A busy harbor set on the central Pacific coast, Manta, Ecuador, offers the Banco Central Museum (ancient Amerindian artifacts), an artisan market in Plaza Civica, an old wooden church and a picturesque fishing harbor.

The surrounding countryside of Manta has pristine beaches, backed by lush, rolling hills covered in orchards and cotton plantations. The sea has a dangerous undertow there, but the conditions December-April are right for surfing and international windsurfing competitions.

Nearby Portoviejo offers the museum Casa de la Cultura and botanical gardens.

Don't go out of your way to see it, but Manta does merit a few hours if you happen to be driving along the coast. It is 80 mi/130 km northwest of Guayaquil.

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