Manta – A Lovely Coastal City in Ecuador
Although Manta, Ecuador is not a typical tourist destination, this capital city of Manabi has a lot to offer when it comes to seascapes, history, and culture. Manta is the second largest port city in Ecuador and its economy largely relies on the fishing and tourism industry.
How to get to Manta, Ecuador
Manta is located on the Pacific coast of Ecuador and there are daily buses leaving from Quito and Guayaquil. From Quito, it is an eight-hour ride with a lunch stop, and from Guayaquil, it is three hours.
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Overview of Manta, Ecuador
The city of Manta used to be called Jocay, with the earliest history dating back before the Inca Conquest. Jocay was initially a trading hub between the Incas and the Mayas. The city was then under Spanish colonial rule from 1535 and became a part of Guayaquil territory until the18th century.
In the past, the town of Manta was famous for the export of Panama hats. Nowadays, Manta has become a modern city, and its primary business is deep-sea commercial fishing and domestic tourism. Although Manta has an advantage in the fish and tuna processing field, it also has high-rise buildings and seaside resorts that build the potential of its ever-growing economy.
Manta, Ecuador’s weather
The weather in Manta is generally moderate and the temperature usually stabilizes between 26 and 30 degrees Celsius. The dry season is between December and May while the city does not experience lots of rainfall the rest of the year. If you plan to visit, you can wear short sleeves and shorts during the day, and a light jacket at night.
Things to do in Manta
Playa El Murcielago
El Murcielago is the main beach in Manta and it is within walking distance of the city center. The beach is clean and the water is calm, and that makes it a wonderful place for a morning walk, swim, seabird watching, relaxing on the sand, and shopping for souvenirs. El Murcielago is also a great place to celebrate New Year’s Eve as it is where the fireworks and concert take place.
If you walk a bit towards the main street from the beach, you will find many restaurants with lots of seafood dishes like lobster, crab, fish, and shrimp. The food there is a bit expensive compared to other places I have been in Ecuador but the taste and the service are of quality and you can take time to enjoy the peaceful seascapes.
You can combine a visit to Playa El Murcielago with the fish market on Tarqui Beach, the first place I visited in Manta and where the sea has a strong unpleasant smell.
As Tarqui Beach is the main place fishermen catch fish and other live sea products, locals frequent it every morning and get a large amount of seafood for a family dinner or stock them for restaurant service. You can walk around the market and see all sorts of fishes, such as sharks, tuna, mahi-mahi, shellfish, octopus, red snappers, and so forth. There are restaurants in the area featuring seafood meals for a reasonable price.
Mall Del Pacifico
If you like shopping, take a walk inside the Mall Del Pacifico, which is an Americanized mall in Ecuador with lots of food stalls, stores, and clothes shops. When I was inside the mall, I was surprised at how modernized the infrastructure was and I even had a chance to try my favorite dessert, frozen yogurt. I was not into the shopping but it is a wonderful place to rest and take a break from the heat.
Museo del Banco Central
If you love history and art, then you should pay a visit to Museo del Banco Central. It is a small museum displaying a variety of paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and artifacts from the pre-Colombian era to modern day. At the top floor, you will find some interesting paintings of modern Ecuador.
The museum used to be a part of the Central Bank of Ecuador but it was transferred to the Ministry of Culture of Ecuador in 2010. Admission to this museum is free and visitors can take a guided tour through the museum to learn more about the art pieces and how it reflects the life of the people and culture in the pre-Colombian era.
Santa Marianita is a beautiful beach town that is 20 kilometers from Manta. Its perfect wind, and long and broad coastline make it a superb destination for kitesurfing. In fact, Santa Marianita was the host for the sixth South American windsurfing championship and there are kite schools in the area for those interested in learning kite surfing.
In addition to kite surfing, visitors come to Santa Marianita for whale watching. A week before my visit, there were whales giving birth to their new babies on the shore. The beach was fairly empty the day I went, and there are few hotels and restaurants nearby.
Where to stay in Manta
La Victoria Guest House: I stayed there for four nights and I had a clean and spacious private room with a city view. The owners are both fluent in English. We went out for a day trip, meals, and night markets together, and they treated me as part of their family. The hostel is 30 minutes walk from the fish market and you need to take a cab ($3) to El Murcielago.
Why visit Manta Ecuador
Manta is an excellent city on the coast of Ecuador to experience the history, culture, and peaceful seascapes without the tourist hordes. I highly recommend it if you want a quiet few days away in a less touristic place.
You do not need to spend a lot of time in Manta. You can stay in the city for two days and visit Playa Santa Marianita on a day trip. As Manta is not frequented by foreigners, locals will be curious about you and give you attention. It took me a while to get used to but they are friendly and offer no harm.
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