Top areas in Natal
Natal was founded in the 16th century, but unlike other Brazilian capitals, this one didn't follow after Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. Instead, this sand-swept city purposefully plodded along, piecing itself together a little at a time. Natal's moment has finally come, and great numbers of domestic and international tourists are taking notice.
Sand factors into everything in Natal. Most notably, it sweeps itself into massive dunes that loom on every side of town. Tourists can charter a buggy for off-road exploration of the dunes, or they can simply admire them from the balcony of their hotel in Natal center. This is the kind of resort town that invites guests to do as much, or as little, as they're inclined.
With that in mind, the real sandy attraction here is the beach. Natal doesn't have the historic character of other Brazilian cities, but it's hard find fault with that when the beach and resorts are so ideal. In the past, Praia do Meio and Praia do Aristas were the main beaches, but favor has fallen to the south on Ponta Negra in recent years. It's especially attractive for surfers and those who aspire to learn.
Ponta Negra Beach, especially the 'alto' region above it, remains a favorite location after sunset, when its waterfront restaurants and bars light up. The scene is constantly evolving, but this broad, sandy beach still hosts the best collection of shops, cafés and accommodation in Natal.
In a twist on the 'Christmas in July' mentality, Natal celebrates Carnatal, or 'Carnival in December'. It's a huge hit with Brazilian tourists, so Fernando de Noronha Airport and the local hotels are especially busy at this time.
For more information on hotels and landmarks in the different areas of Natal, click on the interactive Natal map on the left-hand side of the page.