Adventurous Portugal: How to Visit Benagil Cave

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

When I think back to our Portuguese adventures from last summer, this is the place that generally pops into my head first. Although we had an amazing time exploring Lisbon, loved Pena Palace and enjoyed our days in beautiful Lagos, Benagil somehow tops them all. It is definitely a unique place and I think it’s really cool that travelers can actually see it on the inside. 

Find out all about how you can visit Benagil Cave: 

Where Exactly is the Cave?

The small village of Benagil, where the cave is also located,  is 45 kilometers east of Lagos and 60 kilometers away from Faro. The easiest way to get to the cove itself is from the main beach of Benagil.

It can be reached very easily on a paved road via car or taxi. Before you arrive, you need to know that parking spaces are few near the beach, so finding a place to park your car might be difficult during peak season. Public transport isn't really an option, since there are merely two bus routes to the village daily. 

Benagil Beach

How to Get There?

The village can be reached on a good quality paved road via car or taxi. Before you arrive, you need to know that there are very few parking spaces near the beach, so finding a spot might be difficult during peak season. Public transport isn’t really an option, as there are merely two bus routes to the village daily. Once you get to the beach and face the ocean, Benagil Cave will be to your left, right after this rock formation:

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave?

Basically there are three main possibilities to visit the cave on the inside. The most popular option among tourists is via a boat tour. Such a trip will set you back between 20 and 25 euros and last approximately an hour. The upside of these tours is that they take you to many rock formations and coves, not only to Benagil. However, the downside is that even though you enter the cave with the boat, you aren’t allowed to step off of it and spend time inside the cave. They basically just enter, float inside for a minute or two so you can take pictures, then leave.

You can also rent kayaks at local vendors, usually from the same people who also offer boat trips on the beach. A two-person kayak costs twenty euros for an hours’ time.

Albeit these options all seemed nice and comfortable, we thought we’d save a few euros (by now you must’ve noticed how very frugal we are…), so we decided to swim into the cave. I must admit, I am by no means a pro swimmer. In fact, I consider myself an extremely poor one, so I was very-very nervous about the whole experience. But I was also very curious and frugal. So I went for it.

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

Benagil Beach seen from the Ocean

At first, the water was extremely cold for someone who spent the entire day in the sun. Once I got a bit used to the freezing temperature, I suddenly remembered where we were going, so I started paddling with my legs. (No joke, I really swim like a dog. Or any dog probably swims better than me. Just so you get the gist of my swimming skills). Once we passed the rock formation I mentioned above, we could already see the entrance to the cave and the infamous light shining down through the hole.

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

I was actually very surprised to see how close it was. According to GPS, the distance is 200 meters one-way, so it’s totally doable if you’re eager to swim in. Be advised that at the last section of the path, right before you enter the cave and reach it by foot, the waves are pretty strong. Make sure you’re already aware of how overpowering ocean waves can be, before you delve into this adventure.

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

Entering Benagil Cave

Once inside, sit down and catch your breath. Although it’s a short swim, tackling the ocean waves isn’t at all a simple task. The only people who are inside are probably swimmers like you, so it’s pretty unlikely you’ll catch a crowd. However, you’ll need to prepare for the noise and big waves caused by the small boats, which will arrive every couple of minutes or so. But just sit for a minute and take in the surroundings – you’ve worked hard for it!

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

Once you’re ready to leave, check if there are any incoming boats you should be aware of. The first leg of the swim is the one where you’ll make the most effort, since you’re swimming against the waves coming at you. Just make sure you’ve had enough rest to leisurely swim back.

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

Admire Benagil Cave from Above

If you want a different perspective of the cave, you might want to see it from above as well. All you need to do is take a small detour as you head back towards your car. You’ll soon find yourself on a trodden bath right above the hole, encircled by a small gate. Don’t hesitate to make a few extra steps to have a glance at the area from a farther perspective as well.

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

Practical Info

  • Take on the swimming challenge responsibly. If the weather is bad, if the waves are tall and the wind is blowing strongly, you might want to reconsider swimming into Benagil Cave. On days with bad weather, the boats don’t run either, so don’t even think about swimming at such a time!
  • I found that my snorkeling fins were (logically) very helpful, so if you have one, don’t be afraid to use it!
  • Swim as far away from the rock formations of the coast as you can. You never know where the water could be shallow and you can hit your leg in a cliff. A huge wave can come at any time, crushing you into the cliff walls (just sayin’). So be careful and keep your distance.
  • Always be on the lookout for the boats. Yes, the captains are already used to tourists swimming to Benagil Cave. But accidents can happen and they generally do when people are not paying enough attention. So don’t get too comfortable swimming around them.

So tell me: how would you visit Benagil Cave? Would you paddle yourself in? Would you dare to swim? Or would you take it easy and go on a boat tour? Let me know!

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How to Visit Benagil Cave, Portugal

28 Responses to “Adventurous Portugal: How to Visit Benagil Cave

  • Wow, what an adventure, I wouldn’t ever dare to swim. I’d rather SUP-paddle. Were there any visitors on SUP? Thanks 🙂
    Alexandra | Hortense Travel recently posted…Monthly List of Events in Portugal not to Miss in 2017My Profile

    • I don’t think SUP is a possibility since the waves are so strong 🙂 But maybe via kayak is a more feasible option!

  • Shannon
    4 years ago

    love this post! i am getting ready to go to Lisbon, Sintra and Lagos in August and Benagil is a must see for me. I am glad to hear or people swimming in but will be mindful of the conditions. How did you take your photography equipment in? Is it go-pro or did you take it in a dry bag?

    • Hey Shannon, thanks so much for stopping by!
      I am sure you’ll love Portugal as much as I did! We entered the cave only with a small compact Sony camera which is water-resistant. Although the photos aren’t of excellent quality, we really didn’t want to risk our DSLR’s life. I saw a guy who actually swam with only half his arm and with the other he was holding his DSLR high above the waves, but I’m guessing he’s some kind of superman for not getting his camera wet with that method :)).
      If you do decide to swim in, only do so in calm waters and don’t stay too long because the ocean can change rapidly. Check the weather forecast and be mindful of the boats and other risk factors.
      But most importantly, enjoy! 🙂

  • What a useful guide! I will definitely do this the next time I am in Portugal !

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Sarah! 🙂
      Make sure to take caution and only go when you’re absolutely sure the weather’s just perfect!

  • I would not be confident enough to battle crashing waves, we are also going off season in early March so maybe the waves will be bigger then too? I admire your bravery and adventurous spirit for taking up the challenge
    However, the boat tour sounds a little too organised for me, so kayak it will be

    • Hey Claire!
      I am by no means a good swimmer and was very hesitant at first but once I got in it wasn’t problematic (PS the fins really helped).
      When we went, the ocean was very calm and like I said in the post, I’d never recommend it if was even a tiny bit tumultuous. But in the end it comes down to everyone’s personal judgment I guess.
      The water will probably be pretty cold in March, so kayaking will definitely be an awesome option to enjoy this fabulous wonder of nature 🙂
      Have a wonderful time!

  • Marlous
    4 years ago

    Hello, how did you manage to take your camera with you?

    • Hey Marlous!
      We had a small Sony TX 30 with us, which is water and shockproof. I didn’t want to risk the DSLR, we didn’t know how tall the waves would be..
      However, we did see a guy who took his DSLR by lifting it up tall above the waves with one hand and swimming with the other. If you’re a very experienced swimmer and the water is calm I guess you can pull it off.
      But we really didn’t want to get our DSLR wet, and if you don’t either you might as well take a waterproof camera with you 🙂

    • Shannon
      4 years ago

      We brought our DSLR in a dry bag on an inflatable kickboard that we pushed while swimming. It wasn’t a walk in the park but the pictures made it worth it!

  • Amazing job, very informative. Been in Portugal a couple of times but didn’t manage to see that amazing place. I hope next time.
    Thank you very much and so beautifully photographed.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Minie!
      The photos were actually taken with a teeny-tiny Sony TX30 (the only thing we had which was waterproof) and not a professional camera at all, but I’m glad it looks good 🙂

  • Just FYI – you can purchase an option for the boat to leave you and pick you back up at the cave. I believe Taruga Tours offers this option. I would also avoid swimming – multiple people have died trying to swim from the beach to the cave.

    • Thank you for your comment, Vania!
      Yes, I also heard of some boats which leave you there, but couldn’t find any concrete info on that.
      Indeed, there have been accidents in the past. I think it’s up to people’s personal judgement when it comes to deciding on the best way to enter the cave. There are many factors to consider, like I said in the article, from weather conditions to personal fitness. And one should never underestimate the power of nature (in our case the water, the sea itself).

  • We rented a kayak last summer and had great fun. Spent 15mins in the cave. When you exit to your left and paddle on theres a gorgeous (almost deserted) beach that can only be reached by sea. Also to the right of the main beach theres another cave. Kayaking here was the best activity we did in our Algarve tour.

    • Hey Sandra!
      Wow, thanks SO much for sharing! 🙂 It sounds like a truly awesome adventure!
      I think I saw that beach from a lookout point above. I remember saying to my boyfriend how cool it would be to go there, but we saw the steep cliffs surrounding it and that it can only be reached by water. So glad you made it there!
      And I am really happy someone finally shared their personal kayaking experience 🙂
      Again, thank you kindly for sharing your wonderful experience!

  • hi ,
    It was a pleasure to read this beautifull words about our cave, thank you for coming !
    Check out we do SUP tours to The caves…in case someone wants to try this amazing unique experience .

    • Hey Bruno!

      Thanks so much for sharing, I am sure many readers will appreciate it!
      Keep up the awesome work you’re doing!

  • Your post was hilarious! I would definitely try to swim it, but I am planning to go in October, not sure what the weather will be like the.. How did you bring your camera? I’m guessing you brought a Go Pro? How did you get to the beach did you taxi it?

    • Hey Suzy, thanks so much for your comment 🙂
      I have no idea what the weather will be like in October. I think the water might be slightly warmer than in June, if it will be warm all summer long. I actually froze my ass off when we went into the cave and stood shimmering under that little light which entered the cave all the while we were inside 😛 (duhh, it’s the ocean, which I really should’ve thought of).
      If you can, I’d recommend wearing a wetsuit. If I ever go back to Portugal, I am definitely going to take one with me.
      Also, if it will be windy, be very careful of the huge waves that come with it (I’d avoid swimming in at that time if it were the case).
      As for the camera, we entered the cave only with a small compact Sony camera which is water-resistant. Although the photos aren’t of excellent quality, we really didn’t want to risk our DSLR’s life. I saw a guy who actually swam with only half his arm and with the other he was holding his DSLR high above the waves, but I’m guessing he’s some kind of superman for not getting his camera wet with that method :)).
      And to answer your third question, we drove there. We rented a car for a few days (it was pretty cheap, there were 4 of us), but there are some buses going there, you should check the official schedule and plan accordingly.
      May you enjoy Benagil fully and when you get home, let me know how you liked it! 🙂

  • I’m headed to Portugal in a few months and now I NEED to include this gem! Thanks for the info, great blog!

  • chantelle
    2 years ago

    Since this post, several people have died, trying to swim to the Benagil cave. Every year there are several cases. Please be aware that what you write has impact.
    Most honestly, I think you should adjust your post.

    • Thank you for your input, Chantelle.
      As you can see, I’ve pointed out the dangers of swimming into the cave in the article. I’ve listed numerous tips and warnings and I’ve honestly written about how the experience was for me personally, so please don’t insinuate that the deaths have happened because of this post.
      Most honestly, I believe that it all comes down to common sense and a realistic grasp of one’s capabilities to decide whether or not one should swim into the cave or not.

  • This was the most informative post for how to reach the cave. I have been debating the swim. Thanks for the tips.

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