Have you ever seen a photo on Instagram or Pinterest, and you knew you just had to see it for yourself in person? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me when I saw a photo for the first time of the Benagil Cave in the Algarve region of Portugal. When I first saw a photo of this magical place, it took my breath away!! The first thing that came to my mind? How do I get in this cave?!
The Benagil Cave is completely surrounded by the ocean. The only way to get in is through the water. So, when I tried to research how to accomplish this and if it was safe, I didn’t have much luck. I never got a clear answer. But I told my husband, Dan, that we were for sure doing this! Hehehe!
But now being back from this epic cave, I wanted to share with you clear directions on how to visit this cave yourself! So, let’s dive in!!
First things first! Plug “Benagil Caves” into your GPS. The GPS system we had while traveling throughout Portugal picked up this location just fine, and it lead us exactly where we wanted to go. We drove here from Lisbon, and made it in about 2 1/2 hours.
Once you arrive here (the GPS will most likely take you to the beach), you’ll need to find parking. Which, I’m happy to report, is quite easy! AND FREE. Drive up the hill, on the side that has all the restaurants. And to be honest, there will probably be quite a few people walking down the hill. So, just follow the trail of people. Hehe! And look out for the large, gravel parking lot on your right. This is completely free parking and there are a ton of parking spots available. Park your car and head back down the hill you just drove up.
Feeling the need for a little lunch? I would recommend stopping at the quaint and cute O Pescador Benagil. It’s about half-way down the hill and is such a European seaside charm. It’s beautifully decorated in soft blues and whites, and has a stunning view of the ocean. And their food is quite delicious!! It’s the perfect lunch stop!
After lunch, or if you skipped lunch all together, keep heading down the hill until you hit the beach! Go all the way to the left of the beach. Set up camp and either relax for a bit, or get ready to visit the famous Benagil Cave!!
Okay, so this is the big decision that people have to make. HOW to get to the cave?! There are a few options to choose from, and some ways that I recommend more than others.
The first way is by boat, and I do NOT recommend this if you’re looking for a hands on and immersive experience. First, some of the boats don’t even go into the cave. Second, if they do go into the cave, it’s honestly for less than 2 minutes. Third, you can’t get out of the boat. There was one exception where I saw a group jump out of the boat for about 15 seconds and then had to get right back in. There is truly no time to enjoy the cave or take photos.
All the other ways I recommend because they all offer a way to actually get into the cave!
If you’re looking for a more comfortable option, I would go with renting a paddle board or kayak. There’s a little stand where you can rent them from. This is a first come first serve basis. Most of the rentals last for about 45 minutes, and are between $35 and $55. We actually did the paddle board option because the water was a little choppy, and I wanted to see the cave and the sea cliffs from afar! Don’t forget to bring cash for the rentals!
For a totally free option, you can swim there! To swim there would take about 10 to 15 minutes. In my mind, it’s completely feasible. BUT you have to take into consideration your own physical stamina and the condition of the ocean. NEVER swim in unsafe water conditions. There are lifeguards there. So, when in doubt, ask them!! Another little side option, take a noodle, life vest or water floatie with you! This way, you have something to hold onto and support you.
But no matter what way you’re going, let’s talk about how to actually get into the cave! Always go to the left! From the beach, you won’t be able to visualize the sea cave entrance, but just give it a few minutes and you’ll be able to see it crystal clear. Once you see it, just keep going! Long story short… keeping going to the left until you’re inside the cave! But let’s go over some safety tips!! NEVER swim near the rock walls. Waves and currents are the strongest next to the rock walls. These waves and currents could lead to getting pretty banged up or even drowning. Also, WATCH OUT FOR THE BOATS. The boats going around and into the caves aren’t going to slow down or stop for you. Just stay out of their way, and you’ll be fine.
Once you travel under the archway of the cave, it might get a little turbulent, especially if you’re in a kayak or using a paddle board. FACT: I got hurled from our paddle board because the waves came crashing in so hard. The waves always get much more intense the closer you get to shore. So, just be cautious that you may get tossed around a bit or pushed over by the waves.
But the great news is… you’ve made it!! You’re inside Benagil Cave!! Put your floaties, paddle boards, and kayaks off to the side while you explore! But please make sure you put them far enough back from the water. You don’t need to have those sneaky waves coming up and taking your goodies back out to sea without you noticing.
Now, spend however long you want adventuring!! My advice? Climb up on the big rock and get a photo like this! It’s all about the angle! The geological formation of this cave is so breathtaking, that I hope you all get to visit it someday!
In my opinion, the trickiest part of the Benagli Cave happens right now. GETTING OUT. The reason why it can be so difficult to get back out is because the waves coming in can be quite strong. This is particularly true if you are paddle boarding or kayaking. To paddle from shore and out of the cave is almost impossible because the waves are so forceful. So, we tackled things a little differently. Since Dan is stronger than me, he sat on the paddle board and paddled as hard as he could. I continued to push him over the waves. When the water got a little deeper, I got into the water and swam the paddle board past all the waves. Once we got out of the cave and out on the smoother waters, I was able to climb on the paddle board, and we headed back to the main shore!
So, there you have it!! How to get inside Benagil Cave! This part of our Portugal trip was, by far, our favorite! We had never seen anything like this in nature, and it was truly astounding to see it in the flesh! I 110% recommend that you make the time to visit here when you travel to Portugal!! It honestly is so unique to the country of Portugal!
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