Discover Comporta, Portugal’s best kept secret for the ultra-chic
From Christian Louboutin’s Vermelho Hotel to the AlmaLusa Comporta, this European hotspot is the new place to be seen
I’m dining at Ilha do Arroz, a seafood restaurant and local institution overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the custard-yellow dunes decorated with tufts of grass on Comporta beach. With fresh grilled gold bream, locally sourced vegetables and waxy boiled potatoes in front of me, I could be lunching on a coastline in California, not Portugal.
The sleepy fishing village of Comporta, on Portugal’s idyllic south-west coast, is just over an hour’s drive from Lisbon and a 15-minute stroll along a sun-dappled walkway from my current spot. The antithesis of the Algarve, it feels like a well-kept secret. For now, at least.
Last summer, it got the royal seal of approval when Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank began splitting their time between here and London. Pop royalty Madonna recently saddled up at the nearby Cavalos na Areia horse riding school, and actors George Clooney and Kristen Scott-Thomas have both bought villas in the area (around £4m for a sprawling new build).
Right now, the jet-set is flocking to Christian Louboutin’s brand new and ultra-chic Vermelho Hotel in Melides, only a 20-min drive along the coast. The shoemaker has owned homes in Lisbon and Comporta since the 1990s and opened his own decadent, 13-room boutique hotel this spring. Resplendent with Portuguese design features, its cherry-red doors are a nod to the soles of his legendary shoes. But don’t miss out on this nearby hidden gem.
Comporta is a dainty network of sun-baked narrow streets, lined with white-washed bungalows topped with terracotta tiles. Electric cars (a Porsche, a BMW X3 perhaps) whirr down roads depositing chic locals outside more unassuming eateries. The vibe is rustic, low-key wealth. Walking around I can hear ambient house music float from tiny thatched-roofed bars and spot rails of silk kimonos and hand-woven dresses outside understated clothing and interior boutiques.
The next big thing
No wonder this pocket of Portugal has been compared to the St-Tropez of 30 years ago, or Porto and Cheli. But Comporta is not where show-offs come to holiday and, so far, the coast is clear of the Instagram-crowd.
I’m staying at the new ultra-chic AlmaLusa Comporta, open since November 2022 and the only hotel smack bang in the village centre — a privileged position to enjoy the location’s best restaurants, shops and sandy beach.
The hotel’s stylish 22 rooms and 31 suites are designed with muted tones inspired by laid-back coastal living. Many have small gardens and all suites have kitchenettes, which is handy for families or couples on nights-in tasting local treats bought at Gomes deli with a bottle of Alentejo region wine from the cavernous Garcia’s wine and spirits boutique that edges the village. The largest is the sunset-facing deluxe suite, overlooking the rice fields with a living area and a kitchen covering 538sq ft.
I recommend enjoying a delicious, no-frills lunch at the buzzy A Cegonha or dinner at San Joao, an authentic down-to-earth restaurant beloved by local families. Order the Portuguese dish Dourada — fresh baked bream with rice full of shrimps, razor clams, and mussels.
Back to nature
Comporta sits on a 40-mile swoop of coastline that’s sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Sado River estuary. You can take out one of the hotel’s e-bikes and e-scooters and explore the 12,500-hectare Sado nature reserve: home to 200 species of birds, including huge nesting storks, the emblems of the town of Comporta. I spot several perched majestically atop electricity pylons and dominating bell towers.
The hotel’s concierge service is available 24/7, to help guests uncover this beautiful destination with countryside dotted with oak cork trees and bursts of yellow wild flowers, rice fields stretch all to the coastline and the air is laced with the scent of pine and lemons.
And there’s plenty to see and do here from guided bird watching, to trekking in the Serra of Grandola; surf lessons and beach horse riding for the more adrenaline inclined. Wild dolphin spotting with Vertigem Azul from the tip of the Troia peninsula is a must. With a 98% success rate of seeing the dolphins – a family of around 30 wild bottlenose dolphins have made the Sado River their home – you can see them glide close to the boat in the sunshine.
The hotel’s chic rooftop bar is a wonderful place to end the day. Order a cocktail and some bites from the tapas-style menu including Sado oysters, crispy green bean tempura, codfish fritters and Carrasqueira crispy squid as you watch the sun dip.