The Benagil Sea Cave Adventure

Benagil Sea Cave

The Algarve Coast in Portugal is an amazing place to visit. The beaches, coves and villages are simply stunning. As an added bonus, the whole coast line is littered with sea caves. Some are easy to visit, others not. Some or boring, others are gorgeous. One of these caves stands out, though. It is breathtakingly beautiful. You have probably seen pictures of it on the internet. I am speaking about the Benagil Sea Cave. You can find it close to a beach of the same name not too far from the tourist town of Armacao de Pera.

Praia de Benagil

Easy access?

Visiting the Benagil Sea Cave is not that straight forward, i.e. you can’t just walk there. Direct access is only possible via the ocean. And that basically leaves three options: you can peek through a giant hole into the cave, you can take a boat or you can swim there. Let’s start with the easy option. It’s a simple 5 min walk along the cliffs of the Praia de Benagil to get to the top of the cave. You can gaze into it to get a sense for the size. The view is kind of neat but it’s not very satisfying and it creates as strong urge to go inside:

benagil sea cave

If you walk further along the trail you will arrive at a lookout across the Praia de Benagil – the view is not too shabby, is it?

praia de benagil

When you walk down to the beach, you will immediately see long lines of people looking to get on one of boat trips that leave from there. We decided against that and chose to do it the proper way: work for it and swim over! (Note: most boat trips won’t allow you to get out of the boat!)

The Swim Adventure

Swimming to the Benagil Sea Cave does require calm waters. It’s not far (around 200m one-way according to my GPS) but you are basically out in the ocean with no direct view of the beach. In addition, you also want to stay far away from the cliffs as the occasional higher wave could easily push you into the rocks which wouldn’t be fun. You also have to watch out for the various boats that are in the area.

Benagil Sea Swim
It took us 10 min round-trip and that includes waiting for boats to clear the area

Arriving at the cave entrance is spectacular:

Benagil Sea Cave
Notice the person standing close to the hole

The waves were pretty high during my first swim to the cave and we had to wait a few minutes to actually get into it. But let me tell you – once you are in there you will be rewarded by amazing views. It almost feels like stepping into a natural cathedral. The hole in the top allows just the right amount of light to come in. Unfortunately, I only had my GoPro with me that day. The resulting photos were…blahh.. The contrast between the cave and the openings is just too high for this small camera:

Benagil Sea Cave GoPro
Too much contrast for the GoPro – still awesome view, though

The water bag

Unsatisfied with the photos from my GoPro, my family and I decided to give it another go. My wife had the brilliant idea to bring my Fuji X-E1 along with the Samyang 8mm fisheye in a water bag and to put it on a boogie board for added safety. What can I say: it worked like a charm:

Water Bag
Cockpit view

Photos of the Benagil Sea Cave

Photographing the Benagil Sea Cave is a bit tricky. The 12mm wide angle did not really work for me and I used the fisheye, instead. There is also the tremendous dynamic range – the contrast between light and dark is huge. The photo below was processed in Lightroom with the highlights pulled back and the shadows fully opened up:

Benagil Sea Cave
A quiet morning in a busy place

I also tried HDR:

Benagil Sea Cave
Three photos processed as HDR in Lightroom

The Benagil Sea Cave

Make sure to visit the Benagil Sea Cave. It is breathtaking. The swim is also a nice experience. My boys really enjoyed that. Also, I found that it’s best to go there shortly before lunch time – the morning light is not that great. But you know what – just sitting there and absorbing the atmosphere is simply the best. It’s one amazing place.

You can find more photos from Algarve in my Portugal Portfolio.

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4 Comments The Benagil Sea Cave Adventure

  1. Darrell DeRosia June 15, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    My wife and I just spent the last 12 days in Portugal and we found your article when trying to figure out how to take pictures of the Benigal Cave. Your post made all the difference in us having the plan to get there.

    Just to help anyone else out, that gets the idea AFTER they arrive in the Algarve. There is a dive shop in Albufeira that sells dry bags. We ended up nesting 1 dry bag in the other, because the swells were close to 3 meters (~9-10 feet) when we did the swim. They cost about $15 each, well worth it! The buggy board can also be sourced at the Algarve shopping center at the sporting good store.

    Thank you for the post!

    1. Jennifer June 16, 2017 at 9:13 am

      Hello Darrell, as the wife who came up with that idea, I am thrilled to see this worked for you!! How amazing was your trip? Please share any public photos you have, would love to see them.

    2. cpapenfuss June 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Thanks for your update and kind word, Darrell! How was the swim in that kind of water? Must have been scary? Any photos from that adventure?

  2. Darrell DeRosia June 26, 2017 at 2:56 am


    The trip was amazing, I bought a new camera a few months back and this was the first chance we could put the Sony A7R II through a good workout. We took over 8000 photos in 12 days. ~5 days on the Algarve Coast, but not all of them were days we could get good photos. Probably ~5000 of those photos were from the area around Lisbon.


    It was a bit scary with the waves as high as they were. We found out AFTER we did it the coast guard had cleared the water earlier in the day (I guess that explained the big red X on the beach probably telling us not to do it). The swim was the swim…with the waves that high, you are just riding them…you can only influence your direction.

    Here are the pictures can be found here:


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