Have you visited the world-famous Benagil cave in Algarve? Would you want to be in the Benagil cave alone? Read along to find out all the options you have for visiting this otherworldly creation of nature! The coastline of Algarve is full of surprises and you don’t want to miss the biggest surprise of all!
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Is it the ‘Benagil cave’ or ‘Algar de Benagil’?
We all know what caves are – openings in the ground, cliffs, and rocks where you can enter inside. Sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, sometimes longer and deeper, but sometimes – more shallow. But what are algars? This word is something typical in Algarve, Portugal.
There are unique types of caves in Algarve that have circular holes in the ceiling. Such caves with circular holes are called ‘algars’ in Algarve. So technically the correct name is Algar de Benagil.
However, not many people know this fact, so they refer to this unique place as the Benagil cave. I guess both are correct, because algar is, as a matter of fact, simply a type of cave.
Where is the Benagil cave?
The Benagil cave is located in the South of Portugal – Algarve. Close to Carvoeiro town, there is an inhabited area called Benagil. The cave is located about 100 to 200 meters East of the Benagil beach and, as a sea cave, it is only accessible by the sea.
You can’t see much from the coast – there is a circular hole up the coastal cliff where you can peek inside. However, you won’t see too much of the cave.
Is the Benagil cave worth the hype?
Visiting the Benagil cave is a bucket list thing to do for every tourist in Algarve! The Benagil cave is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Portugal so it is a must-see place in Algarve. Of course, the popularity of the cave comes with a lot of traffic as many people are trying to get there.
The Benagil cave is a massive coastal cave with two arched entrances and a circular hole in the ceiling. You won’t see anything like this anywhere else in Portugal, Europe, or even – in the world. I think it is definitely worth a visit, and I can give you some tips on how to get there alone – just as we did!
When is the Benagil cave open?
There are no entrance fees to the cave. It just exists and is open all the time. If you can get there, you can see it. Usually, tours to the cave start as early as 7 AM in the summertime and last til sunset, so read along to find out different options for visiting this cave and choose the best one for yourself!
When is the best time to go to the Benagil cave?
The best time of the day is definitely as early in the morning as you can or for the sunset because the traffic during the day (especially during the high season) is pretty hectic. There are boats, kayaks, and SUP boards – everyone trying to get inside the cave. Better avoid those hours if you want to enjoy it more!
As for the season – there is no limit to when you can go. Summertime will have the best weather, but the biggest crowds. Off-season will not have so sunny or warm days, but your chances of having the cave to yourself will dramatically increase.
The only time NOT TO GO is when the weather conditions are bad. It is very dangerous not only because of the waves in the ocean but also because the coastal cliffs become extra fragile.
Rockfalls are more likely to happen on rainy days than on sunny days. Remember – you are entering a cave and you will have fragile rocks above your head!
How to get to the Benagil cave?
The Benagil cave is a sea cave so you can only get there by sea. There are two most popular ways to get there – either you go by boat or you go by a kayak/SUP board. However, there will be major differences between these two experiences.
If you go by boat, it will mean jumping in a bigger or smaller motorboat that will take you along the coastline to the Benagil cave. They will try to go as deep as they can in the cave, but you will not be allowed to disembark and enter the cave on foot due to safety reasons.
If you go by kayak or a SUP board (the tours are usually in small groups), you will have to manage the ocean on your own, which is not always easy. But you will be allowed to enter the cave and walk around it and take photos of yourself inside the cave.
How can I get inside the Benagil cave and walk around?
We booked this kayaking tour with Secret Algarve because they are operating from the Benagil beach which is the closest possible spot to the Benagil cave. It means you will reach the Benagil cave in just a couple of minutes. Besides during the season they offer tours very early in the morning which means less people in the cave!
Another great way to get inside the Benagil cave and explore it is by going on a SUP board tour. This sunrise tour in a small group starts as early as 7:30 AM and offers you an opportunity to get to the cave as one of the first ones in the morning. It starts from Carvalho beach which is just a little farther away from Benagil beach.
If you are in Algarve for the first time, I recommend taking a tour. Especially if you are not used to kayaking or SUP boarding on your own. We learned valuable things about managing the kayak and the board and how to safely enter the cave. They told us where the rocks were, where to be careful, and how to get inside safely, which is especially challenging with waves breaking upon you.
How can I see the Benagil cave from a boat?
You can also visit the Benagil cave on a boat tour which means you don’t have to get wet or manage a kayak or a SUP board on your own. Although you are not allowed to disembark the boat and enter the cave, boat trips are fun as you get to see a lot of sea caves and wild beaches along the way.
If seeing the cave from a boat is fine for you then I would recommend this boat trip from Portimão port (they have the sunset trip option too!), or you can also join a boat trip from Lagos, or a boat trip to see dolphins and the Benagil cave from Albufeira port.
The downside of boat trips is that you can’t disembark and enter the Benagil cave due to safety reasons. It might be sad to see all the kayakers walking around the cave while sitting in a boat.
But there is a way to solve this – take a coastal boat tour to see many more caves, wild beaches, and rock formations, and then do a kayaking trip to enter the cave on foot!
How can I visit the Benagil cave alone?
As you probably understand, even going on an early SUP boarding tour with a few people won’t give you the cave all to yourself as there will be those 10 other people with you.
At the same time, I have to admit that 10 people is not a lot and you should definitely be thrilled to visit the cave with only 10 people. However, there is a way to be there alone, if you are lucky!
The same company that took us on a kayaking trip to the Benagil cave also rents out SUP boards individually. You can check their website (scroll down to the last option – paddle board) to see the availability.
Choose the earliest rental time possible, arrive 15 minutes early so that you can manage all the formalities quickly, and take off as early as possible.
It is definitely riskier to try to be in the cave alone during high season as many people will be trying that. We (me and my husband) went during the off-season – on the first days of November.
The weather was sunny, the morning was calm, we got our SUP board, took off at 8 AM, and arrived at the cave at 8:07 AM. We were the only ones in the cave for more than 35 minutes! Imagine our excitement!?
Can I swim to the Benagil cave?
While it is possible to swim, it is not recommended for many reasons. First of all, the waves in the ocean can get aggressive and can throw you into the rocks, which is very dangerous. There are underwater rocks too.
Secondly, the currents of the ocean are strong! When we rented a SUP board to go to the Benagil cave, the water was very calm that day. However, there are underwater currents.
When we tried to get to the shore inside the cave, the wave almost sucked us back into the ocean. The currents are strong and we had to fight to get ashore!
Thirdly, during the season the traffic in and out of the cave is massive. There are SUP boards, there are kayaker groups, and there are motorboats. All of them are trying to get inside the cave through a limited space.
It can be a challenge to keep your boat, kayak, or SUP board steady and somebody swimming in the water will, without a doubt, just put themselves in harm’s way.
If you still want to swim to the cave, I would recommend you to choose a calm day without waves, go early in the morning before the traffic begins, wear a life vest and go together with other people, so you are not alone.
In any case, it is not forbidden to swim to the cave, but you will go there at your own risk. Remember that you need a waterproof bag if you want to bring anything with you to the cave and keep it dry!
Can I walk to the Benagil cave?
Although the Benagil cave is relatively close to the beach – just 100 to 200 meters – it is not possible to walk to the cave from the beach. Not even during the lowest of low tide. The reason for that is that the ocean just simply gets too deep too soon.
Even if you go for a swim at the Benagil beach you will realize that only a couple of steps into the water it is already waist-deep. And very soon after it is impossible to touch the bottom of the ocean. The entrance to the cave is stretching more into the ocean which means the water is very deep.
While you can’t walk into the cave, you can walk above the Benagil cave. There is a trail that goes from the Benagil beach along the coastline and it will lead you straight to the top of the cave.
However, you can’t see much from there – the circular hole has a fence around it due to safety reasons, but at least you can peek inside just a little bit.
Are there other caves to visit in Algarve for free?
Yes, but smaller ones! I have a blog post of the most beautiful caves and algars to visit in Algarve! Check it out in case you are staying longer in Algarve or you are looking for an extra adventure as many of them aren’t even on Google Maps! Besides, many caves are only accessible during low tide.
You always have to remember that caves and algars are part of nature. Be mindful and careful when accessing these places as rockfalls are not uncommon. After all – these caves and algars were formed due to erosion and rockfalls so always be careful with your surroundings!
Algarve is one of those must-visit destinations and regions in Europe! There is no other place with so many beautiful, unique and different beaches, breathtaking coastal cliffs, charming towns, and this relaxing Southern vibe! If you can, please, leave a comment below if there are any significant changes to anything that is written in this blog post! Thanks!
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