Benagil cave is one of the most unique sea caves in the world and was the highlight of our trip to the Algarve.
The inside of the cave can only be reached by sea, this leaves you with a few options:
This is the most commonly used method, it costs roughly €20 for about a 30 minute tour in a small boat. The tour includes not only Benagil cave but also other sea caves around the area. However boats no longer allow passengers to disembark and go inside the cave. The boats hover for a few minutes at the entrance allowing everyone to take photographs and then leave. Going by boat is good for people who don’t want to go in the sea or have very young children with them.
Stand up paddleboard (SUP) or kayak
Another option is to rent a SUP or kayak from the same places that sell boat tours at Benagil beach. However you will have to ask for them specifically because they are not advertised. Renting a paddle board cost €25 per hour, we didn’t do this because we didn’t want our time in the cave to be restricted.
There are also different tours that will take you to Benagil and other caves on paddle boards or kayaks. The good thing about this is that someone else organises it and being with a professional means that safety is less of a concern. The downside is that tours don’t spend long at each location and can sometimes feel a little rushed.
After a lot of research and preparation this is the option that we went with because the cave is only about 200 meters from the beach. I bought a dry bag from amazon and took a towel, bottle of water and put my phone in a waterproof case as well. However it would have been good to bring the GoPro instead of my phone because you need a wide camera angle to get the whole cave in. We also took a lilo to lean on but saw plenty of people completing the swim without anything.
We walked to the furthest left hand side of the beach, got into the water and started to swim whilst leaning on the lilo. The water was very cold but kicking fast to make sure that we didn’t get too close to the cliffside warmed me up. The waves going into the cave were quite strong so we stood up and walked as soon as our feet were able to reach the ground. As we got there 3 people on paddle-boards left and we had it all to ourselves.
It was even more impressive than the photos I had seen. The rock in the middle is the perfect place to sit and watch the waves. By 11:00 the sun was shining through the opening at the top of the cave and onto the rock like a spotlight.
Two hours went by so quickly but we eventually waited for a break in the waves and then started to swim back to the beach. The swim back felt harder and there were a couple of boats coming into the cave that we had to avoid (at least having a bright green lilo helped them to see us!)
I would only recommend this if you are a confident swimmer, the tide in the cave isn’t high and the sea conditions are calm. The tide and sea conditions for the area can be checked here:
Best time of year to visit
We went at the beginning of March and were very lucky with the temperature and sea conditions. Going between November and March means taking a risk with the weather, there are fewer boats and sometimes they are cancelled because the weather is too bad. However if it works out then you are rewarded with a significant reduction in the crowds resulting in a more peaceful holiday.
June, September and October are the shoulder season and the best chance of having both fewer crowds as well as good weather.
July and August are the busiest months, during this time there are not only crowds of people but a lot of boat traffic to Benagil cave. This means that SUPs and kayaks get booked out very quickly this time of year.
Best time of day to visit
This depends on the month that you decide to visit. If you are visiting during off peak season like we did then crowds are not a problem. Therefore I recommend getting there for 11:30 to see the light beaming in through the roof. This light occurs between 10:00 and 16:00, but I think it is at its best from about 11:30.
However if you are visiting during the summer months (especially July and August) it is best to get there before 09:00 if you don’t want the cave to be too busy. This time may not have the best lighting, but later in the morning it is so crowded that I feel it takes away some of the magic.
Be prepared that no matter what time of year or day you visit the water is always quite cold. Also you should always make sure the sea conditions are safe if you are swimming or renting equipment.
Photography at Benagil cave
We were too nervous to take out camera so instead put my phone in a waterproof case inside the waterproof bag. However it would have been better to bring the GoPro instead of my phone because you need a wide camera angle to get the whole cave in. When you go further back in the cave there are some rocks that obstruct the view.
Also the lighting changed so much during the time we were there. The cave walls at times had more of a red hue and when the sun was shining really brightly they were more of a golden colour. I would recommend spending a couple of hours in Benagil cave so that you can relax and watch as it changes.
Parking and viewpoint
There is a large, free carpark at the top of the hill. If you go over the gates at the carpark and walk left along the cliff you quickly get to the top of the cave and can look down onto the beach. To be honest after being inside the cave it doesn’t look as impressive.
For more things to do in the Algarve click here: Things to do in the Algarve Portugal