Natal beaches offer travelers the wild and rustic beauty that define the Rio Grande do Norte coastline. The area, which is said to have 300 sunny days a year, also boasts great sand dunes, cliffs, reefs which form ocean pools, and lots of wind.
Kitesurfing is one of the popular sports on Natal beaches. You don't have to try it to feel the power of the windiest days on the sands of Natal. Take a family member's extra-large T-shirt and hold it by the hem above your head to create your own oversized windsock - it's pretty impressive.
Natal beaches usually do well in beach quality reports. The most recent updates are made available by Programa Água Viva.
Going north, Redinha and Genipabu are the main attractions.
Natal's Northern Coast
Access to Natal's northern coast was greatly improved with the opening of Ponte de Todos - Newton Navarro over the Potengi River. The bridge is also known as Ponte Forte-Redinha since it links Natal's Fortaleza dos Reis Magos to the beach.
Redinha is a laid back beach where the thing to do is sit at one of the beach kiosks (now almost under the bridge) and eat ginga com tapioca. To most travelers, it's a fun, can't-miss stop on the way to Genipabu, one of the top attractions on the Brazil coast.
It takes at least a full day to enjoy the Genipabu sand dunes and lagoon. Buggy rides and sand surfing are the top activities. Though there are hundreds of buggy drivers in Natal, not all of them are qualified professionals, and the vast majority of them only speak Portuguese.
The Southern Coast
Going south, a string of beaches with diverse fun options goes all the way to Tibau do Sul and Pipa.
Praia do Forte, next to the Fort, is small, with calm waters. Next up, Praia do Meio and Praia dos Artistas have kiosks and good surfing. Areia Preta (Black Sand), lined with residential apartment buildings, does have dark sands, as well as ocean pools in the low tide.
Via Costeira, or the Coastal Way, runs parallel with Barreira d’Água, a continuation of Areia Preta, and has one of the largest concentrations of hotels in Natal.
Ponta Negra has two different areas - a busier end, with lots of kiosks and restaurants, and a quieter end, where most of its many hotels are located. Go uphill to Alto de Ponta Negra and you'll be right in the middle of the busiest Natal nightlife.
RN-063, also known as Rota do Sol, or the Sun Route, starts in Ponta Negra and runs along the southern coast. Praia do Cotovelo, the next beach south, has warm, calm waters and many summer homes belonging to Natal locals.
Near Cotovelo, you'll pass the exit to the town of Parnamirim (pop. 172,751) and the Barreira do Inferno Rocket Launch Base.
Pirangi do Norte is great for kitesurfing, but it's mainly famous for the world's largest cashew tree, which is easy to get to from the beach. Kids will get a kick out of climbing the tree's gnarled branches.
Cotovelo and Pirangi do Norte, though usually listed as part of the Natal southern coast, belong to Parnamirim, whose main core is not on the coast.
Pirangi do Sul has a fishermen's village. Its calm waters form ocean pools in low tides, and there's also kitesurfing.
Located in Nísia Floresta (pop. 22,906), Búzios is one of the largest beaches on the southern Natal coast. While the beach's northern end, encircled by reefs, is good for snorkeling, the southern end has good surfing.
That's also where cliffs which border the next beach, Tabatinga do Sul, afford travelers one of the best spots on the northeastern coast to watch the sunset and the dolphins which cavort around in the lower tide. You can do that at Mirante dos Golfinhos, or the Dolphin Lookout Point, a well-known local restaurant.
Camurupim, with its beautiful reefs and rocks, calm waters and sand dunes, is close to one of the area's many lagoons: Arituba.
Barreta, the next beach south, is the last on Natal's southern coast. At one point, the asphalt ends and the road which leads to the Guaraíras lagoon requires buggies. You can cross the mouth of the lagoon by barge to Tibau do Sul and its most famous beach: Praia da Pipa.