. Notably, Thunderball Grotto is just 80 miles south of Nassau, the charming capital of The Bahamas. You can rent a boat and go there from the Exuma Islands, or you can fly to the nearby Staniel Cay Airport.

Thunderball Grotto: A can't-miss experience in the Exumas

Beautiful and scenic, it’s easy to see why so many can’t wait to visit Thunderball Grotto in The Bahamas. This attraction is popular for diving and suitable whether you want to go snorkeling or scuba diving. Those who explore Thunderball Grotto frequently describe the visit here as the highlight of their trip and advise others to bring an underwater camera along to capture the moment.

At Thunderball Grotto, more experienced swimmers and divers can explore the underwater cave systems, but those who just want to swim, and snorkel can do that uninhibited. Just being in this area is an adventure in itself, and you’ll be able to enjoy it whether or not you choose to go diving.

See unique marine life

The Bahamas has some of the best diving in the Caribbean with a variety of dive sites to choose from for divers of all skill levels. Thunderball Grotto is one of the best dive sites in The Bahamas and it appeals to both snorkelers and scuba divers. Divers can expect to witness an underwater world teeming with marine life. You may see species like yellowtail snappers, sergeant majors, angelfish, lobster, conch, and more.

Colorful Lobster Bahamas

Image credit: bulbspark/

When going for a dive at Thunderball Grotto, you’ll need to bring along your own dive equipment - unless you prefer to rent equipment on location. Good to know: Sandals all-inclusive resort offers free snorkeling for guests, as well as free scuba diving (up to two tanks per day), this includes professional equipment!

Snorkel in the clear underwater caves

One of the best parts of diving at Thunderball Grotto is the way the sunlight reflects off the water in the caves creating a kaleidoscope effect throughout the day. These unique views make it absolutely worth it to snorkel here while in The Bahamas.

Thunderball Grotto The Bahamas Surface View

Image credit: Mary Ann Tardif/

When exploring Thunderball Grotto, it is recommended that you get into the water at low tide if you’ll be swimming or snorkeling. At high tide, you’re more likely to need scuba diving gear to help you swim through small sea tunnels and get out on the other side to reach the surface. If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience at Thunderball Grotto that just includes some swimming and snorkeling, you should check the tides before venturing out.

Expert tip: The best time to visit the Thunderball Grotto is at low tide. Look up the tide times for the day you’re planning to visit this gem.

Discover hidden entrances underwater

Finding hidden cave entrances under the water while diving can be a real source of intrigue. This most certainly is part of the attraction for divers who choose to go to Thunderball Grotto because there are many secret cave entrances beneath the waves. Some of the caves have their own swimming areas once you get inside, and these can be a thrill to find. The caverns are all unique, and while you’re diving, the sun often shines in through the top of the caves making for a much clearer underwater view. Overall, exploring the underwater cave systems at Thunderball Grotto can be an amazing experience for the most skilled divers.

Thunderball Grotto The Bahamas Overview

Image credit: MBV1/

Take a swim in the clear blue water

Beautiful, clear blue waters are what islands of The Bahamas islands are known for, and Thunderball Grotto in The Exumas definitely fits the bill! This attraction will allow you to swim or snorkel in the clearest, bluest seas. That alone will add special touches of tranquility and bliss to your vacation.

Bahamas Couple Snorkel Beach

To swim, snorkel or dive at Thunderball Grotto, you don’t need to be an expert, but you should make note that there isn’t much shallow water at this location. Unless you are comfortable swimming in open water, it is not recommended to go swimming at Thunderball Grotto. Most tours do come with the option of getting into the water with a life jacket, so you can choose to go that route if you’re not a strong swimmer.

Relax & enjoy the views

Judging from the reviews, it is safe to say that Thunderball Grotto is one of those places where you’ll be immediately struck by its awesomeness. This jaw-dropping reaction just might be your own should you arrive by boat or yacht and find yourself caught up admiring the scenery and the striking landscapes. This alone will be worthwhile even if you’re not that into swimming or diving. It can still be enjoyable to relax on a boat enjoying the views.

Bahamas Aerial Cays View

If you’re in the mood for some island spotting, grab a cool drink and lounge in a shady spot. With a pair of binoculars, see if you can find the nearby private islands owned by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey!

Best way to travel to Thunderball Grotto

It won’t be hard to get to Thunderball Grotto while in The Bahamas.

If you are staying on one of the other Exuma Cays, you can explore this location with a day trip by boat or via a private yacht.

Bahamas Aerial Sandbar View

Many of the day trips to Thunderball Grotto include stops to other nearby locations, which will add to the fun of the whole experience. It is also possible to get to this location by flying to the Staniel Cay Airport, which is about a 5-minute boat ride from Thunderball Grotto.

Bonus: Other experiences near Thunderball Grotto

If you’ll be going to Thunderball Grotto while in The Bahamas, it is worth knowing about the other nearby things to do in Exuma that you can experience. It’s likely that you’ll be able to visit most of these places on the same day as your tour to Thunderball Grotto. A few of these locations include Pig Beach, Bitter Guana Cay, and Compass Cay, all of which we’ll discuss below:

Pig Beach

The name really does say it all for this beach, and in the best way possible. Pig Beach is one of the only beaches in The Bahamas, and The Caribbean, for that matter where you can find swimming pigs. The swimming pigs of Pig Island are adorable, friendly, and fun, making them a very popular stop for travelers to The Bahamas.

Pig Island The-Bahamas

Going to Pig Beach on the uninhabited Big Major Cay can make for an exciting day trip. Pig Beach is just over half a mile from Thunderball Grotto, so it is possible to get to and from either of these locations by boat.

Bitter Guana Cay

Bitter Guana Cay is a small and serene island in The Bahamas that appeals to nature lovers. Here you can meet and interact with the endangered Northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas. You may also enjoy this island because of its natural beauty, scenic views, snorkeling and swimming opportunities, and peaceful ambiance! Bitter Guana Cay is about 4 miles away from Thunderball Grotto.

Iguana Bitter Cay

Image credit: Jonas von Werder/

Compass Cay

Not too far from Pipe Creek is Compass Cay, which is well known for its nurse shark sanctuary. Here you’ll really be able to get up close to sharks that are as gentle as can be. Pet and swim with these nurse sharks (if you can muster up the courage to do so) and take lots of photos while you’re at it. When you’re done, spend some time at the other beautiful beaches around Compass Cay to make the most of this experience.

Nurse sharks at Compass Cay

Image credit: Giongi63/

Staniel Cay Yacht Club

The Staniel Cay Yacht Club on Staniel Cay is near Thunderball Grotto. It is a great place to go for food and drinks or just to relax once you’re done exploring this attraction. It is easy to dock at Staniel Cay, and while there, it wouldn’t be at all unusual to run into celebrities and famous people who sometimes dock in the area. Staniel Cay is the nearest landmass to Thunderball Grotto.

Staniel Cay The Bahamas

Image credit: Capricorn Studio/

Good to know: Staniel Cay is about 75 miles south of Nassau and 250 miles southeast of Florida.

Pipe Creek

There are lots of sandbars in The Bahamas that are visible and available to lounge on during low tide. One of the more popular of these can be found near the stretch of islands known as Pipe Creek. Pipe Creek is about 6 miles from Thunderball Grotto, so relaxing on this sandbar can easily be included in a tour around this area. On Pipe Creek, you’ll also find a sea turtle sanctuary and lots of room to enjoy the ocean and search for sand dollars.

Bahamas Sandbar Aerial View

Become the star of your own to Thunderball Grotto adventure!

You won’t want to miss the chance to delve into the underwater caves at Thunderball Grotto. Your experience can be as tranquil or as thrilling as you like. You can marvel at the fish and sea life you meet under the water’s surface and try to map out the underwater tunnels. Even if you only admire the way the sunlight bounces off the aquamarine water from the boat or shore, this will surely be an experience you won’t soon forget.


Image credit: RaksyBH/

If you’re wondering where you can stay in The Bahamas to have easy access to Thunderball Grotto and the other nearby attractions, you should definitely consider an all-inclusive resort in Exuma, so you can drink and eat as much as you want - without having to worry about the bill at the end of your stay!

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