The ultimate guide to visiting the Caves of Benagil 2022

The Caves of Benagil in Algarve Portugal, the most famous of the Algarve sea caves, is a must-see on any trip to the Algarve coast. Our Guide to visiting Benagil cave will give you all the information you need to plan a great visit.

If you are planning a visit to Portugal, then you have likely heard about Benagil cave. This dome-shaped sea cave and golden sand beach result from nature’s work for millions of years, creating a unique seascape you will find nowhere else.

Gruta de Benagil

The famous Benagil Cave, or “Gruta de Benagil”, in Portuguese, is the largest along the coast. If you’re in the Algarve region, you simply have to visit Benagil cave! Together with Ponta da Piedade and Praia da Marinha, Benagil cave is the most iconic landmark of the Algarve.

Its beauty has attracted visitors worldwide, especially after being named one of the most beautiful caves in the world by Condé Nast Traveler and Reader’s Digest Magazine.

Come with us! We will tell you how to visit these Benagil Caves and share some insider tips!

Finding the Cave of Benagil on a Map

The “Algar de Benagil” sits beside a tiny fishing village with the same name, which is part of Carvoeiro parish, in Lagoa Municipality.

To the East, along the southern coast, there are other sea caves near Praia da Marinha. The golden cliffs on this beach, especially its natural arches forming the famous “M” rock, were awarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by Conde Nast Traveller, CNN, and Europe Best Destinations.

In the opposite direction, there is Praia do Carvalho, a beach known for its long history of smugglers and pirates. Along the coastline, there are other spectacular caves, such as Alfanzina, a lighthouse built on the cliff above a cave, and “Algar Seco”, a cluster of sinkholes and rock formations near Carvoeiro.

Algarve coastline between Alfanzina and Benagil

The nearest cities are Lagoa, located 7 kilometers away, and Portimão, 16 kilometers away. Both a well-positioned to reach Benagil Cave either by car or public transportation, in a short time.

The Creation of Amazing Caves

According to a local myth, Benagil was the beautiful daughter of a wealthy Moorish king. During one of her walks along the cliffs, Benagil met Carvoeiro, a poor commoner boy.

For a long time, Benagil and Carvoeiro met in secret. Until one day, her father surprised the young couple. This forbidden love affair ended when Benagil’s father killed Carvoeiro.

Algarve coastline at Ponta da Piedade Credit: Ines Tito

The heartbroken princess desperately cried at the exact place where the love of her life perished. She cried for such a long time that her tears opened profound rifts, through which it was possible to see the ocean. People used to believe this was how the cave appeared, and it was why they named it Benagil. However, science allows us to find a more plausible explanation.

The Algarve coastline between Lagos and Armação de Pêra is a cluster of towering cliffs, hidden coves, sandy beaches, and spectacular sea caves. And Benagil cave is no exception!

Caves of Benagil
Benagil Cave

The layered limestone, clay, and sand cliffs, typical of southern Portugal, dating back to the Mesozoic period when the only living creatures were dinosaurs. The Eurasian and African tectonic plates, located a few kilometers off the coast of the Algarve, were one of the separation points of the Pangea. This moment was the beginning of the Benagil sea caves we see today.

Over 20 million years, rain, wind, and sea shaped the limestone and formed what the Portuguese call “Algares”. These are vertical holes on limestone cliffs, where water penetrates and erodes the rock, resulting in sea caves.

In some places, it is possible to observe how the caves collapsed. This results in the stacks and other geological formations the area is so well known for.

The eye of Benagil cave

Benagil cave entrance presents two natural arches, where one is slightly larger than the other. However, its shape and size are the main features that leave visitors breathless.

Benagil is known for its dome-shaped cave, with a hole from where daylight hits the cave’s sandy beach. Originally, this beach did not exist. To guarantee the safety of visitors, Lagoa Municipality added some sand to cover the fallen rocks scattered inside the cave.

The Best Time to Visit Benagil Caves

With an astonishing 300 sunny days per year in the Algarve, you are welcome to visit the Benagil caves at any time of the year. Still, there are a few things you should consider.

July and August are the peak season when Portuguese and foreign visitors come to the Algarve region to enjoy some beach time on the golden sands. As a result, you will often find crowds along the coast of Benagil Caves, especially in nearby towns and villages. Since this beautiful cave is a natural beauty, this time of the year is the busiest.

The Algarve in summer, Praia de Rocha

If you prefer to enjoy the Algarve caves with fewer people, then it is best to visit mid-season. The months between March and June, or between September and October, will allow you to admire the “Algar de Benagil” peacefully, without rushing.

During winter, you can also visit the Benagil cathedral. Although it is the coldest season, there are plenty of sunny days. However, at this time of year, there is a higher chance of rough sea conditions and dangerous weather that might hinder your visit.

Essential Clothing and Equipment to Visit the Benagil Cave

While there is no specific dress code for visiting the Benagil Cave, it’s important to consider weather-appropriate clothing.

If you plan on visiting Benagil cave over the summer, a bathing suit or shorts is just fine. Even if you do not plan to swim, you will probably get wet while heading inside the cave. Most tours require you to hop into the very shallow water as the boat/kayak/paddleboat pulls up to the sand inside the cave.

Paddle boarding at the Benagil caves

If you visit Benagil sea cave over the winter, be sure to wear warm, waterproof clothes.

Regardless of the season, we recommend a waterproof bag to protect your belongings. This way, you can photograph the staggering Benagil sea cave and protect your gear from splashes.

How to Get to Benagil Cave

If you are traveling by car, then you must drive to Benagil Beach, in Carvoeiro. It is the closest location to the “Gruta de Benagil” and where most organized tours depart.

If you do not have a car, then consider hiring a taxi or an Uber. Professional drivers in the Algarve are familiar with the sea cave location and can take there within a few minutes.

Tour boats at Benagil village entrance to Benagil beach

Local buses are also available. Company “Vamus” manages all bus lines in the Algarve and offers transport options to Benagil. We recommend you catch the circular bus number 77, departing from Lagoa. It is the shortest bus route to Benagil.

If you would prefer the scenic route and take in a few coastal villages and cities, along the way, we recommend you use bus number 52. This bus, also known as EVA Cliffs Line, departs from Alvor, passing through Praia de Benagil, headed toward Armação de Pêra.

Looking down into Benagil cave from the cliff above

Another way to find the Benagil cave is by walking along the cliffs. The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, considered the best trail destination in Europe, by Europe Best Destinations, will take you on a journey between the nearby beaches Vale Centeanes and Marinha.

At a short distance from Alfanzina lighthouse, you will find an “Algar”, a sinkhole on the ground, surrounded by a fence. It is the hole in the cave ceiling, which some people do not notice since there are similar holes along the trail.

There is erosion all along the Algarve coastline, which has resulted in unstable cliffs. Although it will be tempting to get the perfect selfie, we recommend you to keep a safe distance from the cliffs’ or sinkholes’ edges.

How to Get Inside Benagil Sea Cave

The inside of Benagil cave is only accessible by sea. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to visit this remarkable wonder.

While visiting Benagil cave, you might notice some people swimming inside. Although Benagil Beach is only 200 meters away, we do not recommend you swim to the cave. The ocean currents are strong and shift quickly. Even if you are an experienced swimmer, the current might pull away you into open waters or dangerously near the cliffs.

Choosing the Best Benagil Boat Trips

Boat trips are the most used transportation to visit the “Grutas de Benagil”. Between Alvor and Albufeira, you will find tour companies offering trips to Benagil cave and Praia da Marinha.

Each company tries to allure visitors by presenting something more than their competitor. Some companies provide short or long trips to Benagil. If you prefer the longest, then you will find several options of Benagil cave boat tours that combine dolphin watching or swimming.

Boat tour arriving a Benagil cave

Tours also depart from Benagil Beach itself, which is perfect if you decide to drive or walk here. A 30-minute boat ride departs from the golden sand beach. Last minutes bookings are available most of the year but be sure to book in advance in high season.

If you would like to make a day of it exploring the coastline, then we recommend you book an organized boat tour from Portimão. The boat tours departing from this coastal city to Benagil cave and Marinha Beach have a total duration of between two to three hours. You will exit the Arade river mouth into the Atlantic Ocean and admire the rugged coastline.

Algar Seco cave

Besides Benagil Cave, you will discover other caves, such as the “Zorreira”, the Captain’s Cave, and “Algar Seco”.

Both the Mediterranean climate and the Atlantic Ocean affect The Algarve weather. As a result, it is common to have beautiful sunny days and strong ocean currents that make it impossible for a boat to go out at sea. When booking a boat tour, we recommend you only used a licenced provider who will check the tide tables closely and only operate the tour if the conditions are safe.

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Our Boat Tour Recommendations for Exploring the Algarve Coastline

Algarve Cave Captain

Ricardo is the owner and skipper of this local boat tour company. He will take you along the coast and inside Benagil cave, naming all the coves and rock formations on the way to Benagil. If the weather is good, he might make a short stop for a swim. You can take a look at the tour price and full details here.

Santa Bernarda

This boat is a replica of a Portuguese caravel, a kind of ship that sailed the world in the 15th century. Since this boat is too big, it travels with smaller boats, so that visitors can enter the Benagil cave. Santa Bernarda is also an excellent option for people with walking disabilities. Take a look at what the tour has to offer here.

Kayak and Paddle Board Tours

Kayaking and stand-up paddle are other options to visit Benagil cave. At the Benagil Beach, you will find kayak and stand-up paddle tours. After departing “Praia de Benagil”, the local guides will help you reach this natural wonder. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced kayaker, you do not need to carry your own equipment. Local kayak tour companies will provide all you need, as well as safety instructions.

Considering the overwhelming number of people visiting Benagil cave on boat trips, kayaks, and paddleboards, we do not recommend you to go by yourself inside the cave. Also, the ocean currents might pull you closer to the cliffs and put you in a difficult situation.

Over the summer, when more people visit the Algarve, we recommend you book Benagil cave tours in advance to guarantee availability.

Benagil Cave Kayak and Paddleboard Tour Recommendations

Star Tours Algarve

Benagil cave is the meeting point of this kayak tour company. We recommend you book this popular tour in advance.

Destination Point: Benagil Beach Entrance
Duration: 2 hours
Price: from $32.95 for children, $38.45 for adults
Booking and tour details here

Blue Xperiences

This company offers stand-up paddle tours, departing from Benagil cave. Bruno, the owner, will gather a small group of up to eight people and lead you into the cave. You may find full details and ticket prices here.

Accommodation Near Benagil Cave

The Algarve Coast is a renowned world-class beach destination. There is no shortage of places to stay, but here are a few of our favorites

  • Tivoli Carvoeiro – Built on top of the cliffs between Carvoeiro and Vale Centeanes, this five-star hotel offers one of the best guest experiences near Benagil beach.
  • Vale d’El Rei Hotel & Villas – If you would like to discover the countryside near Benagil cave, this four-star resort will be your home away from home.
  • Hotel Carvoeiro Plaza – Overlooking the beach, at the heart of Carvoeiro, this accommodation sits close to any facilities or services you might need to find Benagil beach.

Restaurants Near Benagil Sea Cave

The Algarvian cuisine uses the best ingredients the land and sea offer. While planning your visit to the southern region in Portugal, you must consider including some local specialties. Since you will be so close to the sea, we recommend you try grilled sardines, seafood “Cataplana” or Monkfish rice.

Our Restaurant Recommendations

  • Pescador Restaurante – Pescador Restaurante is one of the oldest restaurants in Benagil. Besides traditional Portuguese cuisine, it offers a beautiful view of the beach.
  • Dumar d´Benagil – Located in the village center, Dumar d´Benagil offers grilled fresh fish and Portuguese food while overlooking the ocean.
  • O Algar – This humble and charming restaurant presents a menu focused on the sea. We recommend you try O Algar’s grilled fish or shrimp.

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