Comporta is a small seaside village one hour outside of Lisbon that has, in recent years, been dubbed “the Hamptons of Portugal”. This is due to the Summer months attracting sojourning fashionistas and pop culture icons who transform this normally sleeping freguesia into a low-key, elite getaway destination. However, reducing such a quietly vibrant and authentic spot to such a comparison does it a monumental disservice. We visit in the off season to get a feel for Comporta, the people who call it home and the area’s first and most iconic luxury hotel, Sublime.
Comporta – Setting the Scene
Comporta is an understated, working paradise. Its wild coastline holds the gift of abundance for fishermen; rice paddies populated by incredible numbers of storks bedeck the landscape; and forests of pine and cork trees line the quiet roads that snake towards nearby hamlets.
You won’t find many new build apartments or glammed-up residences akin to the ostentation of the Hamptons or upscale Ibiza, as there is a rule that houses can only be built upon ruins. This prevents the privileged from running rampant over the farmland and ensures that the classic, unfussy and simplistic aesthetic of the region is adhered to.
Whilst seasonal tourism has definitely increased in the area, this has (thankfully) done little to change the day-to-day lives of most locals. “Tranquilidade” reigns supreme and visitors will quickly find themselves absorbed into the slow rhythm and easy living of the villagers. A few bars pop up in Summer to support the needs of newcomers but other than that, holiday-makers will find themselves sitting amongst residents in the same cafés and restaurants they frequent all year round.
So, how did a luxury design hotel like Sublime Comporta come to be in such a village?
Hotel Sublime Comporta Country Retreat
Sublime Comporta was actually never meant to be. Gonçalo Pessoa and wife Patrícia Trigo originally bought the 17-hectares estate with the view to create a private retreat for their family. However, by 2014 it was clear that the potential for high-end tourism in the area was great and so the pair began to convert their holiday home into a boutique hotel.
Today, the original building holds the Spa, Owners’ Suite and four Friends’ Suites, and the hotel as a whole boasts 23 rooms and suites, as well as several two to five bedroom villas. There is also a Lobby Bar, outdoor pool, small gym, tennis court, organic garden and three restaurants on-site (including the Tasca restaurant and Pool Bar that are only open in Summer, and the extraordinary 12-person Food Circle tasting room that sits within the garden and whose ever-changing menu is inspired by the principles of Permaculture).
We take a short drive south from Comporta village to the gates of Sublime and meander down the plant-lined drive towards. What strikes us most on the initial is that there are no obvious, jutting buildings climbing out from the canopies. Instead, a scattered collection of contemporary wooden structures sits unobtrusively within the wilderness of an estate that is surrounded by undulating pine and cork trees, sand dunes, vineyards, rice fields and pristine, white-sand beaches.
We park and walk up the gravel path towards the main building – an open-planned structure inspired by the area’s traditional rice storage warehouses. Two reception desks flank the entrance, preceding a vast lobby with comfortable island seating arrangements, at the heart of which is an industrial style bar.
An inset fireplace holds court in a brick feature wall shared by the main Sem Porta restaurant, where we will be dining later but which is now hidden from sight by loose white curtains.
We are greeted by Guest Experience’s Sara Pedreda, who invites us to take a tour of the estate in a little golf buggy. We hop in and veer to the left where the three to five bedroom villas have been built. “Sublime opened as a hotel in 2014”, Sara tells us as we zip along.
“At the beginning, there were only 15 rooms and it was meant as a couples’ retreat. However, the owners started to get a lot of requests from families so they decided to change the concept and build two, three, four and five bedroom villas. The bigger villas are on the left of the main building and the two-bed ones are on the other side, so there is a separation of groups and families, and couples wanting privacy.”
We jump out at a four-bedroom villa squirreled away within the landscape in such a way that it is secluded from the neighbouring accommodation and feels very much part of the land it inhabits. A timber walkway directs us to the wood and glass cabana where a tree trunk continues to grow through a cut-out in the deck, acting as a totem to the nature the property has been integrated into.
“All the villas have been inspired by traditional the fisherman’s house. They used to build houses with a living room and a kitchen first. Then, when they had kids, they built each bedroom onto the sides of the house.”
Inside, the space is huge, with an open-plan living space to the left and a long corridor to the right, off which the rooms have been built. The decor is very clean and simple, reminiscent of traditional Comporta cabanas with white walls, vaulted ceilings, woven rugs, and a lot of wood. Sara informs us that each villa has an owner who receives a percentage of the price of bookings and who is able to block out dates for whenever they intend on visiting. Villas are therefore decorated to greater or lesser extends, depending on their owner’s proclivities, however they all have local art work and a rustic Comporta style.
The two master bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, with freestanding baths and glass-fronted showers (one looking out into the surroundings, with a reed fence for privacy). One benefits from a dual aspect fireplace between a sleeping area and living space, as well as a separate walk-in wardrobe. A feature that we quite enjoy is the fact that most lighting comes from lamps, with very little ceiling spotlighting. This adds to the rooms’ homey and natural feel whilst giving guests the ability to curate their light-scape to their tastes.
The entrance to the shared space opens up to an impressive hanging wood burner that resides between the kitchen and living room and swivels to direct heat to where people are seated. A slick, contemporary kitchen stocked with Bosch appliances and ample storage is perfect for self-catered getaways and the sturdy ten-seater dining table makes entertaining easy. Large, white linen sofas positioned around rough hewn tables are incredibly inviting and recall furnishings in beach houses.
We see the shining turquoise of the up-lit pool outside and venture towards it. Stretching nearly the whole length of the villa, with a covered outside dining area at one end and a fire pit at the other, this is the jewel in the crown of the villa’s offerings. Bathers can sun themselves on loungers in complete privacy thanks to the tree cover, and this separate space ensures that visitors never feel overcrowded.
The Bio-Pool Suites
We hop back into the buggy and make our way to the other side of the estate where the newly opened Bio-Pool Suites are. Built on stilts and located on a large biological swimming pool, these cabanas opened in 2019 and were inspired by the artisanal fishing port of Carrasqueira (the only wooden stilted port left in Europe).
Each suite building has its own curtained terrace and private access to the natural pool. No chemicals are used in the water and it is kept clean using seaweed and regular maintenance.
Inside, the décor continues to pay tribute to Comporta’s traditional decorative techniques: exposed beams with reed matting framing the rafters adds texture and depth, woven plates act as objet d’art, and basket lighting inspired by traditional roof-thatching hang above crisp white bed linen.
These little havens are the perfect romantic retreat for couples and we’re not surprised to hear how popular they are with locals and international visitors alike.
Our villas tour completed, Sara drops us off at the spa building. We are greeted by the friendly receptionist, Ana, and wander passed her to the glass-fronted sitting room that looks out onto a sunken fire pit and the hotel’s outdoor pool beyond. We bravely venture out for a quick toe-dip in the unheated waters before thinking better of it and instead flopping down in the three-cushion-deep sofas whilst perusing the treatment menu.
It soon becomes clear to us that synergy and sustainability are important factors for Sublime’s spa. Treatments use locally sourced ingredients such as rice and sea salt, as well as plants from their 350-species-strong garden and certified organic oils. These are carried out in the small treatment room downstairs and can be booked in advance.
The downstairs area also houses a small heated pool, changing rooms, a sauna and a steam room. These are all very very small, with preference given to the outdoor pool in the Summer, however they are nice features to have. With the introduction of new suites and rooms throughout the hotel, we wonder if more treatment rooms will open in the near future to accommodate the growing pool of guests.
After a dip in the pool – it’s definitely too small to do more than float about in it for a bit and all three of the provided loungers were occupied – we head back to the lobby for a pre-dinner cocktail at the bar.
Bartender André hands us the leather and wood menu and we lean back in our stool, admiring the complementing décor. The thatched basket lighting that we saw in the Bio-Pool Suites proliferate, casting warm dappled light throughout the space. The bar itself is an island made of a burnished metal scaffolding structure, fronted with wooden panelling and topped with unfussy white marble. Beyond it, sofas overlook the pool outside, with deck seating available for warmer days.
To drink, we opt for Conquer (€16),one of the four Signature Cocktails, as well as a Negroni. A deceptively strong drink with Portuguese brandy, dry white port and cocao bitters, Conquer’s heft is balanced with juicy orange that helps realise the fruity characteristics of the brandy and port. Garnishes of burnt rosemary and cracked black pepper add gentle herbal and earthy notes to create a well-devised and easy to drink cocktail. The Negroni is also good and a strong example of the classic aperitivo.
The curtains to Sem Porta (meaning “Without Doors”) have been pulled back to reveal an open, bustling space filled with hotel guests and visiting diners.
Sem Porta Restaurant
The architecture of the lobby carries through and the décor is sophisticated yet relaxed, with stylish and comfortable leather chairs, banquette seating around olive trees, and a natural palette of warm woods and exposed brick.
Sem Porta puts local produce at the heart of its menu, with Chef Tiago Santos using regional products, working with local fishermen, farms, hunters and wineries, as well as utilising produce from the hotel’s organic garden wherever possible.
Sublime Comporta is a perfect example of a hotel in a new tourist destination that is doing it right. There is no bending over backwards to cater for the whims of international visitors or Disney-fying local people and practices. Instead, Sublime gives an honest depiction of Alentejo, the slow living culture of the region, and easy style of Comporta.
Locals and travellers alike can enjoy the upscale hospitality and genuine offerings, blending into the background for a true and unpretentious experience, without pomp but with every comfort at hand.
If other hotels in the area can take a leaf out of Sublime’s book, the precious authenticity of the area will be kept in tact and respectful visitors will be able to enjoy the peace and “tranquilidade” for a long time to come.
Prices start from €170 per night for two adults (£160 per night for two adults).
Sublime Comporta, N261-1, 7570-337 Grândola, Portugal