Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, is a beautiful city that is on the corner of Brazil. By the way, it´s my hometown and my father is a Bachelor in Tourism and a tourist guide, who has the mission to present to tourists the beauties of Natal and RN for more than 15 years. Whith his help, I have listed some of my favorite places in the city and state coast that deserve to be visited. The script can be done in 8 days.
Getting to know the city
I am passionate about history and historical buildings and whenever I visit a place, I choose to begin my itinerary always getting to know the city, its history and culture. And Natal is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the country with influences of various people, Americans and Europeans (between 1633 and 1654, with the Dutch invasion, Natal was called New Amsterdam).
So, my suggestion is that on the first day in the city you will do a “city tour”. And so, you should start with the beginning. The first point is the Fortress of the Three Wise Men (Fortaleza dos Reis Magos), where it all began!
The best way to get there is Via Costeira, because on one side are the beaches of the road, hotels and urban beaches, and on the other Parque das Dunas (Park of the Dunes).
There are people who think that strong is all the same, but the Fortress of the Three Wise Men has its peculiarities starting with the shape, a polygon similar to a star, to keep a landmark of the discovery of Brazil, and especially the surrounding scenery.
I am suspected of recommending the visit because as I said I love everything related to history and the fortress has a lot to offer. But for those who do not enjoy much historical visits, it is worth at least taking a few pictures outside, the fortress and the surrounding landscape: the beaches of Forte and Redinha and the Newton Navarro Bridge (Ponte Newton Navarro), also called Forte-Redinha .
If you have the opportunity, climb the bridge and you will have one of the most incredible sights of the city: Potengi River, the urban beaches, the beaches of the North coast, the dunes of Genipabú and both sides of the city.
The Fortress of the Three Wise Men (Fortaleza dos Reis Magos) is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, from 8 am to 4 pm. Admission is free.
The next stop is the Natal Tourism Center. The visit is well worth it, because the Center is located in a beautiful building in the neoclassical style. Before that it was a prison. The building is located on top of a dune in the district of Petropolis and from there you have a beautiful view of the urban beaches, Potengi River and Newton Navarro Bridge.
Enjoy lunch at the Marenosso Restaurant, which offers delicious regional dishes, and be sure to order the famous cassava dumplings stuffed with sun meat (carne de sol), curd cheese (queijo coalho) and shrimp (camarão), made carfully arranged by Lúcia and Xica, which have been successful for more than two decades. For the main dish, nothing more Natalense (people born in Natal are called natalenses) than a traditional sun meat (carne de sol), accompanied with manioc (macaxeira), green beans and a kind of manioc flour (farofa d´água).
Still in the Tourism Center take advantage of, of course, buying some souvenirs of the legitimate potiguar (from Rio Grande do Norte) handicrafts. On the top floor of the Center there is also the Gallery of Contemporary Art.
Then, descend to the neighborhoods of Ribeira and the city center (Centro da Cidade) for historical insights (for those who enjoy it!). Do not miss Alberto Maranhão Theater (Teatro Alberto Maranhão), House of the folklorist Câmara Cascudo (Casa de Câmara Cascudo), open to visitors, Solar Bela Vista, Captaincy of the Arts (Capitania das Artes), Culture Palace (Palácio da Cultura), Old Cathedral (Catedral Velha) and André de Albuquerque Square (Praça André de Albuquerque), where there is a pillory and the Capitoline column (in the Historical and Geographical Institute).
At the end of the day, it is possible to enjoy a beautiful sunset on Pedra do Rosário, which is on the banks of the Potengi River. Just do not fool around, truth be told, the place is weird and not very safe. If you make a quick stop to make a click, no problem.
Beaches and Lakes
Who comes to Natal, of course, wants to enjoy a beach! And most famous of all of them is Ponta Negra Beach (Praia Ponta Negra) and its Morro do Careca. Take a day or at least one morning to enjoy the sun and the beach, an ice-cold beer or a green coconut and do not forget to photograph the hill!
In fact, the other urban beaches of Natal are not very frequented by tourists and the most famous ones, however, they are beaches that belong to neighboring municipalities: like the Beach of Genipabú, that is located in Extremoz, about 20 km from the center of Natal. The best way to get to know the beach of Genipabú is, without a doubt, doing the buggy ride.
The buggy ride lasts an average of 7 hours and passes through eight beaches: Redinha, Santa Rita, Genipabú, Graçandú, Porto Mirim, Pitangui, Jacumã and Muriú; Three lagoons: Lagoa de Genipabú, Lagoa de Jacumã and Lagoa de Pintangui, where a break is made to go swimming. In the Lagoon of Jacumã there are some fun activities to do such as the esquibunda (sandboarding), a board, where the person descends sitting on the dunes, falling in the lagoon; And the aerobunda, a kind of zip line that runs from the top of the dune to the water.
At the beginning of the tour, at Redinha beach, there is a stop at Natal Aquarium, which has animals of various marine species, including sharks. And of course, that during the buggy ride you will drive in the famous dunes of Genipabú. They are featured in: End of the World (Fim do mundo), Tunnel (Túnel), Hollywood to Success (Hollywood ao Sucesso), Caldeirão do Diabo and many others. Also visited are the Dunas Douradas, where the last scenes of the global soap opera “O Clone” were recorded. The whole ride can be done without emotion (“sem emoção”) or with emotion (“com emoção”, riskier ride and more fun)! =)
In Genipabú, there are also the camels and the driver always stops for anyone who wants to take the tour or take photos.
Attention! At the time of hiring a driver, make sure he is accredited at the State Tourism Office (Setur). You get a buggy ride for about R$ 400 (about 120 USD) for up to 4 people.
Another beach near Natal that cannot be missed is Pirangi do Norte, where the world largest Cajueiro (Cashew tree) is located, with an 8,400 square-meter canopy, and also the boat trip to the natural pools, offered by the marine (Marina Badauê).
The visit to the World’s Largest Cashew can be done daily from 7am to 6pm.
Adult: R$ 8 (about 2,30 USD)
Children between 7 and 12 years and elderly: R$ 4,00 (about 1,20 USD)
Child under 6 years does not pay.
On the way to Pirangi, on Rota do Sol, it is nice to stop at Barreira do Inferno Fireworks Launch Center, built by the Americans in 1965. The aerospace museum is open to visitors. The entrance is free.
Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
84 km from Natal, on BR 101 South, Pipa beach is one of the most famous in Rio Grande do Norte and it is the foreigner’s favorite one. The entrance is by the municipality of Goianinha to the municipality of Tibau do Sul, which includes a complex of beaches: Madeiro Beach, Dolphin Bay (Baía dos Golfinhos), Cacimbinhas, Minas, Amor and Pipa.
There are many options for excursions: boat trip to Dolphin Bay (Baía dos Golfinhos), with a stop for bathing with dolphins (in the Bay you can also get to walk, at low tide, a walk along the waterfront of about 30 min) ; A “tratrem” ride, a mix of tractor and train that leads to the Chapadão, more than 50 meters high, with a beautiful view of Praia do Amor (Love Beach) and the stone that gave the name of Pipa, besides the horizontal and vertical cliffs; and a boat ride along the complex of beaches.
For those who like to walk and do not want to spend a lot of money, it is possible to take a 40-minute hike from Pipa by the coast to Praia do Amor, climbing up cliffs with stones with curious characteristics, such as South America. Follow the dunes until you reach Boca da Baleia, which is the main attraction of the tour, where it is possible to walk under the vegetation and to go down the whole route you came up. At the end of the descent are the natural pools, between Pipa and Praia do Amor.
Pipa also has a busy shopping center with many shops, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. But the most is happing at night!
The gastronomy is also one of the attractions of the beach, which counts with chefs from all over the world and options from regional to international food. Among the locals, the most famous is Help and its cocadas (a traditional candy with coconut)! One tip from my father is the Marupiara restaurant in Cacimbinhas.
Next to Pipa, Barra do Cunhaú is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in the state. Around 90 km from Natal, by BR 101 South entering in Canguaretama, the river connects with the sea. There are concentrated the largest number of shrimp farms in the state, with RN being one of the largest producers in the country.
The boat trip is practically obligatory for those who visit the place. The walk is by the river, passing by the mangroves with a stop to catch crabs with your bare hands, until the island of Restinga, where on one side it is possible to go swimming in the ocean and on the other one in the river.
Barra do Cunhaú is one of the favorite destinations for kite surfers, where one of the stages of the World Circuit takes place.
The restaurant there is also sensational, with the seafood in Bahian’s tent or the moqueca (a kind of Fish soup) in the tent of Tonho. When you go there, ask for Banana do Tonho! That’s right, it’s a delicious dessert. Another restaurant that I point out is Bela Vista, which is high up in the city and has one of the most beautiful views of the place.
Baía Formosa, 96 km from Natal, is a surfer’s paradise. It is in the bay, where the shoals of mullets and dolphins feed and it is possible to see them with ease. From there starts also a buggy ride to Sagi beach, the last one in the state, on the border to Paraíba, with a stop for swimming and a visit to a wind energy park. On the way, there is a cachaçaría (like a winery, just for cachaça) on the waterfront, with free tasting. The cachaças produced in Baía Forma and neighboring cities are of various flavors.
You can also get to know Mata Estrela by buggy, with almost 5,000 hectares of native Atlantic Forest and varied flora and fauna. There is also the Coca Cola Lagoon, which got its name due to the dark color of the water, but despite the color, the bath is wonderful and the water is clean, spouting from the ground at an average temperature of 26°C.
On the north coast, Maracajaú is a fishing village that is 70 km from Natal, going by BR 101 north. There is Manoa Park, a water park with water slides, swimming pools, waterfalls, whirlpools and water toys, as well as a bar and restaurant structure. It is worth the visit, mainly, for those traveling with children.
From Manoa Park also leave catamarans or boats to the coral barrier of Maracajaú, that is located about 7 km into the sea. In the ocean, there is a platform for scuba diving or snorkeling. I already did the diving and loved it!! While diving, you can see small fishes of various species, corals and other marine animals. The water is crystal clear, suitable for underwater photos (whoever wants it, the tour also offers the service to take some pictures of you).
I have listed here one of the best restaurants in the city, where you can enjoy good regional or international food.
Tábua de Carne (at Via Costeira)
Casa de Taipa Tapiocaria
Piazzale Italy (ask to stay on the terrace)
Bistrô Douce France
Lotus Japanese Cuisine
La Brasserie de La Mer
Old Five – For me, one of the most sensational places on Natal. Open every day, it is little frequented by tourists. The bar and restaurant is on the edge of Ponta Negra beach, almost next to the Morro do Careca. To get there you have to walk along the beach. The restaurant has tables and chairs inside and tables, with umbrellas and Chinese lanterns in the sand. Live music from Wednesday to Sunday.
Taverna Pub – Themed bar in a medieval style. It operates in Lua Cheia Hostel which has a building similar to a medieval castle. It runs from Monday to Saturday, each day with a specific schedule. One of the most fun places in the city, ideal for those who want to dance.
Rasta Pé – Ideal for anyone who wants to dance forró (a Brazilian dance style). The Rasta Pé has five bars with three different surroundings.
Shock Bar – Very frequented by young Natalenses and little by tourists. The Shock Bar is in the district of Petrópolis, one of the noblest in the city, but has a beach house atmosphere. The bar has music events from Thursday to Saturday, with various rhythms such as pop rock, reggae, MPB, samba and forró.
It was elected as the best bar with live music in the city for 3 consecutive years by the magazine Veja Natal.
Decky Bar- The house has four spaces, one internal, air-conditioned and decorated with pictures and vinyl records of the biggest stars of rock and pop rock in the world. From the wooden deck, you can have a beautiful view of Ponta Negra. The house has live music with two or even four bands per night, playing pop rock and the rock and roll classics.
Well, I hope you have presented my state well, and now I await the comments of the Natalenses giving their suggestions of places that cannot be missed. And tourists who have already been in the city can also give their contributions!
*This article was previously written in Portuguese by Karla Larissa. Translated into English by Juliane Boll.