Algar de Benagil (Benagil Cave)

The Algarve’s stunning natural rock formation is a short boat ride away.

Up the coast less than 20 miles from the resort town of Vilamoura, Portugal is the stunning Benagil Cave.

Porous rock dominates this part of the coast. Over many centuries and millennia, erosion created the Algar de Benagil (Benagil Cave) as well as other caves, inlets, and rock formations.

The Benagil Cave is so spectacular because of its size and its seemingly perfect dome shape. At the top of the dome is a hole that lets in sunlight from above. This light creates a gorgeous effect of illuminating the cave in an array of colors from all the strata of rocks.

Benagil Cave (photo: Brent Petersen)
Getting to the Benagil Cave

There’s several options for getting to the Benagil Cave. I’ve presented them in the order I consider best to worst. Your actual mileage may vary. Be aware that some or all tours may be canceled in the case of bad weather.


Taking the speedboat from Vilamoura (or one of the other places along the coast like Albufeira) is my favorite way to see the Benagil Cave.

Once on the boat and out of the harbor, the captain guns the engine and gets you down the coast in about 45 minutes. Yes, the ride can be a little bumpy (even on a calm day) as you bounce over the wake from larger boats.

One of the many rock formations on the way to Benagil Cave (photo: Brent Petersen)

One of the great things about this tour is you get to see all the natural beauty of the coastline. There’s more caves and inlets and private beaches along the water and there’s even a church perched on a towering cliff. On the day we took the tour, a wedding was taking place! It looked amazing!

Wedding high above the water (photo: Brent Petersen)

Another advantage of the speedboat is that you can see a whole lot in only 2.5 hours. After visiting the cave, the captain took us out into open water to look for dolphins. We saw a couple in the distance, but I couldn’t get any photos.

On the con side, be aware that there’s tons of other boats doing the same tour as you. Space is tight, so each boat shimmies into the cave and you don’t get a ton of time inside. Also, while it was possible to get out of the boat and onto the beach in the cave in the past, that isn’t happening anymore. You have to stay on the boat. If you want to spend more time in the cave and get on the beach, I’d suggest the kayak option (below).

Slow Boat

There are also much bigger boats than the rubber 15 seater we took. These large boats take 50 or more people out at a time. You’d get to see the same coastline and sites as the speedboat at a much slower pace.

And, that’s the issue. Some of these tours take 4 hours or more. That’s a lot of time if your schedule is packed with other activities.

Also, these boats are too big to get inside the cave. What happens is they pile a dozen or so tourists into a dinghy and run them in and out of the cave until everyone onboard gets to see it. As you can imagine, that takes some time.

On the other hand, the nice thing about these big boats is the ride is smoother and a lot of them have nice amenities like drinks, snacks, and a bathroom.


From Benagil Beach you can rent a kayak and paddle to the cave. You can rent a kayak and paddle on your own or be part of a tour. A kayak tour costs a little less than a boat tour, while paddling on our own costs about half of the boat tour price.

Be aware that currents are strong here. This isn’t a leisurely paddle on the lake, so it’s not for everyone.

Lots of kayakers with the other boats in Benagil Cave (photo: Brent Petersen)

Driving to the Benagil Cave from Loulé takes about 45 minutes. However, you won’t be able to get into the cave. That’s only accessible by water. But, you can see the cave from above as you look down into it from the hole in the roof. That’s quite impressive, but, like I said, you won’t be inside the cave.


Yes, it’s technically possible to swim to the cave from Benagil Beach (about 200 meters). Unless you’re Michael Phelps, DON’T DO IT! And even if you are Michael Phelps, I’d still think twice. Currents are very strong here and it’s quite dangerous.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.

Author: Brent