Category: Best Beaches


by Christy Morgan

Quintana Roo is a popular part of Mexico situated in the Southeast corner of the country. It’s home to Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Akumal, Bacalar, and many beautiful and ancient Mayan ruins. I spent 5 days in December at an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel, then did my own thing road-tripping around QR in March. I discovered, as I always do, that it isn’t hard to be vegan. Some places are more challenging than others, but I never starve!

Cancun and Cozumel are touristy and full of large all-inclusive retreats. I couldn’t do a post about this area of Mexico with touching a little on my experience at Sunscape Sabor. This all-inclusive resort is pretty affordable if you go at non-peak times and has great free activities like SUP boards, kayaking, snorkel gear, fitness classes, yoga, and wind-sailing. However, our food options were pretty dismal. We made it work like vegans do! Even though I contacted them weeks before and they assured me vegan options were available, none of them were standard except for some items on the salad bar. Even the oatmeal was made with milk. It turns out they have a few “vegetarian” options on each menu in their restaurants, but not really vegan.

We had to specifically ask for vegan beans to be made for us (they always put meat in the beans grrrr) and veggies without butter. The head chef happily made us what we asked for but it was nothing gourmet. I stuck with mostly fruit and oatmeal for breakfast (which they made for us with water), huge salads for lunch, and veggie tacos, rice, and beans for dinner. We ate one meal outside the resort and it was just meh. There aren’t many vegan choices in Cozumel unfortunately.

One of my favorite meals was a veggie pizza with no cheese. PRO TIP: take a shaker of nutritional yeast when you travel for pizza and to sprinkle on anything that needs a flavor punch. We survived the five nights there and the staff was very accommodating to make sure we were fed. They thankfully had soy milk for lattes! Honestly, I won’t be staying at an all-inclusive again unless I know for a fact that vegan options are on their menus and the staff knows what vegan means. 

Now onto Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Bacalar!

In March I visited Playa del Carmen on my way back from Guatemala and discovered it’s a very vegan-friendly place! Also you can score an Airbnb for very cheap. My favorite places to eat in Playa are La Senda, Clorofila, and Pitted Date Bakery. I had the most delicious layer of veggies, corn tortillas, and mole sauce at La Senda. Clorofila has great juices, breakfast items, and both have the most variety of healthy vegan options at affordable prices. 

La Senda
Ave 10 N Entre Calles 10 y 10 bis
Mon-Sun 9:00am-10:30pm

Clorofila Green & Vegan
Calle 20 esq. Av. 30 norte 222
Mon-Sun 9:00am-10:00pm

For breakfast and desserts definitely head to Pitted Date Bakery. The omelet pictured above is stuffed with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes topped with a delicious sauce and nut parmesan. They carry both raw and baked vegan desserts, and other breakfast and lunch options. It’s not to be missed! 

Pitted Date Bakery
Calle 26 Norte
Mon-Sun 8:00am-10:00pm

I jumped in a rental car and headed down to Tulum, where I stopped for lunch then took the long drive to Bacalar. This freshwater lake looks like the ocean and is nicknamed Lagoon of Seven Colors for it’s beautiful layers of color. I think it’s often overshadowed by the beach towns in QR, but honestly I prefer fresh water to the salty ocean. It’s a small, sleepy town in comparison but if you are looking for some peace and quiet definitely consider a short stay here. I recommend Casa Lamat for their perfect bungalows along the lake and the above platform with hammocks so you can chill, swim, and sunbath as the waves lull you to sleep.

I was happy to discover a vegan restaurant in Bacalar! Mango y Chile has plant-based burgers made with whole food ingredients and baked goods too. Definitely stop there if you are in the area!

Mango y Chile
Av.3 Fuerte San Felipe
Mon-Sun 1:00 – 9:00pm (closed Tuesdays)

I headed back up and stopped in Tulum at Charly’s Vegan Tacos for dinner. They have more than tacos! It was dark so I couldn’t get a good photo of my meal but I tried the Huaraches (a Mexican version of a pizza but with corn masa as base topped with yums). I did snap this sign directing people back to the vegan truck. Too funny! There is plenty of seating outside the truck and the staff is super nice. You can look on HappyCow for photos of their delicious food. It’s really creative stuff; they do amazing things with seitan and jackfruit, have unique salsas and sauces, and fancy mocktails.

Charly’s Vegan Tacos
Carr. Tulum-Boca Paila km. 4.5
Tue-Sun 1:00-10:00pm

Have you been to this area of Mexico? Any advice for our readers or favorite places you ate delicious vegan food? Share with us in the comments!

Disclaimer: You’ll find some affiliate links in my travel posts. I appreciate you booking through the links on my site so that I may continue giving you free content and sharing my travel adventures! It costs nothing extra for you & I make a tiny bit to keep running this blog. Thanks for your support!



Booking.com

by Christy Morgan

If you want to learn Spanish there are many beautiful countries to choose from for your immersion program. In my research I discovered that Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ecuador were the best places to learn Spanish because the local people do not have a strong accent, making it easier for new students to communicate.

Immersion is truly the best way to learn a new language. I experienced this for 2 weeks at Intercultura in Costa Rica. If you have the option to do a homestay during your course do it! Not only was this the more economical choice (private room and bathroom, with breakfast, dinner, and laundry service for $175 per week), it gives you a chance to speak only Spanish with your host family. You’ll get to experience amazing local food and have someone that knows the town well.

casado-costarica

Once you choose the country you want to learn in, you then need to research the different areas and choose a location for your studies. Do you want to be by the beach, soaking up the sun and learning to surf in your free time? Or do you want to be in the city, surrounded by more locals, getting to know the culture, visiting museums and such in your free time. I was able to experience both the city of Heredia and the beach town of Samara during my courses with Intercultura. Here’s what I learned, which will help you in deciding what kind of location you want to do your studies in.

IMG_4979

The City

  • More crowded, but this gives you more opportunities to practice your Spanish with locals. Also there are more choices for restaurants, shopping, bars, you name it. If you like people and having more choices the city will be a good choice for you. Though people in big cities tend to be less talkative and social, I found people friendly in Heredia.
  • More professional attitude, so if you are someone that likes more structure and punctuality choose a city location.
  • The cost of things like groceries and food at restaurants was cheaper in the city. There was this amazing outdoor produce market with rows of beautiful fruits and veggies (pictured above). I didn’t see anything like this at the beach.

DSC_0008

The Beach

  • More chill environment, which means people are casual, service is slow, and more partying to all hours of the night. If this is your lifestyle already then head to the beach!
  • Do you love to swim in the ocean and surf? Then the beach is probably a good choice for you, unless it will become a distraction from your studies. You are there to learn, so don’t forget to do your homework! The great thing about the Samara location of Intercultura is many places give discounts to students. The surf school next door lets you have a board for the week when you purchase a surf lesson ($35). If you’ve always wanted to learn to surf I highly recommend trying it there. The lesson was excellent and the waves are perfect for beginners.
  • I found the food to be a bit more expensive at the beach, but more variety and healthy options since it caters more to tourists. In Samara there was local food, sushi, Italian, lots of seafood if you are into that and even a vegetarian restaurant. My cheapest meal was about $4 and most expensive was $20. So you can see there is quite a range.
  • The school offers free classes outside of the language class like Zumba, latin dance, and yoga. Both campus’s offer these but it was really fun to take classes outside overlooking the beach!

yoga-costarica

Immersion in general

I found immersion learning to be the best way to learn Spanish. Living in a city of Spanish speakers forces you to use what you’ve learned, and encourages you to practice outside of class so you are able to communicate more easily. It’s like accelerated learning. I had locals tell me the whole time I was in Costa Rica they were shocked I had only a couple of weeks of classes. The program at Intercultura was the best experience. The teachers were amazing, I met so many beautiful people from all over the world, all while exploring a new country and culture. I couldn’t recommend it enough. I’ll be heading to Colombia to continue my studies through immersion in a couple of months!

Have you done immersion learning? What was your experience like?



Booking.com

by Christy Morgan

You want to go to Thailand and visit it’s pristine beaches, but you are a health-minded person. You are into yoga and healthy food, and have no interest in getting wasted or having sweaty Europeans rubbing up against you in a hot club. If you are anything like me you travel to see the world and have experiences not to party.

Ko Phangan is famous for it’s crazy Full Moon Party. I was on the island for 8 days and had the most brilliant time never stepping foot in Haad Rin or swinging glow sticks on the beach. Granted, a little part of me did want to see what the fuss was all about, but I just couldn’t be bothered. Call me old or uncool if you will, but I didn’t want to miss my morning yoga class. You can see where my priorities are when traveling. I chose to go to Ko Phangan because I heard one little part of the island was a heaven for yoga and healthy food.

Srithanu

Srithanu is found on the northwest side of the island far, far away from the party area. It’s somewhere a vegetarian, vegan, or yogi would want to plant some roots. I fell in love with this little area of the island for many reason. Today I share my top 5 reasons to visit the island if you  care about your health and well-being and aren’t interested in partying much.

It’s Cheap

Thailand is known for being inexpensive but the islands tend to be more touristy and pricey. Thankfully, you can easily stay in Srithanu for $25 a day backpacker style (for a room, food, & scooter) or splurge a little and have 5 star luxury at $50 a day. Fruit is abundant and cheap for breakfast. Thai food is easily found for under $3 a meal in shacks set up along the road. Accommodations range from hostels at Shiralea Backpackers (only 200 baht/$6 USD for 8 bed dorm with air con and share bathroom) to the beautiful Phangan Akuna (where I stayed in a private bungalow with a friend for 1300 baht/$37 USD). I scored a scooter for the week for 800 baht (about $3.35 USD a day), found free yoga classes (see below) and even my fanciest meal cost around $10 USD. Things would be even cheaper if you stayed for a month at a place with a kitchen. All of this makes it a dream for a short vacation or a longer stay.

beach-kophangan-thailand

There’s Beautiful Beaches

Sure, you can find beautiful beaches all over the world, but the water is so crystal clear it’s the ultimate diving and snorkeling destination. Just look at that blue water and sandy beach! I love how it has layers of the most beautiful greens and blues as you look out into the ocean. We went on a half-day snorkeling trip (900 baht/$25 USD including pickup, lunch, drinks, and equipment) around the northwest side of the island and I was shocked at how clear and lovely the water is. If you go during hot season the tides may be low and the water right off the beaches will be hot, but the further you go out the cooler the water will get. I definitely recommend getting out on a boat if you can!

IMG_3922

Abundant Yoga Classes

Within 3 kilometers there are six beautiful yoga studios where you can take yoga classes of all styles. I tried classes at Samma Karuna, Orion, Gaia, Agama, and Ananda Wellness Resort, but missed Sunny Yoga. Each studio is unique, with experienced teachers and every style of yoga imaginable throughout the day. Almost all are open air studios (many with mosquito netting) that can get pretty hot so be sure to wear appropriate clothing, bring a towel and a full water bottle. Most have drop-in rates at 300 baht ($8.50 USD), or 5/10 class passes at a discount. Agama and Gaia let you take your first class for free!

kophangan-food

Vegan Food Galore

If you are looking for healthy fare Srithanu area of Ko Phangan is where it’s at! This is what drew me to the island; a quick glance at HappyCow shows an abundant amount of choices. From those cheap Thai shacks on the side of the road where you can get pad thai for $1.50 to fancier vegan cafes where you might spend $8-12, everything you could ever want is here. Check out this comprehensive blog post from Mostly Amelie and I share my favorite meals here on my personal blog.

bottle-beach-kophangan

It’s Quiet & Relaxed

Even though Ko Phangan is known as a party island, I found the north/west side of the island to be quiet and secluded. Granted I was there in April during low season, but I’m guessing that area is often a little slower than Haad Rin and Thongsala. I felt totally comfortable driving a scooter around and had no fear of crashing (like I did while in Canggu, Bali). If you are in town during the full moon party it does get busier during that time and hotel prices go up so keep that in mind. But other times are the month are super chill!

Have you been to Ko Phangan? What is your favorite thing about the island? Share with us in the comments below!

 


Booking.com

by Christy Morgan

I’ve had the pleasure of spending 17 days in Canggu (pronounced chain-goo) at the surf and yoga resort Pelan Pelan. You can read all about my days at the retreat here on HappyCow. My breakfast and lunch was provided Monday through Friday but for dinner and on weekends I explored the surrounding area for vegan cuisine. What I found was a pleasant surprise! Here are just some of the many vegan meals I found in this small surfer town that won me over with it’s friendly people and tasty grub.

IMG_3521Peloton Supershop (Jln Raya Pantai Berawa, 8am-4pm, cash only) is one of the two all vegan restaurants in Canggu. I think it’s Australian owned so it has plentiful options of burgers and wraps, gorgeous salads, fresh juices and smoothies, & small plates. If I had been staying nearby I could have eaten here every day, except that they close at 4pm! I had the Be Strong smoothie (Spinach, Mango, Banana, Moringa Protein, Spirulina & Coconut Milk) and the Burn Out Burger (served on a Charcoal Bun with Caramelised Onions, Tomato, Purple Cabbage, Lettuce, & Vegan Mayo with a Side Salad & Sweet Potato Fries) and both were very good. Also had some shots of moringa, mangosteen, and turmeric so I didn’t lose my “healthy vegan” card. It’s a bit more expensive than some of the other places but worth it in creativity and tastiness. Even though it’s air conditioned, the large glass windows keep it pretty hot in there so an ice cold drink is a crucial start to the meal.

green ginger noodle house bali cafe

Green Ginger Noodle House (Jln Raya Pantai Berawa, 8am-9:30pm, takes credit cards) is a vegan cafe down the way from Peloton. It’s Asian fusion so if you’ve had a favorite dish somewhere across Southeast Asia you’ll find it here on the menu. My first meal there was Spring rolls, Pad Thai, and this beautiful White Tiger Salad to the right (roasted pumpkin, sesame, carrot, tempeh, pickled ginger, bean sprouts, cucumber & lime soy dressing). Then I got food delivered later in the week and opted for the Laksa (a flavorful noodle soup from Malaysia), which blew my mind.Bonus: the restaurant is air conditioned and actually cool inside making it a nice reprieve from the scorching heat and humidity. Everything was excellent and the staff is friendly. If you go to other parts of Bali you’ll notice that in general the local people in Canggu are very friendly and accommodating. I noticed this time around people in Ubud were not as friendly. Guess they are getting sick of the tourists.

IMG_3486Warung Bu Mi (Jl. Raya Batu Bolong No. 52, all day, cash only) was shown to me by another vegan who lives in Canggu part-time. It’s the cheapest vegan meal you can get and I went there 3 or 4 times during my stay. Warungs are traditional Balinese cafes that typically have a row of vegetarian/vegan dishes to choose from (along with a row of meat and seafood dishes). You either serve yourself and pay per pile of food or someone serves you as you point to what you want. It’s an experience called “Nasi Campur”. And you’ll pay a measly 25,000 (less than $2) for this huge plate of food. Each time I went I tried something different, but the pumpkin and red beans made it on my plate each time because it was that tasty. Some things had egg but it was pretty obvious what was vegan or not. The veggie dishes are typically vegan in Balinese cuisine anyways and Bu Mi does a good job of keeping most the bottom row of food veg, while the top row is the meat stuff.

IMG_3532

Canteen (Jalan Batumejan No. 33, 7am-5pm, cash only) doesn’t tout itself as a vegan-friendly place but I found their menu easily adaptable and they serve the best coconut milk latte in town! I went here many mornings first thing to work on my computer before the brunch crowd rushed in. One time I had their smoothie bowl, topped with granola, toasted coconut, dragonfruit, and banana (featured right) another time I altered their bagel sandwich swapping out the salmon for tempeh and eggs for avocado. My last morning in town I had them make their breakfast quinoa bowl with tempeh instead of eggs. Easy and delicious. Staff is friendly enough and you’ll even get to strike up conversations with the nice western locals if you go early enough.

I also enjoyed the bowls at Poke Poke, and had a wonderful salad at Avocado Cafe (but sometimes they are out of avocado which is ironic). Betelnut was totally overhyped and I didn’t find many vegan things on the menu.

Do you have any favorites in Canggu? Be sure to leave them in the comments and tell us what you think of our choices! 



Booking.com