The Benagil Sea Cave is one of the most spectacular natural attractions in the Algarve and is also known as the Benagil Cathedral or Algar de Benagil (Portuguese name). Social media made this natural wonder in the Algarve, Portugal super famous. It is popular and gets busy, but is one of those places it is just so beautiful that you have to add it to your Algarve bucket list.
Being inside this jaw dropping place is half the fun, getting there is an adventure. The Benagil cave faces the ocean and can only be reached from the water. There are several options to visit; boat trip, kayak, Stand Up Paddle or even swimming, definitely something for everyone to enjoy and we cover all of them in detail here.
The Algarve coastline in the south of Portugal is famous for the beautiful limestone cliffs dropping into the turquoise ocean. This creates stunning scenery with unique rock formations and impressive sea grottoes. This stretch has plenty of must visit sites, but Algar de Benagil is on top of my list.
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The cave gets its name from the small village of Benagil a couple of 100 meters away. The large dome cave has two entrances both facing the sea and a large opening known as ‘the eye’ in middle of the roof of the cave. Inside there is a small beach that is popular for taking photos.
Golden light on the cave walls penetrating the cave through the eye sets the scene for those perfect Instagram photos of the cave openings from the stunning sandy beach. Note that boat tours do not allow visitors to get off on the beach.
Where is the Benagil Cave?
The cave opening faces the ocean about 200m to the east of the small village of Benagil between two beaches, Praia de Benagil and Praia da Marinha. The village is really small with a permanent population of less than a 100 people permanent nowadays relying on tourism. In season it is packed with visitors. Lagoa is the closest large town 7 km (15 min drive) away.
How to Get to Benagil Cave
Even though the cave is just 150m from the beach, it can only be reached from the sea since the openings face directly to the ocean. You can take a tour to Benagil cave and enter from the sea by boat trip, kayak, stand up paddle board or by swimming. Walking to the hole in the top ‘the eye’ is possible from Marinha Beach or Benagil village. Kayaks and Stand Up Paddle boards can be rented around Benagil beach, there are also boat tours departing from here. At the beach there is a café that that serves sandwiches, coffee and some other snacks and dishes. The beach is located at the bottom of a steep hill with a big gravel parking area at the top, in season it gets full quickly. Google Maps Pin for Benagil Beach.
You can get to Benagil cave with a tour, by boat, Kayak or SUP from various locations or rent a SUP or kayak and get explore the cave independently.
Walking to Benagil Cave
It is possible to walk to the eye at the top of the cave and peer in. The hole is fenced so you can not get close to the edge.
Benagil cave is located midway through the popular ‘Seven Hanging Valleys’ hiking trail. This spectacular hiking route follows the rugged coastline with limestone cliffs and picturesque beaches and is one of the most beloved hikes in the Algarve.
It is popular to walk a part of the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail from Benagil beach or the stunning Marinha beach to the eye of the Benagil cave. Marinha Beach has been nominated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and is another jaw dropping attraction in the Algarve.
It is around a 20 minute walk from Marinha beach or 10 minutes from Benagil beach to the eye of the cave.
If you’re looking for a less popular hike in the area I can recommend the Trail of the Headlands. It doesn’t go past Benagil Cave but the scenery on the trail is just as impressive and there are very few tourists.
Benagil Cave is the main but not the only highlight of the Algarve. 5 km west of Benagil you will find the charming town of Carvoeiro that has a lot to offer. The famous Algar Seco and the Caroeiro boardwalk are two not-to-miss places there.
Choosing a Benagil Cave Tour
The most popular way to visit the Benagil cave is with a tour group. This can be done by SUP, kayak, big or small boat with tours starting from many of the popular holiday beach towns in the Algarve. Doing tours starting in Benagil itself means a shorter boat ride so the tours are shorter and cheaper. Tours from other locations often have a nice scenic ride to the caves and get there by sea can be quicker than driving with your car, finding parking and taking a shorter tour.
Boat Tours to Benagil Cave
The most popular way to visit the Benagil cave is by boat trip. There are plenty of boat tours departing from Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira, Vilamoura, Armação de Pêra, Quarteira and Benagil itself. Shorter boat trips are a bit cheaper, but you do not really save money or time if you drive from another town.
Tour Length – Benagil cave is the main attraction on these tours, but there are many other amazing caves along the coast. On a shorter tour you will visit less caves. The closer the town is to the cave the shorter the boat ride and the shorter tours are generally cheaper. It is nice to see the Algarve coast from the water on this scenic boat ride.
Boat Size – The smaller boats (up to 12 seats) are faster trips, it is a bumpy ride if the sea is rough, this is quite exciting! Only the smaller boats can enter the cave, so check with your operator. For a relaxed cruise go on a larger catamaran, you will be switched to a smaller boat to visit the cave. Remember on boat trips you do not disembark the boat, you get about 10 minutes inside the cave to take photos from the boat.
I will recommend you book a boat trip before, in season they fill up fast.
Boat Trip from Benagil Village
- Tour Length about 75 minutes
- Avg price Benagil Caves from Benagil Beach – EUR 30
These trips depart from Benagil Beach and you will visit about 15 to 20 caves and beaches before getting dropped off on the beach again. Sights usually include the Benagil Cave, Carvalho Beach, Marinha Beach, Alfanzina Lighthouse. The duration of the traditional tours from Benagil beach take around 75 minutes and the avg price is around EUR 30.
- Tour Length about 30 minutes
- Avg price Benagil Caves Express from Lagos EUR 15 – 20
Shorter express tours also depart from the beach visiting 5 to 10 caves and beaches usually including Benagil Cave and Marinha Beach. The shorter tours These trips depart from Benagil Beach and you will visit about 15 to 20 caves and beaches. Sights usually include the Benagil Cave, Carvalho Beach, Marinha Beach, Alfanzina Lighthouse. The duration of the traditional tours from Benagil beach take around 30 minutes and the avg price is around EUR 15 – 20.
Boat Trip from Lagos
- Tour length about 2 hours
- Avg price Benagil Caves from Lagos around EUR 30 – 40
To reach the famous coastal stretch of Benagil where you will visit the caves take about 25 minutes with the fast boats. You will visit about 15 to 20 caves and beaches including the Benagil Cave and plenty of the Carvoeiro caves, and see Carvalho Beach, Marinha Beach and Alfanzina Lighthouse from the water. The duration of the traditional tours from Lagos Marina is around 2 hours and the avg price is around EUR 40.
We booked this Benagil cave trip from Lagos by speedboat with Get Your Guide. I love the phone app it is super easy to use and the GPS pin takes you to your boarding point. The Lagos Marina is a great place to walk around a bit before or after your tour, with nice restaurants, bars and coffee shops (Artisao is our favorite). Visit the beautiful Meia Praia beach just around the corner after your tour.
Boat Trip from Portimão
- Tour length 1.5 to 2 hours
- Avg price Benagil Caves from Portimão EUR 30
The Benagil tour from Portimão by speedboat is a very popular tour. The boat ride to the cave strip is a bit shorter than from Lagos. You will visit about 15 to 20 caves and beaches that on most tours include the Benagil Cave, on some of the tours you can go for a swim at Marinha Beach. The duration of the tours from Portimão vary between 1.5 to 2 hours and the avg price is around EUR 30.
Or go on a half day cruise to the caves from Portimão by catemaran.
Boat Trip from Albufeira
- Tour length 2 hours
- Around EUR 35
Dolphin watching is often combined with visiting the Benagil caves from Albufeira on a speedboat. You will visit a variety of caves and including the Benagil Cave and the boat stops for a swim at one of the beaches on many of these tours. The duration of the tours from Albufeira is about 2 hours and the avg price is around EUR 35.
The Dolphin Watching and Caves Cruise on a bigger boat from Albufeira is also very popular. Or cruise in a comfortable Catamaran along the wonderful Algarvian coast, swim in the ocean, sunbathe, sip champagne, swim and visit the caves.
Kayak or SUP Tours to Benagil Cave
- Kayak or SUP rental price – EUR 20
- Rental Time – 2 hours
Paddling to the cave with a kayak or stand up paddle board to explore the Benagil caves is a very popular option. This is the only way to go to the beach in the cave (or swimming). To cover the 200m from the beach to Benagil cave is quick, so you have lots of time to explore and take photos in the cave and paddle to other caves.
Book to rent a kayak or paddle board at Benagil Beach and visit caves, cliffs, and hidden beaches at your own pace.
Swimming to the Benagil Caves
It is possible to swim from Benagil beach to the cave and as far as I am aware at the time of writing it is allowed. The swim is only about 200m, but is not recommended. The biggest danger here is boat traffic, with hundreds of boats visiting the cave swimmers can get easily get run over. We do not recommend that you swim to the cave, but if you decide to do this pull a big red buoy close by to make you visible to boats in the water. To do this you have to be a strong swimmer and be aware that strong currents exist here.
Best Time to Visit the Caves
The caves can be visited all year round depending on sea and weather conditions.
- If you are paddling to the cave low tide is better when you will have a larger beach. Check the Benagil Tide Chart here.
- If you go early in the morning there will be less people in the cave. Renting a kayak or paddle board at Benagil beach is your best option to get to the cave early.
- The best light is between 10 am and 04:00 pm everyday, if you want to take good photos the light will be the best when visiting the caves at this time of the day.
More Algarve Wonders Not Too Miss!
- The spectacular Ponta da Piedade is a picturesque rocky cape 2,5 km from the Old Town of Lagos. See the beautiful rock structures by boat or kayak from the water or do a walk from the lighthouse.
- The iconic Praia Dona Ana is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve, a short walk from the Lagos old town
- Want to visit one of the most beautiful beach towns in Portugal? Once a little fisherman’s village, the beautiful Praia da Luz has an incredible palm lined promenade with awesome open-air cafés and restaurants on a walkway with typical Portuguese paving looking over the ocean.