Manta, Ecuador

Manta is a thriving port town, renowned (rather unglamorously) for deep sea fishing and canning tuna. But there is much in Ecuador's fifth largest city to enjoy, starting with its endless stretches of golden, sandy beaches.

Away from the shopping malls and high rises of the bustling city, there are some large touristy beaches, but if it's solitude you're after, you don't have to travel far to find sleepy towns with a more laidback approach. Stretch out on virtually deserted surfer style sands, fronted only by a small surf shack selling trinkets and ice cool drinks.

If beaches give you itchy feet, head to the Banco Central Museum to view an interesting collection of Ecuadorian and pre-Colombian artwork. Or take a taxi to Montecristi, home of the Panama hat, designed by Francisco Delgado in the 1700s. Here you'll learn more of its fascinating history and watch some intricate weaving demonstrations.