This seaside port city’s charm extends to every part of your experience here while stopped on a Manta cruise. While it’s not the flashiest destination you’ll visit on a South America cruise, it well makes up for that with its laidback spirit and quirky embrace of its biggest (and smelliest) industry: tuna fishing.
The best way to describe Manta is full of life. The friendliness of the people and an unhurried pace of life mean that things move a little slower here. You might not be able to see it all in a day, but that’s not the point. Manta is meant to be enjoyed, not consumed. Buy one of the region’s signature Panama hats for shade from the strong Ecuadorian sun. Day trip to El Murciélago, surf in Playa Bonita, or see endangered and protected wildlife at Pacoche Reserve. Throw away your to-do list, put away your phone, and explore Manta, Ecuador at your leisure.
El Murciélago Beach offers boat rides, jet skiing, and plenty of activities for the whole family. It’s one of the most visited beaches in the Manta area, so expect weekend crowds and plenty of swimmers.
Since opening in 2017, the Cerro Hojas-Jaboncillo Museum is an active dig site and an archaeological museum that has one of the largest collections of Ecuadorian artifacts in the world. Admire the U-shaped stone chairs used by the Manteño culture to symbolize power and influence. Today, it’s a must-see historic sight while in Manta.
This ocean-facing boardwalk is where you’ll find many bars, restaurants, and shops in Manta. Head here for lunch or a cold beer. There’s a popular monument dedicated to Manta’s tuna fishing industry, perfect for a quirky photo op. The majority of Manta’s bustling nightlife is based here.
Head to this private wildlife reserve in the Manabi province just 20 minutes from the center of Manta. At the reserve, you can see colonies of howler monkeys and over 250 species of birds. You can even lay out in hammocks provided by the reserve while listening to the sounds of local wildlife.
One of Manta’s most popular places to surf is at San Lorenzo beach, which is where you’ll find the biggest and most powerful waves. Surfers come from all over the world to experience this part of Ecuador on their boards.
The largest blue marlin ever caught was bagged in Manta in 1985, and you can try your hand at fishing for blue marlin during your time in Manta, too. Grab your fishing pole and enjoy the chance to catch local marlin, tuna, and more.
Santa Marianita is just beginning to gain popularity as an internationally renowned kitesurfing spot after hosting the 6th annual South American Windsurfing Championship. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned windsurfer, Santa Marianita’s winds and waves will welcome you.
Food is a very important part of the culture in Ecuador, but it should be noted that dinners are held later in the evening here. Dinner before 8pm is considered unusual. When stopped on your Manta cruise, meat eaters should check out Beachcomber’s, located in the thick of Manta’s party and nightlife scene. There’s a backyard and a garden, and the menu features a variety of expertly grilled meats. Parrillada La Vacanisima follows a similar style, where grilled meats, fish, and an extensive Argentinian wine list rule the menu. For a laidback cafe or lunch spot, head to the no-frills Trovador Café, where sandwiches and espresso drinks are menu staples. While you’re here, be sure to try encebollado, a fish soup made with locally caught tuna.
Manta has been a significant Ecuadorian city for centuries as a commercial center and tourism destination. Tuna fishing has also historically been an important industry for the area. In fact, Manta is affectionately referred to as the “tuna capital of the world”. Thousands of years ago, the Inca and the Manta groups used the area as a trading hub. By the 1500s, the Spanish arrived in Ecuador and took control of the area when they found evidence of gold, silver, and emeralds. Spanish colonial rule lasted for several centuries after that. Today, Manta has grown up as a city without losing its quirkiness. It pays homage to its colorful past and its significant tuna industry through its attractions and things to do. Over 200,000 people call Manta home.
Prior to 2018, there wasn’t much in the way of a cruise terminal in Manta, but now a newly developed port and pier offer a free shuttle that will take you into the center of town.
Navigating around the center of Manta is pretty easy on foot, but the preferred method of transportation for many is to take a taxi. Booking an excursion beyond the center of Manta usually includes transportation, but be sure to take a look at the details of your excursion before departing from the ship on cruises to Manta, Ecuador.
The Mercado Central is the main shopping hub in Manta, which has been a bustling local fruit, produce, and seafood market for over 50 years. There are also food stalls selling authentic Ecuadorian food and inexpensive bites. For more high-end shopping, head to Montecristi, which is world-famous for the straw hats they produce using a variety of straw that the region is known for. These hats make for a memorable souvenir for a friend or family member, or a way to keep yourself shaded during your hot afternoons on a Manta cruise. Note that many shops are closed on Sundays.
The U.S. dollar is used in Ecuador. In terms of tipping etiquette and best practices, the rule of thumbs is to tip an additional 5% at a restaurant if you received excellent service. Many restaurants already include a service charge in their bill. Don’t forget to tip your tour guide, and tipping a taxi driver is as simple as rounding up to the nearest dollar. Many places accept Mastercard and Visa, but it’s definitely recommended to carry a little bit of cash on you just in case.