Natal is one of the most beautiful cities in the northeast of Brazil, with tropical beaches, coconut trees, palms and dunes. It is also and at the closest point to both Europe and Africa, with direct flights to Portugal, cutting the travel times between Europe and Brazil.
The northeast of Brazil is where you will find warmer waters, tropical climates year round, and also the most affordability. Natal is considered the most expensive city in the northeast, however compared with the rest of the country, it is considered just 2 out of 10 with 10 being the most expensive cities in Brazil. Overall Natal has plenty of natural beauty, beaches everywhere and their famous dune buggy tours, which take people up and down the coast, visiting a variety of remote locations.
Natal is also the closest point to both Europe and Africa, with frequent direct flights from Portugal. Natal has several other great things going for it. The 2nd cleanest air in the world, the 2nd most sun light hours per year, a climate that stays between 22-32C, and close proximity to the equator.
Heavy advertising in Europe has brought over many European investors and tourists which have helped greatly in improving the tourism infrastructure. Natal is also one of the safest capital cities in Brazil, although all over Brazil crime has been increasing so it is important to be aware of your surroundings and best to not carry any expensive valuables that would attract undue attention.
Real estate developers in Natal have built a large number of apartments directed towards investors and international tourism. These places are small at 50sq/m or roughly 500sq/f but they have just enough room for the occasional visitor. They also all tend to face the water, so they get a constant breeze and an amazing view. Prices have been coming down in recent years, while the Real versus USD and Euro has also been devaluing, making these properties far more affordable. Many people use these apartments for part time retirement, coming down for 3-6 months of they year to enjoy the warm weather climate.
Natal has some of the cleanest air in the world, with most of it blowing over directly from Africa via the Atlantic ocean, the breeze is around the clock and makes AC in most places unnecessary, as long as the breeze isn't blocked. Many of the homes and buildings are designed to allow for constant airflow through them, with shutters that are built permanently open. Since the climate never changes much in Natal, this is possible and part of the culture. Many areas are simply open to the outdoors in homes and businesses because being inside is essentially the same as being outside, except there is no direct sunshine!
Rain is usually not an issue in Natal, with storm lasting a few hours at most, with everything drying within 30 minutes of the rain stopping. The tropical heat evaporates all the water extremely quickly, so even during the most harsh tropical storms, everything will dry out within a very short time frame.
There is a rainy season, where rain can come for several days at a time, which is from June to August, which coincides with winter in the southern hemisphere. The rain can be relentless during this time, but often dune buggy tours can still operate by simply taking visitors far enough up the coast that they circumvent the clouds. The weather during the winter months is also slightly cooler, being in the 22-30C range, which for many can be hotter than their summer months back home!
The tourism industry has exploded in Natal, and one of the most popular tourism activities are the dune buggy tours. These tours start out in Natal and go out into the dunes surrounding the city and take visitors to various interesting areas and activities setup throughout the area, specifically for these tours. There are several different dune buggy tours available in Natal, but all of the operators are government regulated and must follow a specific path for each tour. These tours end up going through ecologically protected areas and even private property, so only licensed tour operators can take you on these tours. The tours are a lot of fun, and highly recommended. They aren't your regular city tour, and they include a lot of fun activities along the way.
Ponta Negra is the primary destination for visitors to Natal, the area follows the coast line for roughly 4km up and down Ponta Negra beach. The best hotels in Natal are situated in this neighbourhood, along with many family owned pousadas and smaller hotels. Most hotels and pousadas are within a 5 minute walking distance to the beach, allowing tourists with easy access up and down the full length of the beach.
The beach has plenty of umbrellas with chairs that can be rented for R$15-$25, with the fees being waived if a certain amount of food or beverages is consumed. Confirm with the owner the prices before sitting down, and remember that each owner only has roughly 5-10 umbrellas. Most of the food is fairly expensive, however the drinks are a fairly standard price for Natal. Food vendors will come along constantly offering up a variety of different local treats. They are usually R$3-$10 each and a great way to taste the local foods. It is acceptable to purchase these foods while renting the umbrellas, so don't feel compelled to order foods off the menus the umbrella owners are pushing. Typical dishes include Cocada (A coconut based dessert), Shrimp, Friend Cheese, Corn on the cob, Crepes, Meat skewers, and Ice Cream.
The beach is well lit at night and a wonderful place to walk along. It is a safe place, but be mindful of your belongings, there are plenty of opportunists out there that will take advantage of you. Do not bring smart phones, as they are a huge target. With import taxes in Brazil coming out to nearly 100% and with the low wages, your cell phone will likely be valued at roughly R$3000, or up to 5 months of wages. They are extremely expensive items in Brazil and primary targets of thieves.
Pipa is a very small tourist city about a 2 hours bus or car ride from Natal, and mostly populated by foreigners who have moved to Brazil. It is a wonderful city to visit, with it's own beaches and tourism industry. One of the buggy tour destinations is Pipa and the bay of dolphins. It is a worth while place to visit if you are spending some time in Natal, but it will consume an entire day getting to and back from Pipa. If you're only in Natal for a short period, it might be worth taking a dune buggy tour out to Pipa. The tour doesn't give you a lot of time in Pipa, but will allow you to get a good feel for the area and to enjoy a good meal at the beach, while also enjoying a buggy tour up the coast. The tour also incorporates a small river crossing, which is only accessible by 4x4's or dune buggies. The normal route to Pipa requires going up the main highway and then roughly an hour drive back to the coast along a winding road.
Barra de Maxaranguape Beach in Natal
Pipa Beach in Natal
Dunas de Jacumã
Felipe Camarao Palace - Natal Historic Center
Jacumã Beach in Natal
Natal - Praia do Forte
Surfing - Praia do Amor - Pipa - RN - Brazil
Natal - Barra de Cunhaú Beach
Buzios Beach in Natal
Natal - Praia do Forte
Igreja do Galo - Natal Historic
São Miguel do Gostoso Beach in Natal
Natal - Parque Ecológico de Jenipabu
Trekking at Santuario Ecologico de Pipa
Tibau do Sul Beach in Natal