Why You Have To Take A Ponte de Piedade Boat Tour In Portugal’s Algarve

April 7, 2024
ponte de piadade boat tour,algarve boat tour,lagos boat tour

Why You Should Do a Ponte de Piadade Boat Tour in Algarve, Portugal | If you're visiting southern Portugal, a Lagos boat trip is a must...here's why you should take a Ponte de Piadade boat tour & what to expect!

Towering golden cliffs and sea pillars.  Fragile rock arches hiding tiny caves and grottos.  Sparkling turquoise waves crashing against the cliffs.  As I planned our itinerary in Portugal’s gorgeous Algarve region, a Lagos boat tour was one of the main things I wanted to make happen.

Like many tourists, I’d had the idea of the Benagil Cave boat tour in my head as a must-do, but as I dug more into researching, an awesome alternative emerged—a boat trip to Ponte de Piadade.

Why You Should Do a Ponte de Piadade Boat Tour in Algarve, Portugal | Benagil Cave or Ponte de Piadade boat tour, which is right for you?

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A few key details for booking your Ponte de Piedade boat trip

  • We went with Blue Fleet, one of the many companies in the Lagos marina.  But I found and booked them through a lovely local lady named Margarida…I had trouble finding details due to it being offseason, and she was super helpful (more on that below).  But next time I’d book ahead, to be safe.
  • The trip is about 75 minutes from when you take off.  You’ll need to be there early, however, to meet the group and get a safety briefing (Blue Fleet’s office is in the train station by the marina).
  • In the summer I recommend booking ahead, to make sure they don’t sell out.  In “shoulder season”, there should be plenty of boats running.  We were visiting in January, so very off-season.
  • I believe it was €25-30 per person (I can’t remember for sure but my 10yo nephew may have been a reduced rate).
  • I wore a light long-sleeved shirt and lightweight pants in late January, it was a gorgeous warm day.  However, I brought a lightweight waterproof jacket that came in handy for the return trip as it was fast and we got sprayed quite a bit, which made it a little chillier.

Should you do a boat trip to Benagil Caves or Ponte de Piadade?  This was a key question for my trip planning, and I originally had assumed Benagil would be the winner.  But one thing to be aware of is you can’t get out of the boat on that tour anymore (only kayakers/SUPers can), so the photos won’t be as cool.  You definitely should do both trips if time allows (or a combined all-day tour).  To me, Ponte de Piadade was the smaller, more intimate option, more of a “hidden gem”.

Entering a sea cave in our boat tour to Ponte de Piadade (Algarve, Portugal)

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I originally had a particular boat company in mind for my trip, but after trying to email, call, and then visit their kiosk in the marina, I found out that they were closed temporarily due to it being offseason.  So my lovely Airbnb host recommended to me a lady named Margarida, who has contacts with different boat companies and could tell me who was running them.

She was able to book us with Blue Fleet, so I met up with her, got the tickets, paid her half the cost and then we paid the remainder at Blue Fleet’s offices when we showed up.  She was great, very knowledgeable, and I have her WhatsApp number if you need to contact her on your own trip (send me an email or comment below, I just don’t want to put her phone number on the internet).

But as I mentioned above, I’d instead recommend booking ahead of time if you’re traveling in off-season especially, to ensure you have an option and are “first in line” if the date or time has to change.

Towering sea pillar - a Lagos boat tour to Ponte de Piadade (Algarve, Portugal)

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Okay, let’s get to the good stuff…Blue Fleet’s little office is in the train station that’s just by marina.  I found parking easily and we got signed in, then our captain walked us over to the marina, just a couple minutes’ stroll.

(A side note on getting around, you don’t necessarily need a rental car in the area though I personally recommend it…but if you do, I would book through Zest Cars, Masterkings was the rental company and I had a great experience.  I typically use DiscoverCars and I’d definitely look there, but there are apparently so many rental company scams in this area that I would only consider a couple of the companies.)

We got on our little speedboat and were on our way!  On the way out toward open water, you’ll see Boa Esperança, a replica ship (“caravel”) that’s now a museum educating visitors on the Portuguese Age of Discoveries and the role Lagos (and the area) played.

walking to our boat in the Lagos marina

a replica of Caravel Boa Esperanca in Lagos, now a museum

Here are other Portugal adventures to help you plan your trip:

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What To Do In Lisbon, Portugal: 20+ Awesome Sights & Experiences

A Day Exploring Sintra’s Fairytale Castles

A Detailed Long Weekend Travel Guide For Porto

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The boat trip will take you along the same route that the coastal boardwalk runs, so if you’re doing that walk you’ll see a lot of the same beaches initially—just from a very different vantage point.

You’ll start with Praia Batatas (“potatoes”), Praia dos Estudiantes (the one with the arched bridge below), and a nudist beach…LOL or as my boat captain explained, “where they do the naked” 🙂  There’s also one where the rocks collapsed recently and so it’s unusable as a beach.

a view of Praia dos Estudiantes from the water - Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

a view of Praia dos Estudiantes from the water - Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

a view of a collapsed beach from the water - Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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I kept snapping photos of the coastline, absolutely obsessed with the towering rocks, the striating colors, pops of green, turquoise water, and the way you could see the water eating away at the base of the cliffs with power and perseverance.

amazing sea cliffs viewed from the water on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

amazing sea cliffs viewed from the water on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

amazing sea cliffs viewed from the water on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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Now this part becomes very weather-dependent, particularly during the offseason.  One of the coolest parts of a Ponte de Piedade boat trip is the super skilled captain “threading the needle” and entering tiny caves and arches.

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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When you look at it from the boat, you think, “nahhh that’s not possible”.  It’s insane how well they manage to navigate a tiny opening despite the fairly aggressive waves throwing the boat around.

The captain is very knowledgeable about the sea conditions and won’t do this unless it’s safe.  Obviously, in the offesason when the wind and waves are wilder, this part of the tour can be left out more often.

And they keep warning you not to have you hands on the outside of the boat from a safety standpoint whenever we do this, on the slightly offchance anything got bumped (it never did on our trip, despite very bouncy waves).

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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You’ll curve around the coast a bit and continue to admire the different shapes (and see a lot more caves).

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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We went on a mid-afternoon trip but in late January so the sun was already headed toward the horizon by the time we were ready to head back…I didn’t love this lighting quite as much, and think the photo lighting would have been better on a mid-morning boat trip at this time of year.

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal) - should you do Benagil Cave or Ponte de Piadade?

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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I’ve wanted to visit the Algarve for years, and these views are a huge reason.  I definitely think it’s worth it to do a Lagos boat trip rather than only hiking on the coast, to get both perspectives.

exploring sea caves, arches, & grottos on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

enjoying the stunning coastline on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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You’ll return to the marina the same way you came, just a lot faster…they speed back rather than the leisurely exploration on the way there, so it only takes a fraction of the time.

And you’ll probably get sprayed quite a bit, so that’s where the jacket comes in handy.

enjoying the stunning coastline on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

enjoying the stunning coastline on a Ponte de Piadade boat tour (Algarve, Portugal)

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My nephew said this was one of his favorite things we did on our whole southern Portugal and Spain trip, and I have to agree!  You definitely need to include a boat trip to Ponte de Piadade on your own Algarve itinerary.

Other awesome boat trips you’ll love:

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Why You Should Do a Ponte de Piadade Boat Tour in Algarve, Portugal | If you're visiting southern Portugal, a Lagos boat trip is a must...here's why you should take a Ponte de Piadade boat tour & what to expect! Benagil Cave or Ponte de Piadade boat tour, which is right for you? What to do in Lagos, what to do in Algarve, Algarve itinerary ideas.

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