Algar Seco – our best tips for visiting the caves

Algar Seco is a spectacular group of tunnels, passages, and caves carved in yellow limestone cliffs of the Algarve coast in Carvoeiro. It’s a not-to-miss place in the south of Portugal. The cliffs can be accessed following long staircases. One can spend a hour or two exploring the fossil filled cliffs and caves, swimming in a natural rocky pool, and enjoying a drink at Boneca Bar.

What is Algar Seco?

Algar Seco is a series of impressive caves, bizarre rock formations, and rugged limestone cliffs along the coast of southern Algarve. It’s a natural landmark created by the sea, wind, and the sun in the limestone cliffs.

There are long staircases leading down to the cliffs. It’s impossible to access on a wheelchair or with a stroller. There is enough space on the top to leave a stroller.

A staircase down to a rocky pool at Algar Seco
A long staircase leading down to a rocky pool and a footpath at Algar Seco

Where is Algar Seco?

Algar Seco is located in the town of Carvoeiro in the Western Algarve, Portugal. Carvoeiro Beach is about 700 m away and the Caroviero boardwalk is right next to it. It is easy to find on Google maps. There is a small free parking lot next to it at the end of the Estrada do Algar Seco street.

Benagil Cave is about 5 km east of Algar Seco. Lagos is 30 km away and Faro International Airport is 60 km away.

When is Algar Seco open?

Algar Seco is open 24 hours. There is no gate or fence. You can access the cliffs and caves any time of the day. The access is free. I wouldn’t recommend exploring the cliffs at night time it’s dangerous.

Campbell and Summer at the entrance to A Boneca Cave
Campbell and Summer at the entrance to A Boneca Cave at Algar Seco

Do you need a tour to visit it?

You don’t need a tour to visit Algar Seco. If you want to see the cliffs and the cave from the sea you’ll have to join a boat tour from Carvoeiro to Benagil Cave. On the tour you’ll get to see some of the main highlights of the Algarve. 

More tours and activities in Carvoeiro

What is A Boneca?

A Boneca means “the doll” in Portuguese. It’s a small cave with two big holes/windows opening to the sea. The entrance to the cave is through a tunnel. If you use your imagination the cave looks like a doll’s head with the holes being the eyes. You can see “the face” of the doll only from the sea. If you do a boat tour along the cliffs don’t forget to ask your guide to indicate the cave on the way.

A Boneca is open 24 hours. You don’t need a tour or any booking to visit it. During the summer months, early morning is the best time to come here if you want to escape tourist crowds and midday heat.

Inside A Boneca Cave in Carvoeiro
The view of the sea from A Boneca Cave at Algar Seco

Boneca Bar

Boneca Bar is an open-air restaurant nested between the cliffs next to A Boneca Cave. I’d call it the most picturesque bar in the Algarve. The bar is open Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 10 pm. It’s open only during the summer months from the beginning of April to the end of October. It’s a great place to come for a sundown drink and dinner. The bar is quite small I’d strongly recommend booking a table in advance. Their phone number to make a booking is 282 358 391, FB page https://www.facebook.com/RestauranteBonecaBar/.

Boneca Bar at Algar Seco view from the sidewalk
Boneca Bar is a perfect place for a sundown drink at Algar Seco

How to get to Algar Seco?

Driving is the easiest way of getting to Algar Seco. If you’re planning to travel around the Algarve renting a car is highly recommended. You can get to places by buses and trains but the frequency and connections are not always the best. It might take a couple of hours to get to places by public transport versus 30 minutes of driving. 

There is a circular bus route Rota das Falesias (cliffs route) that connects Algar Seco with Portimão, Ferragudo, Benagil Beach, and Praia da Marinha. The hop-on-hop-off bus makes 15 stops along the way. Buses run every day from 9 am to 6 pm. A one-day ticket costs 20 euros. If you’re staying in Portimão, Ferragudo, or Carvoeiro and don’t have a car you can visit the main highlights of the area using the bus.

Bus # 107 connects Carvoeiro with Portimão and Lagoa. There are 10 daily buses on weekdays and 4 buses on weekends. It takes 30 minutes to get from Portimão to Carvoeiro. 

One of the lookout points at Algar Seco in Carvoeiro
A lookout point on the top of the cliffs at Algar Seco in Carvoeiro

When is the best time to visit Algar Seco?

During the summer season, early mornings are the best time to visit Algar Seco. This way you escape tourist crowds and midday heat. Even if you visit it on weekend in July or August before 9 am there will be nobody (we checked). And you’ll easy to find parking. 

If you come very early you can watch the sunrise. The light for taking photos is good in the morning and in the evening. 

Campbell and Summer at the rocky pool at Algar Seco
A long staircase leading to a rocky pool at Algar Seco. At 8.30 am in July we were the only visitors there.

What to do at Algar Seco?

Exploring rock formations, tunnels, and cliffs is the main activity here. There are two sets of stairs leading down to Algar Seco. The right staircase goes to A Boneca Cave and Boneca Bar, the lift one leads to a sinkhole and a short trail along the cliffs. 

Visiting A Boneca Cave. If you’re lucky and there are no other people you can get some amazing photos in the cave.

Enjoying the breathtaking views from the lookout points around Algar Seco.

Swimming in a natural rocky pool. You get to the pool following the staircase on the left. Once at the bottom you’ll see rocky stairs leading to the water. In the morning the pool is in the shade it’s a bit chilly to swim but later in the day when the sun gets there, it’s very nice and refreshing.

A shallow natural pool at Algar Seco
The rocky pool at Algar Seco at low tide.

Observing rock formations at Algar Seco. On the walls of the cliffs, you can clearly see remains of marine invertebrate fossils. The cliffs are formed by the deposition of marine sediments over millions of years. The rock formations are very fragile to water contact. The combination of salt sea water, fresh water from rains, wind, and sun created the famous karst landscape of the Algarve coast with many caverns, tunnels, caves, and hanging cliffs.

Having lunch or dinner at Boneca Bar.

Strolling along the Carvoeiro boardwalk. The boardwalk starts at the Algar Seco. It’s a shot 600-meter wooden walkway along the limestone cliffs with stunning views.

A wooden boardwalk along the cliffs in Carvoeiro
The Carvoeiro boardwalk starts/ends at Algar Seco.

Relax on Carvoeiro Beach. The beach is 700 meters away down the cliffs. To get there from Algar Seco you can follow the boardwalk.

If you have time you can do one of the hiking trail along the coast that start in Carvoeiro. The famous Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, a 6-kilometer route that starts at Praia do Vale dos Centeanes, 2 km east of Algar Seco and end at Marinha Beach. The lesser-known Trail of the Headlands, another 6-kilometer trail that start at Praia do Paraiso, 1 km west of the caves and ends at Praia do Molhe in Ferragudo. The hop-on-hop-off bus stops at Marinha Beach and Ferragudo. You can easily get back to Carvoeiro after completing the trail.

Where to stay in Carvoeiro?

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