The Algar de Benagil, also known as Benagil Cave, is unquestionably one of Portugal's most beautiful and well-known natural wonders. It has a spectacular grotto with a hole in the ceiling known as "the eye," which allows sunlight to stream through and illuminate the golden sands and turquoise waters below while also providing a glimpse of the blue sky above.
In case you're planning a trip to the Algarve, make sure to include a visit to this stunning cave in your itinerary. In addition, Benagil Cave is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and as with any tourist destination, it can get very crowded. It is important to research your options before traveling so that you can enjoy your visit to the fullest extent possible!
For your convenience, we've put together this comprehensive guide to the Benagil Cave in southern Portugal, which includes everything you need to know about visiting this attraction.
Video: Pedro Nascimento
Where is Benagil Cave
Getting to Benagil Cave
In the fishing town of Benagil, on the beautiful Algarve coastline, is Benagil Sea Cave. It is approximately 15 minutes away from the town of Lagoa, 25 minutes away from Portimao, and approximately 45 minutes away from the Faro International Airport. If you are traveling to the cave from Lisbon, the most convenient mode of transportation is to take a bus to Lagoa, which takes approximately 3 hours and costs approximately €15. Take the train instead if you want another option. The sea cave is located just to the east of Benagil beach, which is also well worth visiting if you have the opportunity.
Because parking at Benagil beach is extremely limited, it is recommended that you park your car at the top of the cliffs and walk the rest of the way. If you do not intend to rent a car (which is highly recommended when visiting the Algarve), you can also take a taxi, which will only cost you a few euros depending on where you are coming from.
When Should You Go to Benagil Cave?
It is recommended that you visit Benagil Cave during the spring and fall seasons when the crowds will be less overwhelming but you will still have access to a wide range of tour options and pleasant weather.
In July and August, the crowds are at their worst, and if you're planning an official cave tour, it's best to book in advance during these months because they fill up quickly. Aside from that, some tour operators only operate tours from April through the end of October, and prices are typically higher during the summer months.
When it comes to choosing the best time of day to visit, it all comes down to your objectives. It is best to arrive as early as possible, especially during peak season, to avoid crowds in the cave and long lines at the entrance. For those more concerned with seeing the best possible lighting in the sea cave, however, the best time to visit is around mid-morning or late afternoon.
Time of Day to Visit the Benagil Cave: Morning or Evening
Once you've chosen your travel dates for your epic Portugal adventure, you'll need to determine the best time of day to visit the caves themselves. Generally speaking, the best light through the cave's opening occurs between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so if you're interested in photography, that might be a good time for you to visit.
While getting up early in the morning to paddle out before the crowds will help you avoid the large groups of people on boat tours, the light will be less than ideal for taking photos at this time of day due to the lack of natural light. As a result, plan ahead of time-based on your requirements!
If you want to avoid the crowds, try to get up early in the morning, as is the case with most tourist destinations. Prefer to see the caves in peace? Consider taking an earlier boat tour or renting equipment at Benagil beach and trying to see them before the rest of the world gets their day started.
Cost to Visit the Benagil Cave
Although the cost of visiting the Benagil Caves varies depending on the season in which you go, the expected price range for visiting the caves is approximately $20 to $60 USD.
Renting a kayak for approximately one hour from one of the nearby beaches will cost you between $22 and $30 USD. Participating in an organized boat tour of the caves will cost you between $30 and $60 USD (or close to $100 for a full-day boat tour), but the price will vary depending on the itinerary, season, and size of the boat. Tip: choose a smaller boat to increase your chances of getting access to the sea cave.
Explore the Benagil Cave
When visiting Benagil Sea Cave, you can admire the rock formations from above and walk around the rest of the beach on foot, but the cave's interior can only be reached by boat or by sea. So you have the option of traveling by boat, kayak, or paddleboard or swimming the distance to get there. Here is a quick overview of the various routes that can be taken to reach Benagil Cave.
Organized Tour or Self-Led?
First and foremost, you must decide whether you want to participate in an organized Benagil Cave tour or whether you want to rent equipment to get there on your own. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, and which is best for you will depend on your level of comfort and preferred method of exploration.
When you take a cave tour, you can relax knowing that the mode of transportation and the timing of your visit will be handled by professionals. Other advantages include not having to haggle over the price of equipment or being concerned about your safety. Tour companies charge a set fee for their services. Having a local guide who can answer questions about the caves while also providing information about the surrounding village is also beneficial.
The fact that organized tours have a set schedule is a disadvantage. Some people prefer to have more freedom to explore and experience the cave at their own pace rather than being restricted to strict meeting and ending time schedules. To be completely honest, most tours of Portugal's famous sea caves don't spend much time inside the cave, so if you prefer to move at your own pace, an organized tour might not be for you.
If you'd prefer to avoid physical activity and stay out of the water, taking a Benagil Cave boat tour is an excellent option for seeing the cave. In the region, there are several boat trips available, each departing from a different point. Boat tours depart from the nearby towns of Carvoeiro and Portimao, and there are numerous options available.
Taking a guided boat tour along the Algarve coastline, particularly between Lagos and Albufeira, is a good option if you want to see other caves and spectacular cliffs along the way. However, make certain that you are leaving in a small boat that is capable of transporting you into the cave. For those interested in visiting the cave, we recommend that you carefully read the boat ride itineraries to ensure that the tour will take you into the cave.
The boat trip will last between 1 and 3 hours and will cost between €20 and €60 per person, depending on the itinerary and the time of year you choose to take it. These tour operators keep a close eye on the weather and tide tables, so you never have to be concerned about your safety while on your boat trip.
Additionally, you have the option of departing directly from Benagil beach. Simply descend the stairwell to sea level, where a fleet of fishing boats awaits to transport tourists to and from the cave. These will be smaller and less expensive than the majority of the other tours, and they will only take you to the cave and back. During peak season at Benagil Beach, you may have to wait a long time for these trips, so if you plan on visiting during this time, we recommend looking into one of the larger tours.
However, one disadvantage of taking a boat tour is the fact that you will not be able to get off and explore the cave; instead, you will only be able to admire it for a short period from the water.
Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding
If you want to spend more time inside the cave and on the cave's secluded beach, another option for visiting the Benagil Sea Cave is to rent a stand-up paddleboard or a kayak and explore the cave on your own time. You can either join a guided kayak tour or rent your equipment and explore the cave on your own.
The majority of kayak tours will cost approximately €40 euros per person, while stand-up paddleboarding tours will cost approximately €50 per person. They last approximately 2-3 hours, depending on where they begin and end, with approximately 20 minutes spent inside the cave.
Be sure to confirm the amount of time you will be able to spend in the cave, just as you should with boat tours, because some tours may only include less than 20 minutes. Consider choosing a tour that includes a lifeguard as well as a support boat in case the water becomes unexpectedly rough. This is especially important if you are new to kayaking, so keep these services in mind when booking your tour.
When you choose not to participate in one of the organized cave tours, you will have unlimited time inside the beautiful sea cave, and you will be able to explore as much or as little as you want, although 20 minutes is usually sufficient for most people. Making your kayak tour of the area allows you to see more of the breathtaking coast while saving money.
If you decide to go on your own instead of taking a tour, make sure to check the weather conditions before leaving the beach.
The final option available to you when visiting Benagil Sea Cave is to swim 200 meters from the beach to the cave, which takes about 20 minutes. Because of the strong currents and high waves in the area, we only recommend swimming for experienced swimmers due to the unpredictable nature of the weather and the changing nature of the conditions.
Anyone planning to swim to the cave should be well-informed about the weather conditions, currents, and tides, and should avoid swimming near the cliffs because they can be unstable in the event of an earthquake. Furthermore, swimming is not recommended during the peak season because it is difficult to reach the cave's entrance safely due to a large number of tour boats in the area.
If you have your heart set on swimming to the caves, make sure you are well prepared before you embark on your journey. First and foremost, don't tamper with Mother Nature's balance. Check the weather conditions before you go swimming to ensure that the currents and winds are low and that the tides are not high before you go swimming. In bad weather, even boats will not venture out onto the water. You can look up the tide tables on this website.
You'll also want to consider wearing a wetsuit because the water can be a little chilly all year, as well as fins and a mask. After all, the water can be chilly all year. Bringing some sort of floatation device is also recommended in case you become fatigued from fighting the current.
The cave's entrance and exit, where the waves can get quite rough, will be the most difficult parts to navigate, so mentally prepare yourself to battle some waves during this part of the journey. Overall, just be cautious — I want you to have a safe experience in the caves so that you can continue to enjoy the wonders of Portugal in their entirety.
Walking or Driving
If water isn't your preferred mode of transportation but you still want to see the caves, it is possible to see the Benagil Cave from the lookout hole above, but there is no way to get inside the caves from the lookout hole above. If you are short on time, driving or walking to the lookout point above is an option. However, this is not the best way to experience the sea cave itself because you will miss out on the most awe-inspiring experience.
Restaurants to Visit While Visiting Benagil Cave
Even though the village is small, there are numerous excellent restaurants in the surrounding area. Enjoy some delicious Portuguese cuisine after you disembark from the boat or after you've finished exploring the sea and coast.
You'll find O Litoral, a fantastic restaurant that's open for lunch and dinner, just a seven-minute walk from the beach. This is the place to go if you're in the mood for some grilled squid or monkfish.
O Pescador is a fantastic spot that is only 9 minutes away. This restaurant offers breathtaking views of the cliffs above Benagil beach, as well as seafood that is so fresh you won't believe your eyes. It is certain that you will find what you are looking for here if you enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine.
For those who want to stay on the beach and play a little longer, there is a small snack bar near the beginning of Benagil beach where you can get some cold drinks and snacks until you are ready for a full meal.
Where to Stay in the Neighborhood of Benagil Cave
When looking for a place to stay near Benagil Cave for easy access, there are a number of options to choose from in the area. A variety of resorts and accommodations are available in the neighboring towns of Carvoeiro and Portimao, including the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort, which is located on the Algarve coastline about 15 minutes from Benagil Cave. A fantastic option if you're looking for all-inclusive luxury with dining options and a spa on-site, this is a great choice.
Located approximately 30 minutes away from Benagil, Praia da Rocha is a popular resort town and beach destination. It is not only known for its beautiful beach, but it also has a bustling and active nightlife scene that is worth checking out. This is the place to be if you want to enjoy the caves during the day and party at night.
Alvor, a charming fishing village located just a few miles outside of Portimao, is an excellent choice if you prefer a more intimate setting but don't want to give up easy access to the region's world-class beaches. Hotels in Alvor that are worth staying at include the Alvor Baia Resort Hotel and the Pestana Alvor South Beach, to name a few.
After that, the 5-star Vila Vita Parc Resort, located approximately 15 minutes east of the cave and offering luxurious amenities as well as close proximity to stunning beaches, is a must-see. The resort is also home to the Ocean restaurant, which is one of the many Michelin-starred establishments in the area.
Activities and Attractions
While Benagil Cave is unquestionably one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Algarve, there are a variety of other nearby activities and sights to take advantage of during your visit to the cave and surrounding area.
Located just ten minutes to the east is Praia da Marinha, which is considered one of Portugal's most beautiful beaches. It is home to some of the most iconic rock formations in the Algarve and is ideal for relaxing, exploring, or doing both! Another beach worth visiting is Praia da Carvalho, which is located to the west of the cave. It is a relatively small space that is not overly crowded most of the time. As a result of the clear water, it is an excellent place to go snorkeling. It is accessible through a tunnel in the rock formations.
In order to have a more extended sea adventure along the Algarve Coast, you can charter a yacht from Lagos to Faro and explore islands, lagoons, and other hidden gems of the coastline. As you travel through Lagos, you'll see sights like the Ponta da Piedade, Benagil Cave, and the Praia da Marinha, and you'll get to eat traditional Portuguese fare along the way.
If you prefer to take in the breathtaking views from the land rather than the sea, that is also possible! Hiking along the coastal cliffs is a fantastic experience, with trails ranging from relatively easy to more moderate in difficulty. Upon completion of your exploration of Praia da Benagil, you can take a short hike down the coast to the stunning Praia de Albandeira.
Furthermore, Benagil is located on the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, an 11-kilometer walk that is considered to be one of the best in Europe and runs from Praia de Marinha near Armaço de Pêra to Praia de Vale Centeanes near Carvoeiro.
Visit one of the nearby waterparks for a completely different kind of water adventure experience. Slide & Splash is a fun waterpark in Lagoa that features rides, animal shows, and other attractions. Aqualand and Zoomarine, both of which are located about 20 minutes away from the cave, are two other excellent options.
Try a dolphin-watching tour instead of the typical sea cave boat tour for a refreshing change of pace. Typically lasting around 2.5 hours, these boat tours take you to a variety of sea caves before sailing further out into the ocean to see dolphins. Consider taking this type of tour if you're interested in visiting Benagil Cave but also want to have the opportunity to see and interact with dolphins and other marine life!
What Should You Bring
What you'll need to bring will vary depending on whether you're going to visit by boat, swimming, or some other mode of transportation. The items on the following list will assist you in covering all of your bases so that you are prepared in any situation.
The following items should be included in your Benagil Cave packing list:
- Sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher
- Extra coverage can be provided by a swimsuit or rash guard (if going by boat you can wear normal clothes but may want a swimsuit underneath)
- Flip flops or water shoes are recommended.
- Equipment for taking photographs (GoPro is great for this)
- Pack your belongings in a waterproof backpack or dry bag.
- a bottle of water (preferably insulated to avoid drinking warm water)
- If you're swimming: A wetsuit, fins, a mask, and a floatation device are all required.
- If you're taking a self-guided tour, always check the weather first and make sure you're going to the caves when the tide is low before setting out.
- Avoid the crowds by arriving early in the day.
- Bring a dry bag or a waterproof backpack to keep your camera equipment safe and dry.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen to protect your skin!
- There is free parking at Benagil Beach, as well as same-day tours and kayak rentals, which are both offered.
- Tours may be canceled due to poor sea conditions at Benagil Beach, so plan to stay in the area for several days to ensure that you have the best chance possible of seeing the cave.
- Don't forget to get travel insurance to cover your expenses during your trip.
A visit to the Benagil Cave will take you to one of the most incredible places you'll ever see in the Algarve. In addition to being easily accessible from many cities and marinas along the coast, this cave offers a variety of different experiences depending on your ideal adventure, whether it be by the sea in a boat or kayak, or simply by looking at it from the surface of the land above. As long as you keep these suggestions in mind, you will have a successful trip to the world-renowned Benagil Sea Cave!
If you want to go to Benagil caves, there are hotels nearby you can stay and experience this fantastic beach.
- Suites Alba Resort and Spa
- Hotel Carvoeiro Plaza, Carvoeiro, Portugal
- Pestana Palm Gardens, Carvoeiro, Portugal
- Lagoa Hotel, Lagoa e Carvoeiro, Portugal
- Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa, Lagoa, Portugal
- Rocha Brava Village Resort, Carvoeiro, Portugal
- Monte Santo Resort, Carvoeiro, Portugal