As you already know, we stayed in Lagos in the Algarve; and although these beaches are undeniably amazing and the entire area is ridiculously scenic, it is also very crowded with tourists – for real, there was sometimes barely room to lay a towel down.

Another side-effect of Lagos being a tried-and-true tourist town is the fun stuff, like stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking, is on the expensive side.

We needed to get a little more creative with our money. So, rather than jump on a tour, we hired a scooter for €64 for two days (which included additional insurance to minimise liability) with the idea we would head east to the beaches of Carvoeiro for an action packed day of swimming, cliff jumping and much more.

So let’s get to it – our guide to the best day of your beach holiday on the Algarve in Portugal.

It finishes and ends with visiting the Algarve’s best beaches:

– Praia do Carvalho

– Praia de Benagil

– Praia da Marinha

These are all situated south of the township of Lagoa in Carvoeiro. If like us, you were staying in Lagos, then this should be no barrier – you can hire a car, scooter or motor bike (see here for more information on this).

You can also catch a bus to Lagoa, and then a taxi to Praia do Carvalho, but we wouldn’t recommend this as some balls-deep research on TripAdvisor revealed this to be a very inconvenient and unreliable option.

We know this is all sounding like a lot of effort for a beach day, but stick with us!

Getting to Lagoa

If you end up hiring a bike or scooter, make sure you head to Lagoa via the N125, rather than the A22. The latter is a full-blown highway which we found ourselves driving on, on a scooter. Not cool. This was terrifying. Nat told me after the ordeal she was having visions of us smeared across the road like jam. Meanwhile, I’d nearly been choked by my helmet threatening to fly off the back of my head and rip me from the scooter like a parachute. At the time I couldn’t actually say anything about this predicament as I’d also been rendered completely speechless by the windspeed and every time I tried to open my mouth my face mimicked the appearance of someone sky-diving at 10,000 feet. Thank God we were able to get off relatively quickly and find the N125, a much smaller thoroughfare, safe for scooters and bikes, to take us to Lagoa.

Beach #1 – Praia do Carvalho

Once you get to Lagoa, it’s a simple matter of following signage to Praia do Carvalho. Parking is scarce (hence why a scooter or motorbike is preferred) but you’ll see why when you get to the beach. It’s paradise, reached through a man-made tunnel carved through the cliff.

The tunnel to Praia do Carvalho

On the other side, you’ll find a gorgeous sheltered cove with luminous water, and on the right, a platform with steps from the beach has been fashioned in the rock face for the ultimate tanning break.

You can also jump from the left side of the beach as well – but I’d leave this one to the experts. The jump itself on side is much higher and from the research we’ve done it’s quite painful on your feet when you hit the water at this height. We were more than happy to admire the guy effortlessly backflipping from the left like he’s done it a thousand times (he probably had), and continue to jump off the right side with a bunch of kids from all over Europe.

Exactly where to cliff jump at Praia do Carvalho

Once you’ve had enough of jumping – or you’ve been rudely pushed in after procrastinating like Nat – it’s time to move on to the next destination.

Don’t forget to pick up a peach from the fruit stall in Praia do Carvalho’s parking lot. You’ll thank us when the juice is running down your chin.

Beach #2 – Praia da Benagil

Praia de Benagil has a different vibe to it – it’s much busier, with more of a party feel. Euro babes sun themselves before heading to the water with inflatable pool toys while others who’ve had enough of the breathless sun enjoy a beer at the casual bar right next to the beach. As the famous Benagil Sea Caves are directly to the left of this beach, you’ll also see hustlers working the crowds for the many boat tours that depart from Benagil beach directly to the Benagil Sea Cave, and also around the grottos in the area.

Benagil Sea Cave

What if you don’t have any money, or you’ve already taken a boat tour in Lagos and don’t feel like handing over €20 again?

The good news is it is 100 per cent, entirely possible to swim to the Benagil Sea Cave from Praia de Benagil.

To swim one way took us approximately ten minutes in relatively calm waters, but our heart rates were definitely up by the end and more than a little salt water had been imbibed. It wasn’t a walk in the park but it’s absolutely do-able and definitely made our day infinitely more rewarding! We aren’t great swimmers, but being from Queensland Australia we’re very used to swimming in ocean.

Upon entering Praia de Benagil, head left to swim to the Benagil Sea Cave

Upon entering the beach, head left to swim to the Benagil Sea Cave

However, please don’t take this as advice it’s safe to swim here any time, every day of the year. People have had to be rescued from the Benagil Sea Cave before. We would advise you to:

  • Only swim from the beach to the cave if you can see others doing it. You’re looking for random swimmers heading to the left of the beach, or coming back from this direction. The entrance to the cave is literally just around the corner of the first cliff, so it’s not a long swim .
  • This is an option for confident and experienced swimmers only. If you haven’t swum much in the ocean please don’t do it.
  • Remember how we recommended you bring a li-lo or inflatable? A lot of people swimming had these to make the journey to and from the caves more enjoyable, and I’m not going to lie, we were jealous! If you don’t have your own and are feeling nervous about the swim, it might be time to make some new friends.
  • Whilst you’re in the water, make sure you’re keeping an eye on the boats around you.
  • Trust your gut. If you get a bad feeling about the swim, don’t do it. You know your limits best.

After you’ve marvelled at the Benagil Sea Cave – it really is spectacular – it’s time for one final spot.

Beach #3 – Praia da Marinha

Praia da Marinha, perhaps the most photographed beach on the Algarve with the exception of Praia Dona Ana, is where you’ll finish up your day. Have a dip and a quick sunbake, and soon it will be time to hit the road again for Lagos.

One last thing…

We can’t recommend this day trip out of Lagos highly enough. At its essence, it’s basically just a beach day, but afterwards our bodies, eyes and hearts were singing. 

We at Checkin-Out believe in chasing happiness, in whatever form that may come to you. And if you think seeing one of the world’s marvels, jumping five+ metres into cool, clear ocean and zooming along pristine coastline sounds like it might put a little spring in your step, then we recommend you get your ass into gear, head east and get out of Lagos for the day, and see what else the Algarve has to offer.