Sand dunes & salty air: How to spend the perfect long weekend in Comporta, Portugal
Lizzie Gore-Grimes spends a long weekend in Portugal’s boho paradise of Comporta, a place beloved by A-listers for its laid-back luxury. Boasting breathtaking beaches and a bleached-wood, barefoot, blustery kind of vibe, it offers a unique appeal all of its own.
Driving into the sleepy village of Comporta, just 90 minutes’ drive south of Lisbon, we weren’t sure at first if we were in the right place. I’d heard so much about Portugal’s “boho paradise” favoured holiday haunt of Christian Louboutin, Madonna, Carla Bruni, Andrea Casiraghi and a host of other glittering guests. But any expectations of chi chi Côte d’Azur vibes were quickly quashed.
Comporta is more chic nature reserve than glitzy beach resort. The area, effectively a 12,000-hectare stretch of coastline that runs from the Tróia Peninsula to Melides, is chiefly made up of sweeping sand dunes, working rice fields and cork farms. And while the gossip columns buzz with the talk of the area’s new super-wealthy international homeowners, they are certainly not on show.
It’s a place of winning contrasts, that’s for sure. Wandering through the village, which has no main square or hub as such, you’ll see scraggly looking cockerels pecking around the place and dust-covered utility vehicles parked up amid the low-lying whitewashed buildings. But this unassuming demeanour quickly reveals a host of seriously stylish shops and bijoux restaurants; their whitewashed boards, bold batik prints, and natural furnishings all oozing rustic, refined taste (with price tags to match).
A five-minute drive from the village takes you to the star attraction – the beach. With nothing but pine forests and rice paddies beyond the sand dunes, and just a smattering of beach cafés dotted along the 13-mile-long expanse of pristine white sand, it’s nothing short of breathtaking – and the main reason this little piece of Portugal has become such prime real estate.
Functioning almost as an ode to the area’s unique biodiversity, you’ll find the hotel Sublime Comporta, hidden behind Moorish gates, ten minutes’ drive south of the beach. In complete keeping with the area’s underdeveloped natural beauty, the resort is spread over 17 hectares of forested grounds, rich with umbrella pine, cork, native wildflowers and an elegantly laid out edible garden.
The main house offers 23 guestrooms, while the remaining 22 cabanas are dotted around the estate – including nine stunning bio-pool cabanas, built on stilts over one of Europe’s largest natural lagoon swimming pools. We were there just at the end of high season, an ideal time to visit, as the close proximity to Lisbon means Comporta can be mobbed during peak summer months (and mozzies can be a pain).
As it was, we felt like we had the place to ourselves. Taking a walk before dinner through the Sublime grounds, the air warm but not sticky, the overriding sense was one of quiet and seclusion. But I imagine the sunken seating area by the pool, with its oversized fire pit and poolside cocktail bar, provides plenty of buzzy people-watching during busier months. Inside the main house, with lobby, bar and restaurant, the décor echoes the environment, with barn-like high ceilings, exposed wooden beams, antique leather, cork and rattan creating a mood of sumptuous laid-back luxury.
The Sem Porta restaurant, which translates as “no door”, makes the most of the verdant view with floor to ceiling glass opening onto the gardens beyond. Here, chef Hélio Gonçalves creates flavourful dishes using the best fresh seafood, local farm-reared meat and organic produce from the hotel’s kitchen garden. They set expectations high when they named the place Sublime, but it’s a hard moniker to quibble with.
Rooms from €225 (to €1,500 for a private villa) per night.
WHERE TO EAT
Sublime Comporta Beach Club
A recent enough addition, the hotel’s beach club restaurant offers chic eats, cocktails and luxury beach lounging until late, set against the stunning backdrop of Carvalhal beach. Open from June to September.
This chic shack casual roadside eatery offers up a great taste of local cuisine in a homely setting. Come to taste their excellent monkfish rice, lulinhas (baby squid) with garlic and coriander, farinheira (local smoked sausage) with eggs, and pork loin with shrimp and pineapple.
One of the best places to eat in Comporta, this restaurant, located in a former stables, off ers a unique setting and innovative menu. Th e smoked squid and grilled ibérico pork are a particular highlight, cavalarica.com.
WHERE TO SHOP
If “Comporta style” is what you’re after, this home and lifestyle shop, by Lisbon- and Grândola-based interior designer Marta Mantero, is an absolute dream. Chock full of divine fabrics, soft furnishings, jewellery and more, @ricecomporta.
One of the many dreamy little boutiques in the village of Comporta, Briff a stocks a beautiful collection of the area’s signature soft cotton kaftans, floppy straw hats, local ceramics, jewellery and décor finds.
You might think it’s odd to list a grocery mini-market here until you step into this one! It’s tagged by locals as “mini Harrods”. You’ll find walls lined floor to ceiling with all manner of gourmet delights, plus locally crafted baskets, gifts and more. Just don’t expect to pay Spar prices.
WHAT TO DO
Go to the beach! Where you can enjoy seclusion on Praia do Pinheirinho or people-watch to your heart’s content on popular Praia do Carvalhal. Go horse-riding on the beach with Cavalos na Areia, or surf the impressive Atlantic waves with Imagine Surf School.
This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of IMAGE Magazine.