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Natal is one of the best places to visit in Northeast Brazil for travelers. The city is the gateway to many stunning beach towns and is home to lots of amazing things to see and do. In this blog, we share the 9 best things to do in Natal, Brazil as well as other info on the city so you can have the best trip possible!
As we ventured to the northeast of Brazil we were a little wary. We hadn’t heard many amazing things, and we read that this region was more dangerous than the south.
Natal was one of our first stops, and well, our expectations couldn’t have been more wrong. Natal was this beautiful coastal paradise filled with friendly smiles and Brazilians just having a good time.
Despite being a big city, most visitors (including ourselves) stay on the coast. This puts you only minutes from the beach and the busy streets filled with cheap food and fresh coconuts!
On top of that, Natal offered us one of the best adventure tours we did in Brazil… exploring sand dunes in a high-powered dune buggy! After experiencing everything we did, I must say that Natal is one of my favorite places I traveled to in Brazil.
Based on the things we did, we’ve written this blog about the 10 best things to do in Natal, Brazil. It’s the perfect list to inspire and prepare you for your upcoming visit!
1. Visit the World’s Largest Cashew Tree – Cajueiro de Pirangi
On our first day in Natal, we ventured from our hotel to take a bus a few kilometers south to the world’s largest cashew tree. The tree is called Cajueiro de Pirangi which just means “Cashew Tree of Priangi” (the town it’s located in.)
I had no idea what to expect before I arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by this massive tree. Cashew trees grow more like a vine but with solid branches and trunks. So the tree wasn’t tall, but it covers over 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet)!
At Cajueiro de Pirangi we tried cashew juice, cashew Cachaça (alcohol), and many different candy-coated cashews. We walked around under the tree and climb up to a lookout to get a birds-eye view.
Overall, it was a really neat experience and I can now say I’ve seen the world’s largest cashew tree!
Important info: Entrance to Cajueiro de Pirangi is only $8 BRL ($1.50 USD). To get there you can either take a taxi or a bus. To find the right bus just ask your hotel as there are a few that will get you there.
2. Go on a Sand Dune Buggy Tour
The following day we decided we wanted a little more adventure! So, we organized to go on a dune buggy tour of the famous Natal sand dunes.
This is a very popular thing to do in Natal – and for good reason, it was so much fun! The tour takes you to various sand dunes north of Natal, as well as beaches and freshwater pools that are created by rainwater in the dunes.
There are many different companies and drivers in Natal. We chose a very professional company called Marazul Receptivo. Our driver was named Pedro and he spoke great English. On the tour, he explained lots of facts to us the entire way. The buggy was in perfect condition and although Pedro made the ride crazy (as we requested) we felt totally safe.
The ride is full of adrenaline! The drivers go very fast and sometimes you feel like the buggy is going to flip or you will fall out – but it never happens. It’s better than any rollercoaster that’s for sure!
Besides the craziness, you get some beautiful views of beaches and golden sand dunes. The driver also stops at zip lines, sandboarding hills, cocktail stands, and a restaurant. But my favorite was the slip-and-slide pictured above… it was so much fun!
It makes for a fun-filled day! You absolutely cannot come to the northeast of Brazil and miss this. In fact, the buggy tour was one of the best things we did in Brazil.
Important info: Expect to pay around $200-$250 ($37-$46.50 USD) per person for a full-day dune buggy tour. The drivers usually speak English and will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation in Ponta Negra, Natal. You can book the exact tour we did here.
3. Visit the Beach Town of Pipa
When it comes to small beach towns in Brazil, Pipa is easily my favorite. Not only can you escape the crowds to more secluded beaches, but there’s also a ton of awesome things to do in Pipa.
From Natal, you can easily get to Pipa. Bailey and I stayed a few nights in Pipa and loved it. We stayed at a great hostel called Lagarto Na Banana Hostel and spent our mornings doing yoga and afternoons by the water. With that said, you can also visit on a day trip from Natal.
Pipa consists of only a few streets filled with small shops and lots of hotels. Nearby there are beautiful beaches including Baía dos Golfinhos where you can regularly see dolphins. Pipa is also a famous surf town, so if you’re into surfing or want to learn, you simply must visit!
A really easy way to explore Pipa is on this bike and hiking tour for $32 USD. Instead of just being bussed from stop to stop you will actually get to participate in the sightseeing as your small group will bike along the coast and through Pipa’s cute streets. Then, hike to Santuario Ecologico de Pipa, an eco preserve, and try to spot turtles and dolphins.
From Natal, it takes around an hour by bus to get to Pipa and you can either take a local bus or a shuttle through your hotel.
In my opinion, a day trip isn’t enough time in Pipa. But, if you are short on time, then a day trip is better than not going at all. You can book day tours to Pipa like this one which cost $25.50 USD and includes your transport to and from Pipa, as well as a guide to show you around so you don’t waste any valuable time! In addition, there is also some free time to swim or explore and shop in the village.
4. Explore Fortaleza dos Reis Magos
We were so tempted to spend our entire time in Natal at the beach. Luckily though, one morning we found some motivation and decided to learn some history at Fortaleza dos Reis Magos.
It was interesting to see an actual fort from the 1600s. The walls of the building were meters thick and some canons on the roof remained. There were a lot of rooms to explore but the best place was the roof. The views from the fort roof were spectacular! We could see beaches, the city, and even a guy riding a miniature pony up and down the beach.
Entrance to the fort is free, so expect a free activity. The place could definitely use a little TLC, but overall it was worth a visit.
The fort is most easily reached by Uber. It is also possible to take the local bus from Ponta Negra (where most hotels are), just be wary of your valuables on the bus. We were told by our hotel and Uber driver that robberies just outside the fort are common, so it’s best to take a cab or Uber. Knowing this, we still walked back to Ponta Negra with no problems.
5. Spend the day at the beach
Being a coastal city, Natal is surrounded by beautiful beaches. One of the best things to do in Natal is to simply spend a day at the beach enjoying the sunshine and Brazilian culture. That was great news for me as I love the beach!
The best part is though, depending on what you like, you can find a beach perfect for you. Below are a few beaches in the area and a little bit about them so you can choose the best beach for you!
Ponta Negra Beach: The most famous beach in Natal is Ponta Negra Beach. This large beach is within walking distance from most hotels and the rather calm waters make it perfect for swimming. Of course, being so close to the city, this beach is also very busy. The shoreline is lined with restaurants and bars, so if that’s not your style of beach, then you may want to pick another. If you don’t care to swim it can also be visited on this private history and beaches of Natal tour.
Camurupim Beach: This is the calmest beach near Natal. Located 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) south of the city, the entire beach is protected by a reef. This has created a calm bay perfect for kids and those who can’t swim well. The beach is best visited around high tide, as at low tide, less water fills the large pool. The beach does attract crowds but is nowhere near Ponta Negra Beach. You can reach the beach by public bus.
Pirangi Beach: If you’re going to visit Cajueiro de Pirangi (cashew tree) then be sure to stop at Pirangi Beach. This beach is really beautiful and if you head north along the beach you can find some really quiet and beautiful areas to relax. Of course, if you want to sip coconuts and beers then just head to the south side of the beach where all the restaurants are!
The three beaches above give you great options on where to spend your time in Natal. I personally enjoyed them all for their own charm. No matter what beaches you choose to visit, a day at the beach is one of the best activities in Natal!
If you’re traveling more around Northeast Brazil, then be sure to check out some of the best beaches in and around Salvador, Brazil – there are some really special ones!
6. Shop at the Hand Craft Potiguar Mall, Natal
Bailey was in need of a new bathing suit so our hotel suggested we head to the Hand Craft Potiguar Mall to do some shopping. From the outside, we were weary at what we’d find, but wow, there was so much stuff to browse!
Apparently, there are around 270 stalls, however, we only visited a fraction of that! The stalls sell just about everything from clothing to handcrafted goods and food. You could easily spend a good few hours here and enjoy a nice lunch. We came for only a bathing suit but left with lots more!
If you love shopping or just want to pick up a souvenir, then the Hand Craft Potiguar Mall is the perfect thing to do in Natal. The mall is located in Ponta Negra and you can walk or take a cab. Just tell the cab driver to take you to Shopping Artesanato Potiguar.
7. Drink cheap coconuts
One thing I absolutely loved about Brazil was the fresh coconuts. Almost every day I had a coconut either at the beach or around town. They’re perfect for hydration and are delicious.
However, in the south, a coconut would cost around $7 BRL ($1.30 USD). So when I arrived in Natal and saw coconuts as cheap as $1 BRL (less than $0.19 cents), I was in heaven!
You can find the coconut stands all along Ponta Negra Beach but if you want the cheapest coconuts you’ll need to walk north towards the fort. This area is more of a local beach and here the coconuts are super cheap.
Related Read: If you are a backpacker make sure to take some of our valuable tips before backingpacking in Brazil – a lot of things we had to learn the hard way.
8. Eat fresh seafood at Camaroes Restaurante
If you love seafood as much as Bailey and I do, then Natal is going to be a real treat! During our stay, we ate seafood at lots of places including small restaurants at the beach.
It was all really good but nothing beat the seafood at Camaroes Restaurante. This famous restaurant is one of the best in Natal and the seafood is delicious. A dish here costs around $110 BRL ($20.50 USD) but they are sized for 2 people to share (and even with two people the portions are huge.)
Honestly, at Camaroes Restaurante you are paying for the quality of the seafood and the service, but it’s totally worth it! This was one of our favorite restaurants in Brazil.
9. Take a photo with the “I <3 Natal” Sign
Can you really come to Natal and not take a selfie or photo with the I Love Natal sign? Probably, but you came all the way here so you may as well play tourist.
The sign is found just on the outskirts of Ponta Negra along the beach. Surprisingly the sign can attract a crowd, but I went in the morning it was rather deserted.
This won’t be the most amazing thing you do in Natal but you’ll likely pass by the sign on a trip to the beach. So stop, take a photo, and enjoy the magnificent views of the ocean!
Related Read: Many people fly in to the captial of Brazil – if that is your plan then start reading and get a headstart on all the other amazing things to do in Rio de Janeiro!
10. Tour the city
While the outdoor activities and beaches are Natal’s main lure that shouldn’t discredit how nice the intercity is!
Go and gaze at or photograph one of the tallest cable bridges in Brazil. The Newton Navarro Bridge over the Potengi River stands 100 meters (328 feet)! A great spot in particular for a nice view of the bridge is Redinha Beach – especially during sunset!
There are also plenty of awesome cafes, street food stalls, and restaurants to try in Natal for when you get hungry!
If you want to learn more about Natal’s history and famous buildings you should go on a city tour like this one which stops at 30 different landmarks around the historic center including institutions, museums, and famous houses. Your guide will teach you the significance of these places that you wouldn’t know by simply wandering around on your own – it is safer this way too! It costs $19 USD and lasts 3 hours.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Portuguese word for Christmas is “natal”? Well, the city of Natal was founded on December 25th in 1599 which is how its name came to be. It’s THE city to visit during Christmastime as they really go crazy with festivities and decorations. They even put up a giant 120-meter-high (394 feet) Christmas tree.
How to Get to Natal
From Fortaleza, we caught a bus for $80 BRL ($14.85 USD) to Natal. The journey is about 8 or 9 hours.
Unfortunately, the bus station in Natal is about 20 km (12.4 mi) from the tourist area of Ponta Negra. For that reason, you need to get a cab or take the bus. The bus is cheaper and bus number 66 will take you close to hotels in Ponta Negra.
A taxi or Uber will cost you around $50 BRL ($9.30 USD).
In the opposite direction, Natal is easily reached by a short 2-hour bus from Pipa or a longer 5-hour bus from Recife. Expect to pay about $90 BRL ($16.70 USD) for this bus.
To plan your bus route I recommend using either Busbud or Bookaway. Here, you can find out bus times, distances, and prices to and from practically anywhere!
Where to Stay in Natal
Republika Hostel: Republika Hostel is a really good option for those on a budget starting at just $10 USD for a dorm bed but there are also private double rooms for $30 USD. The hostel is close to Ponta Negra Beach, shops, and restaurants. The hostel includes breakfast in the room rates and can organize tours in Natal. Overall, a great option for social travelers. This is where we stayed and it was a good experience!
You can check availability on Booking.com and Hostelworld
Elegance Hotel Natal Beira Mar: If proximity to the beach is important, but you’re still on a budget, then Elegance Hotel Natal Beira Mar is perfect. The hotel is very simple and the facilities are not luxurious at all, but it’s clean, bright, and right on the beach! You can opt to upgrade to a room that has a kitchenette and a minibar but their basic room only costs $47 USD per night.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Coral Plaza Apart Hotel: if you can spend a little more then you can’t beat this hotel for about $75 USD a night. It’s an oceanfront property with two pools that look out to Ponta Negra Beach. The large hotel has rooms with ocean views and all of them include AC, a kitchenette, and a minibar. The grounds are stunning and facilities include a restaurant, bar, jacuzzi, and day spa. You can add the breakfast buffet and choose from breads, baked goods, fresh fruits, and cold cuts.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
Overall our time in Natal was great! It was a beautiful city was several things to do and see. I easily could’ve spent another two or three days there just relaxing on the beach drinking coconuts and caipirinhas.
We hope our list of things to do in Natal has inspired you to check out Natal, Brazil. We know you will love it as much as we did! If you like this blog, then be sure to check out all our Brazil travel guides or these related blogs below!
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Sunday 19th of February 2017
Thanks for the follow :)