We have just returned from a weeks holiday in the Algarve with some friends. I’ve never been to Portugal before and I really wanted to love the country, its people, the attractions, the food… I wanted to love everything about it.
Alvor was the nearest town to where we stayed at Vitor’s Plaza. Walkable in around 30 minutes or 6 euro in a taxi, it wasn’t too far at all, and it quickly became our go-to place for evening meals and local shopping.
The first thing I noticed about Alvor was the Marina. Filled with all kinds of boats, it is clearly a busy little place in high season. There were seafood restaurants dotted along the front and little huts, housing people who were selling boat excursions of various sorts.
We’d picked up a leaflet for Alvor Boat Trips and I really liked the sound of their Benagil Caves and Grottos tour. They had a stand down at the Marina so we spoke with Róisín who arranged our transfer to Portimão where the trip began.
We paid €25 per adult and €15 per child and I truly think the trip was worth every single cent. There are cheaper trips out there if you ask around, but you get what you pay for with something like this.
On board the ‘Róisín Alvor’ we met our captain Michel. He was friendly, knowledgable and made us feel so at ease. He’d even brought his home made sangria for everyone to try!
We were so fortunate to have booked this particular tour and time as we ended up having the boat to ourselves. So there was myself, my husband and three children and our friends who we were on holiday with. It was like having our own private boat. Just lovely.
We set off up the coast where Michel pointed out each cove, beach and tourist hot spot. Seeing all the lovely little towns along the way made me want to go and explore – especially Praia de Carvoeiro – that looks like a beautiful spot! Michel told us how these towns used to be small fishing villages but as tourists arrived they grew and now they are some of the most popular places in the country. I can certainly see why.
I love how the white buildings almost tumble down to the shore. Everything looks so clean and pretty, and the beaches really aren’t overcrowded at all. I think Praia de Carvoeiro is somewhere I’d like to go and visit one day – perhaps when I’ve bought a boat of my own, after making my millions writing this blog!
The real stars of the show though were the caves and grottos. I was expecting to be impressed but I really wasn’t prepared for the sheer magnificence of them.
Michel steered the boat expertly through the caves, and even through gaps I really didn’t think he’d be able to squeeze through! The water was fairly calm, the sky was blue, the views were spectacular.
Portugal is certainly good for the soul.
The two and a half hour trip doesn’t feel like half of that time. With so much to see time just slips by and before we knew it we had got as far as Paradise Cove. There were two coves that stood out above the others. Paradise Cove was one of them, and the other was the Benagil Cave.
Is there anything as peaceful as the open ocean?
Everyone on board had such a fantastic time. The boys laughed and joked with Michel, begging him to go faster as we sped between the caves.
Isn’t Paradise Cove beautiful? I joked to Michel that he could just leave me here in the place of perfection, but he said I’d probably drown at high tide.
I guess it’s always best to take an expert’s advice!
Having the boat to ourselves was great of course, but it really isn’t very big as you can see so no matter what you’d have a great view and memorable experience, no doubt.
There were some caves where the mixture or air and moisture from the ocean created a magical but slightly eerie sight. We also saw some starfish fossils embedded deep in the rock and talked about how it was so difficult to believe that all this was achieved by the forces of nature. Truly amazing.
I also did something during this boat trip that I never imagined myself doing. Ever.
I braved the open water and jumped off the boat! Michel took us to a private beach where we swam, explored and took in the views. We didn’t have long there – around 15 minutes – but I don’t think it’s an experience I’ll ever forget. A first (and to be honest, probably last!) for me.
I really couldn’t talk you through every highlight of the boat trip. It was simply breathtaking and I would wholeheartedly recommend taking a trip with Alvor Boat Trips. They do fishing trips and champagne sunset ones too. That’ll be next on my list!