Do you know those pictures of impressive places in the world shared on the internet, which often look like a montage, so surreal how beautiful the landscapes are? Well, this is Benagil Cave, the biggest postcard of the Algarve and one of the most beautiful Portugal sea caves you will ever see!
Located between Spain and the Alentejo region, the Algarve is a European paradise full of history and modern amenities offering something for everyone.
With an average of 300 sunny days per year, the Algarve beaches represent one of the main touristic destinations in summer.
Its natural beauty and beautiful bay of golden sand with warmer waters than other regions of Europe attract mainly the Portuguese themselves, English, German, and French tourists.
All along the Algarve coast, there are countless caves created by the constant encounter of the sea with the rocks. And one of the most beautiful results of these encounters is certainly the vertical cave of Benagil, or Algar de Benagil (in Portuguese).
It is easy to understand why this is one of the most famous spots in a region that does not spare on exuberance. The cave in the middle of the sea, with a hole in the ceiling, is a natural work of art.
Geomorphology that can be seen and felt, and that deserves to be understood and admired from within.
At Benagil, you will be impressed by the arches at the entrance to the cave and the spotlight of natural light that is created on the strip of sand on the small, peaceful beach inside.
The large natural opening at the top allows natural light to enter and the sun’s rays provide a true spectacle of nature. The lighting dips into the seawater and reflects magical colors everywhere, highlighting the emerald green of the water and the gold of the rocks.
Besides this beautiful cave, you might be even more delighted to find a “hidden” beach in the Algarve area.
Where is the Benagil Cave ?
Benagil sea cave is located on the beach of the same name in the village of Carvoeiro, in the town of Lagoa in the Algarve, a region in southern Portugal famous for beautiful beaches with calm, clear waters and golden cliffs that make up its landscape.
How to get to Benagil Cave?
With a strategical location only one hour drive from Faro and 30 minutes from Albufeira, this is a perfect spot to include in your Algarve itinerary.
To get to Benagil from the N125 road just take the path towards Armação de Pera, look for the road to Porches, and then look for the arrows to various beaches – among them will be Benagil Beach (or Praia de Benagil).
It is a beach of easy access, with parking lots and good infrastructure. The Benagil parking lot is on top of the cliff, and you will find it after you go up the hill after passing the beachfront.
Although it is not even an incredibly beautiful beach, it is from Benagil Beach that you can access the Benagil sea caves.
Ways to visit Benagil Cave
Benagil Cave is very close to Benagil Beach, about 600 ft into the sea on the left side of the beach when facing the ocean. However, you cannot walk there, and the cave can only be accessed by water. There are several options to get to the cave, some more convenient than others.
Visiting Benagil Cave by boat
The most convenient way to visit the cave is on a boat tour to the caves of the Carvoeiro coast. There are Benagil cave tours departing from Lagos to Albufeira so you will have plenty of opportunities to visit the cave.
Benagil Beach itself has two companies (Tortuga and Didi) that make boat tours to the several caves in the region, including Benagil Cave.
The routes and prices are the same and you can choose between the express tour (which lasts about 40 minutes and takes you to 8 caves), and the full tour (which lasts 1:30 hours and includes more than 12 caves, as well as a 10-minute dive stop).
The positive side is that the tour includes visits to several caves. The route also passes by Carvalho Beach and Marinha Beach. There is a fantastic cave called Gruta do Amor (Love Cave) with a heart-shaped crater on the ceiling. It is so perfect that I wonder if it had a little help from an artisan.
The downside of the boat tour is that the boat stops only about 5 minutes at Benagil beach sea cave. Make sure you can get off the boat, because some boats only pass by, others stop but do not let you get off.
Always ask what is included before closing the tour if getting off the boat inside Benagil Cave is important to you.
Also, in the peak season the tours are sold out in the morning, so make sure you plan ahead and if possible, book your tour in advance.
Be aware that the boats that leave from Benagil Beach are small (maximum 10 people) and therefore sell out early.
Overall, the tour is nice for those who want to visit more places, but it is a bit rushed, so I do not recommend it if you like to take things slower.
Visiting Benagil Cave by kayak
Another way to visit is via the Benagil Cave kayak tour. There are single, double, and triple kayaks for rent. Depending on the sea conditions, it takes between 5 and 10 minutes to kayak to Benagil Caves. Right at the entrance to the beach, some companies offer kayak rental services. The rental allows you around 1:30 hours with the equipment.
The positive side of renting a kayak is that you go by yourself and have enough time to enjoy and take pictures inside the cave. Not to mention you get to experience a new activity and diversify your Algarve trip.
The downside is that if you have no kayaking skills you may have some difficulty getting in and out of the cave because of the waves.
But it is not impossible, believe me. Remember to enter through the second crack in the cave because the access is much easier.
Also, it is very common not to have kayaks for rent in peak season because of the high demand. The kayaks sell out even before the boat tours, so you have to arrive around 9 am to guarantee yours.
Visiting Benagil Cave by paddleboarding
One of the nicest ways to visit the Benagil Cave is to rent a paddleboard from Benagil Beach. The paddleboards available for rent can be single or double. Depending on the sea conditions, it takes between 5 and 10 minutes of paddling to get to the cave.
It is important to remember that the paddleboard has no place to store personal belongings, so plan well what you will be taking along with you.
And just like kayaking, when renting a paddleboard, you must sign a liability waiver and the equipment must be returned to the same place.
For those who like to do things in their own time, paddleboarding and kayaking are the best options. However, I think it is worth going on a boat tour as well. This way you can see all the sensational caves the boat trip visits and make the most of Benagil Cave by staying a bit longer to enjoy the little cave beach at your own pace with the kayak or paddleboard.
Swimming to the Benagil Cave
When the tide is low and the sea is calm, it is also possible to swim between Benagil Beach and Benagil Cave. Under these conditions, swimming will take no more than 15 minutes to reach the inside of the cave. In any case, do not venture to swim to the cave unless you are very comfortable in the water and have experience.
The upside is that you go when you want and stay as long as you want inside the cave! There is a mini beach there that is a delight to relax at! Another option is to go floating in one of those buoys that has a hole in the middle. This way, if you get tired in the middle of the way you can still float for a few minutes.
The downside of swimming or floating is that it will depend on the sea conditions. Always ask the locals who work at Benagil Beach if the sea is ok to go swimming because this is not a very advisable practice unless you have some experience and are used to swimming in the sea.
Walking to the top of Benagil Cave
An alternative is to see the cave from above! Yes, it is possible to get this very special angle from the top of the Benagil crater. The walk there is part of the 7 Hanging Valleys Trail, which goes from Centeanes Valley Beach to Marinha Beach.
You can choose to do the entire trail, or you can do a small section of it that goes through the Benagil crater.
The access from Benagil to the trail is very easy. After leaving the beach, go up the hill to the right and go towards the edge of the cliff and you will find the beginning of the trail next to the restaurant O Algar.
There is no way to get lost, just take the small entrance to the right of the parking lot and go straight ahead for five minutes on the dirt road.
The crater contour is fenced off because the ground is very unstable, with the risk of collapsing. You cannot be too careful.
Upon arrival at the top of Benagil Cave, a beautiful landscape is revealed, and you can see the emerald, green water gently entering the cave and splashing the sand on the small beach.
Organized tours to visit Benagil Cave
If you have limited time and want to secure your tour to visit this spectacular cave you should book in advance. Here below I am sharing the tours with the highest review rating.
When is the best time to visit Benagil Cave
The Algarve sea has icy waters all year round, which are welcome in summer due to the region’s high temperatures. So, to make the best of your Benagil Cave experience, you might think that the best time to visit this fantastic place as well as the rest of the Algarve beaches, is from June to August.
However, given the peak season in Europe, this time of the year is usually the most crowded in touristy places such as the Benagil Cave.
Not to mention, the tours and rentals get more expensive. This makes the months of May and September the best options to escape the crowd and still enjoy the beach with nice weather.
Also, keep in mind that the cave is most beautifully lit between 11 am and 1 pm when the incidence of sunlight through the opening at the top is greatest.
Things to do on Benagil Beach
Benagil Beach is located on one of the most beautiful stretches of the Algarve coast, where the jagged cliffs form caves, craters, and arches. Next to the village of Benagil, the small Benagil Beach is nestled in a sheltered bay and has a lot more to offer than just Benagil Cave.
Bathed by a calm sea, this area is ideal for boat trips where you can discover deserted beaches, inaccessible by land. The beach itself is a great spot to lay in the sand and go for a swim or simply float on the water.
Of course, you can rent kayaks and paddleboards to go to Benagil Cave, as I mentioned before. But you can also rent those and just have some fun right in front of the beach if you want to avoid the crowd in the cave.
Restaurants near Benagil Beach
Benagil has invested heavily in tourism in recent years, so it is not difficult to find a restaurant where to have lunch. Right at the top of Benagil hill, there are three good examples of good cuisine that can be enjoyed close to Benagil Beach.
With fresh fish, well-prepared meat, and homemade dessert, O Algar offers a great atmosphere for those who want to have their meals while sitting out on the terrace with a view over the bay.
Offering great value for money, O Litoral is the place to go for grilled fish and homemade fresh juice. Meanwhile, O Pescador serves the traditional Portuguese cataplana and octopus accompanied by a unique wine selection.
Other interesting caves to visit in Portugal
In Portugal, there is a concentration of caves in three distinct places that you can include in your Portugal road trip itinerary: the lava tubes in the Azores region, the limestone caves in the Aire and Candeeiros mountains, and the sea caves in the Algarve. So here are a few examples of the most interesting and beautiful Portugal caves.
Gruta das Torres, Pico Island, Azores Archipelago
At 3.2 miles long, it is estimated that the Gruta das Torres was formed about 1500 years ago during an eruption at Cabeço Bravo. This is actually the largest known lava tube in Portugal.
The visit to the site currently takes place in the form of an expedition: for an hour, visitors walk 1500 ft of the cave with all the necessary equipment. The tour offers good infrastructures that guarantee the visitors’ safety. Every year, 10 thousand people visit Gruta das Torres.
In the Azores you can also visit Gruta do Carvão in Ponta Delgada. As well as Algar do Carvão, Gruta do Natal, and Furna do Enxofre in Terceira Island.
Grutas de Mira de Aire, Serras de Aire and Candeeiros Nature Park
Home to limestone caves with stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls, and underground lakes, the region of Porto de Mós is less than one hour from Nazaré. Considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, the Mira de Aire Caves are 7 miles long, but only 2000 ft of the route can be visited.
Discovered in 1947, the caves were only opened to the public in 1974. The route starts with a 360 ft drop from the entrance – the descent is via stairs, but on the way back up it is possible to take the elevator. Overall, it is a wonderful place and very well structured to receive visitors.
In this same region you can also visit the Santo Antônio Caves, Alvados Caves, and Algar do Pena in the Serras de Aire and Candeeiros Nature Park.
The Algarve coast is very diverse, ranging from extensive sandy beaches to rocky cliff formations. Due to erosion by the ocean, caves and craters have formed, which can be accessed by boat.
These caves and paradisiacal beaches are of great beauty where the turquoise blue of the sea stands out. Besides the Benagil Cave, there are numerous lesser-known but no less spectacular caves.
Examples of these caves are Algar Seco, Paradise Cave, Alfanzina Lighthouse Cave, Love Cave, among others.
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About the author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).