Manta is a mid-sized city in Manabí Province, Ecuador. It is the most populated city in the province, the fifth most populated in the country and, economically, the third most important city of Ecuador. Manta has existed since Pre-Columbian times. It was a trading post for the Mantas. The city of Manta has grown in the last 50 years to 250,000+ inhabitants. Its main economic activity is tuna fishing. Other economic activities include tourism and a chemical industry with products from cleaning supplies to oils and margarine.
Manta has an international airport, Eloy Alfaro International Airport and an important military base (also known as Manta Air Base or Eloy Alfaro Air Base). Manta possesses the largest seaport in the country.
Since 1999 Manta has been used as a military location for U.S. air forces in conjunction with Ecuador for supporting anti-narcotics military operations and for carrying out surveillance flights in a strategic warfare program against Colombian drug trafficking cartels called Plan Colombia. It also serves as a geographical look out point for the U.S. for any war craft heading north from the Middle East and Asia. A regular stop for U.S. Navy warships, Manta proves to be of importance for its location and for the respite it offers the U.S. military with its beauty and untrampled wilderness.
Manta was the port used by Charles Marie de La Condamine upon his arrival in Ecuador when leading the French mission to measure the location of the equator in 1735. From Manta, Condamine started his trip inland towards Quito.
Manta is recognized thanks to its international film festival featuring groups from different places in the world. The Ecuadorian actor Carlos Valencia, once invited to Cannes Film Festival for his performance in Ratas Ratones y Rateros (1999) directed by Sebastián Cordero, was born in the city of Manta.
The practice of water sports is also very significant in the city. Water sports include surfing (Manta was the host for the 2004 Bodyboarding World Cup), scuba diving, water skiing, kiteboarding and kitesurfing.
Manta has some of South America's most breathtaking beaches. Manta was selected as the site of the sixth South American Windsurfing Championship. It is renowned for its diving and sport fishing.
Tennis is also widely practiced in Manta. A number of ATP Challenger Series have been played in the city.
Aside international chain movie theathers, Manta boosts a MAAC cine. MAAC cines are movie theaters that show independent and non-Hollywood productions. MAAC cines are found only in 4 cities in Ecuador (Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, and Manta).
Nearby, also, is the small town of Montecristi, founded in the early 1600s. With its colonial architecture, this small town is best known for its wickerwork weaving, and as the original birth place of the Panama hats which, despite their name, were historically produced in Ecuador.
Montecristi is a great place for shopping for local crafts at a number of shops across from the main plaza, featuring ceramics, wickerwork and Panama hats in a variety of shapes and colors.
The evenings are full of activity: partying people, loud music and groups of young people gather around the waterfront Malecón (jetty) that arcs around the bay and its nearby side streets. The Malecón is always a pleasant area to walk in the evening with its refreshing evening breezes.
The refurbished Playa Murciélago (Bat Beach), very popular with locals, is in the Malecón area; it features a scenic boardwalk, restaurants serving excellent seafood fresh out of the ocean, recreational sports, craft markets, bars and other places for fun and relaxation.
Other important sites include Iglesia La Dolorosa, the "Mirador" at San Lorenzo beach, the Teatro Chusic, the "Parque de la Madre", and the "Plaza Civica".