About 1.5 million Americans are vegan now, according to Vegan Bits. Pretty incredible, considering vegans have long been considered fringe (the “Hezbollah-like splinter faction” of vegetarians, as the late, great Anthony Bourdain wrote in his 2001 book “Kitchen Confidential”).
A lot has changed since 2001, including the advent of social media. “Social media helps influence people to go vegan,” vegan blogger Crystal Pang told The Daily Meal. “Vegans posting food photos are proving how easy, accessible, and tasty veganism is.”
Registered dietitian Mia Zarlengo told The Daily Meal, “Veganism has become more mainstream as individuals have become more aware of the power their food choices have over their health. For many people and their health goals, every meal counts, including meals they eat on vacation.”
As the popularity of the vegan diet grows, more and more resorts cater to travelers who don’t eat meat, even if just to offer to veganize non-vegan dishes. Whether you’re a lifelong vegan, someone who prefers a plant-based diet, or someone who just wants to take a vacation that won’t leave you unable to button your jeans, you might consider checking out one of these luxury vegan-friendly resort experiences.
You should go to Italy to eat. We may as well end this article here because that is just so deeply true. And a vegan diet doesn’t make it any less true, provided you stay at Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, a culinary resort nestled in the Serchio Valley. You can go shopping for fresh produce at the farmers market with the chef and then help him prepare your meal. If you sign up for the cooking class, you’ll learn how to make a variety of pasta (plenty of which are prepared without egg). And if you don’t mind venturing off the resort, there’s an organic, biodynamic winery nearby where you can tour the picturesque vineyards, eat lunch (they’ll be happy to make yours vegan), and enjoy a tasting of some of the best wines you’ll ever have: No pesticides and no additives — you won’t believe how much that improves your buzz. If you go in the fall during the harvest, you can take off your shoes and stomp those organic grapes.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji aims to embody the time-honored South Pacific way of life: Respecting the delicate balance of nature by participating in it, rather than fighting it. For 3,000 years, locals have sustained themselves on whatever is growing around them, and as much as possible, the resort tries to do the same. For example, they maintain an organic garden, reducing the amount of food that needs to be imported, so guests can eat fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs grown on the resort. And since the Fijian diet is largely plant-based (important staples include papaya, banana, taro, and coconut) with hardly any dairy, it made sense to provide a vegan menu both in the restaurant and poolside. The menu is full of delicious fusion dishes — beetroot soup with chives, Thai salad with green mango, and Moroccan couscous with coriander. The weekly traditional Fijian “Lovo” feast is also loaded up with vegan options.
The castle hotel Adare Manor in County Limerick, Ireland, will prepare any item on the menu to be vegan. They also offer a vegan afternoon tea, and if no one told you, you wouldn’t know those decadent pastries were made without milk or eggs. Among other sweets, you’ll get Tahitian panna cotta with raspberry gel, chocolate and peanut brownies, and traditional scones with vegan vanilla Chantilly. Afternoon tea is served in The Gallery, a space lined with stained-glass windows and ornate wooden choir stalls, modeled after the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.
From Laguna Lodge in Guatemala, you’ll have a view of Lake Atitlan and three volcanoes. The resort supports the local community and the local environment (check out the on-site nature reserve they work to protect) and promotes social justice: The entire staff is Mayan and half are women, and the resort offers free stays to doctors who provide free treatment to locals. Pretty amazing! Enjoy the lakefront vegan restaurant, Zotz (think crusted eggplant filled with creamed sweet pepper, garden vegetable stroganoff, and cheesecake with blue cardamom compote), a cup of organic coffee grown on-site, and the bread baked daily in house.
The Velas Resorts in Mexico are famous country-wide for their flagship restaurants: Frida (Mexican), Piaf (French), and Lucca (Italian). Noticing that they were getting more and more requests for vegan modifications, which chefs would have to whip up on the spot, Velas tapped celebrity vegan chef Miguel Bautistato create vegan tasting menus for all of their restaurants. Now Frida serves a pretty addictive raw coconut ceviche with serrano chile, Piaf slings a vegan nut pate with fermented cashew cheese and black pepper crust, and Lucca offers a variety of gluten-free vegan pasta dishes, to name a few of the best offerings. You can also order room service from a vegan menu.
Launched by two Spanish women who are best friends and former UN workers, Apoyo Lodge is a 100 percent vegan wellness resort in Nicaragua. Their philosophy is to care for the Earth and everything that lives on it. They source ingredients locally and serve only gluten-free vegan food, combining cooked and raw meals with flavors from all over the world. Breakfast is included and lunch and dinner are prix fixe: Two or three courses and a homemade non-alcoholic drink.
The menu changes daily and includes delicious concoctions such as a version of the traditional Nicaraguan breakfast: gallo pinto (a regional rice and beans dish), fresh tortillas, almond cream cheese, grilled plantains, and roasted tomatoes. You can also order juices, smoothies, and snacks from their Healthy Bar throughout the day. Food is an absolutely vital part of the travel experience, for both vegans and non-vegans alike. Here are 35 iconic street foods every world traveler must try.
More From The Daily Meal: