The capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal is located on the northeastern coast of Brazil and boasts perfect tropical weather year round. The city is known for its great beaches and natural beauty, as well as historic landmarks like fortresses, used to protect the city against pirates, calling to mind a more turbulent history. And during the 2014 world cup the city's new stadium, the Arena das Dunas, will host a series of important matches including Ghana v United States (June 16th). So whether you're here for the game or for the beaches, here's what you need to know about Natal: Beaches of Natal — Photo courtesy of Otávio Nogueira
Getting There and Around
The Augusto Severo International Airport is located about 11 miles from town center with flights coming in from a few European destinations and major cities in Brazil like Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Fortaleza, Salvadore, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia. In addition, buses run from Natal's centrally located bus station to Fortaleza and Recife.Natal — Photo courtesy of Otávio Nogueira
Your best bet for exploring the area is either by bus or taxi, though buses tend to get overcrowded. Many visitors enjoy exploring the area around the city. You can do so by either renting a car or, if you want to meander around the beaches of the coast, try renting a licensed dune buggy and driver.Forte dos Reis magos — Photo courtesy of Mário Monte Filho
What to See and Do
One of the oldest historical buildings in the region, the Forte dos Reis Magos is located in the water at the edge of town and was used to protect the region from French pirates. Parque das Dunas, a natural reserve next to the coast, is famous for its dunes and is considered one of the largest urban parks in the country.
Check out Ponta Negra beach. It's perhaps the best beach for visitors with restaurants and shops and contains Morro do Careca, the tallest sand dune in the city.
For a day trip rent a buggy and head north along the coast and snorkel at Maracajaú. There reefs form pools filled with tropical marine life perfect for swimming and diving.
Where to Eat
This close to the coast, it's not surprising that many restaurants focus on outdoor seating and seafood. Camarões is one such place, offering visitors spacious seating for larger groups, specialized shrimp dishes and a large wine selection. With two locations in town, Adabe focuses on upscale seafood dishes, like lobster and shrimp pastas and octopus and codfish risottos. It also offers an extensive wine and dessert list, private rooms, and outdoor patio, and live piano music at night. Or, for the full northern Brazilian beach experience, rent chairs and an umbrella and buy snacks like ginga com tapioca (breaded and fried anchovy with tapioca served with salt and hot sauce) at the nearby food kiosks.A view of the ocean near Forte dos Reis Magos — Photo courtesy of Otávio Nogueira
Were to Watch the Game
If you can't make it to the stadium FIFA has organized designated "Fan Fests" where visitors can come view the game on mega sized screens interspersed with musical and cultural performances. In Natal this zone will be located at Praia do Forte, the beach closest to Reis Magos fortress. But if you'd rather view games in smaller crowds, try one of the many pubs around town like Bar Original. Its 5 large-screen TVs play sports, serving up draft beers, a selection of grilled meats and over 30 different kinds of pizzas.
Related: Sao Paolo travel guide for World Cup