Type ‘Algarve’ into any search engine and the first images that come up are those of deep blue waters, picturesque beaches hugged by high cliffs and the stunning coastline that has made the Algarve famous.

So if you’re planning to come to the Algarve, what better thing can you do, then booking an adventurous exploration of this coastline by kayak or SUP.

Although the Algarve west coast has a rugged charm of its own, it is the south coast that is most popular for coastline trips amongst tourists and locals alike. And not without reason. From the islands in Faro’s Ria Formosa to the great cave of Benagil and the hidden beaches and sea caves around Lagos and Albufeira, the south coast has some amazing natural wonders to offer.

Algar Seco, Boneca beach
Algar Seco, Boneca beach.

The best way to explore this coastline is of course from the water. One popular way to do this is by boat trip. But for those who want to get closer than any boat can get and combine the views with some physical exercise, there are more great options available.

Exploring inside the caves near Benagil & Carvoeiro
Exploring inside the caves near Benagil & Carvoeiro

Algarve kayak trips

Sea kayaks, as seen in the Algarve, are the type of kayak where you sit on top of the boat, not inside. They are fairly light and easy to maneuver. Because they are smaller than motorboats you are able to get even closer to the beautiful coastline and enter the smallest sea caves.

Kayaking is the perfect activity for everyone: from couples on a romantic getaway to families including both the kids and the grandparents. As most companies can take on large numbers in one tour, it is also ideal for big groups like people on organized holidays and stag or hen parties.

5 people on kayaks in Ria Formosa, aparently resting.
Kayaks in group

This watersport is easy to learn. A tour guide is always there to navigate the kayak trips and give tips. A support boat will usually follow you for extra safety and to give those who are getting tired a tow. Most companies offer double kayaks that can fit two persons, three if it includes a small child. There are usually also a few single and sometimes even triple kayaks on offer to cover the odd numbers.

You can choose between trips of varying lengths, depending on your desired activity level. Some companies will even take you to the most popular spot by catamaran or small motor boat where you will board your kayaks and explore further; for example from Ferragudo (Lagoa/Portimão) towards the Benagil cave and from the Lagos marina towards Ponte de Piedade.

Lagos Kayak
Kayaks in Ponta da Piedade.

Algarve SUP trips

Are you looking for an even more adventurous watersport? Stand Up Paddling or SUP has been gaining popularity in the Algarve and could be exactly what you are looking for.

2 people on the sunset doing Stand Up Paddle, Armação de Pêra.
Stand Up Paddle with a beautiful Sunset in Ria Formosa

A SUP-board is a large, floaty surfboard and the goal, as given away by the name, is to stand up on it and paddle your way around the waters with one paddle. Its origins lie in wave surfing but the design of larger boards specifically for touring on flat water makes it accessible for everyone who is in for a bit of adventure.

As it takes some technique to get going, most Algarve SUP trips include some instruction before the tour starts. However with a little practice, and the occasional plunge into the refreshing waters of the ocean, you’ll soon be gliding along. Don’t worry if you don’t get the hang of it immediately, you can also stay on your knees and paddle your way into the smallest nooks and crooks like that. And once you have found your way around the board, it is an incomparable experience.

Flat water SUP is not an extreme sport but it does take some strength and flexibility. And some of you will be happy to know that it does wonders for the abs…

Man doing stand up paddle and surfing a wave in Vilamoura
Man doing stand up paddle in Vilamoura

The best Algarve kayak and SUP experiences

Kayak and SUP tours can be found on the Algarve south coast from the Spanish border to Sagres. We have listed some of the best locations for you.

The famous Benagil cave

This one is at the top of the list for a reason. Ever seen that famous image of a hidden beach inside a massive sea cave with a large hole in the ceiling? This is it. You can swim there when the tide is right, but by taking a kayak or SUP you will get the full experience and explore some of the smaller caves around as well.

SUP inside the caves in Benagil
SUP inside the caves in Benagil

Albufeira

The area around Albufeira is home to usually calm waters and a large coastline to explore. Therefore you will be able to find a good amount of watersports on offer here and in the surrounding towns. You can choose coastline SUP tours in Albufeira and kayak tours in Albufeira, but if you really want to take it to the next level, you can even do a SUPfari! Explore the off road landscapes by jeep before entering a lagoon by SUP board to let go of that high adrenaline and cool down.

Kayaks emerging from one of Albufeira's caves
Kayaks emerging from one of Albufeira’s caves

Ria Formosa (Faro)

The Ria Formosa is a natural park stretching from the municipality of Loulé, all the way to the Spanish border. Don’t expect high cliffs and rock formations here. Ria Formosa is a large lagoon protected by five islands and two peninsulas close to the coast. You can see its winding waterways from the sky when flying into Faro. When exploring those by kayak, you will be guaranteed to fall in love with its unique charm. Tours start from Faro and Tavira.

3 women on kayaks in ria formosa, aparently resting.
Kayak in Ria Formosa

Sagres

This is one of the least explored coastlines in this list. But it could well be one of the prettiest. A few companies offer SUP tours in this area that will allow you to see the cliffs from a different point of view. As large waves hit these rock formations at regular times, they have a unique character, but it also means you have to be a bit lucky to find the calm days that allow an exploration by SUP.

Sup Sagres
Stand up Paddle in Sagres caves. Photo by SUP Algarve

Lagos (Ponta da Piedade)

Like the cave of Benagil, the rock pillars of Ponte de Piedade and the surrounding coastline are a must in this list. This particular spot put Lagos and the Algarve on the tourist map in the 60’s, when local fisherman first came up with the idea to show people around in their boats. Nowadays, the coastline is teeming with kayaks, boats and SUP’s. But that doesn’t take anything away from the experience. Prepare to be amazed by the impressive views, the blue-green waters and the exciting hidden caves. Kayak and SUP tours depart from Praia da Batata and the Lagos marina.

2 people in a kayak near Lagos
Kayak near Lagos. Photo by Algarve Tourism
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