Unless you’re an experienced swimmer your only option to visit this impressive cave is with a tour. That’s why we wrote this post to give you an overview of the best Benagil cave tours.
The Algarve coast is known for its rocky coastline with the dramatic gold-colored cliffs. The ocean has pounded these rock walls for decades and in doing so nature has created some unique sights.
Benagil cave is arguably one of the most impressive natural wonders of the Algarve.
Each day again we discovered quaint and unique beaches and panoramas in the Algarve, yet the boat tour that took us to the beautiful Benagil Caves was one of the highlights of our holiday.
There are many different ways to visit the Benagil caves.
We opted for a boat tour as we were there in winter. If you visit the Algarve in summer the range of tours is much larger, you can then join a kayak tour, paddle to the cave on a SUP or even just swim to it.
Despite the fact that we would not recommend the latter because of the danger.
Which leads to the question: what is the best way to see the Benagil caves? Below we share everything you need to know about the Benagil sea cave.
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What’s the Benagil cave
The Benagil cave, also known as Algar de Benagil in Portuguese is one of the most famous and beautiful caves in the Algarve, Portugal.
The origin of this cave dates back to more than 20 million years ago.
Erosion has created a huge natural cavity in the limestone. The cave is so big that it even houses a small sandy beach.
Part of the cave has collapsed, resulting in a wide-open hole in the center known as ‘the eye’. Natural light enters the cave through this hole, it creates an almost otherworldly spectacle, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Seeing the cave from the inside is definitely impressive and easily one of the highlights of a visit to the Algarve in Portugal.
You can only get inside the cave by the sea.
This can be with a boat, a kayak, a SUP, or if you are brave and adventurous you can swim to the cave.
It’s also possible to hike to the top of the cave. The hike takes you to the hole from where you can try to peek inside. It’s just a short hike and it’s free but it is not nearly as impressive as getting inside the cave.
But let’s start by explaining where you can find this beautiful cave.
What’s the Benagil sea cave location
The Benagil cave sometimes referred to as Grutas de Benagil by the locals, is located near the small fishing village of Benagil.
You will find the cave about 150 meters east of the Benagil beach (Praia de Benagil in Portuguese).
This pleasant sandy beach attracts many visitors on summer days. If you are looking for more beautiful beaches in the Algarve, click here.
Fishermen also still use the beach to land their catch.
With a bit of luck, you can see them unload the fish from their boats and transfer it to the trucks which will take it to restaurants where you can taste these delicacies in the evening. Now that’s what I call a catch-of-the-day! 😀
The closest cities to the Benagil cave are Lagoa, Albufeira, Portimao one of the best towns in the Algarve and Carvoeiro.
From Lagoa and Carvoeiro you drive in about 15 minutes to the village of Benagil. From Albufeira and Portimão it is a 30-minute drive to Benagil.
Daily many boat tours depart from the above-mentioned cities to the Benagil cave. We will share more information about these Benagil cave boat trips further in this post.
How far is Benagil cave from Lisbon
The Benagil cave lies 191 km from Lisbon. It’s a 2h30 minute drive by car.
If you don’t have a car, you could take one of the busses that connect Lisbon with Lagoa, Albufeira, or Portimão.
If you are looking for a Lisbon itinerary, click here.
The bus takes between 3-4 hours and costs around € 18,50 – € 20.
Here you can find more info about the bus schedule.
Best time to visit the Benagil cave
Here we share the best month and time of the day to visit Benagil cave.
What’s the best month to visit the Benagil cave
There are tours going to the Benagil cave all year round but the choices are limited in the colder winter months.
During summer Algarve’s impressive beaches attract many tourists who want to work on their tan. The climate makes it an ideal beach destination.
In summer the temperatures rise to 30 degrees and the ocean water warms up to around 20 degrees. This allows those who are not afraid of a little cold water to even take an occasional dip to cool down.
July and August are high season.
The beaches can become crowded, the parking lots quickly fill up and all the tourist sights are usually packed.
If you plan on visiting the Benagil cave during these months its best to book your tour in advance to avoid disappointment. By booking in advance you are sure, you can go on your preferred date and time.
I would argue that the best seasons to visit the Benagil cave are spring or fall.
The temperature is slightly cooler but there will be fewer crowds and you still can enjoy nice weather.
Spring and Fall
We recommend visiting the Benagil cave during spring or fall if you can.
You will be able to enjoy this beautiful area more because there are fewer people.
The Algarve is one of the sunniest regions in Europe.
Starting May there will be 10 hours of sunshine every day and rainfall will be only a slight inconvenience. Temperatures easily surpass 20 degrees Celsius.
It might not exactly be ideal to spend entire days at the beach and the ocean water is still cold at around 16 degrees. It is though an ideal period for activity holidays.
The climate in Autumn is comparable. The temperatures don’t drop below 20 degrees Celcius until December. Nights are considerably chiller though with nigh time temperatures around 14 degrees Celcius.
The ocean water temperature gradually decreases, October still knows temperatures around 19 degrees Celcius, by the end of November, this has decreased to 17 degrees Celcius.
Spring and Summer offer the best of both worlds. The weather is pleasant, the huge crowds are gone but there is still a lot going on.
We visited the Algarve in winter, winter is low season along Portugal’s south coast and many places are closed and only a fraction of the tours are going.
The ocean is a bit rougher and less predictable during these months. This increases the chances that your trip will get canceled due to the weather.
Therefore we recommend booking your trip online in advance for one of the first days of your vacation so that you can push your plans forward by a day in case the tour is canceled due to weather.
We often book through GetYourGuide. This way, you can secure your spot, but, might your plans suddenly change, you can usually cancel for free up to 24 hours before the trip.
Now that you know the best season to visit the Benagil caves, we are happy to give you the best time of day for your Benagil tour.
What’s the best time of the day to visit the caves of Benagil
The best time of the day to visit the Benagil cave depends on your interests.
If you want to feel the sand of the cave’s beach between your toes you’re best to pick a time slot around noon. The cave is relatively dark early in the morning and late in the afternoon, midday will allow you to take some good pictures as a memory of your excursion to the cave.
Most light enters the cave through the hole on the top, the so-called ‘eye of the cave’. The sun is best between noon and 2 pm when it is vertically above the cave at its highest point.
If you plan to take Instagram worthy pictures from the beach in the cave we would advise you to avoid any time before 10 am or after 2 pm.
Tours to the cave are limited to ensure that it never becomes over-crowded but this doesn’t mean that you will have the cave to yourself if you go there around noon. There’s a constant flow of tours arriving at the cave from 10 in the morning till sunset.
If you want to quietly swim or paddle to the cave, it is best to do this as early as possible before the continuous flow of tourist boats starts.
To avoid the crowds, it is best that you make sure that you are ready to leave the beach at sunrise.
We did our boat trip during the golden hour, the last hour before sunset. The sun then casts really beautiful warm golden colors on the majestic cliffs.
This makes for an unforgettable experience.
As said before, tours leave for the cave all day long, but especially during the high season, we would advise you not to wait too long before booking.
How to choose your Benagil cave tour
Above we already mentioned some of the ways to visit the Benagil cave.
We did a boat tour as those are the only tours that are going in winter. The water is too cold in this season to do the other tours.
During the summer, however, there are numerous alternatives.
Some options provide better views of the caves than others.
We list all the possibilities to visit the cave so you can pick the tour that best suits your needs.
Benagil boat tour
A Benagil boat tour remains the most popular way to visit the Benagil cave.
The main reason why boat tours are so popular is that they’re accessible to everyone, young and old. You will see a continuous stream of boats going to the cave during the high season.
Fortunately, it is all regulated. This way, there will never be several boats in the cave at the same time.
Boat tours from Benagil beach
You can choose between short tours that depart from Benagil beach and longer tours which leave further down the coast.
You may be tempted to go for the closest and cheapest option but other tours are preferred in our opinion.
If you leave from the beach of Benagil you only make a small trip where you really only visit the Benegal cave itself. Despite the fact that this is, of course, the highlight, you will miss the many other beautiful cliffs and caves.
The entire coast of the Algarve is a feast for the eyes.
There are a number of other reasons why we would advise against a trip from Benagil:
In high season this is by far the most popular option. As a result, there are long queues. Therefore, if you want to make the Benagil cave tour from Benagil beach, we advise you to get to the beach early.
These Benagil cave boat tours are short and only take you to the Benagil cave while the entire Algarve coastline is absolutely worth it.
Boat tours from a different location take longer, show you more of the beautiful Algarve coastline, and are therefore comparatively a better buy.
Below we describe some alternative tours leaving from other ports.
Portimão and Albufeira are by far the most popular cities in the Algarve to leave from.
Here are the different possibilities to visit the Benagil cave by boat.
Best Benagil cave boat tour with a small boat
The boat trips with small boats take you in 2 to 2.30 hours along the beautiful Algarve coastline. Along the way, you will see no less than 20 caves, including of course the famous Benagil cave.
Small boats are of the zodiac type. They are fast and very navigable, but they cannot always enter all caves. The skippers are very experienced but don’t take any risks. If they think the sea is wild they do not enter the caves, including Benagil cave.
When we did our tour the sea was relatively calm. Our skipper did his utmost to bring us as close as possible to all the caves and we safely entered the Benagil cave and one other large cave.
Along the way, you should also keep your eyes open for dolphins that are swimming along with your boat.
If the weather and conditions allow, the boats also stop so you can have a swim.
Don’t forget your swimsuit, towel and sun cream.
Also, don’t forget to bring some warmer clothes. It is always colder on the water than on land and when the boats speed up it makes it feel even colder.
Of course, you get a life jacket.
- A small boat allows you to see the caves up close.
- Smaller groups.
- More opportunities than with a large boat to enter the caves.
- English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish speaking guide.
- Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the boat trip.
- The tour that departs from Albufeira is wheelchair accessible.
- Less suitable for small children. Tours from certain ports do not allow children under 5 years old. Read the terms and conditions carefully before you book.
- Since the boat is going quite fast the ride can be bumpy, this makes the tour less suitable for you if you have back problems.
- Not suitable if you are pregnant.
- Not wheelchair accessible ( except for the departure from Albufeira).
This Benagil boat trip is offered from different places in the Algarve and although the tours are organized by different companies, the tour itself is, except for a few minor differences, largely the same.
The prices vary slightly depending on where you start your tour.
Below are the different departure ports.
As all tours are similar our advice would be to pick the port most convenient for you.
Benagil cave tour from Portimão
We sailed the amazing coastline between Portimão and Benagil beach and saw a lot of caves. I don’t remember exactly how many caves we passed but I still remember that I was surprised by the number.
In addition to the caves, we enjoyed the impressive view of the cliffs.
We took a tour around sunset, an hour that we absolutely recommend, as the setting sun then embraces everything with a beautiful golden glow. The golden glow makes the steep cliffs even more beautiful.
The skipper also acted as a guide and he explained in an entertaining way what there was to see.
He pushed the pedal to the metal when we returned. We flew over the water and we even did some donuts when he showed his steering skills, this to the great delight of all present.
We did this tour in January so we did not stop to swim. The idea of swimming in water of 14 degrees Celcius does not really appeal to me…
It was a super nice trip. We took loads of pictures of the impressive coastline and spend quite some time at the Benagil cave, which we saw from both entrances.
The return trip was fast. Provide a warm coat, gloves, and a hat during winter.
Benagil cave tour from Vilamoura
If you are staying more on the Eastern side of the Algarve it might be easier to do this boat tour from Vilamoura.
If you are looking for a great hotel in Vilamoura, click here.
Although it is another company that organizes these boat tours, it is almost an exact copy of the above-described tour.
This tour gets good reviews. The guide is super friendly and even gives some tips about what other things you can do during your Algarve holiday.
Read reviews and book: Benagil boat tour from Vilamoura
The above-mentioned tours are perfect for those who are looking for a fun tour with the necessary adventure.
You sail 2 hours along the spectacular Algarve coast and the icing on the cake is the visit to the beautiful Benagil cave.
The weather may in some cases prevent you from entering this cave but even then this remains a super fun trip that should not be missed when you are in the Algarve.
Best Benagil cave boat tour with a bigger boat
The previous tours are operated with small zodiac-like speed boats and they usually take about 8 to 12 people.
The “bigger” boats take at least twice as many people. The tour leaving Portimão uses a boat that can take 20 to 25 people, the boat tour from Albufeira is slightly bigger and can accommodate up to 40 people.
As you see these boats are still not really big. Just like the smaller boats, they will try to enter the caves. The larger the boat, the more difficult this becomes of course. This means that with these boats you are less likely to enter the caves, especially when the sea conditions are rough.
These boats also feel a little less adventurous than the smaller ones we mentioned above.
If you don’t feel safe in a zodiac or if you have small children with you then this might be a good alternative though.
The tours depart from Portimão or Albufeira and both last approximately 2 hours. On the way to the Benagil cave, you will pass many beautiful stretches of coastline.
Make sure to look out for dolphins as well. The cute animals like to swim along with the tourist boats. The boat will stop to take a dip if the weather and conditions allow it.
On both boats, you will find a bar and a toilet.
Of course, a life jacket is provided before departure!
- Boat with bar and toilet.
- If you depart from Portimão you will be offered an ice tea.
- English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish speaking guide.
- Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the start of the trip.
- Pick up from your hotel in Portimão or Praia da Rocha for an extra fee.
- Not suitable if you are pregnant.
- Less suitable if you have back problems
- Not wheelchair accessible
Both tours get good reviews and they are a good alternative when you are holidaying in the Algarve with young children.
The main disadvantage of these larger boats is that they will faster encounter problems with getting into the caves.
The distance from Albufeira to Benagil is a bit further and you sail along part of the east coast instead of the west coast.
From the reviews, we read that loud pop music is played during this tour. If this is less your thing, we would recommend choosing another tour.
Benagil cave tour with a catamaran
A third alternative is to make this Benagil cave trip with a catamaran.
You then exchange the adrenaline that you experience with the speedboat for the comfort and peace of a slow-moving boat.
This tour lasts for 3 hours. From the Albufeira marina, you set sail westwards to the Benagil cave.
The boat is moving slowly so you have plenty of time to enjoy the picturesque scenery and you can take heaps of pictures.
If you’re lucky you might even see some dolphins.
You will stop for a swim if the weather allows it and the sea conditions are safe.
At the end of this beautiful tour, you’re offered a glass of champagne to toast to this magnificent experience.
- Very friendly crew.
- You will get information in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
- You are offered a glass of champagne on the way back. Extra drinks can be bought with cash.
- There is WiFi onboard.
- Less suitable if you are pregnant.
- Less suitable for people with back problems.
- Not wheelchair accessible.
This Benagil trip is a completely different experience than the other boat tours we described above.
Romantics will almost certainly prefer this tour but if you are more adventurous, the aforementioned boat tours are more for you.
This catamaran tour might be better for you if you’re prone to sea-sickness. A catamaran is usually less subject to the swells of the sea. Speaking from experience, however, if you get seasick quickly, I would always take my precautions and take something against seasickness.
This way you are sure that you will be able to enjoy this tour and the beautiful landscape.
The crew is very friendly and try their best to answer every question.
The catamaran will go inside the Benagil cave if it is safe to do so but it’s too big to enter the other caves.
Benagil cave kayak tours
You can also choose to visit the Benagil caves with a kayak.
It’s possible to rent a kayak and go independently but if you’re not an experienced kayaker we advise you to join a guided tour instead.
The Benagil cave kayak tour takes about 2 hours and starts from Benagil beach.
After a brief explanation of the kayaks and safety regulations, you get your own kayak, life jacket, and paddles and can start your kayak adventure along the Algarve coast.
The highlight of your kayak expedition is, of course, the visit to the Benagil cave, but you will also visit some other interesting caves along the way.
Once you are in the Benagil cave, you will have time to go ashore, spend some time on the beach and take pictures.
If you want to have the caves almost to yourself, you can choose to make the tour at sunrise or sunset. Keep in mind that during these times there is slightly less light in the cave.
- The guide speaks English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.
- Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the start of the kayak trip.
- For an extra supplement, you can choose to be picked up from your hotel.
- To join this tour you must be able to swim.
- Not suitable for wheelchair users.
Most people are very enthusiastic about this kayak tour. With a kayak, you can get to places where you don’t come with a boat, but the biggest advantage of this kayak trip is that you can get out in the Benagil cave to take your photos.
If you are specifically looking for a kayak tour at sunrise or sunset, click here: Sunrise or Sunset Tour
Benagil Caves SUP tour
Would you like to discover the Benagil cave in a different way? Maybe this guided SUP paddle tour is for you.
You do not need any experience to participate in this tour.
At the start of the tour, the guide will explain to you the basic techniques of supping. He will also tell you the safety requirements and other things you have to pay attention to.
The tour lasts approximately 2 hours. You enter different caves along the way to the Benagil cave and you will receive the necessary explanation from the guide.
Board, paddle, life jacket, wet suit, and insurance are included. Bring a waterproof bag to safely store your camera if you want to it with you.
Be sure to also bring a towel, sunscreen, swimming gear, cap, your ID card, and a set of dry clothes.
- This is an original way to discover the Algarve coastline and the Benagil cave.
- A friendly guide who speaks English, French, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese.
- The guide will take pictures of you.
- Free cancellation up to 24 hours before the start of the activity.
- To participate in this SUP tour you must be at least 12 years old.
- Less suitable if you have back or heart problems.
- Less suitable if you suffer from claustrophobia.
- If you can’t swim, you better opt for another trip.
The SUP paddle tour gets positive reviews. People say they enjoyed the ride. They are also very satisfied with the guide. Not only does he know a lot about the history of the caves, but apparently he is also really good at taking pictures.
Swimming to Benagil cave
The Benagil cave lies only about 150-200 meters from the beach of Benagil.
So, in theory, it is easy to swim to it. What makes it more difficult are the currents that can sometimes be treacherous. You also have to take into account the water temperature. 20 degrees is not cold but a lot colder than the average pool where the temperature is usually around 26 degrees.
Those who count on warming up inside the cave will be disappointed. Inside the cave it is rather chilly, if you come out of the water hypothermic you will not be able to warm up there.
Good swimmers will be able to swim to the cave but don’t make this decision light-minded, it is not something we would recommend doing.
In July and August, the many boats create an extra danger. If you want to swim to the cave during these months it is best to do so early or late before the boats arrive. Better yet is to do so in June or September when there are fewer tourist boats. The water is still somewhere between 19 and 21 degrees in this period.
Be sure to check the tides in advance. When the tide is out, the beach in the cave is at its largest. When the tides rise, it is very difficult to get out of the cave swimming.
A life jacket, wetsuit, flippers, and goggles are really recommended if you absolutely want to do this adventure.
Unless you are really an experienced swimmer, we would definitely not recommend swimming to the cave.
Can you walk to the Benagil cave
It is not possible to reach the inside of the cave on foot, but you can see the cave of Benagil from above. If you plan on doing this, you have to follow the walking path that starts from the beach of Benagil (Praia de Benagil).
However, this is not the best way to view the cave.
You only see the gaping hole, which is called the eye of the cave, for the rest, there is not much to see.
For your own safety, you should not get too close to the cave, which is why a wooden balustrade has been placed around it.
The fence is, however, a little too far from the edge to be able to see inside the cave.
The view from inside is much more impressive but you can only reach the inside of the cave over water.
Useful tips for your visit to the Benagil cave
Below we share some useful tips for your visit to the Benagil cave.
Unless you go for a swim, which we don’t really recommend, an organized tour is the only way to really visit the cave. To avoid disappointment, we recommend that you book your excursion long enough in advance, especially if you are visiting the cave during high season.
Unless you opt for a SUP or kayak tour we wouldn’t advise you to leave from Benagil beach. The boat tours that leave from other cities show much more of the beautiful coastline and take you to a number of other caves on top of Benagil cave. In addition, it is often easier, especially during the high season, to park your car.
If you are leaving from Benagil beach itself, we advise you to arrive long enough in advance. This gives you enough time, especially during the high season, to find a parking spot. There is a parking lot, but it is usually full, especially in high season. If the parking is full, the only option is to find a spot along the road.
Many tours allow you to take a swim if the weather permits. So don’t forget your swimsuit and towel.
Don’t forget your sun cream and take a cap with you. If you do the tour in winter, it is best to bring warm clothing.
Visiting the Benagil cave will be truly one of the highlights of your Algarve holiday.
On foot, you can only see the top of the cave which is not nearly as spectacular as the inside. The inside can only be reached over water. It’s theoretically possible to swim to the cave but that is something that we only recommend for really experienced swimmers.
Therefore our advice is to join an organized tour.
The most popular tour is a boat trip. There’re daily boat tours to the cave, you can choose from small and fast boats, slightly larger boats and romantics should definitely opt for the catamaran.
The small boats are fast, agile, and adventurous. The catamaran sails stately through the water and is a blissful and peaceful experience.
There are also alternatives to a boat trip. You can take a guided kayak or sup trip to the cave. Both are great fun and with these trips, you will stop in the Benagil cave and spend some time there on the beach to take pictures.
The boat trips are available all year round, the other tours only in high season.
Have you already visited the caves of Benagil in the Algarve?
Here you will find more beautiful places in Portugal.