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.
Kyoto is where you go when you want to experience the other side of Japanese culture. Whereas Tokyo is neon and anime Kyoto is cherry trees and geishas.
Since it was December there was lots of citrus and at the market, I got to try a citrus mochi which I can still remember the taste and the texture of. The Nishiki Market is also the home of a soy milk ramen and tiramisu at Mumoketeki.
Another day we went to 0% Arabica for coffee, hiked around the bamboo forest, and then had sushi and potato cutlets for lunch at Prunus.
We took the tram across town to the Golden Temple and then had the most authentic matcha ever at Ipoddo.
Another surprise by the Keihan Sanjo subway station was Choice, an all GF vegan cafe that makes their own amazing vegan cheese! I had the french onion soup, chocolate covered pancakes, and we split all the cheeses. We had to get two extra orders of crackers though because 4 was not enough! I would love to buy that cheese though.
After a few days in Tokyo, it was really nice to hop on board the “Limited Express Romance Car” and head to Hakone for some time in the country. On the way, our conductor made sure we got to the other side of the train for a glorious vies of Mr. Fuji. It was like a miracle seeing it on such a clear day!
While in Japan one thing I really wanted to do was check out an Onsen. Public baths are a huge part of the culture in Japan and I love a good soak. I had read about Hakone, the hot spring town, and I really wanted to check it out because it sounded amazing. We wanted to stay in a traditional Ryokan which means that you wear a yukata (summer kimono) and sleep on tatami mats on the floor. It’s pretty tough to find one with vegan options but I did it! Kansuiro Ryokan promised to be a completely traditional ryokan that also catered to any sort of dietary needs. In the ryokan, you have your own room where they bring you a feast course by course. We were overwhelmed by all the food. Then while we were hanging out in our outdoor onsen overlooking the mountains they take all the food away and change it into a bedroom. It was a very different experience. Our hostess barely spoke English but she helped us make sure everything was perfect. Until the morning, that is, when she insisted we have a gigantic breakfast right at 8am. They called us at 7:30 and started yelling “hurry! hurry!” because we weren’t out of bed yet. It kind of killed the relaxing atmosphere and after the giant spread the night before I couldn’t handle another full on breakfast.
On New Year’s Eve we found ourselves in the district of Asakusa the home of the Buddhist temple Sensō-ji. It turned out it was the perfect place to be. New Years is a big holiday in Japan, maybe the biggest and there are lots of traditions. The main one is that you go to a temple and put in your prayer for the new year. It’s important to do this as fast as possible once the new year starts so there are tons of people lined up waiting for midnight to approach the temple. Sensō-ji had an atmosphere of a huge festival with vendors selling snacks and charms for blocks and blocks on the way to the temple. Inside the grounds, you could also get your fortune scroll after making an offering and picking a lucky number. Mine said I’m going to lead a revolution.
We waited around but it was pretty cold and so we left for a little to warm up at a bar in a fancy hotel overlooking the sky tree where we were completely underdressed but still treated with kindness and respect. Japan is really great. In Asakusa you have a great view of Tokyo Sky Tree which is lit up at night. Also, it’s just one stop over from Uneo station which is home to another T’s Restaurant. On New Years you are supposed to eat Udon Noodles for luck and this was the spot to do it for sure.
We made it back over to Sensō-ji for midnight where we got to hang out by some VIPs who were ringing the toki-no-kane (bells of Time), for New Years. It rings 108 times and every single ring is made by a different person. It was a magical night as we ushered in the Year of the Dog!
Sweets 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!
Maybe you’ve heard the story of Hachikō, the dog that waited at Shibuya station for his human to get off work every single day. He was so famous for his ever-present to folks in the neighborhood for his unwavering attitude that when he passed they built a statue of Hachikō, waiting in his spot.
Shibuya is probably the area that you think of when you picture Tokyo in your mind. It’s like times square on some sort of intense Japanese drugs that they only have in anime movies. Everywhere you look there are giant ads, giant building, and millions of people everywhere. The day I was at the famous intersection across the station enjoying my matcha latte at Starbucks, I even saw a bunch of people driving go-carts dressed like all the characters from Mario Kart, Luigi, Toad and the Princess were all there. They say the intersection is the busiest in the world and it’s super interesting to watch the lights change and see it swarm with people.
Aside from the many stores and coffeshops, (one has a David Lynch theme!) there are plenty of vegan options. We tried Afuri which was very different than other bowls of ramen in Japan because it was positively swimming with bright, colorful vegetables. It was very tasty and I recommend it for sure. There are a ton of other options and many are open late so check Happy Cow and Yelp to see what’s what.
When 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!
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!