8 Tips on How to Kayak to Benagil Cave in Algarve, Portugal
Going to the Algarve? It won’t take you long to see everyone recommends a visit to one of Portugal’s most stunning natural wonders, Benagil Cave. Its massive limestone walls will envelop you as you stand on the golden sands looking up at the light coming from the “eye” of the dome-shaped cave. Planning goes a long way to maximize your experience. Here are our top 8 tips on how to kayak to Benagil Cave and have it all to yourself.
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01- Rent a Kayak from Ocean4Fun
How to kayak to Benagil Cave before the crowds
We rented our 2-person kayak from Ocean4Fun for 7 am. The reason we chose to kayak without a tour guide at 7 am is we wanted to beat all the tour groups into the Benagil Cave and have it to ourselves.
Booking online was easy and we had instant rental confirmation prior to our arrival. We met Eduardo, the owner of the shop, promptly at 7 am.
Ocean4Fun shop at Benagil Beach
My husband and I love the outdoors. We hike, bike, snorkel, kayak, and canoe (but only in a river). Kayaking in the ocean by ourselves? No problem. We’ve got this.
Oh, no. Kayaking in an ocean is MUCH different than kayaking in a river.
The kayaking part itself is not difficult. What is difficult is getting the kayak out into the ocean from the beach and then maneuvering it back onto the beach by yourself without the crashing waves flipping you over.
Eduardo was super nice. Our kayaks were already waiting for us at Benagil Beach. We made the short walk down to the launching point.
Walking down to Benagil Beach (* By the way, those were NOT our kayaks in this photo. Our kayaks were already on the beach)
We grabbed our life vests and paddles and walked to the edge of Benagil Beach. After several attempts trying to steady the kayak against the crashing waves, we were off!
Benagil Beach: launching point for taking a kayak to Benagil Cave
There was a tour group getting ready to head out shortly behind us. We paddled away quickly.
The ocean was a little choppy but manageable. It didn’t take us long to get from Benagil Beach to Benagil Cave. Maybe 10 minutes if that.
See the map below for orientation.
As we rounded the corner, we saw two large arched openings in the cave.
Take the second entrance for smoother access. As we paddled towards the beach, we had our kayaks perfectly positioned and let the waves bring us in.
Coming in for a landing via kayak to Benagil Cave
Before we knew it though, the front of our kayak abruptly hit the beach. Then the waves swung the kayak to the side and dumped us out.
In mere seconds the kayak flew up over my head almost knocking me out.
We stumbled onto the beach inside the cave looking like drowned rats. The water was freezing when we were there at the end of May. I was so thankful no one else was around to see our rather ungraceful dismount.
Luckily, my Ugo swimming pouch kept all my valuables dry.
Alright, now to the good part. We arrived at 7:19 am and had the place all to ourselves for an amazing 8 minutes before the group kayak tour arrived!
Our self guided kayak to Benagil Cave in Algarve, Portugal
It was incredible spinning around in the soft sand and staring up at this light-filled dome. We have done a few sea cave kayak experiences like Phang Nga Bay in Thailand.
This was quite different though since you are actually able to land inside the sea cave and walk around.
A very unique experience!
Alone in Benagil Cave
We stayed for about 40 minutes. The group kayak tour group came and went. Once they left, it was just my husband and I and two other tourists who had a private guide with them.
I was freezing from our tumble into the ocean and dreading getting the kayak back into the water, but it was time to move on.
As we struggled to steady the 2-person kayak against the crashing waves, the private guide ran over to help. He steadied the kayak, which made jumping in a breeze. We took off effortlessly.
Our exit from the cave was much different than our entrance!
I was super thankful for this stranger’s kindness.
I really love the Portuguese. My husband and I have traveled extensively, and I must say the Portuguese are some of the kindest, friendliest people we have ever encountered.
02- Benagil Cave Map
Benagil Cave map
03- Enter and Exit from the 2nd Cave Entrance
Courtesy of Shutterstock: Enter into the second cave entrance
If you are kayaking or doing stand-up paddle boarding on your own, this little nugget of information is so important.
Enter the second arched entrance to Benagil Cave.
The first entrance is much more rough compared to the second. I was thankful the owner of the shop told us this before we embarked on our adventure.
04- Know Where to Park
Free parking on top of the hill from Benagil Beach
Benagil Beach is tight and does not really offer any parking right near the beach. However, there is a huge parking lot on top of the hill near O’Pescador restaurant with plenty of spaces.
We parked there, walked to the kayaking shop to retrieve our life jackets and paddles, and made the short walk downhill on the road to the beach.
Refer back to the map for orientation.
05- Go Early to Avoid the Crowds
No one else was out on the water when we left Benagil Beach at 7 am to head over to the cave.
When we got back around 8:30 am, crowds were starting to pick up. By mid-day, it was packed. We went at the end of May, so I’m sure the time of the year plays a role as well.
The ONE downside of visiting Benagil Cave that early in the morning is the lighting inside the cave is not great.
I have read the best lighting for photography is between 12-2 pm when the sun is over the dome of the cave and shines through the top like a spotlight.
However, if you go in the summer mid-day, prepare to share this special moment with many other tourists.
Courtesy of Shutterstock: Benagil Cave during mid-day
06- Prepare to Get Wet
Make sure whatever you take with you can get wet. I left my sunglasses and hat in the car, which I’m glad I did because I would have lost them after my ungraceful tumble into the ocean.
What I did bring:
Fast drying. Protects your feet against any rocks. I wear my trusty Speedo water shoes for all my water activities.
Takes great footage, and it can get wet. Love my GoPro! I use it for all of my water activities, especially snorkeling.
07- Bring a Change of Clothes
I was FREEZING since I took an unexpected swim. The water is cold.
Hopefully, you don’t fall into the water as I did. But if you do, you will be thankful if you think ahead and bring a change of dry clothes to leave in the car just in case.
08- Bring a Wide-Angle Camera
Photo was taken from my wide-angle camera on my iPhone
Alternate Ways to Access Benagil Cave
GUIDED KAYAK TOUR
Unless you are a master of ocean kayaking, I would strongly suggest joining a guided kayak tour. Having someone who will steady your kayak as you enter and exit the beach against the crashing waves is invaluable.
There is a highly-rated company that leaves BEFORE the other tour groups and AFTER the other tour groups have left.
The company is called Secret Algarve, and they offer a tour called “Alone in Benagil Caves.” The tour leaves at 7 am and 4:30 pm daily to beat the crowds. They are located right next to Benagil Beach adjacent to the shop we used, Ocean4Fun.
Alternatively, we found out later you can book a guided kayak tour through Airbnb Experiences.
Remember that extremely kind private guide that came to our rescue to help us out of the cave?
He runs a guided kayak tour of up to 12 people. Now, when we were there he only had 2 people, so I’m guessing you can make the tour private for an extra cost.
If we could do it again, I would have booked a private tour with him.
STAND-UP PADDLEBOARD (SUP)
You can also explore Benagil Cave via SUP. I have only done stand-up paddle boarding twice. Once on a lake and once in the lagoon in Bora Bora, so always in calm water.
I can’t imagine doing it on a wavy ocean. This option would be another great choice to explore Benagil Cave if you are experienced in ocean conditions.
The highly-rated company Blue Xperiences offers SUP tours and is located right on Benagil Beach.
Boat Tour into Benagil Cave in Portugal
You can also access Benagil Cave by boat tour. However, if you choose this option you cannot actually get off the boat to stand inside the cave due to local restrictions.
If you have mobility issues or small kids, the boat tour is the best option for exploring Benagil Caves. Otherwise, go by guided kayak.
Boat tours leave from Albufeira, Portimao, and Lagos. Or leave right from Benagil Beach. Taruga Benagil Tours is located right on Benagil Beach and is rated a 5 on TripAdvisor with over 4,000+ reviews.
Can you swim to it? Yes.
Would I suggest it? Heck, no.
Those waves are no joke and can easily crash you into the sides of the rock as you enter the cave. Plus, boats and kayaks are constantly flowing in and out. Not a good idea.
Eye or Hole of Benagil Cave as viewed from the top
We hiked the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. You walk past the hole or “eye” on top of Benagil Cave on this trail. They have a fence around the hole for extra safety, so it’s difficult to peer down inside.
Not too impressive from the designated viewpoint from the top.
Final Thoughts on Benagil Cave
You MUST visit Benagil Caves especially if you are a first-timer to the Algarve. It is a stunning and incredibly unique experience. A little planning though will make your experience exceptional. Get up early (it will be worth it!) and get out by 7 am.
Learn from our mistakes and choose a private guided kayak tour if you want the place to yourself. It will make your trip so much more enjoyable to have that extra set of hands to get you going.
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