Although Natal ’s surf, sand, and sunshine lend themselves to many activities, you really can’t leave town without taking a spin through the sand dunes in a buggy.
In Rio Grande do Norte, beaches and buggies are an inseparable pair. Young buggy drivers, known as bugueiros, are rampant in Natal . Before setting off, however, a bugueiro will considerately inquire whether you want the jaunt to be com emoção or sem emoção (i.e., with or without emotional thrills). Respond at your own risk.
Some people take to buggy riding, while others aren’t so crazy about (literally) getting sand in their face. However, racing madly through the dunes (with or without stunts) is an unforgettable experience. From Natal, you can take half-day and full-day trips along the north and south coastlines. This is an ideal way of getting an overview of the region’s beautiful beaches, many of which you can’t get to by bus.
You can book buggy excursions through hotels and tour agencies, as well as directly with the bugueiros themselves. (Before taking off, ask to see the official SETUR certification of the bugueiro). You’ll find lots along Praia dos Artistas and Ponta Negra.
Patrícia Turismo (Rua Praia Pititinga, Ponta Negra, tel. 84/3236-4217) offers a popular full-day trip that follows the coastline north of Natal to Genipabu , with stops at various beaches and the freshwater lagoons of Pitangui and Jacumã . The trip costs R$240 for up to four people (although a quartet can get kind of cramped). Meanwhile, if you try buggying and really like it, you can travel all the way to Fortaleza —a four-day trip!
Buggy & Cia. (Rua Guilherme Tinoco 1274, Tirol, tel. 84/9416-2222, www.buggyecia.com.br ) offers such an excursion, along with more placid day trips south to Praia da Pipa  and north to Genipabu. Aventura Turismo (tel. 84/3206-4949, www.aventuraturismo.com.br ) offers the journey (in a more comfortable Jeep instead of buggy) for R$1,250 per person, which includes transportation, lodging, breakfast, and guides.