Grotte de Benagil also known as Benagil Cave is probably the most popular place to paddle in all of Portugal. It’s a remarkable seaside cave known for the distinctive hole in its roof. India and Joshua from Paddle Up in the UK visited the cave and share their tips for paddling it. Located between the towns of Portimao and Albufeira, Joshua and India visited Grotte de Benagil on the 12th October 2022 - it was a pretty special paddle for them as it was on their anniversary and a great place to spend a special day. Here are their top tips for paddling this stunning location.
7 Tips for paddling Benagil Cave in Portugal
1/Get there early
Even though we arrived at sunrise we weren’t the only ones. There was another couple launching a SUP at the exact same time as us, and a private tour arrived shortly after we got there. When we left to walk back up the hill to the car park at around 9 am, there were hordes of SUP and Kayak tours heading out. Literally hordes.
Get everything ready in advance, so that when the weather conditions and tide times are aligned, you’re ready to go. We pre-pumped our boards and had our drybags packed. Also check out several launching spots beforehand. Do some research and look at different paddle routes. If you can then go and physically look at the car parks and beaches so that you know exactly what to expect. This will avoid any time wasting on the day of your paddle.
Don’t give yourself a small window to paddle the cave. We were in the area for four days before the conditions were ok to paddle in. There was either too much swell or it was too windy. We used windy, magic seaweed and my tide to keep an eye on weather conditions and tide times. Even on the day we paddled, it was by no means perfect conditions.
4/Park and launch at Benagil beach
Firstly we drove to Praia da Marinha as the original plan was to launch here and paddle for about 45 min to Benagil cave. Once we got to Praia da Marinha we decided that the steps down to the beach looked a little steep, especially in the dark. As we still had time before sunrise, we decided to drive over to Benagil beach itself. In the end we chose to launch from Benagil beach because the walk to the beach looked more manageable. There’s a large free car park just a short walk away from the beach. You walk along a road rather than steps.
5/Don’t paddle past it
When people say that the cave is just to the left of Benagil beach, they really mean it. People swim there; it’s that close. We paddled straight past it and ended up having to search for it on Google Maps.
6/Be cautious when entering the cave
There are a lot of submerged rocks around the cave. We’d suggest entering from the left. Be conscious of entering caves and grottos on an incoming tide. Paddling into the cave was a little challenging as you’re trying to dodge the rocks and time the waves for a smooth landing. Being flat water paddlers it’s not something we’re particularly used to, but we didn’t stack it, wahay!
7/Let go of any expectations
Yes it’s a beautiful cave but stop imagining that it’s going to look like all the instagram photos. Go there with an open mind and enjoy the whole area, not just the cave. Paddle past the cave and go and find your own secret beach. There are so many other places nearby that are just as awesome to paddle. Like Praia de Albandeira. Portugal’s answer to Durdle Door. Here they have lifeguards on the beach and it’s super secluded.
Joshua and India run Paddle Up, a stand up paddleboarding school in Shepperton, Surrey, UK. Offering lessons and instruction on the iconic River Thames, where you can spot Heron, Egyptian Geese, and Parakeets. They are passionate about helping paddlers achieve their desired goals, whether that be standing up and paddling confidently, or fine tuning their technique.