I admit without much pleasure that Portofino is a must destination for anyone visiting Cinque Terre. My only pet peeve is that it has become so touristy and bling that I feel it has lost its charm...
In any case, staying in Santa Margherita Ligure, 4 KM away, was great. Less touristy, w/ plenty of great restaurants within walking distance, and a very beautiful, 1-hour, walk away from Portofino.
In fact, for that walk alone, it was definitely worth the stop-over... Plenty of beautiful vistas and spots to take a quick dip into the crystal clear blue sea. Instead of taking 1 hour as we did, i would return and take a whole day by lingering here and there along the way.
We returned from Portofino by boat (each hour on the hour) and again had a lovely time admiring the many super yachts anchored in the bay.
Besides, the area around Portofino is a country park, not only in the hills but also in the sea so that the scuba diving is absolutely world class.
In Portofino, we had a very nice lunch (and well priced, even though many people in other websites complained that restaurants there are generally over-priced) at Taverna del Marinaio directly 1 step away from the marina and made for a very nice vista. In Santa Margherita Ligure, we went for Skipper directly on the harbour. Excellent service and great local wine list. The mussels were absolutely lip-smacking! For wines, we went for anything made with the Pigato grape which was nicely refreshing with lovely fruity and flowery aromatics. It reminded me of a cros between pinot grigio and gewurztraminer in some way. Lovely.
We stayed @ Grand Hotel Miramare, 1 stone throw from the Mediterranean sea. Excellent service, very very comfortable rooms, old world charm, and lovely view over the bay. Highly recommended!