Imagine a beach that’s hidden from the rest of the world because it is in a cave. A perfect beach with soft sand that’s beautifully lit because of the hole on the top of the cave. That’s Benagil Cave in Algarve.
Beaches are special but hidden beaches are more than just extra special. I am happy to say that I have visited quite a few because I always try to find one such beach when I visit a beach destination. When I do, I feel like a character out of the Beach movie.
Algarve’s Benagil Cave beach is one of those extra special ones. The only way in is by swimming or kayaking, which obviously adds a more elusive touch to this already amazing place.
Benagil Cave has a hidden beach, where a little light falls dramatically, because it has a hole on the top.
Where is Benagil Cave?
Benagil Cave is near Carvoeiro, which is cute little resort town in Portugal’s Algarve region. It is between Portimão & Albufeira. It is 55 KMs away from Faro, which is Algarve’s entry point because of the airport.
Where to Stay to visit the Benagil Cave
If you visit Algarve, then most likely you will set up your base in Albufeira, Lagos, Tavira, Sagres, or Portimão. I picked Lagos because it is seriously stunning, has a low key vibe and historical old town. My second choice would have been Sagres or Portimão.
If you want to be close to the Benagil cave, then you can pick Carvoeiro for your base. But it is a little upscale in terms of hotels as compared to the other destinations that I mentioned above.
I did not want to stay in Carvoeiro because I wasn’t looking for a resort destination but a place that had a bit of everything – beaches, hiking, viewpoints, restaurants, history and a certain vibe. But, it doesn’t mean Carvoeiro isn’t nice. It is and I am leaving it for another trip when I visit with my family.
If you don’t want to stay in Carvoeiro too, then you can easily make a day trip to see the Benagil Cave with a rental car or a tour.
How to Go Inside the Benagil Cave?
The first thing you would wonder about the Benagil cave is how to get there. As mentioned before, there are only three ways:
- Swimming to the cave,
In order to do so, you will either need to pick a tour or drive to the Benagil beach and try to find a way to rent a kayak from there. I will talk about these options in details below.
How to Pick your Benagil Cave Tour?
When you arrive in any part of Algarve – be it Albufeira or Lagos or Portimão, you will see lots of shops in the main center or near the train or bus stations or in the Marina where they try to sell you a tour to see the Benagil cave.
The thing is, 95% those tours will take you on a big boat, and big boats can only see the Benagil cave from outside. So, you will technically not visit the beach. You can’t leave the big boat so you won’t get to walk on the beach.
The only way you can go on the beach is when you take a tour with kayaks or paddle-boats or SUP. After a lot of research and reading reviews on hundreds of site that we found on the internet, we found this perfect tour for us. It wasn’t from Lagos, but from Portimão.
We were staying in Lagos but we reached Portimão in just 20 minutes with our bus. Portimão is easy to reach from anywhere in Algarve with a bus or a train.Book Benagil Cave Kayak Tour
This tour was excellent. Not only we visited the Benagil cave, but we also visited some of the other caves around and they were all good. We also saw the famous Praia da Marinha, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches of Europe.
We had a very comfortable catamaran with a toilet. We had a staff of four people with us on the board who were our guides and kayaking lifeguards.
Other Benagil Cave Kayak tour options
If the above tour is booked out or if you’re not going to be in Portimao, then I have handpicked a few more tours for you:
- Benagil Cave Kayaking Experience: Starts from Benagil Beach and costs EUR 35 per person
- Benagil Cave Sunrise or Sunset Kayaking: It is different from the others because it has super early or late start times, so that you can avoid crowds. This also costs EUR 35 per person and starts from Benagil beach.
- Algarve: Benagil Caves Guided Kayaking Tour: This is pretty similar to the first one on this list and costs the same – EUR 35. But they have 5 different time slots so that you can start super early or late to avoid crowds. It also leaves from Benagil beach.
Is it difficult to kayak to Benagil Cave?
Kayaking isn’t difficult and you don’t need to know if from before to do it. There were many newbies with me and they did well. It was maybe my 15th time kayaking and I found this spot very easy. But I understand if you are nervous about it, I can sometimes be too.
If you do a tour then they will already give you instructions for kayaking. They will help you arrive on the beach with kayak, which in my experience is the moment where most of the people fall. Falling in the water isn’t something you should be scared of by the way.
The area around the Benagil cave is rocky (of course), so the only thing you should be scared of is falling out of your kayak and hurting yourself with the rocks. But, don’t let fear mess up your experience. A little bit of fear is ok for awareness so that you can keep yourself safe.
Kayaking vs Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Honestly, I prefer SUP over kayak because I find it much more fun to balance while standing. Kayaking is easier and is something I have done many times.
The only reason I booked a kayaking tour and not SUP is because I didn’t find a tour that started from Lagos or Portimão. Also, SUP tours are more expensive. But if I didn’t have any money or commute restrictions, I would have picked up this below tour.Book Benagil SUP Tour
If you’d like to do stand up paddleboarding to visit the Benagil cave, then check out this tour. This is a 2 hour tour that starts from Benagil beach and you can find one as early as 7:30 am, which is way before most people start to arrive here.
Not into Kayaking or Stand Up Paddleboarding? Try a Boat Tour
Ok, I get it. You don’t want to kayak or go on a SUP or even swim to the cave. You would rather experience the beauty of the cave from the water and the comfort of your boat. No worries, I get you and I can help you with a few tours where you can do just that:
- Benagil Cave on boat from Portimão: This costs EUR 26 and starts from Portimão on a boat.
- Benagil Cave on a boat from Carvoeiro: This costs EUR 30 and starts from Carvoeiro. It also includes the famous Praia da Marinha.
- Benagil Caves & Dolphin Watching Speed Boat Tour from Albufeira: This tour starts from Albufeira and costs EUR 34.
Please note: that you wont be able to leave the boat, or make swimming stops or enter the beach inside the Benagil cave. If you want to go on the beach or to swim, then book a kayaking or SUP tour.
The Best time to do the Benagil Cave Tour
Most of the tours leave in the morning at 10 am and 2 pm in the evening. Of course most people opt for the 2 pm one. I did too because I don’t like to wake up early. But I urge you to book an earlier tour if you don’t have an issue with early rising like I do.
Can You Visit the Benagil Cave without a Tour?
This is something that isn’t advertised but seems to be possible. Why should it be? After all, you can enter the cave on a kayak or a paddle boat without a guide. Actually, I didn’t find a way to do it, maybe because I didn’t try hard enough and I was in Lagos.
I did speak to two local travelers who rented a kayak from the nearby Benagil beach and arrived inside the Benagil cave. Of course, you will need to reach here first with your rental car.Book a Rental Car
This option may make sense if you are already going to rent a car to travel within Portugal. In that case, you can arrive on Benagil Beach and try to speak like a local to find a place where you can rent a kayak from.
But if you rent a car just to visit the Benagil Cave, then it may not be the best idea if you don’t find kayaks for rent on Benagil beach to visit the cave. The cost of our tour from Portimao was 40 euros but the cost of tour from Benagil beach is 35 euros. So the difference is just 5 euros and if you rent a car just for this, then you will probably pay minimum EUR 30 per day and add EUR 35 for kayak tour from Benagil Beach per person.
Final Thoughts on visiting the Benagil Cave in Algarve Portugal
Visiting Benagil Cave may sound complicated but it isn’t. If you want to visit it then you shouldn’t let anything stop you. After all, there aren’t so many such places in the world. If you visit Portugal’s Algarve region then you should definitely do everything you can to visit the Benagil cave for a once in a lifetime experience.
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