In Zipolite we found the sweetest airbnb and it was tough to venutre away from that pool and that view. A breakfast was included of fruit, tea, and toast.
Oaxaca, in general, is so different than other places I’ve been in Mexico and Mazunte is follows suit, it’s everything I would want in a Mexican beach. The town is super chill and friendly. The main activity for tourists is yoga which, of course, leads to lots of vegan-friendly restaurants. There isn’t much to do in town besides to relax on the sand, hike up to see the sunset at Punta Cometa, or have cocktails on the playa.
Since coconuts are easier to come by down here than cows coconut ice cream is the norm. This spot had all sorts of artisanal flavors like spirulina avocado and gluten-free cone bowls.
Breakfast was on the beach at one of the five or six restaurants where they are happy to make you feel at home and sit there all day long.
Most of the restaurants in town had vegan options, from sushi to fideo to Italian. I couldn’t try it all but don’t worry when Happy Cow says there is nothing, everyone I talked to understood the word vegan. We even found vegan chocolate and horchata at the artisan market.
Many people who travel to Oaxaca travel down from the city via an overnight bus to get to the thriving beach town of Puerto Escondido. We chose to fly on AeroTucan because we didn’t have a lot of time and I basically have PTSD symptoms from mountain bus rides. I was curious to stop in a mountain town and stay at Refugio Terraza de la Tierra where people are really into magic mushrooms and yoga but that will have to be another trip. Although there are several beaches we chose to stay off Zicatela at Casa Dan because, in my experience, surfer towns usually have lots of vegan food at this proved true. Zicatela is one of the main surfing breaks in Mexico, but there are several other beaches that you can walk to our take a cab to. The most beautiful is also the most difficult to pronounce if you are not a Spanish speaker, Playa Carrizalillo.
One of the highlights of the trip was taking a night cruise out to a lagoon where we got to swim with phosphorescent algae. It was like having a fairy princess super power as you creates sparkly glitter in the water has you moved your hands and body. Although I’ve enjoyed the bioluminescence in Thailand and Washington I’ve never seen it so intense as in Laguna de Manialtepec. I highly recommend you take the tour if you are planning a trip.
For food it was hard to go wrong. At both our hotel’s restaurant Dan’s Cafe Deluxe and down on the beach at Mana del Jardin we had chilaquiles for breakfast, we liked both but the view and the beach swings at Mana couldn’t be beat so we went a second time to try their dinner. They had an Italian sandwich with olives that sounded amazing. Indeed, Italians settled much of the are on the beaches of Oaxaca and so we ate lots of really delicious Italian food. We also tried the gorgeous Hotel Santa Fe but, although there were some very vegan friendly options, it was probably the most disappointing meal of the trip. I had better food on the beach and here it was really overpriced. Somehow I never made it to the tot themed Papa Tots but I did have an amazing soy ceviche and acai bowl at Spirulina, which was right across the street from our hotel.
The highlight of our trip to Puerto Escondido though, and, for sure, a life highlight was getting to release baby sea turtles into the ocean. Because of poachers, predators, and development the turtle populations has dropped almost completely. The Leatherback sea turtle (and the subject of this awesome documentary on Netflix A Turtle Journey) is on the endangered list and so the government gave a little bit of money to a project with the university to dig up turtle nests, protect them, and then release them when the babies are hatched. Less than 1% of leatherbacks and only 1% of green and black turtles make it without the help of this project. Now, they have a 50/50 shot as long as they make it past the predators in the ocean. We release them at sunset when they have a better chance. I told my turtles to swim fast and not eat any plastic. I hope they are ok out there.
Oaxaca city is well known throughout the culinary world as the place to go in Mexico to get mole. That rich, decadent sauce, screams “Mexican Interior Cuisine” and Oaxaca supposedly has all seven versions, Mole Poblano (red), Mole Verde (green), Mole Negro (black), Mole Chichilo, Mole Amarillo (yellow), Mole Coloradito, and Mole Manchamantel but I think the most common around here is Mole Negro which is known for its chocolate although a few of them have chocolate. It isn’t sweet at all, the chocolate isn’t sweetened before it’s put in but the mole itself can be made sweeter with plantains or dried fruit. If you’ve never tried it before it doesn’t matter because even though there are supposedly seven versions there are actually seven thousand and every single one that you try will be different. I didn’t have too much trouble sourcing vegan mole, many of them start with lard or a pork or chicken stock and then some have meats simmered in them. But, other versions are plentiful and waiters had no trouble telling me if it was meat free or vegetarian, they can barely ever tell me in Texas! I bought some vegan mole to take home from the little store by the The Rayón Pochote Organic Market off Rayón, they had a couple varieties and I’m sure you could find some at Bambuu organic.
It took me a while to figure out that these are the same restaurant! I think one is the name of the space which also holds a book store, an art shop, and a children’s shop. The menu only has a couple vegan things, the waitstaff didn’t speak much English but the chef noticed my dilemma and came over and spoke with me. She spoke terrific English and gave me the scoop. I was dying to try the seitan stuffed chile relleno and it sounded better than the menu of the day which was also all vegan, and I think it always is. The relleno wasn’t fried which was a nice change although I wished it would have had some rice and beans. We were stoked that they also had a little market section where we bought chocolate bars, vegan cookies for the airplane, and more mole. We also tried their dessert, a chocolate mousse which was maybe a bit to healthy tasting for me, probably date-sweetened. I would definitely give it another shot
This spot was one of my favorites, it had a whole vegan section with multiple options including their housemade seitan. I wish I could have tried more but we were in a hurry because we were meeting someone later. I had the mole tamales and they were delicious. My friend got the soy al pastor tacos and they were even better. I really wanted to try the picadillo but it didn’t have olives so I couldn’t refuse the tamales which I had been craving all day. They also had tacos dorados with mole and mushrooms and a Mediterranean seitan which DID have olives but I wanted Mexican food. Travel is tough!
This was my most favorite place, after I saw the Vegetarian Posole at the very top of the menu there wasn’t anyway I was getting anything else. This hominy soup is usually made with pigs but not at Cabuche! You could get the broth verde or rojo and then pick your vegetables and add additional toppings. I added avocado because I love it in a hot soup. This was an amazing meal. The verde was very much like the version I make at home but it had mushrooms instead of seitan which I am definitely going to try next time. They also had huitlacoche tacos so don’t miss this spot!
The only all vegan spot that I know of in Oaxaca is Hierba Dulce and they are legit. We were so excited to be seated in their beautiful courtyard lined with fencepost cactus. No one spoke English but the menu was all in English which made it super easy. The service was so nice, they kept adjusting our umbrella to keep us out of the sun and were so friendly. They make their own vegan cheese, manteca (which usually means lard but here was coconut oil based, bread, and almond milks. I was overwhelmed, as I usually am with all vegan spots and I ended up getting the avocado toast and empanadas, which weren’t what I’m used to as empanadas, this was more like a taco, but they were really good. I was very excited to see vegan queso fresco on my empanada! A very rare treat! My friend tried the huitlacoche tacos and they were terrific. Note that they are only open for breakfast and lunch.
This bakery is where it’s at, we had the best chocolate drinks and bread. I was jealous though, of everyone else’s pastries. I, again, had the avocado toast, I sure felt like hipster in Oaxaca eating avocado toast everywhere but it was usually the best bet for breakfast that was all vegan. I loved the interior of this place, many places had these really cool textural lamps and the one at Boulenc was so neat. Definitely a good place to hang out for while.
I couldn’t go here because you have to make reservations to have dinner, it’s only open until 1, so if you are planning a trip, make it happen. They also do cooking classes and you can learn how to make vegan mole.
Somewhere along the way I listed this place as having vegan mole, but when we got to this really adorable restaurant with a beautiful bar we found they didn’t have anything vegan on the menu and I thought I’d just get drinks. The waiter told me that he would happily get the chef to make me something vegan and they prepared me a delightful mushroom packed Tlayuda which is a grilled tortilla filled with stuff and topped with beans. Since you only really see them in Oaxaca I was excited to get one. Sometimes cocktails come made with this special salt that has worms in it, which I did not think to look out for, but my waiter checked with me and gave me regular salt with my mezcal margarita. So nice!
We stopped in here to see their incredible display of alebrijes but I never wanted to leave that colorful patio so we stayed for a little while and drank chocolate. Don’t miss it.
This fine dining restaurant was recommended to have vegan friendly mole which was the case, there just wasn’t much to put it on. My best bet was the huitlacoche rellano which I wasn’t too excited about because I had the same thing for lunch but I went for it. The portion was small and since it was so fancy they didn’t have rice and beans so I was not totally satisfied. But, the service was excellent, it started to rain and they immediately moved us to a better table and then brought us blankets. My friend went on an errand while I hung out for a little while and our waiter kept bringing me shots of mezcal, so that was lovely. The outdoor seating was dramatic and definitely worth a visit.
After spending time with the whole fam in Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, and Akumal the responsible people flew home and my sister and I went to spend a few days in Tulum. We got to stay directly on the beach at place called Zahra. This was our view from our back door.
Our little cabana was actually very romantic.
The bathtub was carved out of a log! Tulum beach is a long string of hotels along the beach but it’s got a rustic hippie/yoga vibe. The power goes out in a lot of places at 11 pm.
Whenever there are hippies around you are bound to find vegan food as well and I was not disspointed in Tulum! My absolute favorite was Restaurare which was very high quality and had the nicest staff ever
for dinner I had an amazing mole but it was a real struggle to decide between all the options. We went for breafast as well and I had my only tofu of the entire trip. It was delicious.
They also make fresh juice there, which I guess really everyone does, but it is always outstanding. They told us by the next time we come back they’ll be making cocktails and they are trying to source local beer and wine as well.
We rode bikes up and down the beach rode.
On the one end is a huge nature reserve and we went a little ways in to check out the beach. I was sad that I didn’t see any monkeys.
Along the beach rode there are cenotes you can swim in and tons of hotels where you can stop and have a cocktail. On the other end of the beach road are Tulum’s Mayan ruins. I took a boat trip out to see them and to snorkel on the reef.
I did not see any turtles there but I did see a nest by our hotel.
Here’s our cabana from the other side in the morning light.
A lot of the bars in both Playa and Tulum have swings hanging around the bar which is so much fun.
There are plenty of places to find my favorite Mexican breakfast, rice, beans, avocado, and plantain tacos like Puro Corazon
We rode bikes into Tulum town but it wasn’t nearly as pretty and I couldn’t find nearly as many vegan options so stick to the beach unless you need to buy something other than hammocks.
But mostly it was beautiful.
I would go back in a heartbeat.
If you read about my trip to Hawaii you already know that I am obsessed with sea turtles so when I found out that one of the most beautiful beaches in on the Yucatan peninsula was also a turtle haven I coerced my family to head out there with me. It was only 40 minutes or so from Playa del Carmen. The beach was stunning.
We snorkeled all over the bay and saw so many sea turtles, including the largest one I have ever seen, it was muy grande! I don’t have an underwater camera but sometimes I wish I did!
It was the first time Dan ever saw a sea turtle and he was stoked!
There was a huge cabana restaurant that I was worried wouldn’t have any vegan options but it turned out there were tons! From homemade veggie burgers to tostadas, and panuchos. I was craving a burger and fries and it was surprisingly delicious. You don’t find any malt vinegar in Mexico though.
When we were in the ocean I lost my late grandma’s ring, it just flew off my hand. I completely panicked but then we found it!!!! We looked for twenty minutes and then I saw it on top of a rock. All I could think was “My Precious”.
It was a wonderful day!
Over the holidays I was lucky enough to go to Mexico with my family. I took so many pictures and wanted to share some, I’m going to split this into a few posts starting with our first few days in Playa Del Carmen and Cozumel.
The first place we went, before even putting our packs up, was to eat at the Kaxapa Factory, a little Venezulen spot off the main drag that promised plentiful vegan options. The proprietor brought us a sampling of all the tropical juices so we could see which one we liked best which was super fun since many of them were fruits I’d never tried. I settled on the guanabana. We ordered a little plate of vegetable cachapas to start
and then I got a patacone for my entree which was heavenly. I don’t think I have ever had one before which is kind of surprising since I love plantains.
Playa Del Carmen has one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen and it was packed the week we were there.
The main drag, Calle 5 has about a million tourist shops with trinkets, silver, ponchos, restaurants, pharmacies, and bars.
Along with Starbucks there was a local alternative Ah Cacao every couple blocks and I kind of became obsessed with their Mayan Drinking Chocolate which said vegan right on the menu! It was so thick and creamy, I wish it was a common item at coffee shops here because it’s perfect for when you want something sweet after dinner.
I also got to try the Mexican chain 100% Natural. I loved the mushroom ceviche.
But the tacos weren’t as good.
We stayed in a condo with a balcony that overlooked the gigantic swimming pool.
It was just a short walk to the beach though.
One day we took the ferry across to the island of Cozumel.
I got to go snorkeling
It was Sunday so I had a hard time finding anywhere open to eat but I finally found someone to make me a vegetable sandwich. Being vegan is pretty easy once you get it across. It probably wouldn’t be as fun if I didn’t absolutely adore guacamole which is what would often tide me over.
We wandered around until I totally panicked thinking I’d lost my snorkel.
Playa del Carmen is on what’s called the “Riviera Maya” area of Mexico on the Yucatan and has numerous cave formations. It is famous for it’s cenotes, which are caves filled with fresh water where you can go swimming. On Christmas we had dinner at a very fancy cave restaurant called Alux. It was too dark to take pictures of the food but I definitely recommend it. Here’s my sister and her boyfriend by the entrance.
My favorite place to eat in Playa was definitely La Cueva del Chango.
It was a beautiful spot with a little water feature in the middle that had fish and turtles swimming! They made me a vegan version of the chile rellano which was stuffed with quinoa and raisins and maybe walnuts. I went back for breakfast and had the most outstanding fresh tangerine juice.
they also made me my favorite Mexican breakfast, beans, rice, avocado, tortillas, and fried plantains.
My sister also introduced me to the chilada, which is just beer mixed with lime and salt. The perfect thing on a hot sunny day for when a michilada just seems like too much.
It was sad to leave
I’ll post more about Akumal and Tulum.