Natal is best known for its incredible beaches. This charming Brazilian city attracts lots of visitors (both domestic and international) who come here to enjoy surf, sand and seafood. A typical day ends with ordering a minty mojito from a beachside bar and toasting to the glorious sunshine. There's history to discover too: founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, Natal has a scattering of colonial architecture and a couple of interesting museums.
You can stay in an artistic Natal hostel where you'll be welcomed with a free Caipirinha. Or how about a tropical hostel filled with lush plants from all over Brazil? There's also a hostel with an on-site bar and en-suite bathrooms just a stroll from the beach. Most Natal hostels here have serene outdoor spaces with chairs and tables to take your complimentary breakfast, which will typically include coffee, cakes, fresh fruit, bread and even regional couscous.
The most popular neighbourhood in Natal is Ponta Negra – a beach area with huge sand dunes and good waves for water sports. It's also the spot for exciting nightlife, seafood restaurants and rustic beach hangouts. One of the historical areas is at the mouth of the Potengi River, where you'll find Forte dos Reis Magos, a star-shaped 16th-century fortress with cannons, soldiers’ quarters and a chapel. There's also the Cidade Alta (the old part of the city), which is dotted with museums.
The beaches are the main attraction in Natal. If you're up for adventure, head north to Genipabu and take a buggy ride across the dunes where you can brave vertical descents and high speed if you're looking for an adrenaline rush. There are also surfboards and paddle boards for hire along Ponta Negra beach. Around 15km south of Ponta Negra stands the world's largest cashew tree – its tangled branches spread out for hundreds of metres (definitely worth a photo).
The city's airport, Aeroporto de Natal, is about 35km west of Ponta Negra in São Gonçalo do Amarante. The quickest way to get into town is by taxi (the bus takes a couple of hours as you'll need to change a few times and there are lots of stops). There's also the option of a shared van that must be booked three hours in advance. Beach buggies are a popular way to get around the coast in Natal – even for long trips.