As I was craving a European adventure in June, I quickly found a friend to agree to romp through Portugal with me at the end of August. Without knowing much about the country (I had only visited Lisbon once when I was 20 studying abroad in Barcelona), I spent weeks researching and collecting recommendations for all the beach towns (Lagos, Algarve, Azores Islands) and trying to figure out if it made sense to go South or North after staying in Lisbon for a few days. My go-to, high-end travel friend, Leslie sent me an article on Comporta, and as soon as I read about Sublime and Quinta da Comporta hotels, I knew this was the ticket! A little surf town in the middle of a fishing village, surrounded by rice paddies, laid-back, and not yet fully discovered or built up.
Comporta: A Guide to Portugal’s Hidden Beach Town
I immediately booked us a room at Quinta da Comporta which is about an hour and half from Lisbon and a $90 Uber if you don’t want to rent a car (although any car service in the town to get to another restaurant, boat cruise, is pretty pricey so you’ll probably want a car.) The area reminded me of what Montauk must have been like when it first started attracting Hamptons visitors, but with way more culture and beauty to that of Todos Santos with Portuguese people ever so kind and just a few places to eat and hang out casually. If I was a hotel, I’d want to be this one: calm, cool, outdoorsy, natural beauty without showing off too hard, and a place where when you exhale and breathe you really feel your body and soul. Obviously, my mouth dropped when I saw the narrow infinity pool right outside our room, stretching 40 meters long and overlooking the gorgeous, green rice fields. The lobby and the main restaurant décor is just out of this world. It’s a mix of bohemian, high ceilings, reclaimed beams, rope-tied lampshades, wicker chairs stuffed with the most comfortable cushions inside and outside with bright blues and greens that match the land. I took more photos of the pool and the outdoor furniture than my food thinking I might be able to recreate this oasis at my home in Austin—hehe. I’m serious when I say that I could not feel a higher high than looking out on this entire property which felt like we were the only ones there except for a few at the pool during the afternoon and a semi-busy, yet peaceful dining room at breakfast hours. The bathrooms in the bedrooms even have a glamorous yet beachy shower vibe with an open rain shower head that sits in between a bench and a tub. I don’t know how the water doesn’t run down the stairs into the sink / toilet area, but it’s so cool!
If you are looking for a place to stay that is suitable for group’s, my friend Justine happened to go about a week before I did, and this is the Airbnb her group rented.
For a honeymoon and more privacy, I’d go for the rooms at Sublime! We came here for dinner at Sem Porta, and we were lucky to have Francisco from the group give us a tour since we were not staying here and tell us about the heart and soul of the company which also has a hotel in Lisbon. I’ve never seen such an array of different pine trees among this 17 acre property which has a more private feel than Quinta da Comporta and is very ideal for a honeymoon. There are only 23 rooms and 22 to 5 bedroom villas. I’m saying it here now to check myself later, but hear me out. I will be back to stay at the Bio-Pool Suites for my honeymoon one day! The nine cabanas built on stilts sit over one of Europe’s largest biological swimming pools and include a private terrace you can jump into and swim at your convenience. A bio pool is just a natural pool and it’s even bright green and so serene. Basically Comporta has the best water elements at their hotels, and I want to come back for this romantic setting!
What’s more to do than ride the bikes provided by Quinta da Comporta, engage in some of their weekly yoga and pilates mat classes that are slow and soothing? [or participate in the spa menu which I did not do]. We walked about 30 minutes to the closest beach (remember we didn’t have a car), and it was quite fun to view the flourishing greenery and see some homes along the way to the beach called Carvalhaul. The soft sand feels good beneath your toes even for someone who doesn’t love the beach. You’ll want to book sun beds from Sublime which is 30 Euros for 2 people that come with a sturdy straw umbrella that matches the scene. The cold ocean mixed with the sun and easy breeze makes for a great reading day. Sublime offers a snack bar with drinks, cocktails, gelato, sandwiches closer to the water and also has a high-end Beach Club (which is the closest thing in Comporta to something like Capri where you’ll indulge in seafood towers, guacamole, tuna tartare, fried baby cuttlefish, steamed or grilled rock lobster, and paella!
My absolute favorite day was when Erin and I thought we had booked a dolphin cruise taking off from Troía Peninsula. Once we arrived after paying 40 Euros to the driver to take us 20 minutes, we went up to the three boat stands and no one had our reservation. This area had a casino, overpriced restaurants that didn’t look very good, but we saw the light of the glowing turquoise and kelly green waters in our future. Erin wiggled her way into talking to a woman at the company stand of Sado Emotion who offered us a three hour private boat ride for 150 Euros each. As we saw the dolphin cruise next door group of all young and old ages take off, we knew this was the right choice and were thankful our reservation had been lost. To our greatest surprise, a cute 30-year-old Portuguese man Luís told us to follow him to the dock. We immediately got the giggles not just because of him but because we had no intention of this adventure and it was getting better and more exciting by the second. He immediately flattered us by saying we were the most fun group he had ever had in his six years and sprinted us off to see a bunch of sights that were more beautiful than the next including:
- Outão fort that has the orthopedic hospital right next to it – not a bad way to recover right?
- Figueirinha beach
- Galapos bay that has 3 award winning beaches: Galapos, Galapinhos (the best in Europe 2017), Coelhos
- Portinho da Arrábida Bay– where it has one of the full protected areas of the marine park Luís Saldanha surrounding Anicha rock
- St. Margarida cave with a church altar in the inside
Ok, so the best part was not only seeing the beaches in front of the mountains and feeling the cold water splash on our faces but also was how freeing it felt to speed off into the ocean. We pulled up to St. Margarida Cave where our pal Luís pointed at a rope swing saying he’s seen several groups jump off this cliff. We immediately jumped into the freezing ocean and sprint swam over to the rocks, catapulted ourselves up it and prepared ourselves to jump off. It didn’t make me feel great that he said he had never personally done this, so we let him go first and trusted him since he said so many people had done it. It felt right! We leaped in screaming with the excitement rushing to our head. Seeing how happy this adventure made Luís made me so happy that we could put a twist in his day and make his tour just as memorable for him. We snorkeled a bit and then enjoyed some sips of the Moscatel drink that every boat receives. It truly was a magical day and then Erin made him do doughnuts as we drove back to shore. I think this was the hardest I’ve laughed all summer, and I’ll never forget how going to this random area next to a random casino turned out to be one of the most special days and a very sweet connection.
SUBLIME: We went over to the infamous Sublime hotel which is also who manages the beds and beach club at the beach. THIS place is the definition of luxury. Wow. I felt like I was in a Netflix documentary walking across the grounds and seeing so many details and movement all at once. From a wedding party near the pool area to chefs picking out herbs in the garden in front of their dining guests for that night at the restaurant called Food Circle which is a tasting menu experience for 12 people. All the while the sun was setting and producing beautiful lighting. We dined at Sem Porta (translates to No Door) which is Portuguese and Alentejan recipes by Chef Hélio Gonçalves who previously worked at Michelin starred restaurants. The service feels effortless while nothing is missed. You can sit back, relax, and know the staff has you taken care of. I loved the high ceilings, open kitchen, and big windows. They even make their own wine on property for their restaurants. We enjoyed housemade bread and butter, prawn ceviche, an incredible beet risotto with squid ink, and the most delicately cooked medium rare filet with a crunchy squash blossom and carrots. Of course, all of these things are taken from their garden. It’s a meal that makes you feel good, not overly indulgent, and just the whole country’s hospitality made me feel happy to be here! We ate here the same day as the boat ride, so I’d say I don’t think I could’ve loved life more than after this. Don’t miss the Sublime hospitality if you come to Comporta or just go to Comporta and never leave their property.
QUINTA DA COMPORTA: We had complimentary breakfast in the hotel every morning that included a buffet of traditional Portuguese pastries and breads, fresh juices, strawberries, melon, spreads like honeycomb, peanut butter, Nutella, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, cheeses, and made to order eggs and pancakes (skip the pancakes).
5ENTIDOS: This “neighborhood” restaurant was the only place near our hotel. Like I said you either stay on property or need a car to take you to “town” where there are a few more restaurant options. We drove through town and I still didn’t feel a need to spend much time there because I loved the hotels so much and the beach. The menu at 5entidos felt the most homey and local to me. We enjoyed the Shrimp Dumplings with Sweet Chili Sauce (of all things, right?), marinated vegetables, Tuna Steak marinated in soy, and a random side of curry risotto—that was my favorite! Also, near the restaurant is a cute shop called Loja de Ca with accessories, home goods, and more fun things to peep into.
Comporta is a place you must visit if you go to Portugal. Forget the other little beach towns, and treat yourself to this lovely area that still feels very undiscovered by Americans.