The Benagil Cave, located on Portugals south shore, is one of the most photographed places in the entire country. the turquoise blue waters and light rays beaming into this miraculous ocean cave are pure magic. If you are dying to visit but want to ditch the crowds, you have come to the right place! Keep reading for everything you need to know about visiting the Benagil Cave and the secret to getting it all to yourself.
The Benagil Cave is located along the Algarve Coast, near the town of Carvoeiro. Only accessible by water, there are several tours that bring hundreds of people inside the cave daily. The remarkable natural landmark features two dome-shaped entry points and a skylightesque hole in the roof, which allow a great deal of light in. These unique features paired with the textured limestone rock and clear blue waves rolling in make it one of the most beautiful caves in the world, without a doubt.
Before we dive into what we did to avoid the crowds and having it all to ourselves for 2 whole hours, let’s cover the different options for accessing The Benagil Cave.
How to Get There
There are countless daily boat tours leaving from Benagil Beach, Carvoeiro, Lagos, Albuferia, and Portimao. Depending on the distance and the tour operator you choose, they typically range from 2 to 4 hours.
From what we understand, the boats are not actually allowed to dock in the cave, which means you cannot get onto the beach. This is not the end of the world if you want to see the Benagil Cave without spending a ton of time there. A boat tour would be a great option for families with small children or people with mobility issues.
By Kayak/Stand up paddleboard
This is by far our preferred method for entering the cave as it offers an excellent combination of flexibility and safety. You can choose to either take a guided tour or rent your own equipment at one of the many rental shops in the area. We will go over the best time to rent a kayak or SUP and our favourite rental shop in the next section.
Before visiting, we read quite a few blogs that stated you could swim over to the cave. Although the Benagil Cave is only about 600 meters off the shore of Benagil Beach, we would not recommend swimming.
The undertow can be strong and the waves along this coast can get quite large. Add that to the jagged rock arch you use to enter the cave and the swarm of boats in the area? Swimming to this cave can get dangerous in a hurry and it’s just not worth the risk. The possibilities of getting knocked in the head by an amateur kayaker or paddle boarder are also quite high.
Avoiding the Crowds
With so much popularity, especially in recent years, it’s no surprise that the Benagil Cave can get extremely crowded. There are constantly tours coming and going with lineups to get that “perfect Instagram shot”.
I don’t know about you, but even the thought of that stresses me the heck out! You all know that David and I will do pretty much anything to avoid a crowd.
So what if I told you that we were able to get this magnificent place all to ourselves for not one but two whole hours? That we were able to experience the incredible natural wonder without boats and people and noise and distraction.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Great news! In reality, it is not an overly difficult thing to do, but it does take a bit of planning and an early morning wake-up call. Let me explain…
Daily tours of the Benagil Cave, no matter if they are by boat, kayak, or standup paddle board, typically start between 9 and 10 am. This means that by the time they collect all of their passengers, do their safety spiel, and get to the cave; it is at least 9:30 am. From this time on, tours will be running constantly until 5 or 6 pm and the cave will be busy.
If you just got excited about the morning window without tours (as we did!) this is where things get a little bit complicated. The earliest you can pick up a kayak or SUP at any rental store in the area is also 9 am. Now, this does not mean you can’t have access to one earlier, it just means you have to get creative.
David and I picked up a deflated SUP, a pump, a paddle, and lifejackets from COAST supplies in Lagos the evening before we planned to visit the cave. They were absolutely wonderful to rent from, charging only 33 euros for 24 hours. From there, we headed to a parking lot near Benagil Beach and spent the night in our campervan.
In the morning, we woke up about 30 minutes before sunrise, in September that’s around 6:45 am, and made our way to Benagil Beach. We pumped up our paddle board and took the short 3-minute walk down to the ocean. There was no one around at this time of the morning, it was so calm and peaceful.
Putting the paddle board into the water, however, was anything but calm and peaceful…
The waves were powerful and the strong undertow made it tough to keep the board steady. I ended up helping David get on the paddle board with the dry bag and swimming out to meet himpast the wave break. Once we were out in the water the paddling was a breeze.
We arrived inside the Benagil Cave around 7:30 am and were pleasantly surprised to find no one else there. David and I spent the next two hours completely mesmerized by the light slowly filling the cave. We took photos, played in the waves, and laid on the sand staring up through the skylight. I am still blown away that we got to enjoy this spectacular place for so long, all by ourselves.
If you get the chance, we would highly recommend visiting the cave before 9 am, I can promise you that it will be one thousand percent worth the extra effort.