Traveling Vegan - The Galapagos Islands
Ecuador is not known for it’s vegan friendly options, and the Galapagos is no exception. These islands are known for their ridiculously cool animals, evolution, and seafood! You will walk down the streets and see a fish market with hungry sea lions begging like puppies. On Santa Cruz, there is a street that in the evening is converted to many restaurants with the host/hostess walking around showing off their latest catch of the day. But what about us vegans?? I mean the people who travel to the Galapagos often do so because they love interesting animals; so, it would make sense that there would be a good amount of us vegans going.
There are three main islands in the Galapagos: Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristobal, these are the islands where people can sleep over at night, while there are smaller ones one can visit. I will be focusing on these three.
During my father and my stay in the Galapagos, Santa Cruz was a bit of a home base for us. We flew into, and out of Santa Cruz, and we used it as the go between with the two other islands. Santa Cruz is the most populated of the islands, with Puerto Ayora being the major location for tourists and activity. Not knowing the lay of the land yet, my father and I stayed to the main drag when looking for food the first few days, walking along the water and up Avenue Charles Darwin. Here you will find the more expensive generic tourist food. Most of these locations had never heard of a vegan before. And an important word of warning, which I always forget, do not eat spaghetti in Latin America, it will never be what you want it to be!
When I travel, I’m always curious how well my Happy Cow App will do in finding me great vegan food. This trip, I wasn’t very impressed, but it did find me Il Giardino, which was on the main drag, had a cute ambiance, and a few really solid vegan options that had me coming back for more. So, it looked like lunches and dinners could work.
However, breakfast was looking a little bleak. One thing I quickly learned, was if I wanted to have more than fruit and granola, I was going to have to make my own breakfasts. Luckily, Puerto Ayora has a pretty good supermarket, and I was pleasantly surprised to find, almond milk and even vegan yogurt on the shelves! Our hotel had a beautiful little deck and a fridge; so, my breakfasts were always sun kissed and just the way I wanted them.
As my father and I expanded our knowledge of Puerto Ayora, we came across the wonderful Charles Binford Street, which converts into a restaurant row. Here you can experience more of the local food, at about half the price of the restaurants along the water. The street market is loads of fun too! It is a few blocks of open restaurants that have taken over the street. You have to try to navigate the many hosts/hostesses trying to sit you at their table as you select your establishment for the evening. If you are squeamish about seeing lots of dead seafood and having people shove lobsters in your face, you might not want to come here. However, if you can overlook that, it is a fun experience and I was pleasantly surprised to find that these restaurants were much more accommodating to vegans than the main drag. When I spoke to the eateries on the water I often got blank stares when I mentioned that I was vegan. When I did it at the street market, the hosts didn’t miss a beat, they just went from showing me their fish to listing what they could offer me for my vegan diet! These guys were pros! Most of the places had similar dishes, but my favorite dish I had there was a vegan pizza from Resaurante - Pizzeria Playa Sol Mar! If you decide to go, be extra nice to the host/waiter Andres for me, he is very accommodating for vegans!
The last goodie I found in Santa Cruz was a vegan Acai Bar called Ukku. I passed it the evening before traveling to San Cristobal, and knew I had to have my last breakfast on the Galapagos there, and it didn’t disappoint! This place was heaven! I had an amazing acai bowl with fruit, oats, granola, and chia. I strongly recommend making Ukku a stop on your vegan Galapagos trip. They even packed me a to go lunch for my flight home, with a glass jar filled with my favorite juice, guanabana. I literally had this white slightly sweet juice at every opportunity I could get, as you will see in the pictures! It is a must in South America!
Isabela was my favorite of all the Galapagos islands with its rich animal life and stunning volcanoes. It also is the least populated island of the three you can stay on, which is always a win, but less ideal for a vegan diet. Plan to eat a lot of rice, beans and veggies. Most of the restaurants can accommodate for that, which is good because there isn’t much in the line of grocery stores. There are less English speakers on Isabela so make sure you don’t make the same mistake as me and confuse the Spanish word for mushroom (seta) for the Spanish word for shrimp (camarón)! Ok, my Spanish isn’t great, but my father’s is equally as bad/he also was tricked!
Useful Spanish words to know:
Vegano - Vegan
Vegetariano - Vegetarian
Sin carne - No meat
Sin leche - No milk
Sin huevos - No eggs
Sin mantequilla - No Butter
Vegetales - Vegetables
Arroz - Rice
Fruta - Fruit
Mas guanabana jugo, por favor! - More guanabana juice, please!
San Cristobal is a beautiful little island with a heavy population of sea lions! It’s human population is somewhere between Santa Cruz and Isabela, meaning that finding vegan food was a bit hit or miss. I was lucky to stumble onto Galapagos Dreams, which is right on the water, and has a few nice vegan dishes on the menu. My father refuses to go to the same place more than twice so I had a bit of trouble finding a dinner one evening, but the next morning I was excited to find the newly opened The Point. I tentatively walked in, after a night of vegan rejection, looking for breakfast and the owner excitedly told me that his pancakes are originally from a vegan recipe! He even made the cashew milk on the spot! I was in love! If I wasn’t a married woman, I would have considered moving to San Cristobal to help run a hostel and take care of baby sea lions in a second! Yep, totally did not consider that at all..
The Point’s food was so good we went back for lunch before heading back to Santa Cruz. I was given a mix of different dishes that the owner put together for me, including an awesome cream of spinach soup. Overall, an amazing cafe with lots of great people.
So, there we have it. Being vegan in the Galapagos will take some work, you won't be able to find a meal in every restaurant, and some nights you might have to shop around a bit, to the dismay of your meat eating father, but when you do find the places that will accommodate you, you will also often make some friends.
One more side note: During our overnight layover in Guayaquil, on mainland Ecuador, on our way home, I was happy to learn that Ecuador has a vegetarian fast food chain called: Green Life Vegetariano! It wasn’t my favorite food on the trip, but I was happy for the option.
To learn more about the Galapagos and what they are doing to help the environment please read our feature Saving The Galapagos Islands.
Article and photos by Kira Bucca, Editor in Chief of Jejune Magazine.