Central America is one of the most alluring regions in the world - and vegans traveling to this isthmus will find food options either exciting and plentiful or a little repetitive... depending on where you visit.
However, while Central America is not as vegan-friendly as, say Asia, you can find vegan food wherever you go, especially if you're in tourist areas.
In this article, we're revealing the best vegan-friendly destinations in Central America that you definitely should visit on your trip.
What Countries Are in Central America?
Central America has 7 countries wedged between Mexico and Colombia. These are:
- El Salvador
- Costa Rica
Sometimes Caribbean countries such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic can fall into the Central America region, however, for the purpose of this article, we're focusing only on the 7 mainland countries listed above.
Why Visit Central America?
Central America is one of the best travel destinations for adventurous travelers and nature lovers.
Some of the reasons Central America attracts so many travelers are:
Packed Full of Adventure
Central America has everything from towering mountains, tropical beaches, active volcanoes, bustling cities, and so much more. This means you can be ziplining through the jungle one day and sipping margaritas on the beach the next - oh, and the next you can be roasting marshmallows on an active volcano!
All countries in Central America, with perhaps the exception of Costa Rica, are very cheap compared to US prices. You can simply eat, sleep and travel on a much lower budget than you can in the west.
Proximity to the United States
One factor countries like Costa Rica have a high percentage of US tourists is simply because of its close proximity to the USA. This makes flying to Costa Rica and other Central American countries affordable and with little flight time. It's no surprise Costa Rica alone brings in more than 1.7 million tourists every year.
Top Vegan-Friendly Cities in Central America
1. Antigua, Guatemala
Recommended vegan restaurant: Samsara
One of the best cities in Central America for vegans is Antigua. The colonial city has a growing food scene, which has led to a wealth of choices when it comes to tasty vegan food. In Antigua, you can discover 100% vegan restaurants, local Guatemalan dishes, and fresh fruit and vegetables from nearby markets. The best part is can enjoy all this deliciousness with a simply breathtaking backdrop of volcanoes.
2. San Jose, Costa Rica
Recommended vegan restaurant: Soda Subsida Vegetariana
San Jose is a gateway to Central America as it is one of the major entry points via air. While we don't recommend San Jose as a top destination in Central America, there is a thriving vegan scene here which should not be missed if you find yourself in the Costa Rican capital. Our favorite vegan restaurants in San Jose are Subsida, Rojo Cafe, and Huaca Mole Sodita.
3. Panama City, Panama
Recommended vegan restaurant: Liza's Kitchen
Panama City is one of the more modern cities in Central America, so it's no surprise the vegan scene has developed considerably there in the past decade. Make sure to check out Taziki's Cafe and Liza's Kitchen for some delicious vegan grub on your trip.
4. Belize City, Belize
Recommended vegan restaurant: Vegan Bites
While veganism is still relatively new in Belize, the accessibility of plant-based options is increasing. Belize City, the largest city in Belize, has a limited but growing vegan food scene. There are a few vegan-friendly restaurants, such as Vegan Bites and Martha's Cafe, that offer plant-based options. Of course, a lot of traditional Belizean dishes, such as rice and beans and fry jacks, can also be made vegan.
5. San Salvador, El Salvador
Recommended vegan restaurant: El Veggie SV
While veganism is still a relatively new concept in El Salvador, the accessibility of plant-based options is increasing, and many non-vegan restaurants are beginning to offer vegan options on their menus. As the country's capital, San Salvador is one of the places in El Salvador where vegan options are expanding. There are several vegan restaurants and cafes in the city, including El Veggie and Soy Green, that serve delicious vegan food. Also, many traditional Salvadoran dishes can be easily modified to be vegan, such as pupusas made with plant-based fillings.
6. Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Recommended vegan restaurant: Govindas Vegetariano
Honduras isn't known for its access to vegan food, but in Tegucigalpa there are a couple of vegan options you can scope out. However, generally, the city isn't very vegan-friendly so you'll likely want to find local restaurants where you can eat vegan rice and beans - which should not be difficult to find.
7. Managua, Nicaragua
Recommended vegan restaurant: Ananda Vegetariano
While Nicuagura doesn't have the vegan options of its neighbor, Costa Rica, in Managua there are a few vegan restaurants worth noting. These include Ananda Vegetariano and ZacateLimon.
8. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Recommended vegan restaurant: Zen Eats
While not quite a city, Lake Atitlan is a notable mention due to its thriving vegan scene. The vegan options here are due to the yogi community which has shaped the town of San Marcos. While you'll find vegan options available all over Lake Atitlan, San Marcos has the highest concentration of vegan eats in the whole of Lake Atitlan. Some recommendations are Zen Eats and Samsara's Garden.
Central America is not the most vegan-friendly part of the world to travel to, but you can definitely make do. Major cities often have at least a few vegan options and traditional Central American foods are made up of vegan staples like rice and beans, so you can always find something to eat.
Whether you're backpacking through or having a quick getaway, you should not worry about the vegan options in Central America as there is always somewhere to eat and you'll never go hungry.
If you've been planning a Latin American escape, Central America is a fantastic place to start.
*Note that while these cities are classed as 'vegan-friendly', it is advised to do your research before traveling to these destinations. Not all restaurants or cafes may offer vegan options, and some may have limited options. It is always best to check ahead of time to avoid disappointment.