Founded in 1817 as a colony for emancipated African-American slaves, Monrovia is both the financial heart of Liberia and an important port on the West African coast.
The centre of Monrovia is a typical tropical city. Its wide streets are lined with palm trees and informal merchants, and paint-chipped buildings make up most of the sights. There are a few attractions worth seeing, including the Waterside Market, the oldest Masonic Lodge in Africa, the National Museum of Liberia, and the Centennial Pavilion.
One of Monrovia's top attractions, Monkey Island, had a sinister beginning, founded as a lab to conduct medical experiments on chimpanzees. However, the experiments have long since ceased and the chimps are now cared for. The facility is set on six small islands and visitors who make an appointment can ride with the caretakers and interact with the chimpanzees.
There are also plenty of beaches around Monrovia, most notably ELWA Beach near the airport, Thinkers Beach, and Ce Ce Beach. Facilities are spotty however, and swimmers should get local advice on where the safest areas are as the ocean can be dangerous.
Tourism in Monrovia is on the rise, thanks in part to cruise ship traffic, and infrastructure is gradually improving. A good, if limited, selection of restaurants and bars pepper the downtown area, and the locals are generally friendly and welcoming to all visitors.