Altitude: 6 meters (20 feet)
Phone Code: 05
Compared to the hippy haven of MontaĂ±ita, or peaceful unpopulated beach coasts and coves further north, Manta is only better than average â€” that is, unless, your idea of a good beach is an overabundance of restaurants and bars backed by skyscraper-like hotels and holiday homes.
Manta is divided almost in half by the RĂo Manta, with the up-market Playa MurciĂ©lago to the west and considerably less swanky Playa Tarqui to the east. Running along the coast, and connecting both beaches is the MalecĂłn, Mantaâ€™s main drag. In general, hotels to the west are more expensive (and the neighborhoods quieter and safer), but thatâ€™s not to say you canâ€™t find good value, budget-friendly places. The beaches here are OK, but youâ€™ll have to share your seaside view with the cranes and hundreds of port boats moored offshore; Manta is an extremely important port in Ecuador and is the second largest port after Guayaquil.
Overlook the eyesore that is maritime Manta, however, and youâ€™ll see a vibrant, pulsing city packed with trendy restaurants, bars and upscale hotels. While itâ€™s not the most spectacular place to stay, Manta is not without its own unique charms. Spend a day chilling on the beach, then take a stroll along Playa MurciĂ©lago, the place to grab a cool beer or tropical drink, and take in a meal and a sunset at one of the popular seaside-seafood restaurants. History buffs can spend a few hours poking around the Museo del Banco Central, while market lovers can meander to the city center, where there are a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. During the day, Tarqui is an interesting place to wander, but you'd be wise to catch a taxi back to your hotel as this is not a safe area at night.