Before leaving from Santa Marianita we stayed one night in Manta. We were lucky enough to get a lift into Manta from a nice couple who were also at the Kite surfing resort, who lived right next to the hotel we had planned on staying at. We hadn’t actually booked anything but had seen it the day before when we went past, and as it happened, the couple who dropped us off actually owned a serviced apartment in the same building. They gave us a good price and convinced us to stay there instead. To sweeten the deal, they also offered to show us around and to drive us out to Montecristi to have a look at the birthplace of the Panama hat (and potentially buy one from their friends).
Who knew that Panama hats are actually from Ecuador?!? It turns out that former US President Roosevelt was wearing the hat during a visit to the construction of the Panama Canal. The trend caught on, and they became known as Panama hats.
Prices vary from reasonably cheap through to several hundred dollars, depending on the quality of the weave. The hats are quite durable, can be folded, become wet and still retain their original structure.
We saw several shops where there were people literally putting them together on balconies out the front, and sewing the final touches. Apparently it can take several months to finish the process for each hat!
The hats were impressive and we did in fact leave with a lovely Ecuadorean Panama hat, authentically handmade in the original town famous for the hats.