Ah - I’ve been meaning to post this since I got back from vacation at the end of October. However upon arriving home I hadn’t anticipated the whirlwind of activity that would surround me, and so I regrettably neglected writing this post. It’s here now though, and I hope you find it beneficial!
People often wonder how it is to be vegan in another city, state, or country. They want to know how easy or difficult it is and how it compares to where they live. Most often though I think vegans (especially new or untraveled vegans) worry that if they travel outside their immediate area, they will starve. I too am no stranger to this kind of thinking, especially when I’m going to a small town, a small country, or a small Island. The worry is always there - Will I have enough to eat? And how convenient will it be?
Now, having traveled around a little bit I see there is more then just one factor when it comes to the question "How easy is it to be Vegan there?" How easy it is to be vegan in any particular place depends firstly on you. 1) Are you a picky eater or are you open minded? 2) Do you have access to a kitchen of some kind 3) Do you have access to a car or is there adequate transportation. 4) How prepared are you? Secondary factors of course will be the culture of the area to which you are visiting, and it’s remoteness. If you’re traveling to the smallest town on the farthest outskirts of the earth then you may be S.O.L, for the rest of us however I think it can be pretty easy with just a little planning and forethought.
The single most important thing you can do is plan ahead. I can not stress this enough. I’ve taken two holidays in the time that I’ve been vegan and I’ve thoroughly researched food options for both, because of my diligences I never went hungry. Buy or borrow a travel guide, it doesn’t even matter if it’s a year or two out of date. The basic layout of a city doesn’t change. People scoff at travel books but I find them to be invaluable resources. Not only for the maps but also for the tidbits of information you might find within them. So many times I’ve come across interesting bits of information on cool places to check out that I never would have heard of otherwise, and well written guides are always good at giving you the skinny on when the best and worst times to go to restaurants, clubs, attractions, and parks etc... are. Use the maps within your travel guide to get to know your destination city. Memorize the streets, know it like your own backyard or like the back of your hand. Not only does this make getting around faster and easier, it also makes planning activities more accurate and helps keep you on track. I always like to take the first day of my vacation to travel around the city on foot, take in the area, and get a feel for it. Usually by the second day my husband and I are pro navigators and blend in like locals. It’s also important to know about your destination cities transportation. If you plan on renting a car this is much less important, but if you are not renting a car you need to figure out bus/train/trolley routes and schedules and have them memorized. Find out where the grocery stores are, and who selling the best products for the best prices. Being as familiar as possible with your intended destination will ensure that your belly stays full.
Log onto Happycow.net. They are an invaluable resource. For those of you unfamiliar with Happy Cow they list most if not all of the vegetarian/vegan restaurants in every major city in every country in the world. Make Happy Cow your best friend! They also list health food stores, natural groceries, and farmers markets when applicable. Keep your eye on travel blogs, and inquire in online travel and vegan communities, a lot of times other savvy vegan travelers will find discovered great vegan food options in places Happy cow hasn’t yet listed.
Another really important thing is to stay positive. Never go to a new place expecting to find nothing because that’s exactly what you’ll find. Keep a positive mind and an open heart and you’ll be amazed at what amazing vegan eats appear to you. These are the basics, and they’ve worked pretty well for me so far.
My latest vacation was to Maui, Hawaii for a sort of family reunion. My mom, step-dad, step-brother, brother and his girlfriend met up with us for two weeks of fun in the sun. I love Maui, and have been several times before but never as a vegan, this was my husbands first time on the Island, which was exciting! Of course I was worried before we left, traveling to small tropical islands are always a concern as the local diet is usually heavily supplemented with fish and other ocean dwelling creatures. In Hawaii chicken and pork are also quite popular, so I wasn’t really sure how vegan-friendly restaurants would be. We stayed in a condo for our two week vacation, that had a full kitchen, I knew this before hand and so was prepared to cook our meals at the condo and eat in rather then eat out. However again I worried not only about how vegan friendly the grocery stores would be, but how health friendly. From afar Hawaii has never stuck me as being an overly health-conscious place and so I simply didn’t know if I’d be able to find things like organic peanut butter, stevia, agave, non-dairy milk, cliff bars and so on in your average grocery.
Turns out all of my worry was for naught because Maui is surprisingly a very Vegan friendly place that is becoming more and more health conscience. First lets start with the grocery stores. Even the local grocery stores were vastly stocked with vegan and healthy items. We did most of our non-health-food-store shopping at Food Land, and Times (the latter being more expensive by the way) and there we were able to find a plethora of non-dairy milks. Everything from soy, to almond, to rice, to coconut, and hemp. All of which gave us a selection of at least two or more brands. The local stores sold tofu, and many of Amy’s frozen food products. They sold all the vegan snack bars like cliff, Lara Bar, Luna Bar, and Odwalla. They had vegan mayo, organic ketchup, stevia, agave. They had all our favorite drinks like Zico coconut water, Alo, and various brands of Acai juice. They had ‘healthy’ chips like sweet potato and root vegetable. They also sold tofu, they even sold a small selection of meatless meat products in the frozen section. Food Land even had Gardein and a selection of non-dairy ice cream and ice cream bars, and the list goes on.
As far as Health Food Stores go there were more of them around then I expected. In Kihei, the city in which we were staying (this is a great city to stay in by the way particularly if you have a car because it’s very low-key and it’s also very centralized. From here you can get to most other destinations in a fairly reasonable time frame.) There is a natural foods store called Hawaiian Moons (2411 S. Kihei Road) Open daily from 8am -9pm. They have all the same things I’ve mentioned above plus more. They even had Daiya!! And Tempeh Bacon! They also have a good selection of Gluten-Free items, vitamins/supplements, bulk items, fresh produce and a vegetarian friendly hot/salad bar.
In Lahaina there is an all vegetarian natural food and grocery store. I never actually had to go here but if you’re in the area looking for something it sounds like a pretty cool place to shop or stop for a bite at the hot bar. 3636 Lower Honoapiilani Road. They’re open daily 7am-7pm and all their food is either lacto-vegetarian (no eggs) or vegan.
In Kahului there is an absolutely fantastic all vegetarian natural food and grocery called Down to Earth Café. They have a hot/bar, a salad bar and a deli and their food is delicious! Located at 305 Dairy Road, we stopped in here a couple of times. Once for lunch after hiking around on Haleakala crater all morning. Again their vegetarian items are lact-veg but they also have many vegan items. Their sandwiches are delicious, and you absolutely have to try their Spirulina bar! Oh my goddess to die for! They’re open Mon-Sat 7am-9pm and Sunday from 8am-8pm. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to shop in a grocery store where you don’t have to worry about seeing animal flesh and by-products everywhere. Fantastic place!
Kahului also has a Whole Foods Market at 70 Kaahumanu Ave, but unless you’re desperate I really recommend hitting up Down to Earth instead or one of Maui’s other natural food stores. Not only is it nice to support the local business, but often times they’re selling the exact same products for the same price or less.
In Paia there’s a great place called Mana Foods. At 49 Baldwin Ave, it’s open Mon-Sun 8:30am to 8:30pm, has it’s own parking lot and reminded me of a downscaled Whole Foods with a better selection. I liked this store a lot and the staff were super friendly. They also have a hot bar/salad bar, and deli and have many vegan and gluten-free options. I just really loved the feel of this store, and couldn’t get over how awesome it was. We went here several times
In addition to these grocery stores there are a lot of farmers market’s and roadside fruit and vegetable stands. They’re great places to pick up cheap good quality produce, and a nice way to support local business and agriculture. So there really is an endless array of options when you combine the conventional grocery stores and the health food and natural grocery stores.
Still maybe you find yourself saying, "What if I don’t have access to a kitchen, or want to go out to eat?" Have no fear because there are plenty of great vegan friendly restaurants too!
In Kihei there is Joy’s Place which is excellent. It’s a very small mostly take-out place at 1993 S Kihei Road. They are almost exclusively vegetarian with only one turkey and one tuna dish. They are also vegan friendly and have many raw options as well. There mushroom soup was good as was their acai bowl. Unfortunately I only got the chance to eat here once, I would have loved to go more often. Such a nice little place with really friendly staff. Then there is Monsoon India at 760 S Kihei Road, again not exclusively veg but serving many vegetarian options. At least half of their vegetarian dishes are vegan. I had the aloo gobi which was excellent, my husband had an eggplant dish which was also very good. Try they potato pakora and the samosa, great basmati rice, naan and chutney. We absolutely loved the atmosphere of this place. It was very peaceful which nice mellow music and a great view. At night they light big tiki torches outside which give the place even more ambiance. Really wonderful place with friendly staff. Ono Gelato on S. Kihei Road. (Scroll down and see my description of it in the Paia section)
In Lahaina there our hands down favorite place was Choice Health Bar. At 1087 Limahana Pl, 1A. They are an awesome wellness lounge that offers all vegan mostly raw food. They specialize in supeerfood smoothies, acai bowls, kale salads, soups, raw entrees and desserts. They also sell life-enhancing products and supplements. They have Wi-fi and outdoor seating and are open Mon-Sat 7am-5pm. HappyCow says they’re open until 3pm, but the last Saturday we were there they said they were open till 5 daily except Sundays. So best to go early and just double check. I highly recommend the acai bowls for breakfast. Best breakfast I’d had in a long time! So delicious. I got the sunrise bowl and it was phenomenal. Also their Insane Maca-chino was ridiculously delicious also their kale salad with lavender dressing, their almond rice pilaf, and their rosemary potato soup were all to die for. Seriously everything I ate here was mind-blowing good and I felt so amazing afterwards. The staff are also super friendly, knowledgeable, and really helpful. This restaurant is a must if you’re in Lahaina!
Also in Lahaina is the Farmer’s Deli Café which I really wanted to go to but didn’t have the time for. Open Mon-Sun 7am-7pm they’re a vegetarian deli at the front of the farmers market at 3636 Lower Honoapiilani ave. They have a hot bar/soup bar, a juice bar salad bar and main entrees. Though vegetarian they do have vegan items some may be labeled otherwise ask, and they are lacto-veg meaning no eggs. A cool fact is that after 6pm the hot bar/soup bar is 50% off! There is also Thai Chef which is a very small Thai place not exclusively veg but with a large vegetarian menu of 22 items. It’s a very small place that’s mostly take-out but there is some seating at 878 Front Street. It’s a little tricky to find, as it’s actually behind front street, so if you have trouble ask a local or another shop owner in the area. Very tasty food I recommend the garlic lovers veggies, the green papaya salad and the spring rolls. So good! There’s also the Penne Pasta Café which I didn’t get to go to but apparently they’re very veg friendly and knowledgeable at 180 Dickenson Street. They supposedly even have gluten-free pasta and lactose/dairy free cheese, so if you’re in the mood for pasta it might not be a bad place to check out. Then there is the Chinese Hawaiian take-out place called Honokowai Okazuya which is vegetarian friendly with a section of the menu listed as "Island Vegetarian" Never got the chance to go but they sound like they have some really good stuff. Check them out at 3600-D Honoapiilani Road. Ono Gelato on Front Street also.
In Paia there is a fantastic all vegan Vietnamese restaurant called Fresh Mint. They’re located at 115 Baldwin Ave just a few blocks up from Mana Foods. They serve authentic Vietnamese fare and have an extensive several page menu. They have some of the best ‘mock meats’ I’ve ever had including vegan soy fish filet. I had the ‘spare ribs’ which were mind blowing and we ordered spring rolls and a few other things. This is THE place to go when you’re hungry in Paia, except they’re only open for dinner. 5pm-9pm. Happycow says they’re open for Lunch on Tuesday through Sunday but we were there on a Wednesday around 3 and they were closed, so I don’t know. The sign said 5pm-9pm. They are worth the wait though, and I didn’t mind walking around beautiful Paia for a little while. Also in Paia there is Flatbread Pizza which is at 89 Hana Highway. They’re not vegetarian but they do have one vegan pizza crust option and there is the flexibility to create your own pizza by choosing whatever toppings you like. I got a pizza with roasted garlic, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, olives, tomatoes, and pineapple and it was fantastic! Another great place in Paia as well as in Lahaina and Kihei is Ono Gelato. At 115D Hana Highway just a few blocks from Flatbread Pizza. Half of their case is dairy-free sorbet. Try the Almond Joy, the Passion fruit, the Guava, the Thai Coconut Lime and the pineapple. We must have went to each one of their locations at least twice, they are that good!
In Wailuku there is Saeng’s Thai Cuisine at 2119 Vineyard Street, while not exclusively vegan they do have a 14 item vegetarian menu upon which all the items are supposedly vegan. Many of the non-vegan dishes can also be made to order that way such as the Pad Thai or Fried Rice. Open Monday-Friday 11:00-2:30 and Monday to Sunday 5-9:30. There is also Saigon café at 1792 Lower Main Street, which is a Vietnamese restaurant again not exclusively vegetarian but they do boast a 14 item vegetarian menu. However there Is no visible signage to mark this place to best to consult a local. Unfortunately I personally didn’t have the opportunity to eat at either one of these places even though I was in Wailuku one day, I would have really liked to try out Saigon Cafe.
In Kahului in addition to Down to Earth there is also a place called Alive and Well Deli and Juice Bar which is veg-friendly. Located at 340 Hana Highway. I would have liked to go here but didn’t have the time. They have a hot/salad bar and do fresh fruit smoothies as well as sandwiches, wraps, and other main entrees, and desserts. All very good from what I hear.
In Hana there is supposedly Café Romantica located on Hana Highway Mile marker 35. This is a bit hard to find so you have to ask around. I really wanted to eat here but didn’t get the chance because when we arrived they were closed. A lady selling fruit near by said she hadn’t seen them open in a while though there was a sign on the door saying they’d be open for dinner. Hence the supposedly. If you’re going to Hana drive by and check it out for sure hopefully you’ll get lucky and they’ll be open, but don’t bank on it. It’s best If you bring some snacks and food along with you because there isn’t much once you get into Hana, vegan or otherwise. Although we did see a Thai restaurant and ethnic restaurants usually have vegetarian/vegan food.
Lastly there is Haiku. A very, very small place that you could drive right through and not even know it, yet they have two vegan friendly restaurants! Very cool peaceful little area. At 810 Kokomo Road is Maui Kombucha which is all organic, vegan and raw. They specialize in Kombucha hence the name and it’s really good. Try the pineapple or the blue ginger though it apparently changes constantly. Try their raw cheesecake and wraps, very tasty. Also their Mayan Almond coffee (I think it’s called) was very good. Though they are a bit hard to find so it’s best to call ahead or ask a local. Veg-Out also at 810 Kokomo Road (this is a complex of buildings apparently part of the town center) is a very small, totally delicious café. Try their falafel burger or their pizza! This café caters mostly to locals and once you get to Haiku you’ll see it would be a miracle for a tourist to find it at all, but if you’re in the area and need some food this place is definitely worth a stop.
Now - having said all of that there are a few other things I’d like to add, and this is as true for Maui as it is for anywhere else. Just because I haven’t mentioned a particular restaurant here, or you can’t find it on Happy Cow doesn’t mean it isn’t vegan friendly. Many restaurants have their menu’s posted outside and as I was walking around various towns I’d often stop to peruse them. Many places in Maui serve at least one or two vegetarian options. Veggie burgers for example, build your own pizza, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes etc. Even the Hard Rock Café has a veggie burger and Bruschetta (just get the Bruschetta without the cheese and you’re all good) Secondly any ethnic restaurant is usually a good bet for vegetarian fare. You can always find something in an Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern or Hispanic restaurant so take a look. There are also a lot of juice and smoothie places that use fresh fruit, most of these places are vegan by default or have vegan items by default. In fact one day we were walking down South Kihei road and discovered a little general store boasting vegan smoothies and baked goods. Great little place, wish I would remember the name of it.
Next - as much as I prefer public transportation to driving while on vacation renting a car in Maui is an absolute necessity. Taxi’s are expensive, roads are bad, bus routes are inadequate and the buses when they run at all run on what’s known as "Island Time" meaning they come when they come regardless of what the schedule you’re holding says, and sometimes they never show up. For all intents and purposes public transit may as well be non-existent in Maui, so do yourself a favor and rent a car.
Other then that travel safe, have a good time, be open hearted and open minded and keep your eyes open. If you look for abundance you will be blessed with it!