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Ecuador straddles the equator and is the smallest of the Andean countries in South America. At about the same size as the state of Nevada, the geography is diverse and the countryside spectacular. The Seven Seas Navigator stopped over for the day in Manta, the largest port along the central coast of Ecuador.
 
Many cruise travelers visit either Quito and/or Guayaquil on their way to a cruise of the Galapagos Islands.
However, many ships sailing along the western coast of South American stop over at the port of Manta.
 
Once you’re at the port of Manta harbor, you'll realize that you are in for an enjoyable stay. The area around the harbor is the most buzzing fishing port in the region. As you move to the interiors, the place radiates a relaxed vibe that is characterized by small eateries with character and interesting local communities. This combination lends more persona to the town.
 
Owing to the frenzied trade activity, one can witness a sheer variety of cultures here. The Museo del Banco Central is an intriguing museum that showcases memorabilia chronicling the entire region’s history. Several pictures reveal the development of the port over the years, and by simple observation, you can tell that the building was painstakingly crated to represent Manta’s glorious past.
 
 Manta's beaches are expansive as well as striking looking and host a huge assortment of wildlife species. Frigate birds and pelicans inhabit some zones. At the onset of dusk, they go about hunting for their prey. The surf in Manta is near perfect, and will win over the most avid surfers. The nightlife here is worth experiencing. Ecuador straddles the equator and is the smallest of the Andean countries in South America. At about the same size as the state of Nevada, the geography is diverse and the countryside spectacular. The Seven Seas Navigator stopped over for the day in Manta, the largest port along the central Ecuadorian coast
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Cruise Passengers can several diverse shore excursion options in Manta. A tour of Manta and the nearby village of Montecristi included a visit to the archaeological museum in Manta and a chance to see Panama hats being made in Montecristi. Although many people believe that the first Panama hats were actually made in Panama, they were not. They were first marketed in Panama, but manufactured in South America. Montecristi remains as one of the best places to buy one of these woven hats or other goods made from wicker. Even if you are not interested in hats, a trip to Montecristi is worthwhile. The village is only about 15 minutes inland via bus from Manta and still retains its colonial look, although many of the old buildings need restoration. A ride on the Chivas bus to Montecristi will have you laughing all the way!
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships moor at the Port of Manta. Taxis are available all through the port town. Taxi service is inexpensive and you can get to most places from one to three dollars. You can also take buses throughout the city, but with an abundance of inexpensive taxis, that is the best option for a tourist. Negotiating the cost of your taxi as soon as you step in is common practice. Carry small denominations of money and have exact change for your taxi fare if possible. If you do not have exact change, taxi drivers conveniently will not be able to make change for you and will try to convince you to leave the change as a tip instead. 
Getting Around in Manta -- You can rent a car in Manta at Avis.- Address: Calle Flavio Reyes and Calle 21. Tel. 05-628512.
 
(tel. 05/2626-680; www.avis.com), at the Centro Comercial Cocomanta on the Circunvalación; or at Budget (tel. 05/2629-919; www.budget-ec.com), on the Malecón between calles 15 and 16. Rates run around $45 to $90 (£30-£60) per day, including unlimited mileage and insurance.
 
Taxis are plentiful in Manta and constantly cruise Avenida Malecón. If you can't flag one down, call Radio Taxi Manta (tel. 05/2625-424) or Seguitaxi (tel. 05/2628-215). A ride around downtown should cost just $1 (65p). A ride from downtown to the Howard Johnson should run around $3 to $5 (£2-£3.35).
 
Thing To See and Do
The city of Manta is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ecuador and boasts a good selection of beaches to choose from and a thriving tourist industry offering water sports and a variety of trips and activities. The city is home to Ecuador's largest seaport, which means that it is one of the important commercial hubs in the country and its capacity for larger ships also means it's a popular stopping point for cruise ships, which can make a big difference to the tourist population on those days.
 
Shore excursions from Manta are varied, but usually include a tour of Manta and the nearby village of Montecristi to see the archaeological museum in Manta and a chance to see Panama hats being made in Montecristi. Although many people believe that the first Panama hats were actually made in Panama, they were not. They were first marketed in Panama, but manufactured in South America. Montecristi remains as one of the best places to buy one of these woven hats or other goods made from wicker. Even if you are not interested in hats, a trip to Montecristi is worthwhile. The village is only about 15 minutes inland via bus from Manta and still retains its colonial look, although many of the old buildings need restoration. A ride on the Chivas bus to Montecristi will have you laughing all the way!
 
The Museo del Banco Central is located at Calle 7 and Malecón and showcases a wide collection of memorabilia related to Manta. There are articulate descriptions for every item. Erstwhile images of the early 20th century Manta chonicle the glory of the economically prosperous port. Museo del Banco Central
This museum features an impressive collection of artefacts from the various indigenous cultures that inhabited the area of what is today known as Manta, prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Address: Calle 9 y Avenida 2 Phone: 612878 -- Opening Hours: 8:30am to 5:00 pm
 
Take an tour of Manta's harbor to spend a day admiring its ancient ships and naval vessels. This is probably the busiest port in central coast of Ecuador.The Universidad Eloy Alfaro Library is housed along Via San Mateo and is a fine example of Ecuadorian architectural imagination. This is where the locals gather, and the best place to go people watching and chatting up with their friendly locals.
 
If you want to try your luck at some gambling, head to the Fantasy Casino (tel. 05/2629-444) at the Hotel Oro Verde. This is a big, modern, glitzy casino with all the tables, games, and machines you could want. There's also the flashy Casino del Mar (tel. 09/6910-546) in the small strip mall attached to the Howard Johnson hotel.

Manta is a generally safe city but tourists should take special care in certain areas. Dark unlit streets at night is an invitation for trouble. Taxis are inexpensive in the city, using them even for short distances is a great precaution. Cruise travelers in Manta and other areas are likely to be approached at some point or another by con artists or persons with "sob stories". Ignore such persons and be wary of anyone asking for money under any pretext, including children begging. If you're feeling charitable, Ecuador has lots of legitimate charities you can support. Pickpocketing is done by highly skilled groups of 3 or 4 people. You are best off not bringing a wallet at all -- just some bills split between various pockets. Buses and bus stations is an area known to target travelers (foreigners or locals alike). You need to watch your bags closely, before and during departure; even once on the bus. It is best not to put your luggage in the overhead shelving, as you can be easily distracted and have all your possessions stolen before realizing it. Do not leave drinks unattended in bars and restaurants especially at night. Thieves working in tandem are known to act friendly gaining your confidence; then 'slip you a mickey' (spike your drink with drugs), and then rob you.
 
Manta: this is the main port of the central Coast. It is an active and fun city which has the following main places and activities:
 
Central Bank Museum, Manta: Archaeology. Tuesday through Saturday from 09H00 to 17H00.
Manta Chiva (open site-seeing truck), phones Nos. (593-5) 261-1195 / (593-9) 872-2791.
La Pila: Pre-Columbian ceramics crafts on the road to Montecristi.
El Murcielago Beach.
 
Pata de Parao Mount, Pedernales: This is a protected forest with hills and cloudy wet forests. The peaks exceed 500 (1640 feet) high and are less than 10 km (6 miles) from the beach! It has been declared an important bird conservation site by BirdLife International, Aves y Conservación del Ecuador, CECIA. How to get there: The hills are behind Pedernales. For more information, please contact BirdLife International in Quito, phone No. (593-2) 245-3645.
 
Jama mountains and waterfalls: This is a beautiful coast cordillera located behind the town of Jama. Northwest of Jama is the Tito Santos Biological Reserve (2 000 Ha), with dry forest vegetation and, in the higher parts (up to 500 m, 1640 ft., asl), wet forest. The mountains have lovely waterfalls, 4 km (.5 miles) away from Jama, such as El Salto de Simon and, 15 km (9 miles) away, the Jama River Jump and Bigua Waterfall, around 40 m (131 ft) high. Only 3 km (2 miles) away from Jama is the Archaeological Park, with an incomplete ceremonial pyramid. How to get there: Take a dirt road directly to the east of Jama. For more information, please contact the Municipality of the Jama Canton, phone No.(593-5) 241-0391 or 241-0390. For the Tito Santos Reserve, contact Fundación Jatun Sacha in Quito, phone No. (593-2) 245-3583.
 
Cabo Pasado and Muchacho River: Cabo Pasado has an interesting dry tropical forest near Canoa, from where you can have access to inhabited beaches. In Muchacho River there is an organic farm, community tourism with rural installations and more. Please contact Fundación Río Muchacho for walks in the forest and on the beach in Cabo Pasado, phone Nos. (593-5) 269-2097 or 269-1107, www.riomuchacho.com.
 
Chirije Archaeological Zone: Located 45 minutes from Bahia de Caraquez, Chirije is surrounded by dry tropical forest. During the Bahia Culture (500 b.C – 500 A.D.), Chirije was an important port; it is an archaeological site and a museum where you will find trails and easily watch birds. The Punta Bellaca beaches and the Orquideas Hill are near the archaeological site.
 
Corazon Island and Fragata Island: Both islands are located at the Chone River outlet and have the last remnants of the bay’s mangroves (most are now shrimp beds.) These islands are now the shelter of marine birds. How to get there: You take a motor boat from Bahia de Caraquez or San Vicente. Contact: (593-5) 269-2097 or 269-1177, www.riomuchacho.com.
 
Bahia de Caraquez Museum: Archaeology from the Coast, Cara and Jama-Coaque Cultures, Tuesday through Friday from 09H00 to 17H00, Saturdays and Sundays from10H00 to 14H00. Entrance adults $1.00. Address: Malecón Alberto F. Santos, phone No.(593-5) 269-0817.
 
Cerro Seco Reserve: This is a protected forest in Bahia de Caraquez. Its vegetation is dry with tree species, such as guaiacum, carob tree, yellow Geiger, holy wood, and others. Bird-watching.
 
Saiananda: This is a private park located 5 km (3 miles) from Bahia de Caraquez, on the road to Chone. You will see native animal and plant species. It has lodging and a restaurant. For reservations, please call (593-5) 239-8331.
 
Punta Charapoto and Peñon del Sol:  These are walks amongst the dry forest and a favorite site for paragliding and hang gliding. It is also a good place to see howler monkeys. The place has a hacienda and archaeological site with tolas. You will find Hosteria San Isidro (Inn). How to get there: It is just north to San Clemente, on the Sun Route.
 
La Boca Mangrove: Located at the Portoviejo River outlet, it is a good place for bird-watching. You have community ecotourism, canoe visits and others available. How to get there: It is located 1 km (½ mile) south of San Jacinto, Sun Route.
 
La Segua Swamp: This is a bird-watching paradise that offers one of the best sights for marine birds. One of the most impressive among 120 species is the Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja.) It has been awarded an international RAMSAR wetland status. The marshes are located a few miles from Chone (ask local people.)

Montecristi: Renowned worldwide for its famous Panama Hats, which, now you know, are Ecuadorian, and many other crafts. This is a picturesque and traditional town with very kind people. How to get there: It is located 11 km from Manta, on the road to Portoviejo.
 
The Bathroom of Goddess Umiña, Cerro de Hojas: This is an ancient ceremonial center of the Manteña Culture where you will find archaeological ruins. It has a dry tropical forest and interesting landscape. The site is not yet fully incorporated to the touristic routes. How to get there: It is located on the Montecristi-Manta Road. You get to Cerro de Hojas through Las Palmas village and a 7 km-walk (4 miles) to get to the trails, the natural or human-built wells. You can also get there by La Sequita village (north of Montecristi), where you will see some small lagoons in the middle of the vegetation. Ask for instructions to the local people.
 
Andariveles de Junin: This is a beautiful dry tropical forest where you will see monkeys, especially the howler monkey. How to get there: You take the gravel road from Junin and drive 11 km (7 miles) up to La Abeja de Andariveles; then you take a 30 minute-walk to the Mosca River (ask or contact local guides). You get to Junin from Portoviejo to the north, on the paved road.
 
Pacoche Forest: This forest has interesting semi-wet vegetation and howler monkeys, tagua trees, and palmetto plants, and a beautiful waterfall. How to get there: It is located 26 km (16 miles) south of Manta; take the Manta-El Aromo-Pacoche-San Lorenzo gravel road.
 
Cubaru de Jipijapa Protected Forest: It has 8 170 Ha of wet forest in the high zones (650 masl, 2 130 ft). How to get there: It is located 10 km (6 miles) north of Jipijapa; take the Portoviejo-Jipijapa road and then the Sancan road to Santa Rosa (5 km, 3 miles), from where you walk.
 
Andresillo River Waterfall: This is a beautiful recreational area located 30 km 19 miles) from Jipijapa, in La Union Parish. How to get there: From Jipijapa, go south-east on a road which is paved the first part and then graveled until La Union. From there you take a 7-km (4-mile) walk.)
Daule-Peripa Dam (provinces of Manabi and Guayas): This is a good place for water sports and bird-watching. How to get there: There are many ways – one form the town of El Empalme (Velasco Ibarra) to the village of Estero Grande or Caracoli and Marañon, from where you go to the dam. Another way is from Santa Lucia (between El Empalme and a town called Pichincha, up to Bellavista. Most part of the dam is in Manabi
 
Beaches
El Murciélago, This is the most popular beach area in Manta. It has a a wide variety of restaurants serving seafood and local dishes, bars and other attractions for fun and relaxation. :Recreational aquatic sports such as surfing, diving, sailing, body-boarding, and fishing are enjoyed here as well. The beach is in the vicinity numerous hotels, retail stores, supermarkets, and banking facilities and automatic teller machines.Sidewalk cafes and bars dot the beaches, and there are several water sports activities to keep families on their toes. This is a good place for some enjoyable boogie boarding or surfing. Caution is advised though, since the currents can be dangerously strong.  Santa Marianita Kiteschool offers kitesurfing classes on the beach of Santa Marianita, a short distance from Manta proper. Phone: 593-0-98-066-703
 
Regional Beaches
Barbasquillo, is a resort complex on Barbasquillo beach with a pool, sauna, gym and a disco. It has direct access to the an extensive beach. Horses are also available for riding on the beautiful beach.
 
La Tiñosa, is three kilometers long with sand dunes along with cactus ten feet(three meters) high, as well as varied wildlife species. This area is used for tourists rest and recreation. This beach is located a few kilometers from the parish San Mateo, and it is surrounded by mountains with a dry vegetation.
 
Linguique, is located 50 minutes from the center of Manta, at a distance of ten miles(18 kilometers). It has interesting rocky areas; place where snails, octopus and lobsters are plentiful. From the high point, it offers the visitors the possibility to observe the sea in all directions in a beautiful panoramic view. The people in this area are devoted to fishing and agriculture.
 
San Lorenzo, is located 22 miles west(28 kilometers) from Manta. It is known for its diverse rock formations, caves, marine birds and the Island of The Silver. The months of June to September you can take in the incredible sight of hunchback whales as they pass from the north to south. San Lorenzo's forest, with an extension of 50 hectares, was declared a protected area to avoid its deterioration as an ecological area. Popular activities include surfing, sunbathing and whale-watching. The climb to the light house is amazing and often accompanied by views of blue-footed boobies.
 
Santa Marianita, is in a rural area about 10 miles west of Manta. The perfect area for the capture of marine species. This beach of approximately 5 miles long inviting the visitors to enjoy the warm waters enjoying the tranquility of this area. Telephone services are available here.
San Mateo, is a thriving fishing village located on a cliff overlooking the sea 9 miles west of Manta. The locals are very friendly, and a bit tipsy after a good catch. San Mateo is also known among surfers as the longest wave in Ecuador. The competition is stiff out on the water; the locals can be territorial.
 
Tarqui, is a Park of the Shellfish where delicious local foods are prepared for your enjoyment. On this beach you can participate in recreational aquatic sports such as surfing, diving, sailing, body-boarding, and fishing, along with other outdoor sports such as beach soccer; and volleyball. It is located on the coastal highway midway between the airport and Manta. It can be identified by the large wooden fishing boats in various stages of construction. With the boat construction at this location, it has been nicknamed 'Noah's Ark Beach' by some tourists.
 
Eating Out
You really can't go wrong at any of the open-air seafood joints that line the Malecón Esenico on Playa Murciélago. All have a menu of ceviches, fish, shrimp, lobster, and mixed seafood plates for around $2.50 to $6 (£1.65-£4). Of these, Las Velas (tel. 05/2629-396), toward the western end of the strip, is my favorite, with pretty patio tables under broad canvas umbrellas. Another good option, toward the eastern end of the walkway, is Peces & Peces (tel. 05/2623-574). For Ecuadorean fare and local seafood, consider Rincón Criollo (tel. 05/2623-183), on Avenida Flavio Reyes and Calle 20.
 
Club Ejecutivo, Av. 2 and Calle 12 (Banco del Pichincha building). 
El Mediterraneo, Malecon. Spanish. 
Guen Roku, Malecón and Calle 16.. International 
Martinica, via San Mateo. Italian/Ecuadorian typical. Really great food! 
El Resero, Malecón oposite Hotel Oro Verde.. Argentinian food, cheap and great service
Mima, Calle 104 and Malecón.. Seafood  edit
Palmeiras, Circunvalacion Norte. Seafood.
Restaurante Mexicano, Malecón and Calle 15.. Mexican 
Paraná, Calle 17 and Malecón (close to the port).. Seafood
Restaurant Riviera, Calle 20 and Av. 12. Italian.
Shamu, Calle 11 No 1-12.. Set meal
 
Shopping
The El Paso shopping is your one stop shopping halt inspired by the Western lifestyle. You will find a huge assortment of shops selling a nice range of apparel and accessories. Close to Manta is Montecristi, which has been known for years for their Panama hats. There are numerous small shops selling Panama hats, tagua nut artwork, and other types of artisan craft works made in Ecuador. An English speaking tour guide or taxi driver can be helpful in your shopping.






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