Comporta, in Alcácer do Sal, Setúbal, is filled with summer magic and smells of holidays and freedom. This is a place where days seem to be longer and where you always have something exciting to do. And when Lisbon's upper class wants to escape the hustle and bustle of such a touristic city, they get their bags and run for Comporta. This natural paradise offers crystal-clear waters and views of the Parque Natural da Serra da Arrábida.
This place was virtually unknown up until recently, given that it was in the hands of the crown, of a British holding and, later, the Espírito Santo family, one of the richest in Portugal. It was appreciated for its fields of rice and beaches, but it wasn't until the beginning of the century that interest in the area really took off. Ricardo Salgado, banker and head of the Espírito Santo family, created the Herdade da Comporta, with the intention of turning it into a prime touristic destination.
Even when the family bank collapsed and was found to have been involved in corruption scandals with former prime minister José Sócrates, the area came into the spotlight to become one of the most chic locations on the Portuguese coast. Nowadays it is the favourite summer destination of the Lisbon and Cascais elite and has grown to offer all the services needed to cater to such high end tourists.
Christian Louboutin, Jacques Grange, Philippe Starck and Anselm Kiefer are among those who own homes here and it has been described as the equivalent to the Hamptons in Portugal, a secluded, exclusive and chilled place to spend the summer months.
Holidays in Comporta: what to do and what to see
If you're a fan of the beach this is the place to be. Start by taking a swim in Comporta’s blue waters and then relax while sunbathing and eating the traditional bola de berlim (a doughnut like pastry filled with egg custard).
All around the beach you will find lots of great places to go for a walk, with precious views and surrounded by nature. Make sure to spot the storks, a symbol of fertility and Comporta’s signature animal. Their intricate nests on top of electricity pylons and churches are impossible to miss.
If you are looking for an unbelievable experience you can take your car for a short five minute ride to Cavalos na Areia, where you can arrange to go horse riding on the beach or rent a kayak.
If you want a bit more culture and tradition, you can also visit the Museu do Arroz (Rice Museum) to learn more about the rice production in the area throughout the years. It’s located in an old factory, built in 1952, and you will be able to look at machines, devices and photographs that tell the factory’s story. To end your visit you can have lunch in the Museum’s restaurant where the specialty is rice, of course!
Another good option is to go for a visit to the Caves da Herdade da Comporta, a famous local winery. The entry price is around eight euro and includes a tasting of four of the listed wines.
To end the day, you must visit Cais Palafítico da Carrasqueira, one of the area’s the most visited places. This unique masterpiece is made from wood and serves as a dock for the fishing boats, the perfect place to watch the sunset.
Beaches in Comporta
Comporta and the whole region of Sétubal have some paradisiacal beaches that are undoubtedly some of the best beaches in Portugal, being garlanded with the prestigious Blue Flag beach award. The area is known for being an excellent surfing spot, but is also fit for anyone who just wants some rest and relaxation in the sun. For a relaxing getaway to a beach near Lisbon, check out these 3 suggestions:
- Praia da Comporta
Comporta Beach is the main beach in this area near Lisbon and is located inside a nature reserve, surrounded by pine trees and rice paddies that isolate it from the rest of Comporta. It’s so wide that you can hardly see where it ends, and you can even hire horses here to gallop from one end to the other with the wind whipping your hair. If horses aren’t your thing, try riding the waves instead with a surfboard or kitesurf board. Afterwards, you can wind down with a drink in the Café Comporta and if you stay after the sun goes down even enjoy some live music here right by the beach.
- Praia do Pego
The wild and unspoilt Pego Beach is an absolute must-see when you visit Comporta. It has been recognised as one of the best beaches in the world with a Blue Flag, and it’s not hard to see why. Between the sand dunes you can explore on one side and the sunbeds and parasols perfect for relaxing on the other, it’s no surprise that this is a favourite haunt of the aforementioned local celebrities, the Espírito Santo family. While you’re there, check out the SAL restaurant for its exquisite arroz com tamboril rice and fish dish, and try your hand at fishing or surfing, which are popular in the area.
- Praia do Carvalhal
This beach also has Blue Flag status, but is more of a secret than the Praia do Pego. The sea at Carvalhal Beach is calm and gentle, and there are no buildings for miles around, so you’ll feel totally secluded on this paradise beach. Nonetheless, it’s still a great place to surf, kitesurf, fish and play volleyball, or simply enjoy some traditional, local food in the Dos Pescadores beach bar. Thanks to the walkways that lead right onto the beach, the Praia do Carvalhal is one of the beaches in the Sétubal area with the easiest access for disabled people.
Another good suggestion is to spend one (or more) of your summer days in Tróia, another beautiful beach area in Setúbal.
Where to eat
Portugal is known for its great food and especially for its seafood. Comporta is no exception and you can find really delicious food everywhere. Make sure you try the choco frito, fried cuttlefish, seasoned with garlic and cilantro, the region’s most traditional dish.
From the many restaurants you can find in the area we recommend:
- Comporta Café – a seaside restaurant with great dishes and modern decoration. You can sit on the sand, look at the sea and listen to the DJ while you have a great meal.
- 5 Sentidos Carvalhal – close to Praia do Carvalhal, you can find this amazing restaurant. Go for dinner and try the Ameijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams prepared with a garlic and olive oil-based sauce), the Feijoada de Polvo com Camarão (octopus and bean stew with shrimp) and to finish off the Bolo Húmido Alfarroba com Vinho do Porto (moist carob cake with Oporto wine). Just delicious!
Where to stay
- Casas na Areia – an amazing hotel composed of individual houses, where you don’t have to worry about cleaning the sand off your feet: the floor is all made of sand! If you want to relax in a cabin, with modern wood decorations and linen sheets by the seaside, make your reservation!
- Sublime Comporta – this 14-room retreat lives up to its name. Once the private estate of a prominent Portuguese family, the 42-acre swath of land is now occupied by a small home that houses several bedrooms, private villas with private pools and a main lodge that serves as a gathering place, bar and designer boutique and reception area.
- Cabanas no Rio – the same architect that created Casas na Areia created this hotel. Two wooden huts that were carved out of old wood, standing near Comporta. Don’t be fooled by their size, these private accommodations have everything you need, from a stylish kitchen to a canopy bed and a canoe to hop on the river.
How to get to Comporta
From Lisbon you can get to Comporta:
- By car – 75 miles away taking the A2 road
- You can take a train from Lisbon to Setubal, the ferry across to Troia, then either a bus or taxi from there.
There are also buses between Lisbon and Setubal in some cases they're faster than the trains. See www.tsultejo.pt. You can consult train times on www.fertagus.pt (n.b. these are not national CP trains, there are separate ticket machines and ticket offices at all stations). You can also find all the information about the ferry on www.atlanticferries.pt.
Once you get to Troia there are a few buses from the other side at Troia to Comporta.
- Route 8148 -two per day, Sundays included - http://www.rodalentejo.pt/XlsHtml/H148.pdf
- Route 8319 - three per day, weekdays only - http://www.rodalentejo.pt/XlsHtml/H319.pdf
- Route 8346 - three per day, weekdays only - http://www.rodalentejo.pt/XlsHtml/H346pne.pdf