The coastal town of Manta, Ecuador, is an important place to know if you’re wanting to familiarize yourself with this South American nation. Located on Ecuador’s central coast, Manta is the country’s second largest port city and its most popular beach location, mostly among Ecuadorians.While Manta does draw its fair share of expats and foreign tourists, it’s most commonly used as a vacation or holiday destination for families who want an escape from the bustle of nearby Guayaquil. It’s a nice compromise, as it offers them all the comforts they enjoy in Ecuador’s largest city but with far less traffic and noise.In Manta itself, you’ll find plenty to entertain you along the coast. The shore itself doesn’t have the pristine white sand that many beach-goers seek, but it’s a fine place to walk or dine al fresco at one of the many open-air seafood restaurants. You can also find many homes with fantastic views from atop the cliffs that surround the city.Just north of the city center is Playa Murcielago, the most popular beach in the area. It offers some good surfing, as well as opportunities to try out other aquatic sports such as scuba diving and fishing.If you’re looking for a little culture in Manta, there’s the Museo del Banco Central. Its exhibits include a large amount of Pre-Colombian artwork, as well as other artifacts representing the area’s cultural history. Just inland lies the city of Montecristi, the source of many of the erroneously named “Panama Hats,” which actually originated in Ecuador.