OPT FOR THE MORNING TOUR to see the grottoes at their best, with the perfect incidence of light.
Out of the dozens of grottoes that populate Portugal’s southern coastline, there’s one that stands out, the Benagil Caves.
Just like any other sea cave in the Algarve region, this one was shaped by the pounding Atlantic waves. Yet, unlike other grottoes, the Benagil cave bathes in light thanks to a natural skylight.
Erosion has not only hit the cave at the base of the cliff, but erosion has also taken place at the top where rainfall has caused the softer segments of limestone to erode and collapse. This beautifully shaped skylight, often referred to as “the eye”, allows the sunlight to flood inside. Even though “the eye” has been fenced, visitors can still catch a glimpse of the inside of the cave from atop the cliff.
There’s a second feature that sets the Benagil cave apart from other grottoes in the area and that’s the wide, sandy beach found inside. What makes this beach so intriguing, is the fact that you can only reach it from the water. Visitors will find many tour operators offering such excursions at the nearby beaches.
The easiest way to visit the Benagil cave is by boat. In high season, visitors will see dozens of boat tours entering and exiting this wonderful grotto on a daily basis. Because of the heavy traffic, passengers are only allowed to pass through the cave and take in its beauty from the boat.
The only visitors allowed to actually access the beach are kayakers and stand-up-paddle-boarders. Note that these tours are not organized during the winter season.
Swimming is not recommended because of high boat traffic and strong waves. Falling rocks from crumbling cliffs pose yet another risk for swimmers.
The best incidence of light occurs in the morning. That’s also the best time of day to visit in order to avoid rush hour inside the cave.
This popular grotto has transformed the quiet fishing village of Benagil into a tourist hotspot. The natural surroundings of the region are not designed to handle the streams of tourists, so expect narrow roads and limited parking.