Spectacular cave formations, crystal-like sandy beaches, and inviting water topped off with soul-warming Mediterranean sunshine give Benagil, Portugal, its well-deserved vacation notoriety. Benagil is a small fishing village on the Algarve coast of Portugal. While not on the Mediterranean Sea, as a next door neighbor, the Algarve is part of the Mediterranean vibe, sun-loving culture, and gorgeous landscape. A popular tourist destination for Europeans for years, it is now attracting beachgoers and adventure seekers from around the world.
The Algar de Benagil, or Benagil Caves, have transformed this tiny Portuguese fishing village into a popular tourist attraction. These grotto-like caves are referred to as Gruta de Benagil by the locals. Here are nine reasons to visit.
1. Experience Nature’s Wondrous Cave
Algar de Benagil is just on the left side of Praia de Benagil (the beach). The cave is small but iconically photogenic. There are two ways to view the cave, each providing a unique perspective. The main focal point is the “eye” located at the top of the cave.
If you look up through the eye from inside the cave, you will see the beautiful blue Mediterranean sky. This is the classic vantage point, where the water, beach, eye, and sunshine collide to produce a photo journal-worthy memory.
You can also climb the cliffs above the cave and peer down through the eye. You won’t get too close, though, as there is a fence around it. When you look down, you will see a beautiful sandy beach, rock walls, and lapping waves. There will be plenty of beachgoers and tourist boats floating by, too.
2. View The Caves By Boat
Boat tours are the most popular and easiest way to visit the Benagil Caves. With many options to choose from, you will surely find something to suit your pocketbook and preferences. Taruga Benagil Tours, for example, offers a selection of boat tours.
Most tours will include the surrounding caves along with Benagil Cave, so you will have ample opportunity to view the rock formations from the boat. You will not, on most tours, be able to get off the boat in the caves. If you want to walk on the Benagil Cave beach, be sure to check if this is an option before you book.
When you reach Benagil Cave, the smaller boats will queue up as only a few are allowed to enter the cave at a time due to its small size. Once it is your turn to enter the cave, you will have a few minutes to snap photos from the boat and then it will be time to exit. Larger boats may not fit inside the cave, so be sure your tour specifies an inside-cave viewing if that’s what you’re after.
Private and group boat tours are offered out of Benagil Beach and several other beaches in the area. The variety of boating excursions run from 30 minutes up to 3 hours. You should plan your booking ahead of time. During the offseason, October through April, the seas can be rough and the boats may not sail.
3. Bathe In The Mediterranean Sunshine
The beautiful beach, Praia de Benagil, is surrounded by soaring cliffs that protect the beach from the wind and offer a spectacular backdrop. The golden sand is soft with no stones. The water temperature ranges from 59 degrees in February to 73 in August. The air temperature ranges between 50 degrees in February and 82 in August. The sun is strong, so make sure to pack your sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
The water can be rough and have a strong current, so you need to be cautious when swimming. Wading and sunbathing are the name-of-the-game here.
A word of caution, sitting against the cliff backdrop may appear to be a great idea for shade and windbreak, however, falling rocks can be an issue.
4. Kayak Or SUP For An Up-Close Encounter
Kayaking to the caves provides you with more control over your visit. Try this Benagil Cave Kayak Tour from Viator, which offers small-group (maximum 20 people), early morning excursions to the cave, where you can dock your kayak and walk around. You will be allowed to spend about 30 minutes in the cave to walk, swim, and take photos without the midday crush of tourists.
If you desire complete autonomy during your Benagil Cave visit, rent a stand-up paddle (SUP) board. It is a great way to visit the caves and have the freedom to stay for as long as you wish. Keep in mind you will be navigating by the tour boats, which can create a choppy wake. You can rent boards on Benagil Beach.
Swimming to the caves is an option, albeit risky and not recommended. It is a short swim (about 10 minutes), but the current and tide are difficult to navigate and the water is filled with boats.
5. Experience Exquisite Photo Opportunities
If you can visit the cave early in the morning, the sun pours through the eye, creating a magical play on the rock formations. Professional and amateur photographers alike will be blown away by the beautiful cave.
Take a hike to the tops of the cliffs near the beach, and you will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the Mediterranean.
Be sure to bring your camera waterproofing protection. The boat rides can be choppy and splash up water frequently.
6. It’s An Adrenaline Rush For Adventure Seekers
If you need something to get your heart pumping, try rock jumping. Climb to varying heights along the cliffs adjacent to the beach, screw up your courage, and jump into the water below. What a rush! You will need to be a strong swimmer and agile hiker to attempt this adventure. You can, however, watch the rock jumpers and enjoy the experience vicariously, too.
7. The Area Is Easy To Drive
Praia de Benagil is about 15 minutes from Lagoa by car. The views from the road are everything you would expect them to be, with gorgeous panoramic views of the beaches, cliffs, and water at every turn.
Parking is free at Benagil Beach in the lot on top of the cliffs. You will have to walk down a steep hill to reach the beach if you park here. To park closer to the beach, you can try along the side of the road, but it is steep. You will need to take care, using the emergency brake and tire blocks if you have them. Parking, in general, is limited, so plan to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Depending on where you are staying, there are alternative transportation options. There is a public bus from Lago to Praia do Carvalho. From there, you can take a taxi to Praia de Benagil or enjoy a 25-minute walk along the coastline.
8. Dine On Sumptuous Portuguese Seafood
There is a small snack shack on the beach and several restaurants a short walk up from the beach. These restaurants, famous for offering traditional, fresh-catch seafood, are also working to catch up digitally. All have Facebook pages, but don’t expect fully functioning websites. Most of the restaurants are closed for the month of December.
O Pescador Benagil overlooks Benagil Beach. It’s perched on a cliff and offers fresh seafood in the true Portuguese style. It is a perfect place for a special dinner.
Brisa do Mar treats diners to beautiful views of the sea. Here, you’ll be served traditional local favorites in a quaint and cozy space.
O Algar is a family-run restaurant that offers casual dining and exquisite seafood.
9. Stay The Night
Airbnb offers beautiful stays located between Benagil and Carvalho. The prices are reasonable and the views are killer.
The Benagil Caves are a bucket-list stop on your visit to the Algarve. This Mediterranean hot spot will fill your journey with nature's awe-inspiring wonder.
Note that high tourist season runs between June and September, with July and August seeing the most visitors, so plan accordingly.
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