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A Complete Guide: The Best Things to do in Manta, Ecuador

Welcome to Manta, the Puerta del Pacífico, or the Tuna Capital of the World. Manabí is the province with the best beaches in Ecuador, delicious gastronomy and abundant culture. Manta is an ideal destination to enjoy with friends, family or with a partner. It is a destination that you can come to rest and disconnect from your daily routine or to enjoy the active nightlife in Manta.

Manta is a city that has been modernized in recent years, especially regarding its tourist area. I visited the city in 2014 and it did not have much to offer. Today I am a fan of the city with its development and beauty. There are areas of the city that remain less developed, but you encounter construction around every corner. I am sure that in the best few years Manta will be one of the most beautiful, modern and developed cities in Ecuador.

Recommendations for traveling to any beach

  • Do not litter. Carry out what you bring in.
  • Do not let your pet loose when there are people around, no matter how trained your pet is, it can still cause disruptions to other tourists. Please respect the common spaces. Bring plenty of fresh water and pick up the waste.
  • Use sunscreen that is Reef Safe Sunscreen (sunscreen that does not harm corals).

Where is Manta?

Manta is a coastal city on the Pacific Ocean located in the province of Manabí on the central coast of Ecuador. It is the fifth most populous city in the country. Manta is only 450 kilometers away from Quito and 200 km away from Guayaquil.

The canton of Manta ends to the north and west with the Pacific Ocean, to the south with the Montecristi canton and to the east with the Montecristi and Jaramijó cantons. The canton has some of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador.

How do I get to Manta?

Manta can be reached by air from Quito, by land from anywhere in the country and by sea. The Eloy Alfaro International Airport has direct flights from Quito every day and will soon receive international flights.

The buses at the national level are well connected so you will be able to take buses that connect you to Manta. From Guayaquil you have several direct options or with stops along the way, such as Reina del camino, COACTUR or Manta exprés. The one-way ticket costs between $6 to $7USD per person and the journey lasts about 3 hours and 40 minutes. From Quito you can take the Cooperativa Aray or the Internacional Panamericana. The tour lasts about 7 hours and tickets cost between $12 to $17 USD per person.

If you come by private car from Guayaquil you can take the route through Jipijapa that takes approximately 3 hours or you can come by the Ruta del Spondylus (scenic route) that takes approximately 5 hours.

What is the weather in Manta?

Manta has a temperate subtropical climate with a lot of sea breeze. The temperature ranges from 20°C to 30°C. The best time to visit Manta is during the winter from January to April, as it is sunnier and warmer although it rains. In summer, which lasts from May to December, it does not rain as much, but the temperature is cooler. It all depends on what you prefer.

The climate in Manta is drier than in the other coastal cities of Ecuador due to its geographic location.

Typical foods to eat in Manta

Manta, with the largest seaport in Ecuador, has a great variety of fish and shellfish that make its local gastronomy a delicacy. Most of its typical dishes contain shellfish and/or peanuts.

You cannot leave Manta without trying Pinchagua ceviche (fish), the fish biche, the roasted albacore, the shrimp ceviche, seafood soup, seafood casserole, the encebollado, the hayacas, the seafood rice, the tonga or the corviches.

The best restaurants in Manta, Ecuador

  • Iche
  • Martinica
  • El Resero
  • La Casa Rosada
  • Cnor marisco
  • La Bricciola
  • Fish
  • Muya

The best hotels in Manta

What can you do in Manta?

Here is a list of the best places to visit in Manta:

Malecón Escénico

The Manta Scenic Boardwalk borders Playa Murciélago in the center of the city. Here you will find several souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.

La Catedral de la Dolorosa

For religious people I recommend going through the Cathedral of La Dolorosa, since it is a beautiful cathedral that is worth visiting. Its architecture is unique and very beautiful. Another beautiful place is the Plaza Cívica Eloy Alfaro and its monument to the former president.

Central Bank Archaeological Museum

You will be able to view a collection of paintings, ceramics, sculptures, ancient and current pre-Columbian artifacts. You will also be able to learn about the different cultures that inhabited the Pacific coast of Ecuador throughout history. Admission is free and you can take a guided tour where they will explain more about each section of the museum.

La Zona Rosa

The pink zone is made up of the main avenues of the city. Here you will find the best restaurants in Manta and it is where the nightlife of the city is concentrated. The Zona Rosa is on Avenida Flavio Reyes de Manta.

Pacoche Wildlife Refuge

This hike is approximately 2 kilometers through the reserve, which is made up of more than 5,000 hectares of coastal humid forest and 4 beaches. Along the trail you will be able to observe the fauna and flora of the place. The guide will show you the places where the birds nest, since it is an excellent place to observe birds in Ecuador. The animals that are most easily seen are the micos and howler monkeys. Other animals that inhabit this dry forest are squirrels, deer, bobcats, and armadillos.

Access is free although you have to hire a guide to walk the trail. The guide costs $20 for groups of 1 to 10 people. The tour lasts between two and two and a half hours. The reserve was created because the humid forest is an endangered habitat along the Ecuadorian Pacific coast.

The Pasaje del Mono Trail starts out as a simple wide path but as it continues the path turns to a more natural state including multiple small stream crossings. It is important to wear suitable footwear for the walk, sunscreen, DEET-free repellent, water, and long pants as well as a long-sleeved shirt.

The refuge is open to the public from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM every day of the year.

Visit Manta’s beautiful beaches

The canton of Manta has a total of 13 beaches that make up the tourist portion of this coastal canton. Most of these beaches are located within the urban area of Manta while others are 30 minutes to 1 hour drive away from the center of Manta.

Beaches in Manta:

Playa Murciélago

The most popular and famous beach in Manta is Playa Murciélago, which is located next to the scenic boardwalk. Playa Murciélago is the most beautiful beach within the urban area of Manta. There you can find several kiosks that sell cocktails, beers and non-alcoholic beverages. Several restaurants and street vendors can also be found in the area.

From the beach there are several aquatic tours that can be done such as snorkeling, the banana boat, tubing, diving and other activities leave from this beach. Near the beach are some of the most luxurious hotels in Manta and Mall del Pacifico, the largest and most important shopping center in the city.

Access to the beach is inclusive, as it has access ramps for people with reduced mobility. It is a clean beach in relation to the other beaches within Manta’s urban area. It has the name of Bat since the shape of the beach seen from above looks like a bat with its wings spread.

Playita Mía

Playita Mía is one of the most traditional beaches in Manta but also one of the dirtiest in my opinion. The beach is located between the parishes of Tarqui and Los Esteros. The Seafood Market is located on this beach, so all the garbage from the fishermen collects on the sand and in the sea.

As the city’s shipyard is also located on this beach, all the garbage from those who build or repair boats stays on the shore. If you are on this beach, remember to go through Parque de Los Mariscos, a complex with several restaurants that specialize in seafood. It is an excellent place to try typical Manaba food.

Playa Estero

I did not like it much, since it was very very dirty. Here you can see how the ships enter and leave the port.

Playa Tarqui

Again, I don’t like it because it’s very dirty. It is the ideal spot to buy fresh fish from the fishermen or to play volleyball or sport fishing.

Playa Barbasquillo

I did not like it because it is a very rocky beach. Not ideal for bathing. You can enter by stairs that go to the sea (put Barbasquillo beach on your GPS and it will take you to that entry point). Otherwise you have to be staying at one of the hotels that offers direct access to the beach.

Beaches on the outskirts of Manta:

Playa San Lorenzo

One of the best things to do bear Manta is to visit San Lorenzo beach. In my opinion it is the most beautiful beach in all of the Manta Canton. The beach is located an hour drive from the center of Manta. What I like the most is that it is a clean beach, with fine sand, a calm climate and an atmosphere where you can breathe tranquility. The times I have gone it is always almost empty of other beachgoers.

In San Lorenzo you can go up to the lighthouse to enjoy panoramic views of the area, through the beach or by car to a point and from there walk to the lighthouse. The ideal route is to get in the car to the high point and from there go down the stairs until you reach the beach. It is a beautiful place thanks to the arches, caves and different rock formations that are at the end of the beach. It is not recommended to bathe in the sea, since the tide is very strong, so much so that it is known as a great surfing spot.

Another thing you can do in San Lorenzo is visit the San Lorenzo waterfall, although when I went it wasn’t really worth the trip. During the whale watching season, San Lorenzo is a paradise to see these beautiful mammals dance along the Pacific coast.

San Lorenzo is also the main nesting ground for olive ridley sea turtles in Ecuador. Along the beach you will see several places fenced off with signage, these are the nests of the turtles, please do not approach them. This beach is pet friendly but please do not go with animals to the beach during the hatching season.

During the months of September to November at night you can watch the turtles lay their eggs, it is very important to remember that you cannot touch them or take photos. You must keep a distance of at least two meters. If you want to observe the birth of the turtles and the tremendous walk to the sea, you have to go in the months of December and January. Remember not to use a flashlight or cell phones, since the turtles are guided by the moon to find their way to the sea and can get confused easy with artificial lights.

Playa San Mateo

The beach is in a picturesque fishing village.

Playa Santa Marianita

For Kitesurfing lovers, the best option is Playa Santa Marianita, since during the months of May to December the winds are even stronger. In fact, Santa Marianita is considered the best South American beach for kitesurfing due to its strong winds and its long length. The beach has Kitesurfing schools and several restaurants. During the whale watching season you will be able to observe them from the shore.

It is a fairly long beach with more sand than stones. I recommend eating at the Yanfer, Michell and Leidy cabins (I loved the last one). To give you an idea of the prices, the fish biche costs $4 USD, the breaded shrimp costs $8 USD, and the jug of lemonade costs $5 USD.

Playa Liguiqui

When the tide is low you can see archaeological sites and the marine corrals used by the first civilizations that inhabited this area. Today, unfortunately, they are used to catch octopuses.

Playa La Tiñosa

I loved this beach, in fact it is one of my favorites. It has a small pool with sea water where children can bathe. The waves seemed to be a regular size and with more sand than stones along the beach. There are several restaurants, coconut vendors and bathroom near the parking lot. You can also go up a path to the La Tiñosa Lighthouse.

Piedra Larga

The beach was nothing special for me. The truth is that I did not like the cement wall on the beach. I found it to be a very rocky beach, and I think Manta has nicer beaches. If you go with your pet it is an excellent beach since there are not many waves. If you are in Piedra Larga you must visit the famous Iguana bar.

Other beaches that you can visit further south are Playa Las Piñas and Playa Santa Rosa. I didn’t get to visit these beaches yet.

Visit the neighboring town of Montecristi

The town of Montecristi is only 30 minutes from the center of Manta. It is the birthplace of the Toquilla Straw hat, also known in English as the Panama Hat.

Fun fact: When the Panama Canal was being built, many of the workers wore this hat because of its high quality and the sun protection it provides. It was then that former US President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Panama Canal during construction in 1906 and was photographed with this hat, that’s why it is called Panama Hat. Unfortunately they did not know that the hat came from Ecuador.

One of the things you should do in Montecristi is visit the toquilla straw hat workshops and shops and watch the making of these famous items. In the central square on weekends and holidays you can enjoy a little market where you can see and buy different products made of toquilla straw.

In the upper part of Montecristi you can visit Ciudad Alfaro, where in 2008 all the assembly members of Ecuador met to write the new Ecuadorian Constitution during the government of Rafael Correa. There is the museum and mausoleum of Eloy Alfaro, former Ecuadorian president (1897 and 1911) and revolutionary born in Montecristi.

Eloy Alfaro was a liberal politician with very advanced ideas for the time, which is why he was unfortunately burned at the stake by the opposition. He was dragged by various railroad tracks, which he built himself. For me it is an honor to be able to say that Eloy Alfaro was our president because he is an example of how even though people are not prepared for our progressive ideas, we must continue fighting to move our countries forward and achieve the development that our peoples deserve. Maybe the time is not right for many, but history always highlights the heroes and the true fighters of progress and development.

I recommend you walk its streets and take photos with colonial-style buildings and of course visit the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Monserrate.

You cannot leave Montecristi without trying the best manaba cheese and the best rosquitas in all of Ecuador.

Visit the village of Pile

Pile another place where toquilla straw hats are made. In fact, some of the most valuable hats (+20,000 USD) in the world have come from this small Manabita town. That is why I recommend you walk through the town and talk with the artisans and learn more about this trade, which is a national heritage.

Beaches to visit in the North of Manta


Excellent place for paragliding. The beach is not to my liking, although here you can find several lodging options and delicious restaurants.

Playa de San Jacinto

It is not to the liking of many people, since it does not have much space to rest on the sand, as its boardwalk is practically over the sea.

Playa de San Clemente

It has a long beach, good restaurant options and a variety of accommodation.

Beaches to visit in the South of Manta

Parque Nacional Machalilla

Here you can enjoy the best beach in continental Ecuador and snorkel in the coral reefs of the national park.

Puerto López

Puerto López is One of the most touristic towns in Manabí and suitable for all kinds of tourists. Several tours leave from here, such as the tour of the Isla de La Plata or Salango, diving excursions and humpback whale watching tours during the months of June to October.

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