Benagil Cave in 2024 – New Rules, Helpful Tips & The Best Tours

When visiting the Algarve Coast of Portugal, the first thing we wanted to see was Benagil Cave. Booking a tour was confusing, as we heard several conflicting reports on how to visit Benagil Cave. We visited Benagil Cave in October 2023. During our Benagil Caves visit, new rules were put into place, but things have already changed for 2024.

What is Benagil Cave?

What is Benagil CaveWhat is Benagil Cave

Benagil Cave is the Alagarve’s most famous sea cave because of its impressive domed ceiling with a natural skylight. Inside, the sea cave boasts a golden sand beach, layers of sandstone walls, and turquoise waters, creating a mesmerizing play of light and color.

The cave is located in the small village of Benagil, a short distance from popular towns such as Carvoeiro and Portimão. Benagil Cave boat tours leave from Portimão, making it a convenient and accessible destination for visitors exploring the Algarve’s coastline. It is also located on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, a famous hike in the Algarve.

The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail is a 5.7km hike that takes you from Praia da Marinha to Vale Centeanes. Benagil Cave is located in the middle of the hike at the small village of Benagil. There is a parking lot nearby, so even if you don’t hike the entire Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, you can visit Benagil Cave and see it from the skylight above.

Visitors used to be able to swim or kayak from the village of Benagil to Benagil beach, but that is no longer possible unless on a guided tour.

New Rules and Regulations for Benagil Cave

Benagil Cave RestrictionsBenagil Cave Restrictions

Local authorities have introduced new measures to preserve Benagil Cave. The cave is a protected natural wonder, and with the increasing number of visitors, it was becoming dangerous and unmanageable. Boats were capsizing, and the beach was constantly overcrowded. By limiting boats and stopping access, Benagil Cave can be preserved for years to come.

Limited Access: To manage the flow of tourists and reduce environmental impact, access to the caves is now limited. It’s essential to book your tour in advance, especially during peak season (June to September).

Guided Tours Only: Solo kayaking and swimming to the caves are no longer allowed for safety reasons. All visits must be part of an organized boat tour with licensed operators.

This ensures that the caves are visited sustainably and safely. We saw police boats patrolling the coast, and they were very serious about conservation. We also saw kayakers capsizing. We have heard that fines for swimming in the cave can be as high as €2500.

Environmental Fee: A small environmental fee has been introduced, which is included in the tour price. This fee supports conservation efforts and helps maintain the caves’ natural beauty.

Is Benagil Cave Open in 2024?

Is Benagil Cave open nowIs Benagil Cave open now

Yes, the Benagil Cave will open to visitors in 2024. However, due to new regulations and to ensure visitors’ safety, access to the cave is now only allowed through organized boat tours with licensed operators. These measures help manage the number of tourists and reduce the environmental impact.

Trust me, even with measures in place when we were visiting Benagil Cave, it was a zoo out there on the water. Kayaks capsized, boats lined up to enter the caves, and entering Benagil Cave was only a short 3 or 4-minute experience.

However, we loved our boat tour of the Algarve coast. The other sea caves, sea arches, and high limestone cliffs make it one of the most spectacular coasts in the world. It puts the Great Ocean Road in Australia to shame, and I thought that was spectacular.

Can you swim in Benagil Cave?

Can you swim in Benagil CaveCan you swim in Benagil Cave
This angle is no longer possible to photograph

Due to regulation changes, independent kayakers, swimming, and landing on the beach were no longer allowed. But you can book organized kayaking tours. When doing more research, we found one tour that offers a swim in Benagil Cave.

This tour claims to be the only one that swims to Benagil Cave and takes you right inside the cave. We find this hard to believe because when we visited, nobody was allowed to step foot on Benagil Beach, but things do change quickly. They are the only tour we could find, and when we put in dates to book, they accepted our booking, so this is a possibility. If you find out more, please let us know. The tour is through Viator, with Vagamundo Tours as its operator. When looking for the Vagumndo Tours website, I found that it was no longer in operation. So, this could be an old link.

At the time of writing, Portugal Tourism is having a meeting to solidify the Benagil Cave Navigation rules. The best advice we can give is to book an organized tour. Swimming to the cave can be dangerous regardless, and the businesses along the Algarve Coast will know what the new rules are.

How to Visit Benagil Cave

Benagil BeachBenagil Beach

We took a boat tour to reach the Benagil Cave, and even after the authorities met this week, I am sure that the only way to visit Benagil Cave would be by organized tour.

In 2024, some people have claimed that motor boats are no longer allowed, while others claim that kayaks and SUPs are no longer allowed. When we visited at the end of the season last year, Kayaking and SUPs were not allowed due to overcrowding and safety reasons.

As we mentioned above, we saw kayakers capsize in other sea caves and watched as groups of kayakers went into the caves, taking a lot of time and looking chaotic. So, the best advice we can give is to book an organized tour with a licensed operator to ensure that you are following the law.

If businesses have their say, I believe that motorboat tours will win out. These tours depart from various nearby locations, such as Carvoeiro and Portimão, making it easy for travelers to include this natural wonder in their Algarve itinerary. Motorboats are also very easy to navigate and police. We will update you as soon as we hear more.

Can you Visit Benagil Cave by Land?

Benagil Cave PortugalBenagil Cave Portugal

You cannot visit Benagil Cave by land; it is only accessible by sea. However, if you want to see Benagil Cave from above, you can view it from land. Benagil Cave is located along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. You cannot enter the cave from above, but you can look at it from above through its domed ceiling. There is a fence around it, so the view isn’t the best, but it is a beautiful hike.

Also, while we were there, many people hopped over the barriers for their Instagram photographs. We do not recommend this. That fall would do some serious damage and cause a huge fine.

Getting To Benagil Cave

By Boat Tour: As of October 2023, the only way to visit Benagil Caves was by boat tour. These tours depart from various points along the Algarve coast, including Benagil Beach, Carvoeiro, and Portimão.

Our Tour of Benagil Cave

Benagil Cave Tour in Algarve PortugalBenagil Cave Tour in Algarve Portugal

We booked our Benagil Cave boat tour through our hotel, The Tivoli Carvoiero. Starting on the Arade River, we took a zodiac tour to the Atlantic Ocean through Portimão, where we saw the picturesque fishing village of Ferragudo (among the 20 most beautiful villages in the country) and the Fort of S. João do Arade, also known as Castle of Ferragudo, built in the 19th century.

Our tour covered a lot of ground, taking us to see the famous beaches of the Algarve, including Praia da Rocha, Praia Grande, Carvoeiro, Vale de Covo, which was located directly in front of our hotel, and Carvalho. The grand finale was Algar de Benagil. If you can, make sure to sit at the front of the boat for optimal viewing. You can book a similar tour here.

We booked the first tour of the morning that started at 10 am. We were at Benagil at about 11 am, which was perfect as the sunbeams were high enough to light the cave.

Helpful Tips to Visit Benagil Cave

Paradise Cave in algarve PortugalParadise Cave in algarve Portugal

Book in Advance: Given the new restrictions and popularity of the Benagil Caves, booking your tour well in advance is crucial. Online bookings are highly recommended.

Choose a small boat – We booked a small zodiac speed boat tour that held 18 people. There were some very large boats on the water that could not get into the caves like we did. If you can, get on the boat first and go right to the front. Dave and I saw way more at the front than the rest of the passengers.

Choose the Right Time: Early morning tours are less crowded and offer the best lighting for photography. Sunset tours are also magical, with the golden light illuminating the cave’s interior. Tides also have an impact on entering some caves but Benagil can be entered at any time.

What to Bring: Pack light, but don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, a hat, and a waterproof camera. Some tours provide life jackets and waterproof bags, but it’s best to check in advance.

Photography – We used a GoPro when visiting Benagil Caves but Dave also had his camera a Sony A1. Being on a speed boat, our equipment was safe and dry, but we packed a dry bag in case of splashing.

Stay Safe: Listen to your guides, wear your life jacket, and respect the natural environment. Swimming near the caves can be dangerous due to strong currents and boat traffic.

Explore Nearby: After your tour, take some time to explore the surrounding area. The Algarve coast is dotted with charming villages, stunning beaches, and excellent seafood restaurants.

Should you Visit Benagil Cave in 2024?

Praia do Carvoeiro in Algarve PortugalPraia do Carvoeiro in Algarve Portugal

Absolutely! Visiting the Benagil Caves is an unforgettable experience. No matter which way you see it, the Algarve Coast is worth it alone. The sea cliffs, other sea caves, and arches are a spectacular sight, and going along the coast from Portimao to Praia da Marinha was one of the most beautiful boat trips we’ve ever taken.

With the new rules in place, you can enjoy this natural wonder responsibly and sustainably. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography buff, or simply looking for an adventure, the Benagil Caves are worth visiting. So, book your tour, pack your essentials, and get ready to explore the magical Benagil Caves!

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