The stunning coastline of the Algarve stretches from its’ border with Spain at Monte Gordo all the way to Europe’s most south-westerly point at Vila do Bispo on the west coast. With around 150km of fabulous cliffs, beaches, wetlands, marinas and caves to explore, even the most adventurous traveller won’t be disappointed with what Portugal’s southern coast has to offer.
We’ve been up and down the coast searching for our favourite spots and have selected these for you.
No cave list would be complete without mentioning the world famous Benagil Cave. Located very close to the beach of Benagil in the district of Lagoa, the “Algar de Benagil” was named one of the Top 10 Coolest Caves by Huffington Post in 2014 and since then has seen a huge amount of visitors descending on the tiny beach to take one of the caves boat trips into the popular hotspot.
Unfortunately, it’s not accessible by foot and swimming out to it would be very dangerous, so entry is really only possible by taking one of the Algarve boat trips, kayaking or Stand Up Padlle. As with all sea caves, entry is dependent on the tide and sea conditions, so it’s advisable to book early in case you need to reschedule.
You may also enjoy our article Top Tips for Visiting Benagil.
Lagos in the west of the Algarve is abundantly rich with coastal caves and cliff formations. The “Elefante” however is the one that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the area. Ask any local and they will tell you the same, this is by far, the most imposing and dramatic cave in the Lagos area.
You’ll find the Elephant in the stunning Ponta de Piedade area and although the Elephant is considered the most impressive, you’ll find that there is much more to see beside and taking one of the many Lagos boat trips will give you the opportunity to get up close to these striking natural wonders. Stand up paddle and kayaks are also an option here for those who enjoy a “self-drive” experience.
Located just west of the Fishermans beach in Albufeira, you’ll find the Xorino Cave. According to local legend, this is where the Moors took refuge during the Christian Reconquista period.
Not just historically rich, this sheltered cave is pretty spectacular and doesn’t take too much effort to get to. It’s one of the closest caves to Vilamoura and you’ll find a few Vilamoura boat trips that include Xorino on their itinerary (usually, you’ll need to disembark from the large boat and go into the cave on a smaller vessel). Obviously, if you’re staying in Albufeira, then you’ll find plenty of boat trips from Albufeira marina that will take you there.
Arches of Marinha
Recently named one of the 10 best beaches in the Europe and even being included in the 100 most beautiful beaches in the world according to the prestigious Michelin Guide, Praia da Marinha is picture postcard perfect and on top of that, it boasts clear water that is perfect for snorkeling, a great variety of rock formations and the numerous caves surrounding it.
Experienced SUP users particularly like the calmer water here and the more adventurous types have been known to paddle along the coast enjoying the view. It’s not really advisable though as there are a lot of caves boat trips and guided tours, which are of course safer and a lot easier.
The “Arcos de Marinha” is a rather dazzling sight, jutting out of the Atlantic, surrounded by golden cliffs, beautiful beaches and that blue, blue sky, you’ll be hard pushed not to love it.
The neighbouring Benagil beach and caves are usually included when visiting Marinha with trips from many marinas across the Algarve.
Zorreira Cave is really close to the most famous of them all, Benagil Cave. Luckily, it’s beautiful in its own right and as all of the caves are nature’s creations, no two are the same.
Possibly considered as a bonus on a caves boat trip, Zorreira is rather remarkable in it’s own right and shouldn’t be missed.
One of the more difficult caves to gain access to, the “Gruta do Capitão” is only accessible by boat and in perfect conditions. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and a considered a bit of a local treasure. Fortunately, the local skippers are well accustomed to gauging the sea conditions and will ensure passengers safety.
You’ll find the Captain’s Cave in the Algarve’s cave epicentre, between Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra.
Located between Carvoeiro beach and Vale Centeanes beach, you’ll find a remarkably well-appointed boardwalk that hugs the cliff edge and affords magnificent views out to sea. The local council has even fitted lights and benches to make the boardwalk comfortable and accessible 24/7.
At the end of the great structure, there is a little piece of paradise, Algar Seco. Famous for many reasons and a firm favourite with return visitors, there’s a network of caves, awesome rock formations, a blowhole and the very cute viewing point “A Boneca” where you can walk inside the caves and peer out to sea through one of the holes at the end. “A Boneca” has been a very important point for the fishermen over the years and they say that the rock looks like a doll from the sea.
There are quite a few steps to get down into Algar Seco but it’s really worth it and there’s even a bar/restaurant called Boneca at the bottom to make it perfect. This is one of the few areas that you can actually reach without taking a boat tour although it’s very pretty from the sea too.
Senhora da Rocha
Jutting out from the headland of Armação de Pêra, is the beautiful Senhora da Rocha “Lady of the Rock”. This landmark acts as massive barrier between Praia Nova and Praia da Senhora da Rocha.
Towering over everything, near the end of the pinnacle of the cliff, is a beautiful, quaint little church that is hugely popular as a destination-wedding venue and you’ll also find a very cool tunnel that has been carved out at the bottom thus linking the two beaches.
Senhora da Rocha is striking and sheltered from the sometimes-strong winds coming in off sea making it popular with the fishermen who have set up huts and use it to carry out their chores. It has a lifeguard (during the summer season), a fresh fish restaurant and public facilities. The headland will be seen on most coastal boat trips and you can also kayak here.
Arch of Triumph
This rocky formation, as its name implies, resembles the famous monument placed in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle in Paris: Arc of Triumph. Located in Lagos, this very beautiful rock, sculpted after years of the erosion of the wind and tides, is proof of the true spectacle that Nature is sometimes capable of.
The Submarine Rock
Also called “Yellow Submarine”, this rock looks like a submarine at the surface of water, with a protrusion at the front where the radios and the periscope are usually found. This is one of the many extraordinary rocks with bizarre formats that can be found in the area of Lagos.
Caves of the Combs
The Caves of the Combs are two caves located in the western part of the Algarve. One of them has an algar, (a hole in the ceiling), and competes in beauty with the famous Algar de Benagil Cave.
With some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the world, the freshest seafood, stunning wines, world-class resorts, golf courses, self-catering villas and apartments, hotels and a new wave of budget hostel accommodation now hitting the market, there has never been a better time to visit the Algarve.
Understandably, the school holidays are peak season and prices will reflect that but if you can, visit out of season and you’ll be amazed at the price to quality ratio that this little corner of the world can offer and boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, the Algarve makes the perfect winter sun destination