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Introducing Natal

Rio Grande do Norte's capital is a clean, bright and rather bland city that has swelled as a hub for coastal package tourism, much of it catering to Brazilian families. Its main attractions are touristic beaches, buggy rides and other organized excursions, restaurants and nightlife – it won't appeal too much if you seek museums, theater or wild empty strands.

Most visitors stay in the beach neighborhood of Ponta Negra – a striking location, overlooked by fantastic dunes, with steady surf and some lively nightlife. The older part of Natal, including the unexciting city center, Cidade Alta, about 12km northwest of Ponta Negra, is on a peninsula flanked to the west by the Rio Potengi and to the east by Atlantic beaches and reefs.

The bus station is 10km northwest of Ponta Negra and 6km south of the center; the airport is 8km west of Ponta Negra and 15km south of the center. A new, bigger airport, intended to be a hub for the whole Northeast, was due to open in April 2014 at São Gonçalo do Amarante, 11km west of the center, but whether it would be ready on schedule was anybody's guess.