Benagil Caves
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
October 19, 2023 ·  4 min read

There’s a Hidden Cave in Portugal With a Skylight and a Beach That You Can Only Get to by Boat

The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal, and it’s extremely popular among tourists. It’s known for its hot summery weather, serene beaches, fishing villages, delicious local food and wine, and magnificent landmarks. One of its most spectacular locations is the Benagil Caves. Portugal’s coastline displays many beautiful grottos shaped by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and yet the Benagil Caves stand out because of its unique features: a skylight and a sandy beach.

What are the Benagil Caves?

The rugged coastline of this country is lined with steep limestone cliffs, hidden beaches, and beautiful caves. Not many sea caves can boast of a skylight, but the one in the Benagil Caves called “the eye” floods sunlight onto the beach inside. Visitors can view the stunning spot from above as they walk along the overhead cliff. This cave is part of Algarve’s most famous hiking trail, the Seven Hanging Valleys. It’s a 7.4-mile hike along the magnificent coast, with a stop by “the eye”, which is fenced for safety reasons. [1]

Benagil Caves
Benagil Cave in Portugal, Albufeira. Image Credit: Shutterstock

The best time to see this spot is in the morning when the early sunlight floods through the skylight. The cave is often compared to a cathedral because of its large size and dome-shaped ceiling. While the ocean eroded the limestone into a cave, rainfall eroded the ceiling into “the eye.” But that’s not the only special feature here. The sandy beach inside is another anomaly for visitors to enjoy. But they can only access it from the water. Tourists often use speedboats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and other vessels to enter the Benagil Caves, although now only speedboats can enter. Some people have swam into the caves, but it’s not allowed anymore because of the dangers posed by the rocky shoreline, rough seas, and influx of other tourists on boats. [2]

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The Benagil Caves are Closed?


Unfortunately, this popular excursion is not as accessible as it used to be. In fact, this spot became so well-known it became overcrowded. Finally, the crowding became unsafe as endless boats, kayaks, paddle boards, and swimmers tried to enter simultaneously. Multiple times, the overcrowding endangered the people, marine life, and the landscape. So, as of September 10, 2023, Portuguese authorities placed certain restrictions on the Benagil Caves. In the meantime, a workgroup is in the process of creating new rules and regulations for the attraction.

This is not a new issue. Concerns about the scores of tourists visiting the area have arisen over the years. In 2020, Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação admitted that the Benagil Beach has become “chaotic and unsustainable.” Despite the pandemic, the beach and sea cave was as overcrowded as usual. Local residents and business owners have been complaining about the crowds, traffic, lack of parking, and litter caused by these tourists, but there has not been any real attempt at change until now. For example, when local authorities closed the parking lots near the beach to avoid mass gatherings, visitors parked haphazardly along the narrow roads. [3]

Benagil Cathedral at beautiful coast of Algarve, Portugal.

A byproduct of overcrowding is people trying to find more private areas on the beaches, but this can put them at great risk. The natural erosion of the cliffs can lead to sudden cliff falls, which endangers everyone near the coastline because these falls are impossible to predict. Unfortunately, the beach inside the Benagil Caves is considered a risk zone.

Therefore, the Benagil Caves Working Group plans to evaluate the area and set regulations regarding the human carrying capacity for the caves, the acceptable forms of access to the caves, ways to control access, ways to maintain security in the area, etc. The group has said it will present its proposal by the end of this year.

You Can Still Visit 

Albufeira , Portugal - January 4th, 2020 : Tourist boat in Benagil Cave in Carvoeiro Algarve Portugal

Don’t worry; the caves are still open, sea conditions and weather permitting. Visitors can enter it by boat but cannot disembark on the beach inside the cave. Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, etc., to the caves is no longer allowed. You can still rent kayaks to explore the beautiful coastline, but you cannot go into the cave.

There’s no official date for when the Benagil Caves will be reopened. But you can still enjoy the stunning spot from all angles. Take a speedboat to see the inside, take a kayak to see the outside, or go on a hike to see it from above. [4]

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  1. “Benagil Caves.Atlas Obscura. Sarah Vanheel. February 9, 2021
  2. “This Hidden Cave in Portugal Has a Skylight and a Beach — and You Can Only Get There by Boat.Travel and Leisure. Dobrina Zhekova. May 14, 2022
  3. “Benagil summer chaos continues despite pandemic.” Portugal Resident. Michael Bruxo. August 19, 2020
  4. “Benagil beach emergency sees authorities respond to calls for action.Portugal Resident. Natasha Donn. August 31, 2023
  5. “Is Bengagil Cave Really Closed? (Fall 2023 Update)Full Suitcase. Jurga. October 15, 2023