OFF THE GRID IN COMPORTA, PORTUGAL

My family had the pleasure of sharing one week in Comporta, Portugal with another family and it was truly one of the best laid back, no hassle vacations that we have taken.   This review is about this off the beaten path town in Portugal rather than a hotel.   The town of Comporta is roughly 90 minutes south (quicker if you take the ferry) from Lisbon and is nestled amongst thousands of acres of rice fields, incredible dune landscapes and amazing beaches.  The town itself is a very rural town with one Pharmacy, a dozen family run restaurants, a few trendy boutiques and home décor shops, one small but adequate super market and a few bars.  You can leave the gucci loafers at home….shorts, flip flops and t-shirts will place you appropriately attired for any occasion.  The locals could not be more charming and welcoming and the sense of family is everywhere.  Should you want a slightly more modern vibe the town of Troia is a mere 15 minute drive. Troika is more like a contemporary vacation town with an amazing golf course, more dinning and a few tours of local sites like ruins, market, dolphins etc.The beaches in and around Comporta are nothing short of spectacular.  We hit Praia (means beach) Comporta, Praia Pego and Praia Carvalhal each with ample parking (for 3 Euro you can park very close to the beach), amazing dunes as a back drop and the quaintest little beachside bars and restaurants.  There are chairs and Umbrellas for rent (roughly 20 Euro for 2 chairs and a fixed umbrella) or you can plunk down for free.  A typical day would be arrive just before noon, lunch from 2:30 till 4:30 and home around 7:00.  Sometimes we would arrive slightly later and stay for sunset, dinner at one of the seaside restaurants followed by some star gazing on the beach with the kids.  The food at the little beach side restaurants was always good with a few offering great.  Sals Restaurant at Pego beach was the one we, and many locals, thought was the best.  If the food slotted into the “good” category the overall dining experience was still amazing if only by the virtue of the stunning settings and pleasant staff.  The service is not as prompt as you may get in the USA but remember that you are on vacation, probably have a glass of wine in your hand and you can always stare at the rolling waves and seaside dunes as you wait for the salad to arrive.  For the most part I would recommend staying with the fish as it is ultra fresh (caught that day) and prepared very simply grilled with a bit of salt and pepper (believe me it needs no more).  Our lunches lasted two hours and dinners a fraction longer.If you are up for a short travel (12 – 15 minute drive) you can head south of Comporta to a small boutique hotel called Sublime Comporta (make a reservation).  Get there early for a drink in the garden and this may the one place were you put a bit of shine to your wardrobe (meaning less wrinkles in the shirt and probably no cut offs).   The dinning is more in the category of haute cuisine with a limited menu but everything is local produce very tasty with a very nice wine menu and high end white linen table service.   I would not recommend taking young kids here and if possible make it a couples evening.  Great setting, very nice service and excellent food.  More elaborate than the grilled fish, rice and vegetables that we had been feasting on.  We did not get a chance to look at the rooms but we got the impression that it was a very nice, well served little hotel. The pool and common areas were very nice.I am not sure when but we will be back to Comporta before long…and I only hope that Burger King and the Marriott don’t figure out what a little gem this is. There are very few Americans here, a few French and Germans and mostly Portugese families. (unlike the Algarve which is loaded with Brits, Germans and various Europeans).  If you are looking for the resort with room service, burger and fries, concierge service and pool side sunglass cleaning you won’t find it in Comporta.  This is a simple little town surrounded by stunning beaches and scenery and my guess is 10 years from now it will be a bit different…but I hope not.  House rental is probably your best option (and not expensive) but there are a few hotels.