Tag Archives: vegan travel

Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Harajuku

cupcakeSweets in Japan are a pretty big deal but vegan ones aren’t always easy to find. Unless you stroll into the tiny Brown Sugar 1st where you will be overwhelmed with things to buy like coconut popcorn and yuzu cookies and soft serve ice cream and cupcakes.

A district in Shibuya, Harajuku, is unlike anywhere I’ve been in my life. It became famous for the “Harajuku Girls” who come out to shop in the most fabulous clothes you’ve ever seen. And girl power is definitely the name of the came. Everything is kawaii (cute), in pastel colors, and looks like it was designed by the coolest committee of twelve-year-old girls anywhere. There are cat cafes, bakeries, crepe shops, animal costumes, and stuffed animals everywhere. And this is for sure the place to pick up that glitter filled cell phone case you’ve been dying for. I would want every girl in the world to have a neighborhood like this to wander around, there were so many small groups of unchaperoned girls just having the best time. It made our trips to the mall in the 80s seem pathetic by comparison. And yes, we did spend way too much money on this giant rainbow cotton candy! cottoncandy

Top 5 vegan options in or near Harajuku

    1. Harukucchii
    2. Sass-no-ha
    3. Hachinoki
    4. Kamakura 24sekki
    5. Kitotoki

Other Posts in this series

Tokyo

Hakone
Kyoto

Vegan Guide Japan

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Vegan Guide to Japan – Tokyo Shimokitazawa

ShimoStreetWhen we found a David Bowie-themed Airbnb it soon seemed like Shimokitazawa was the neighborhood for us! We were so glad to find this spot which I can’t imagine will be around for very long. Unlike everywhere else in Tokyo in Shimokitazawa everything is human-sized. Through the main section they don’t even allow cars, it’s just narrow little streets with hip young Japanese people heading to and fro. It’s not at all overwhelming like the other neighborhoods but there are tons of cafes and vintage shops.

Our first stop was for, you guessed it, ramen and gyoza. We were very excited to get to order from a vending machine at Chabuton. It was pretty tasty but probably the least exciting of the bunch. We loved the gyoza though!

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We also got to try a couple of coffee shops. The weird part about Shimokitazawa is that most places don’t open until 11am, even coffee places! I later found out there was a spot with a ham and cheese crepe called blank but we couldn’t work it into our schedule. There was one Australian style coffee shop, Frankie Melbourne Espresso,  that I ordered a soy chai from and it was literally the best chai I’d ever had in my life. When it came out, it was still steeping so there was a little hourglass on the tray to let me know exactly when it was done. So adorable.

For late night I loved the bar Mother. It was also very close to our airbnb and was made out of cob painted gold so it resembled a super fancy tree house and had a super cool vibe. They had vegan options marked so I had to try the Okinawan noodles to go with my ume plum & shiso cocktail. It was delightful! mother

Other Posts in this series

Tokyo

Hakone
Kyoto
Vegan Guide Japan

vegan guide to Maui

I took so many pictures in Hawaii that it has taken me weeks to go through them all but I think I’m finally there! When you are taking a ton of pictures it all seems so great to take a million shots on multiple devices but sorting through them isn’t fun at all. In fact, it is kind of depressing because you remember how much you loved Hawaii, if you went to Hawaii. Clearly I am talking about me so I don’t know why I keep saying you. The problem is I have fallen in love!!!  I even looked at airfare to Honolulu. Yesterday I made a coconut pineapple drink and was wandering around in my sarong wondering how I ended up somewhere where it never ever rains anymore. It is all very confusing.

Maui was my favorite island and it was the most vegan friendly.

the beach at Pa’ia

We stayed in the surfer hippie town of Pa’ia on the Eastern side. I recommend staying here for sure for a lot of reasons. First, it is where Willie Nelson lives and as an Austinite that is extremely exciting. Second, it is a cute town with lots of vegan eateries and the best health food store in the state. They even have breakfast tacos!

 I wasn’t sure if I was going to find enough vegan goodies so I brought a ton of items like nuts, packets of Jason’s peanut butter, Cliff bars, ramen  etc on the airplane so I felt pretty silly when I first walked into Mana Foods and saw that it was as well stocked as our own Wheatsville co-op, if not better.
Pa’ia is on the eastern side and close to the airport and the last stop before the road to Hana so it is an ideal place to stay. It turns out you can easily drive everywhere in Maui, it seems like it is about the size of greater Austin but Pa’ia is so central that I would definitely stay there again. The first restaurant we went to was Fresh Mint, an all vegetarian Vietnamese place and it was honestly the best meal of the trip. I got this soy fish hot pot and it was fabulous, it had an amazing thick meaty texture, the flavor was spot on and tropical and I thought everything in Hawaii was going to be better than anything you can get here.The proprietor of the restaurant was super sweet and told us that this was the only food we would find on the island like that and he was right! I should have eaten there every day but I thought I should try other places too, we also had stuffed tofu which had Maui onions and other stuff inside that now I don’t even remember but it was great! I was really surprised by how much better the produce is in Hawaii then it is at home. I mean, I’ve had Maui onions and Dole pineapples here, but there it is a whole other thing. It is like tasting food for the first time.  We also tried cafe Mambo across the street, I had Sesame & nori tofu fajitas which sounded pretty awesome but it was really expensive and not nearly as good as Fresh Mint. At least I got a lot of food! It probably could have fed three people. 

We stayed at a house called the Mangolani which had a room for rent and it was really nice because they had tons of fruit trees and we could have whatever we wanted and they had a kitchen. For breakfast I made oatmeal and fresh bananas and it made me really happy. 

the nice thing about staying at someone’s house is they usually have dogs which just makes me feel a lot more at home.

We quickly learned that when it is raining on the east side it is sunny on the west side (and vice versa) so we decided what to do based on the weather a lot of the time. The center of the island is mountains so they trap the clouds which is why you get the varying weather. 
The north western side of the island is mostly resorts. Actually the entire west side is resorts but you can check out their beaches and they have public beach parks about every mile. We stopped in Lahaina to see the ancient  banyan tree and grab some fantastic tropical shaved ice on the way up  and then stopped at their health food store on the way back down.  Make sure you try some shaved ice, they have all sorts of exotic flavors and some of it is just amazing. It was fun to stop at the farmer’s market health food store and have a picnic on the beach across the street. 

They had acai bowls with fresh fruit that sounded fantastic but I couldn’t pass up the hot bar with its noochy tofu and coconut curry soup. 

We watched the rainbows and sunset and ate delicious food and I started to realize why everyone says Maui is magical.Another day we drove to the southwest side which I liked a little better than the northwest side. There were lots of beaches with snorkeling. We started in Maluaka Beach Park where we had heard we would have a good chance of seeing green sea turtles.it is so beautiful under the water in Hawaii. The water is so warm and clear and just full of life. I swam and swam forever and then suddenly I turned my head and I saw a turtle just like this I was so excited, I love turtles, in fact turtle was my first word. I have been looking for sea turtles forever, I hadn’t seen them in either Greece or Costa Rica so it was just thrilling to finally swim with one. I saw a lot of turtles on the trip. And lots of beaches that day. South of Maluaka we went to Big Beach and the Ahihi Kinau nature reserve at the end of the coast. Each spot was more beautiful then the last. They had these large man made coral walls along the coast and sometimes you could walk through them and stumble onto little beaches like Secret Cove

All I wanted was to look for more turtle but at some point we had to stop and eat. Joy’s Place was in Kihei, right up the road from these glorius beaches and had probably the healthiest food on the island. Lots of raw items and most of it was vegan. It was a tiny little place and was really expensive (are you noticing a theme), I was really glad that my tempeh wrap was fantastic. 
It was right across from another beach park so we picnicked and watched surfers and I thought about turtles.  

Another day we drove to Haleakala, the inactive volcano that formed Maui. You used to be able to go to the top to see the sunrise and then bike down all the way back to Pa’ia, but I guess that turned into kind of a nightmare with thousands of tourists riding down mountain roads and blocking traffic so they don’t have tours like that any more. We drove right to the top, it was like 50 intense switchbacks.

Most people go for sunrise but a local told us that it was a lot nicer for sunset so we decided to do that. We stopped at a craft fair on the way and went to a succulent farm called Rainbow acres that was just beautiful. The altitude changes so drastically one minute your on the beach, then hills, than it is tall trees and mountains, and then after a while there aren’t even trees any more. Not much can survive in the harsh weather. There is a goose called the Nene that lives up there, it is an endangered species and we were really excited to see one, no pic though.

It was cold at the top of the mountain and really fun to be above the clouds, in fact, the altitude made the whole thing a little too much fun and we were running around laughing and freezing. On the way back we stopped in a little town Haiku at a place called Veg Out. It wasn’t open that day but on another day we got to check it out, they had a full vegetarian menu with muffaletta sandwiches and falafel and it was pretty cheap highly recommended.

Another day we drove down to Hana on the famous highway that has about a million stops with waterfalls and hikes and swimming. It was so gorgeous. I have so many many pics.

I saw this sign at the bottom of a little hike.

and a great view of this horizontally growing bamboo and the highway at the top.

We packed food from Mana in Paia but a long the way there were vendors with fresh fruit, smoothies, and the best banana bread you will ever have in your life. When you see a vegan one DO NOT HESITATE. Buy that shit.

Hana was an adorable little town with a swimmin’ beach and a lookin’ beach with dark red sand.They didn’t have too much in the way of restaurants but on the way in we saw a Thai place in the town before and there was a fantastic farmer’s market too. They do have a general store which had delicious Maui Beer. We camped at Wainapapa State Park which was one of the most amazing places I have seen and the next day went to the Oheo Gulch which was equally gorgeous and also had camping. It was just wonderful and Hana had the kind of nightlife that I prefer. The Maui Brewing Co beers are all vegan btw as well as the Kona, try the coconut, seriously. The drive and the whole south eastern part of the island was my favorite part of my whole trip I think. It was just so ideal.

If you are going to camp at a state park you need to get a permit either on the internet a week in advance or anytime at any state office, there is one on each island. In Maui it is in Wailuku and which is really convenient, kind of at the crossroads by the airport in Kahului which has a couple vegan friendly eateries. We ate one of the many Vietnamese places, A Saigon Cafe. They also had all the big box stores like Kmart and what not there. So I hope that helps anyone planning a trip, if you have any questions, I’ll try to answer as best I can. Here is a list of vegan friendly restaurants. Oh also try and get a hybrid car, we only had to add gas once the whole time we were on Maui and as you can see we did a lot of driving! And check out my other posts on the big island and Oahu if you are going there. And I mentioned in the Oahu post Maui Tacos, it is a fast food taco place that is really fantastic and highly recommended. And if you would like to hire me as your vegan I will be happy to assist in exchange for airfare. Also: here’s more photos,  I advise that you look at them while listening to Hawaiian rainbow.com

a vegan guide to the sands of Waikiki

 After traveling through Maui and the Big Island it was kind of difficult to adjust to Oahu. Most people that travel to Hawaii stay in the resort area of Waikiki which is in the giant city Honolulu on Oahu, which is where, like, 80 percent of the Hawaiian population lives. It was shocking after the emptiness of the big island to drop into such a busy place that is packed with tourists, the ABC general store, and tons of souvenir shops selling grass skirts, sunscreen, and hilarious t-shirts. Here is our view of the beautiful beach from our hotel room at the Marriot (quite a bit different than camping on the beach!). The water there is so beautiful. It sparkles and changes all day. One thing you might have realized about me is that I like a really slow pace of life so it was kind of overwhelming for me to be in the city. But I quickly got into a routine, breakfast at the healthfood store Ruffage where I would pick up some relaxing Kava, find someone of the beach playing a ukulele and set up. the water is so beautiful to watch and the beach is packed with little kids playing, surfers, stand up paddlers, boogie boarders, outrigger canoes, sailboats and every other beach activity you can possibly imagine. Unbelivably, you can still see fish and the occasional sea turtle in the crystal clear blue water. My favorite spot was at the infinity edge pool at the Sheraton, which is definitely where I will stay if I ever go back! You can even see turtles come up from the pool sometimes! Hotels line the beach and serve the most wonderful cocktails you ever had in your life. The ripe tropical fruit makes all the difference, I promise. Other than the fabulous drinks I was really shocked by the lack of vegan food in Waikiki at first. It seemed like in the smallest towns on the other islands I had no problem finding something but in Waikiki it was totally different all the resorts cater to a sea creature eating crowd. My usual research of twitter, the ppk, and happy cow turned up a couple of teeny tiny health food stores (which do serve tofu scramble and sandwiches) on the beach and then lots of Thai and Vietnamese and a couple of places in Honalulu including the awesome Down to Earth health food store that has a fabulous buffet. The problem for me particularly was that I was with people that really wanted to eat seafood on the beach and the tourist places had nothing on the menu add to that that my mom doesn’t really like Thai & Vietnamese and you can see that I was in a pickle. For my first meal at the hula hut I had a salad and some mushrooms. And it cost like 30 dollars. Lucky for me, the mai tai’s were fantastic and I had food at the room.

On yelp I found a stand called Da Falafel King that was right on the main street and I became totally smitten. God, it was the best falafel and hummus sandwich I ever had, and they were open til 2am and since it was kosher I didn’t have to worry about sneaky dairy! I went there at least 3 times. I would go back today if I could.

Da Falafel King

I had also heard from quite a few people to check out the fast food place Maui Tacos, at first I was a total Texas snob thinking no way would it reach my expectations of what a taco should be but boy was I wrong! They have locations all over Hawaii and really great prices which is why I finally relented. Plus I was stuck at the mall! The menu was great, they had burritos, chimichangas, and even soyrizo breakfast tacos! The best part was the salsa bar, I got the habenero it was so good and spicy. And I was totally surprised by the fabulousness of the tortillas. Pure awesome

My most surprising find was at Roy’s Hawaiian fusion, where when the waiter said, “oh would you like to see the vegan menu” um hello! Yes! It was a prix fixe menu with wine parings! I started with the pasnip soup which was just fantastic and then had the roasted beet salad that was truly amazing, it had candied ginger and green apple curry dressing and I could have eaten 10. 

Then I had the main course, a grilled portabella and zucchini “lasagna”. I was super excited to try it because it had a tofu macadamia ricotta and crispy chickpeas but I really could taste either over the overwhelming taste of tomato sauce and hummus. I know it is a fusion restaurant but damnit, hummus does not go in lasagna just because you are serving vegans! They made up for it with the dessert strawberry cobbler with oat streusel and coconut gelato.

Another surprising treat was at Lulu’s Surf club where we randomly stopped one day for breakfast. Imagine my surprise to find a tofu bennedict on the menu with olive tapenade, ie my favorite thing ever. They had other options too. I couldn’t believe I stumbled into it, and it was reasonably priced which most of Hawaii is most definitely not. 

One day we traveled to Hanuma Bay which was just gorgeous. We also checked out sandy beach, and the hilariously named cockroach cove

there is a rocky path to go swimming down there which was really fun, if it hadn’t have been so rough you can go all the way out and see the Halona Blowhole from the water but the waves were tossing people around so I didn’t go in far. On the way back we stopped at the Bluwater Grill which, although seemed like a standard seafood place, had several vegan options. I got a Teriyaki glazed gardenburger with pineapple and fried maui onions, how Hawaiian is that! They even had malt vinegars for the fries and a super friendly duck so I was in heaven. Another day I went to Waianae for a Dolphin Excursion snorkeling tour at the recommendation of my fried Jessica whose sister is the Captain and hilarious and a marine biologist. I am so jealous of her life! First you ride around looking for the spinner dolphins and then when they find a pod you get to slip into the water and try swim with them (without bothering them), they swam all around me! When Jenna told me that the dolphins were pregnant and in another week there would be little football sized babies swimming around I thought about just canceling my trip home and staying there forever but I knew I probably would have died of overwhelming cuteness.  We went to another reef spot after that were I saw I think 7 sea turtles. God I love sea turtles. I want to become a turtle tracker. It is a new life goal. And I love fish. I love snorkeling too. And I love Hawaii I never wanted to leave you guys.

Another day we drove up to the north shore. In the winter it is the home of all the big wave competitions but in the summer it is calm enough to snorkel at pipeline! We snorkeled there at Shark’s cove where I was thrilled to see a monk seal just happen to come in and bask in the sun. Right across the street from shark’s cove they had a stand selling veggie Taro burgers but I went to another seafood place and had another salad. We also went to a few other beaches including goat island where I didn’t see one goat. Still, I know where I am going to stay next time! We decided to watch the stay and watch the sunset on sunset beach and it totally overwhelmed me that that so many people came to do the same thing. You know you are somwhere great when people’s days are spent with nothing more to do than watch the brilliant spectacle that happens every single day. Well, except in the pacific northwest where you forget the sunset even happens. 

So that is my story. This weekend I am going to make a Pineapple Cucumber Capiroshka and try and figure out if it is too late for me to become a marine biologist and listen to Hawaiian music in my hammock. 

Mahalo Hawaii. Aloha.

Eating Vegan in Costa Rica

I love Costa Rica! This was my second trip out there this year. Last January, my plane was overbooked so twice I ended up staying the night in a hotel paid for by the Airline and a bunch of travel vouchers. This January I went for 17 days with Dan and I checked out other places I didn’t get to go to last time. Sadly my camera was stolen so I am going to try and find other pics in the ‘net to illustrate this post.

I feel that Costa Rica is probably one of the easiest places to travel as a vegan, certainly a lot nicer than the sausage fest that is Eastern Europe. Even as a raw vegan it would be fairly easy since you can always get fruit plates, smoothies, and salads. The best part about Costa Rican food in my opinion is breakfast, specifically the food of my dreams: Gallo Pinto.I have been working of the recipe for awhile and I think I have almost perfected it, will try and post soon. Basically you cook & season the rice and the beans separately then you stir fry them together with more peppers, onions, and celery. In Costa Rica they come with a side on fried plantains (if you are lucky) or eggs or meat. I really want to make some tofu scramble to go with my gallo pinto this weekend because I think it would be really good.

I make Gallo Pinto regularly at home but I have learned during this recent trip to Costa that the missing link is Lizano Salsa which is the key to authentic Costa Rican Gallo Pinto.Tico’s love their gallo pinto as much as I do so you can get it at every single restaurant, even Burger King so it is nice to know that you are always going to find a vegan option. Fruit plates can usually be ordered at any time and are often breakfast if you are staying at a place that includes breakfast.

Another great fruit option is a batido en agua. These shakes are everywhere and can be with milk or water (sometimes even soy milk). Usually they list about 14 different kinds of fruit but then only have a couple available. Pineapple and cantaloupe are my favorite.Mixed drinks with tropical fruits are so yummy too. Horchata, which is a rice milk drink was often available as well. The best part is that they are really cheap and fresh. Usually they are around a dollar. The greatest drink in all of Costa Rica, however, is agua de pipa. If you are lucky while you are lounging on the beach a guy with a machete will wander by and open one up for you.

The common lunch in Costa Rica is called a Casado, which actually means husband. I think it stems from what the wife would pack up for her husband when he went off to work. It always involves rice and beans, often a plantain, and instead of meat you can say Casado Vegetariano and you never know what you will get, usually rice and beans and a salad and either a pasta or vegetable dish.

I had so many good meals. We stayed in Santa Elena first by Monteverde in a wonderful place called Cabinas Vista El Golfo which I highly recommend. They had a full kitchen to use and I was shocked to find tahini at the grocery store so I was able to make hummus! Note that lemons in Costa Rica look exactly like limes. We had to ask. Next time I travel I am going to try to remember to bring some tahini. It keeps well and hummus is so great to have along, especially with some olives on bus rides or hikes. In Monteverde we hiked on hanging suspension bridges in the cloud forest. and we took a boat ride on Lake Arenal. It was so beautiful. I rode a horse named Pinto to the top of a mountain where you could see the entire Pacific coast. He was the most adorable horse. We got to see sugar cane growing and learned how the made it into liquor. They also grew coffee, beans, avocado, bananas, and all sorts of other stuff, you would never need to shop if you lived in the tropics.

After Monteverde we took the bus and then the ferry to Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula which is a very veg friendly town. The stores had soy milk powder and some other vegan offerings and the restaurants were just wonderful. I had a fantastic sweet potato and spinach curry at a place called “the bakery cafe” that had a full vegetarian menu.

The food at this place was so great! They had the menu divided into sections by country and I wanted to try it all. The cool part is that they put out food and tropical birds and monkeys come by while you are eating. One day we saw a whole family of monkeys including a mama with a baby on her back!

There was also a really cool juice place called Organico that was all organic and had mostly vegan food.they even had vegan literature on their menu! It was a really laid back place but do to the organicness it was rather expensive so I only went once. Maybe the greatest part was the fact that they have an air conditioned chill room where you can hang out on pillows and read magazines and books. It was really nice. I wish I would have noticed it my first day there when I was feeling sickly.

We stayed at a really nice and cheap place on the beach called Hotel Lucy that also had a kitchen. (This is one of my two pictures, you can see hotel lucy on the right)

We also went snorkeling at the Isle of Tortuga, it was so beautiful! I saw so many tropical fish and the water was gorgeous and a psychotic blue. Here we are on the boat!.

After over a week in Montezuma we went to Mal Pais for a couple days and stayed at the Mal Pais Surf School and Resort. It was fabulous because they had a pool and a restaurant with a ping pong table. I beat Dan 7 times in a row at ping pong.  We went to one little restaurant there that was on the beach and it just had the most gorgeous view. We sat eating gallo pinto and fried plantains and discussed the fact that Austin really needs a Costa Rican restaurant. If I perfect my gallo pinto recipe, who knows maybe I will open it 🙂