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Air

Natal’s Aeroporto de Natal is in São Gonçalo do Amarante, around 35km west of Ponta Negra. It has scheduled flights to many international cities in addition to services to all over Brazil.

Bus

Long-distance buses go from the Rodoviária Nova, northwest of Ponta Negra, which received a facelift for the 2014 World Cup.

Buses from Natal

Aracati (Canoa Quebrada)

Cost from (R$)

70

Duration (hr)

6

Company

Expresso Guanabara (www.expressoguanabara.com.br), Viação Nordeste (www.viacaonordeste.com.br)

Belém

Cost from (R$)

522

Duration (hr)

36

Company

Expresso Guanabara

Fortaleza

Cost from (R$)

98

Duration (hr)

8

Company

Viação Nordeste, Expresso Guanabara

João Pessoa

Cost from (R$)

44

Duration (hr)

3

Company

Viação Nordeste, Autoviação Progresso (www.progressoonline.com.br)

Recife

Cost from (R$)

96

Duration (hr)

Company

Autoviação Progresso

Salvador

Cost from (R$)

250

Duration (hr)

21

Company

Gontijo (www.gontijo.com.br)

São Miguel de Gostoso

Cost from (R$)

18

Duration (hr)

Company

Expresso Cabral (www.expressocabral.com.br),

Car & Motorcycle

Recommended car-rental companies with airport desks include Avis and Localiza Hertz. Located outside of Natal's airport, Foco sometimes offers slightly better rates than the in-airport competition and has a shuttle van from the arrivals area.

Buggying the Northeast: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

With broad, sandy beaches that stretch along much of the 1800km-long coastline from Tamandaré (Pernambuco) to São Luís (Maranhão), the Northeast is Brazil's true beach-buggy paradise. These four-wheel, five-seat contraptions – usually built on a VW Beetle chassis – roar along beaches and up and down dunes the length of the region, with cargoes of happy tourists enjoying off-road trips amid fabulous scenery with the ocean wind in their hair.

If you can cope with the fact that buggies guzzle a liter of gasoline every 5km or 6km, and make an unholy racket, a buggy trip is invariably a lot of fun. One passenger sits in front with the driver; up to three sit in the back, although with bags it can be a tight fit. Trips can be as short or long as you like, and you can stop wherever you please. The Dunas de Genipabu make a fun half-day outing from Natal, while the 180km round-trip from São Miguel do Gostoso to Galinhos and back is a fabulous day trip.

Even longer trips such as Natal to Fortaleza (in Ceará; 700km), Fortaleza to Jericoacoara (nearly 300km), or Jericoacoara to the Lençóis Maranhenses (in Maranhão; 300km) are quite feasible.

The Natal to Fortaleza stretch is one of the most beautiful and least-developed coastlines in Brazil, strung with colored cliffs, rolling dunes, salt flats, reefs, palm-lined beaches, freshwater lagoons, tiny traditional fishing villages and some larger settlements popular with local weekenders. The trip takes four to five days and passes approximately 92 beaches; at the economic end prices begin from R$4800 per buggy, including transport, guide, and fees but excluding accommodations and meals, and increase up to R$4300 per passenger for more complete packets including comfortable pousadas, transport and an English-speaking guide.

Make sure you go with an authorized driver. Marcos from Top Buggy is a pioneer in the field and knows the area inside out, while Marazul also organizes long-distance expeditions. It’s also possible to do these trips more comfortably in 4WD with agencies such as Natal's Cariri Ecotours. Coming from Jericoacoara try Jeri Off Road.

For good environmental reasons and/or consideration for other beach users, local regulations prohibit vehicle traffic on certain beaches and dunes on some or all days, and sometimes you have to duck inland around river mouths, mangrove areas and so on, but there is still plenty of beach to roar along.