Portugal’s Algarve Coast spoils locals and visitors alike with its bounty of beautiful beaches. Undoubtedly, one of the coastline’s crown jewels is Praia de Benagil (Benagil Beach) and its adjacent wonder of nature, the Benagil Caves. If you find yourself within striking distance, a day trip to Benagil and a kayak ride to the sea cave is a no-brainer. It was easily one of the top highlights of my latest European escape.
Praia de Benagil
Located a 40-minute drive east from Lagos, Praia de Benagil is a small beach, beautifully enclosed by a semi-circle of cliffs. Even without the allure of the nearby sea caves, it’s a wonderful spot for a day of sunbathing or family fun on the beach.
On its western edge, there are pathways up a cliff to a vista looking out over the beach and the headlands beyond. The first cove is where you’ll ultimately want to get to, but as you can see, there are nooks and crannies of coastal beauty all around.
Getting to the Benagil Caves
When it comes to the Benagil Caves, getting there is definitely half the fun. There is no access to the main cave by foot, so you’ll have to assess your options—each with its pros and cons—and decide which one works best for you and your party. From the beach, it is roughly 200 meters to the cave. Your primary options are: to swim, to kayak/paddle board or to take a boat tour.
I opted to rent a single-person kayak for 90 minutes (19 euros) and I had an absolute blast paddling my way to the cave and back. I wanted to go at my own pace and give myself as much time to enjoy the cave as possible (and to take way too many photos). Kayaking or paddle boarding made the most sense for me. Alternatively, the boat tour sounds like a solid option for getting a quick taste of the main attraction—the boats I saw only spent a minute inside the cave before moving on—while exploring more of the neighboring caves, grottoes and beaches.
Swimming to the cave—near rocky cliffs, with unpredictable ocean currents—I wouldn’t particularly recommend.
Check out the Taruga Tours website for more info and up-to-date pricing. They seem to be the primary tour operator for the Benagil Caves.
Inside the Benagil Caves
Once you disembark your kayak and make landfall on the cave’s little beach (more challenging than it sounds, at least for me), you’re free to wander around and bask in the cave’s splendor. It’s like a natural cathedral, with two arched entryways and a ringed window up above, all beaming bright light into the cave at various times of the day. As expected, it is quite a sight.
Tips for maximizing your time in the Benagil Caves
My 90 minutes (minus 20 minutes of kayaking time) inside the cave flew by and before I knew it, I had to mount my trusty steed (kayak) and paddle back to my other trusty steed (rental car). A few tips that may help you make the most of your time in the Benagil Caves:
1. Keep your phone dry
If you don’t have a GoPro or similar action camera, make sure you protect your smartphone with a waterproof phone pouch. You can get one on Amazon for less than $10. The likelihood that the place where you normally store your phone will get wet is pretty high.
2. Give yourself extra time
Allow yourself as much time in the cave as you can get. I got 90 minutes, but the Taruga Tours site lists out 45-minute rental options. In my opinion, that is barely enough time to enjoy the cave, since almost half of that time will be spent kayaking to the cave and back. I simply don’t like the thought of arriving at a place and immediately thinking about when I have to leave, especially when the place is as visually stunning as the Benagil Caves.
3. Help your fellow cave dweller
Rely on the kindness of strangers to help you make your cave escape. The waves crash into the cave and then recede fairly quickly, which presents a challenge to generate forward motion and paddle out to the ocean. I helped push out a paddle boarder who was struggling to keep up with her group. When it was my turn, a nice fellow helped push me out to sea after I assisted him with a cave selfie. It’s always great when folks help each other out.
See the Benagil Caves from above
Before or after your cave visit, you may opt to take a little time to hike around the cliffs on the eastern side of the beach. The paths to these cliffs are accessible a short distance from the main parking lot. You can actually get up close and peer into the circular ceiling aperture of the sea cave. And you can also get another postcard-worthy view of Praia de Benagil in all of its dreamy European beach glory.