Benagil Sea Cave is the most famous cave in Portugal, but there are lots of other Algarve caves to explore. The whole of the Algarve coastline is filled with caverns, caves, archways and bizarre rock formations which are all spectacular. The best way to enjoy all of the caves and the coastline is to take a Benagil Cave tour which will get you up close and personal to the Benagil caves in Portugal and show you the rest of the coastline at the same time. Here are my tips for choosing the best Benagil sea cave tour for you.
Things to Consider when Booking your Benagil Cave Tour
Where is Benagil Cave?
Benagil is a small fishing village on the Algarve coast in southern Portugal. Benagil sea caves are 150 meters east of Benagil beach (Praia de Benagil). Although it is possible to see the Benagil cave from dry land above the cave, the best way to see the cave is from the water. This map shows the exact location of the Benagil sea cave.
What is Benagil Cave?
The Benagil sea cave (or Algar de Benagil as it’s known in Portuguese) is a cave on the Portuguese coast which has been carved out by the sea. It’s unique because of the way the water has eroded the rock in a dome shape, and there is a hole in the top of the dome, letting sunlight stream into the cave. It is one of the most beautiful rock formations on the Algarve coast, and a fascinating place to visit.
How to Get to Benagil Sea Cave?
There are various sea cave tours which leave from all along the coast, so you may not need to get there yourself. The best Banagil cave tour for you will depend on where are you staying in the Algarve. Tours to Benagil leave from various towns including Faro, Lagos and many places in between, as well as Portimao and Benagil Beach which is closest to the caves. If you are staying in a town which offers sea cave tours you could choose to take one from there, or you may prefer to travel by land to a town closer to Benagil.
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Cost of the Benagil Cave Tours
Every tour has a different price point, depending on what is included. Tours starting from further away typically cost more as you’re covering a longer distance, although you can also find tours which include a barbecue or more of a cruise type boat which travels along the coast more slowly, offering added extras like food and drink.
Access to the Benagil Sea Cave
Not all boat trips along the coast will actually go inside the cave. Larger boats like catamarans and sailing boats are too big to get inside the cave entrance, so a small, manoeuvrable boat will be best if you want to see inside the cave. No boats are allowed to actually dock in the cave, so you won’t be able to get out onto the cave beach unless you take a stand-up paddleboard tour or a kayak tour. Apparently, this is a relatively new rule to help alleviate the ‘traffic jams’ which built up in and around the cave as everyone got in and out of the boats, but even without getting out of the boat you will still get a great view of the cave as long as it can get inside.
Larger boats are likely to be more comfortable than the smaller RIB (rigid inflatable boat) speedboats which can be bumpy if the waves are high! If you suffer with back problems, speedboats bouncing off the waves may cause you discomfort, and the size of the boat may also have an effect if you suffer from sea-sickness, as will the time you spend on the boat. If you are an active person you may prefer a Benagil kayak tour or a SUP tour instead of a seated cruise. Kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, of course, is best in warm weather with a calm sea, although we can’t always choose good weather for our holiday in Portugal!!
Speaking of weather; rain, high winds and rough seas do not make for the most enjoyable boat trip to the Benagil Caves. Sometimes rough seas mean that the boat departures directly from the beach in smaller villages like Benagil cannot leave due to the waves. However, boats which leave from actual ports have a better chance of successfully launching. That said, if the weather is very bad, you may want to reconsider the trip altogether and find something to do which doesn’t involve being outside on the sea – especially if you suffer from seasickness, do you really want to be on a boat trip in poor weather?
Check out these top Benagil Sea Caves Tours from GetYourGuide:
Which Benagil Sea Cave Tour I Chose
I was staying in the town of Lagos, about 26 miles by car to the village of Benagil. You can take a Benagil cave tour from Lagos where I was staying, but as I suffer quite badly from seasickness I decided to go part of the way by land to reduce the amount of time I was out on the sea. I chose this Benagil caves tour from Portimao. The tour took about 2 hours and we visited various other sea caves and rock formations on the way to Benagil.
I booked the tour through GetYourGuide, and chose the tour offered by Algarve Discovery. I often book tours directly with the tour providers, but it was the evening before I wanted to take the tour and GetYourGuide provides immediate confirmation so I decided to book with them. This worked really well for the last-minute booking and gave me that bit of extra assurance that everything would be how it should be on the day. READ MORE>>>
The meeting point was outside the Clube Naval de Portimao, close to Cais Vasco da Gama, and the crew were there waiting when I arrived, just before our meeting time of 11.30. There was a girl checking people off the list, together with the captain and crewman. Once everyone had arrived, the captain took us to the boat around the corner.
There were 11 of us on the tour, and the RiB boat was pretty much full capacity. There was one single seat at the front, which I took, and straddled it like a horse, with a leg on either side. The other seats were bench style, and the rest of the people were cosily wedged in. We were all given life jackets to wear.
We set off at a steady pace, this isn’t a speed boat ride as such but there was certainly a cold breeze as we set off. I went backpacking in Portugal in January, and the weather during the day was beautifully sunny but it was cold, so I definitely needed my coat! Thankfully the water was very calm so I didn’t feel ill, but I am glad I took my Dramamine before setting off.
All along the coast, the captain stopped the boat to explain what we saw, he translated in Portuguese and English so we all knew what we were seeing. The first point of interest was the castle at the entrance to Portimao port, which protected the city from pirates and invaders. Then as we travelled along the coast we went inside various caves, saw lots of beautiful beaches and coastline, and went to the famous Benagil sea cave.
The Benagil sea cave was the last thing we visited before turning around and enjoying a 30-minute boat ride directly back to Portimao. The Benagil cave is beautiful, there’s no doubt about that. The sea has carved out an almost perfectly round cave, with an opening at the top which lets light flood in. You can see the different layers in the rock which have come from thousands of years of rock deposits, gradually being reclaimed by the sea.
Part of me was disappointed we weren’t able to get out of the boat, but our captain spent plenty of time making sure we all got a good view of the cave and had plenty of opportunity for photos. We didn’t get the view of the cave from the beach which you can only get if you take a kayak or SUP tour, but I was still really happy to see the cave and was impressed by the power of the sea for carving out such a beautiful cave!
Alternatives to my Benagil Cave Boat Tour
I really enjoyed the Benagil Cave boat tour I took, as we had a small boat and could go inside the cave (although we didn’t get out). Our guide was fun and informative, and we saw plenty of interesting sights along the way as well as the beautiful Benagil Cave. However, depending on your own preferences and requirements, there are other Benagil Cave tours which you might also enjoy.
Benagil Cave SUP Tour
If you are an active person and want to get up close and personal with the Benagil Sea Caves, you can take a stand-up paddleboard tour from Benagil beach. These tours actually allow you to get out onto the cave beach and walk around inside the cave (subject to weather and tide restrictions) so you get the up close and personal approach as well as some gorgeous photos from the beach. These tours leave from Benagil beach, so you need to arrange your own transport to get to Benagil from wherever you are staying. READ MORE>>>
Benagil Cave Kayak Tours
Another active alternative to the SUP tour is to take a Benagil kayak tour from Benagil beach. This one has excellent reviews and allows you to get out inside the cave (subject to weather conditions). The Benagil Cave kayak tour lasts around 2 hours and includes a guide, instruction on how to use your kayak safely while practising at a secret beach, and visits to other nearby beaches and caves as well as the Benagil sea cave. You will spend about 20 minutes inside the Benagil cave so you’ll have plenty of time to take pictures! You will get wet on the tour, so make sure you have a waterproof camera or pouch for your phone. READ MORE>>>
You can also rent a kayak on Benagil beach to take along the coastline and into the Benagil Caves. The rental doesn’t include a guide and is only recommended for people with experience of using sea kayaks as getting inside the caves safely can be a challenge. If the sea is rough or you’re not confident with a kayak I wouldn’t recommend this option, but you can contact Taruga Tours who offer the kayak rental for more information. READ MORE>>>
Benagil Cave Tours from Lagos
If you are staying in Lagos and want the convenience of taking a boat from Lagos to the Benagil Caves, you can arrange a boat trip to take you all along the coastline from Lagos. However, if you suffer from seasickness you may be better travelling by land to get closer to the caves before taking to the water, especially if the weather is poor. If you don’t have any problem with seasickness than a Benagil cave tour from Lagos is much less hassle than arranging additional transport to another location like Portimao. There are various options for Benagil cave tours from Lagos, usually on a RiB speed boat which zips along the coast. There are also more leisurely catamaran cruises from Lagos which travel along the coast to see some of the other caves and rock formations, but without going inside the Benagil cave. Check out these options for Benagil cave tours from Lagos:
A Catamaran BBQ Trip to the Benagil Caves from Albufeira
If you’re staying in Albufeira, and you aren’t bothered about going inside the Benagil sea cave, this day trip on a beautiful catamaran is more like a coastal cruise then a specific cave tour. If the weather and sea conditions are good you may be able to get inside the caves, but the draw here is the luxurious boat trip, taking in the gorgeous coastline, with a BBQ on board, drinks on the beach and a glass of champagne. READ MORE>>>
Dolphin Watching and Caves Cruise
This tour is mainly about watching dolphins, but if you’re a nature lover the chance to see dolphins in the wild is a wonderful experience. As well as spending time at sea looking for these incredible animals, this Benagil Caves tour also includes some time exploring the caves along the Algarve coastline. READ MORE>>>
Seeing the Benagil Cave from Dry Land
The most impressive views of the Benagil Sea Cave are from the water, but you can also visit the cave from dry land and look down from the hole in the top of the cave. If you drive to Benagil you can walk up to the cave, you could hike along the coast from Albufeira if you’re feeling adventurous, or even take a tuk-tuk tour to Benagil Cave which also visits other key sights along the way. Remember, from land you can’t get inside the cave, but you can peer inside from above.
Safety on Benagil Cave Tours
Remember that when you are out at sea, make sure you wear the provided life jackets. Your captain will show you how to put it on, and always follow their instructions for where to sit on the boat. Be careful not to drop your phone, camera or anything else in the water! I always have a hand strap attached to my phone so I don’t drop it – and bear in mind that your camera or phone could get wet on the boat.
No matter where you travel, you should always get travel insurance to cover you in case something does happen. Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
Where Stay to Visit the Benagil Caves
If you plan to visit the Benagil Caves in Portugal and you have your own car you can spend the night basically anywhere along the Algarve coast, as Portugal is quite compact and it is easy to drive wherever you need to be. As I didn’t hire a car, I was backpacking in Portugal using public transport so I chose to stay in Lagos. Lagos is a pretty city, with beautiful beaches and cliffs and there are plenty of things to do in Lagos to keep you busy. To get to my Benagil cave tour which left from Portimao, I took the train from Lagos to Portimao the morning of my tour.
Where to Stay in Lagos
Hostels in Lagos
Hostels in Portugal are generally of a very high standard, and Lagos hostels are no exception. Check out the Old Town Hostel which gets rave reviews for the friendly staff and great atmosphere, or the swanky Top City Hostels and Suites with a pool and incredible views from the rooftop terrace.
Hotels in Lagos
Airbnb in Lagos
Airbnb is also a great choice for accommodation in Lagos. I stayed in a private room in Maria’s home in Lagos (with her 3 cats, dog and pot-bellied pig!) and loved it – check the listing here. Check out all of the options for Airbnb in Lagos here.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code or my full Airbnb guide for everything you need to know about Airbnb, or just click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Have you been taken a Benagil cave tour to see the Benagil caves in Portugal? What did you think? Please leave your comments below.
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