Touring Sea Caves on The Algarve Coast

Touring Sea Caves on The Algarve Coast

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BeachYou couldn’t describe me as a gym rat. In fact, my desire for working out and being healthy ebbs and flows depending on how vain I’m feeling; but I’m pretty sure if I had the endless smooth sands of the Algarve at my feet, I could become an avid runner. Following Roger the Brit’s advice to wake up early and experience the serenity of the coastline in the morning before touring sea caves on the Algarve coast, Dustin and I went for a run. We don’t have a coastline where we live, so it seems like whenever we have the opportunity to run along the beach, we take advantage of it. If you’ve walked enough beaches, you realize that not all sand is created equal. In San Diego the sand is firm but the beach is littered with seaweed, so you have to be careful or you’ll end up tasting the sand instead of running on it. In Hawaii, the sand is so soft that even barefooted I felt like I had weights on my ankles pulling me under the quicksand. The Algarve has the perfect combination of being firm enough that you’re not fighting against the sand to run but soft enough that no shoes are required, and there’s no treacherous seaweed lurking around. Add the picturesque coastline of Portugal to the mix, some kick ass tunes and it’s easy to get lost in a good run. Furthermore, after a good run like that, there is less food guilt…even while on vacation.

I have an unruly tangled mess of hair which Dustin loves, but showering on the days I have to wash my hair is a chore! I don’t know if Portugal just has bad plumbing or if I managed to continuously step on the drain, but I flooded the bathroom nearly everywhere we stayed at least once. Luckily there was an abundance of towels, so I tried to clean up as best as I could before we left on our guided boat tour of the coast.

Chasing Dolphins & Exploring Caves

When we started planning our trip we knew two things we could not miss. 1) the initiation wells in Sintra and 2) the Grutas de Benagil. We had a few Chase points leftover from our initial sign up bonus after using a chunk for a trip to Hawaii. It was enough to sign up for a guided tour of Portugal’s coast that included chasing after dolphins and the caves along the shore. We’ve used Chase points to book excursions on our trips a few times and all of the companies on their travel portal are well informed, professional, and fun. The one we used for this tour was Dream Wave, and it about 7,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points for both of us. If you have Grutas de Benagil“left over” Chase points, I recommend looking at the excursion options for where ever you may be visiting.

Searching for dolphins is like trying to find your keys when you need to leave the house. Sometimes they are readily available and other times your turn your house upside down looking for them before giving up and taking a different vehicle or walking. We were among the lucky few who actually got to see some that day. Usually the tour starts along the coastline exploring the caves and ends searching for dolphins. However, when one of the other boats found a pod of dolphins and signaled our captain we went chasing after the dolphins. We followed the pod for a good hour before returning to the coast and the caves. The shore is spotted with caves and each is unique, but the crown jewel is the Grutas de Benagil or the Benagil Cathedral  named for its neighboring beach and the dome like ceiling that resembles the coffered concrete dome of the Pantheon in Rome with a central opening to the sky. The cave is large enough that it has its own beach; however, the only way to reach it is by sea. When the tour ended, we drove to Praia de Benagil to swim to the Grutas de Benagil.

Swimming to Grutas de Benagil

ArcI am not a strong swimmer. Somehow my childhood pretending to be the Little Mermaid in a bathtub didn’t propel me to learn the art of swimming. Before meeting Dustin and actually learning some of the mechanics, I was surviving on what could only be described as Napoleon Dynamite running underwater. I had recently improved my dynamite skills while training for a sprint triathlon, so I was feeling more confident than I usually would in the the ocean. We’d tried researching how far of a swim it was from the beach to the cave with little success. After seeing the distance from our boat tour, I was sure it was less than the 350 yards I had trained for the triathlon and I really wanted to see the Benagil Cathedral from inside, so with a 50% chance of survival I dove in.

The swim took 5-7 minutes and although the current offered some challenges, it was completely worth the effort. If you’d rather not take the 50% chance, you can rent a paddle board or kayak to cross the distance.

 

Ponta de Piedade

Ponte de PiedadeWe took a short jaunt over to Lagos from Praia de Benagil  to explore Ponta de Piedade,  a group of rock formations along the coastline of Lagos. The honey colored rocks emerge from the aquamarine water and offer the perfect perch to enjoy a spectacular sunset. We spent the rest of the afternoon discovering the nooks and crannies and climbing from the top of the formations to the shoreline.  If you’re feeling peckish, stop at Sol Nascente and grab a bifana or some piri piri chicken.

It’s a brisk 55 min drive back to the hotel and after starting the day running then floundering in the water and hiking up and down rocks we were famished. Taking

Alambique

Roger the Brit’s advice we ate at the Alambique. The cuisine is a mix of Mediterranean, Portuguese, and European so there is something for every palate. The al fresco dining atmosphere is lovely, but don’t forget the bug spray or the mosquitoes will be dining on you. By the end of our meal, both Dusty and I were wearing our napkins around our legs like pencil skirts to stave off the horde of vampirous pests.

That wraps up day two in the Algarve. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions in the comments. If you’ve been to Grutas de Benagil, I’d love to hear your experience.


18 Replies to “Touring Sea Caves on The Algarve Coast”

  1. love the pictures and stories behind them Bengali seems like an awesome place to visit thanks for making this post I really enjoyed it.

  2. Your description of the Algarve honestly makes me feel like I am there with you. It has always been my dream to travel the world. Thank you for the fantastic article!

  3. What a timely post! We will be in Portugal in December and this has opened my ideas for some things we can see while we are there!
    Loved your beautiful descriptions and photos

  4. Those pictures look spectacular, specially the first one. I have been to Portugal many times but never to Algarve. I was not aware of this sea caves, Grutas de Benagil, and this is definitely now in the to-do list for a visit to Algarve. The end of the article with the restaurant recommendation is an awesome reminder of the great food and wine in Portuguese gastronomy. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the comment Jose Luis. Dusty and I have absolutely loved seeing the sights and trying local dishes throughout Europe. Where in Portugal have you been? We’d love to hear any stories or recommendations you have. We still haven’t seen the northern half of the country, so we will definitely be going back.

  5. Hi Kendra,

    Let me just say the Algarve Coast looks like an amazing place to visit. I absolutely loved getting to take a virtual adventure while reading your post and it has made me long for a trip to the coast. Do you have a suggestion of the best places to stay in Algarve and would you recommend it for families with young children? I look forward to your response.

    Cheers,
    The Dad

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I’m of the opinion that travel affords learning opportunities that the classroom does not. So I always err on the side of including children.

      The beaches there are pretty liberal when it comes to dress code, which most of the world is okay with. But Americans tend to be more conservative when it comes to that kind of stuff. So just be aware of that.

      We stayed at the Hilton Conrad which I think is tailored more towards adults. But Hilton does have another property there that is more family friendly, the Hilton Vilamoura Golf and Spa Resort. There’s also a place called Zoomarine in Albufeira. We didn’t visit it, but it looks like fun. It’s got animal shows as well as a water park. Be sure to check their website for their schedule as they aren’t open year round.

      Be sure to let us know if you go there. We’d love to hear about it.

  6. I love the presentation. Since this is a travel blog I understand that it will have thicker paragraphs and longer storytelling to go with it.

    The pictures are great and just enough so that it will leave the readers some imagination of what the place looks like.

    Honestly, How do you monetize with this website?

    Overall, don’t change anything. This is a great webiste but add more places that you have been to or will go to in the future.

    I am sure a lot of people will love to travel with less money to spend.

    1. Thanks Darwell. We are working hard to get caught up on documenting our past travels, and will keep it up to date as we move forward. We’ve been to Hawaii and Europe twice over the last three years, so we’ve got a lot of posting material to catch up on. 

      As the site is fairly new, Dusty and I are still working on monetization. The goal is to be affiliates for the credit card offers that have allowed us to travel for free, but we’ve got a few roadblocks to overcome before we can get approved. We’re trying to figure out how to monetize in the mean time. Do you have any suggestions?

  7. This article is like a gentle breeze. It reminded me a 5 days trip to Portugal, in which we visited Lisbon and the magical Sintra. Unfortunately, we had no time to see the Algarve coast, but a friend of mine was born there, and he told me about how amazing it is. You’ve confirmed his words with a captivating post. Thank you!

  8. Wow what a fantastic adventure. We have travelled all over Europe but Portugal is one place we have not made it too yet. Swimming is one of my favourite activities and they chance to swim in sea caves sounds blissful!

    Loving your photos too

    Steve

    1. Thanks Steve. Portugal has a tendency to get overlooked, which is one of the great draws for us; smaller crowds and lower prices. I hope you’re able to make it there some day. The Algarve is a swimmer’s paradise.

  9. Your website is amazingly good. Reading through it makes me wanna fly to places. Your descriptions and photos are so precise that left me with no more questions to ask, just book a flight and pack my bags. I’m jealous of how good you are in your field. Which is a good thing coz I have people like you I can look up to. I wish my adventure here at WA ca help me travel from coast to coast and visit all places you’ve featured on this site.

    Well done with pride.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Lissa. We have really enjoyed building this sit and are really excited to share the methods that have allowed us such great opportunities. I hope you’re able to travel everywhere you want to. Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you come up against. We’d love to help you out.

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