The dome itself is actually much larger than one would expect after seeing it from the outside. The cave’s only viable entrances are a couple of arched openings bathed by the sea; because of that, visitors are left with three options to enter its inner space: jump aboard a boat from one of the surrounding beaches or harbours; rent a kayak, an inflatable dinghy or a SUP; or swim to it from Benagil Beach.
Kayaks | Benagil Beach
Kayaks can be rented on the spot or from more distant operators. There are excursions combining a boat trip with a kayak trip: you’ll start off on a boat and then move into a kayak closer to the caves. Lifejackets are mandatory and will be provided by your operator. To rent a kayak you’ll need to sign a ‘statement of responsibility’ and to show a valid ID document. A more challenging option to take you into the caves is to use a Stand-up Paddle Board (SUP); however, a SUP will only work if the sea is flat (it normally is).
Swimming to the Benagil Cave
Swimming to the Benagil Sea Cave is not recommended at all if you’re not a strong and experienced swimmer. The waves, the jagged rocks and the capricious oceanic currents can turn your short expedition into a truly perilous Odyssey of about 400 meters (out & back). In summer, swimmers also have to contend with the procession of boats going in and out of the cave’s main entrance.
It goes without saying that swimming in a pool is completely different from swimming in the ocean. If you decide to swim, make sure that you’re equipped with fins (to maintain thrust), goggles (to maintain good visibility) and a bright-coloured swimsuit or wetsuit (to be seen from the passing boats). Check the weather before setting off and postpone your journey if the sea is not blissfully calm. Not even the boats are allowed to operate when the weather is unstable.
When swimming, always keep a safe distance from the rocks but do not stray far from the coast (rip currents can easily push you out towards the open sea, no matter how strong a swimmer you are). The waves can also become larger and larger as you approach the cave; be aware that the wave’s size can be very variable: although very infrequent, a rogue coastal wave* can literally come out of the blue to engulf you inside its tumbling core. Please do not be misled by the serene waters depicted on touristic operators’ websites (including on WalkAlgarve…): by and large, very calm waters are the norm in the Algarve but there are exceptions to this rule, obviously.
Boat Trips | Benagil Cave
A boat trip is a good option to visit the Benagil Sea Cave if you don’t know how to handle a kayak at sea; however, during high season, you probably won’t be allowed to step out of the boat and onto the cave’s sandy floor. This is not a rule set in stone, though: please talk to the trip’s operator to discuss concrete details like how much time will the boat spend inside the caves, and whether it is allowed or not to hop off the vessel at a specific cove or cave.
Throughout the coastal stretch between Pêra and Ferragudo there is a large collection of grottoes, caves, natural arches and secluded beaches that are only accessible by boat. A visit to the Benagil Sea Cave can also include stopovers at many of these coastal attractions, including at Ponta da Piedade and at Praia da Marinha. Boat trips that combine dolphin-watching with visits to the caves are equally available.
The price of a boat trip is variable, depending on factors like the distance to be travelled and the chosen vessel (skiff, catamaran or semi-rigid boat). Due to tidal variations, the smaller the vessel, the better the chances of actually enter the caves. Besides Benagil, during the warmer months boat trips also depart on a daily basis from places like Lagos, Portimão, Carvoeiro, Ferragudo, Albufeira, Vilamoura and Armação de Pêra.
Being one of the most famous sea caves in the world, it’s no surprise that the Benagil Sea Cave draws in thousands of visitors every year. Visitors should therefore book their trip well in advance. Late July, August and early September are usually the busiest periods. But the caves can be visited year-round as long as the weather allows it; May, early June, late September and early October are probably the best times to schedule boat trips.
Recommended Boat Trips | Benagil Cave
Among many other alternatives, to visit the Benagil Cave you can choose if you wish one of the activities listed below. We’ve selected these outdoor activities, specifically, because the following chartered touristic operators are experienced and knowledgeable on the Benagil Cave, and also because their services were highly rated by previous clients. All bookings are made through Viator, a TripAdvisor® company. Enjoy!
Benagil Cave: Recommended Outdoor Activities
Benagil Cave | How to Get There
The closest city to Benagil is Lagoa, which is only 7.5 kilometres away. The village is located 60 kilometres to the west of Faro and 20 kilometres to the east of Portimão. In summer, there are very few parking spaces near Benagil Beach but you can park along the village’s main road. Boat trips departing from other places in the Algarve not only have the benefit of including stops at many other coastal attractions, but they also solve the nuisance of parking your car at the diminutive village. Since there are only a couple of bus routes connecting the village to Lagoa, public transportation is not a viable option for most people. Buses do not operate during weekends and on public holidays.
You can walk to the top of the cliff and peer in through the fenced sinkhole to get another viewpoint on the sea cave (always keep a very safe distance from the uneven edge). The walking trail along the cliffs is very beautiful and it will take you both to Praia do Carvalho and to Praia da Marinha, which are two gorgeous beaches. Reachable only through a hidden set of rocky stairs, Praia do Carvalho is a secluded, old smuggler’s cove to the west of Benagil. The quintessential Algarvian beach, Praia da Marinha is an outstanding can’t-miss destination both for beachgoers and for nature enthusiasts. Enjoy!