Algar de Benagil, or Benagil Cave, is undeniably one of Portugal's most stunning and famous natural landmarks. It features a remarkable grotto with a hole in the ceiling known as "the eye," which illuminates the golden sands and turquoise waters with sunlight and provides a glimpse of the blue sky above.
If you are planning to travel to the Algarve, make sure to include a trip to this beautiful cave on your itinerary. Benagil Cave is one of the most popular places to visit, and as with any tourist destination, it can get very crowded so it is important to research your options before you travel so you can enjoy your visit as much as possible!
In order to help you navigate this attraction, we've compiled this guide with everything you need to know when visiting the Benagil Cave in southern Portugal.
Benagil Sea Cave is located on the beautiful Algarve coastline in the fishing town of Benagil, about 15 minutes away from the town of Lagoa, 25 minutes from Portimao and about 45 minutes from the Faro Airport. If you are coming from Lisbon, the easiest way to travel to the cave is to take a bus to Lagoa, which takes about 3 hours and costs about €15. Another option is to take the train. The sea cave is just to the east of Benagil beach, which is also worth a visit if you have time.
Parking is very limited at Benagil beach, so it is best to leave your car at the top of the cliffs and walk the rest of the way. If you are not planning to rent a car (although this is recommended when visiting the Algarve) you can also take a taxi, which will only set you back a few euros depending on where you are coming from.
The best time to visit the famous Benagil Cave is during the spring and the fall, as the crowds will not be as overwhelming but you will still be afforded a wide range of tour options and idyllic weather.
Crowds are at their worst in July and August, and if you’re planning an official cave tour, they fill up quickly so it is important to book in advance during these months. In addition, some tour operators only run tours from April through the end of October, and prices will often be more expensive during the summer.
In terms of the best time of day to visit, it will depend on your goals. In order to avoid crowds in the cave and waiting times at the entrance, it is best to go as early as possible, especially during peak season. However, if you are more concerned with seeing the best possible lighting in the sea cave, the perfect time is around mid-morning or late afternoon.
When visiting Benagil Sea Cave, you can admire the rock formations from above and explore the rest of the beach on foot, but the inside of the Benagil Cave can only be accessed by sea. As such, you have the choice of either going by boat, kayak, paddleboard, or swimming the distance. Here is a quick overview of the different methods to get to Benagil Cave.
Joining a Benagil Cave boat tour is a great option for seeing the cave if you'd prefer to avoid physical activity and stay out of the water. There are several boat trips, each boarding from a different departure point in the region. You can find lots of boat tours leaving from the nearby towns of Carvoeiro and Portimao.
An organized boat tour is a good option if you wish to see other caves and amazing cliffs along the Algarve coastline, especially between Lagos and Albufeira. But be sure that you are going out in a small boat, capable of taking you into the cave. We recommend closely reading the boat ride itineraries to ensure that the tour will actually take you into the cave if that is something you are hoping to experience.
The boat trip will range from 1 to 3 hours and cost between €20 and €60 per person depending on the itinerary and the season. These tour operators monitor the weather and tide tables closely so you never have to worry about safety while on the boat trip.
If you would like to depart directly from Benagil beach, you have that option as well! Simply walk down the stairs to sea level, where there are fishermen boats waiting to take tourists to the cave. These will be smaller and cheaper than most of the other tours and will just take you to the cave and back. You may have to wait a long time for these trips during peak season, so we recommend looking into one of the larger tours if you will be visiting during this time.
The downside to taking a boat trip is that you will not be able to get off and explore the cave; you will only be able to admire it for a short time from the water.
If you would like to spend more time inside the cave and enjoy its secluded beach, another option you have to visit the Benagil Sea Cave is to take a stand-up paddle board or kayak. You can take a kayak tour, or you can rent your own equipment and visit the cave on your own. Most kayak tours cost about €40 euros per person, while stand-up paddle boarding tours will cost closer to €50 per person. They last about 2-3 hours depending on where they depart from, with about 20 minutes spent inside the cave.
As with the boat tours, be sure to confirm the amount of time you'll get to spend in the cave, as some tours may include less than 20 minutes. It's also a good idea to choose a tour that is accompanied by a lifeguard and a support boat in case the water gets unexpectedly rough, especially if you're new to kayaking, so keep these services in mind when booking your tour.
By foregoing the organized cave tours, you will have unlimited time inside the beautiful sea cave and will be able to explore as much or as little as you would like, although 20 minutes is plenty of time for most people. Conducting your own kayak tour of the area also allows you to take in more of the breathtaking coast.
If you do decide to make the trip without a tour, be sure to check the weather conditions before leaving the beach.
The final option you have when visiting Benagil Sea Cave is to swim the 200 meters from the beach to the cave. However, we only recommend swimming for experienced swimmers as the currents in the area can be strong, the waves can be high, and conditions can change unexpectedly.
Anyone planning to swim to the cave should be well-informed about the weather conditions, the currents, and the tides, and stay away from the cliffs as they can be unstable. In addition, is it not advised to swim during the peak season as it is difficult to safely reach the entrance of the cave because of the overwhelming number of tour boats.
While the village may be small, there is plenty of wonderful restaurants
nearby. After you get off the boat or finish exploring the sea and
coast, treat yourself with some Portuguese food!
Just a 7-minute walk from the beach you will find O Litoral, a fabulous place open for lunch and dinner. If you’re in the mood for some grilled squid or monkfish, this is where you need to be.
Another fabulous spot 9-minutes away is O Pescador. This place offers incredible views of the cliff above Benagil beach and seafood so fresh you’ll hardly believe it. If you have a love of traditional Portuguese cuisine, you’ll definitely find it here.
Of course, if you want to stay on the beach and play a little longer, there is a small snack bar located near the opening of Benagil beach where you can get some cold drinks and snacks until you are ready for a full meal.
If you're looking a place to stay close to Benagil Cave for easy access, there are several nearby options. The neighbouring towns of Carvoeiro and Portimao offer numerous resorts and accommodations, including the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve Resort on the Algarve coastline about 15 minutes from Benagil Cave. This is a great option if you are looking for all-inclusive luxury with dining options and a spa on the property.
Praia da Rocha is a popular resort town and beach located about 30 minutes away from Benagil. Not only is this area known for its amazing beach, but it is also has a happening and lively nightlife. If you are looking to enjoy the caves by day and party by night, this is definitely where you need to be.
Slightly past Portimao is the charming fishing village of Alvor, which is a perfect choice if you prefer a smaller town but don't want to sacrifice access to amazing beaches. Some hotel options in Alvor include the Alvor Baia Resort Hotel and the Pestana Alvor South Beach.
Finally, about 15 minutes to the east of the cave is the 5-star Vila Vita Parc Resort, which offers luxury amenities and close proximity to stunning beaches. The resort is also home to Ocean restaurant, one of the region's many Michelin-starred restaurants.
While Benagil Cave is undoubtedly one of the main attractions of the Algarve region, there are many other nearby activities and sights to take advantage of during your visit to the cave and the surrounding area.
Just 10 minutes to the east is Praia da Marinha, one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal. It is home to more iconic Algarve rock formations and is perfect for relaxing, exploring, or both! Another worthwhile beach is Praia da Carvalho to the west of the cave. It is relatively small and is generally not too crowded. It is accessed through a tunnel in the rocks and is a great place to go snorkeling due to its pristine water.
For a longer sea adventure along the Algarve Coast, you can charter a yacht from Lagos to Faro to explore islands, lagoons, and more. You'll pass by sights like the Ponta da Piedade in Lagos, Benagil Cave, and Praia da Marinha, and enjoy traditional Portuguese food throughout the trip.
If you'd like to take in the breathtaking views from the land instead of the sea, you can do that too! There are fantastic hikes along the coastal cliffs, ranging from relatively easy trails to more moderate hiking. For example, once you've finished exploring Praia da Benagil, you can hike down the coast to the beautiful Praia de Albandeira.
Benagil is also on the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, an 11km walk, considered one of the best in Europe, which runs from Praia de Marinha near Armação de Pêra to Praia de Vale Centeanes near Carvoeiro.
For a different kind of water adventure, head to one of the nearby waterparks. In Lagoa, you'll find Slide & Splash, a fun waterpark with fun rides and animal shows. Other great options about 20 minutes from the cave include Aqualand and marine theme park Zoomarine.
For a different twist on the typical sea cave boat tours, try a dolphin watching tour. These boat tours typically last around 2.5 hours and take you to different sea caves before sailing farther out to sea for some dolphin watching. Consider this type of tour if you're interested in visiting Benagil Cave and would also like a chance to see and experience dolphins and other marine life!
Benagil Cave is one of the most amazing caves in the Algarve. It is easily accessible from many cities and marinas along the coast and offers varied experiences depending on your ideal adventure, whether it be by sea on a boat or kayak, or simply glimpsing the cave from the dry land above. With these tips in hand, you are ready to make the most of your trip to the famous Benagil Sea Cave!