Montanita beach break. Ecuador surfing extreme spot.
Whether you dream of riding the waves unassisted or harnessing wind power with a kite to propel you, Manta's beaches offer top-notch surfing (traditional and kiteboarding). Take a lesson at Santa Marianita with a professional kitesurfing instructor and grab a gust of air to bounce around the waves and water. Or head to Playa San Mateo, where beginners can snag a surfing lesson and experienced riders know that the best waves break between December and March.
Humpback Whale breaching at Puerto Lopez, Ecuador.
If you have time, head to the Machalilla National Park, where you can witness thousands of humpback whales swimming in the shallows between Puerto Lopez and Isla de la Plata. It's considered some of the best whale watching in Latin America. If time isn't on your side, walk to the top of the Santa Marianita hills, bring your binoculars and spot whales breaching out of the Pacific waters.
A 20-minute drive from town and you'll be in the Pacoche Lodge and Reserve, one of the last remaining semi-dry forests in Ecuador teeming with natural wildlife. There, you'll see and hear the monkeys — cute, playful capuchins and noisy howlers — along with hundreds of coastal bird species, armadillos and wild cats.
One of the best things to do in Manta, Ecuador, is to enjoy the next-level fresh, local seafood. If you're going to have a raw or semi-raw seafood dish, it should be here. Try an Ecuadorian ceviche, made with locally caught tuna, cured in fresh citrus juice with cilantro, peppers and topped with crispy plantain chips (chifles) or roasted, salty corn nuts. Or try a local roasted tuna with a peanut sauce, served with plantains for something distinctly coastal.
Popularized by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt during the construction of the Panama Canal in 1906, the famous Panama hat is actually from Montecristi, Ecuador (20 minutes outside of Manta). Made of native toquilla palms, the handcrafted hats were declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Art Form in 2012 and are as chic today as when Roosevelt wore them to stave off the tropical sun in Panama.
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