Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Vegan Guide to Big Island Eats (Whole Food, Raw, and Gluten-Free Grinds)

My family has been on the Big Island for nine months now, and life out here hasn't always been exactly as we have anticipated. We thought we would have some land and be growing a lot of our own food, but ended up moving into a condo on a golf course. We still grow food on our lanai, but mainly just herbs, tomatoes, and a few avocado plants which have a few years before they will be ready to produce fruit.

Luckily for us there are some wonderful businesses out here that keep my family fueled, so I thought it might be nice to highlight some of what is out there for any travelers with plant-based diets. Not all of these restaurants are strictly vegan, but all have vegan, and even raw vegan options (don't be afraid of your smoothies and juices) available. We are based in Waikoloa, so we have more recommendations for the Kona side than for the Hilo side, but hopefully I will have more advice of where to go in Hilo after a few more visits!

Under the Bodhi Tree- A Waikoloa-based MUST for raw vegans visiting the Big Island, as it is more or less the only place to get raw gourmet meals, although after hearing talks given by the owner/ head chef on nutrition, I trust the cooked gluten-free/ vegan options as well. Under the Bodhi Tree offers a raw pad thai, salads, and soups, as well as cooked veggie burgers and stir-fries. Everything on the menu is vegetarian, but not everything is vegan, although this can be helpful when traveling with family and friends that may not cater to your exact diet. Don't forget to check out the raw dessert options, and if you go for dinner get there early. They close at 7 PM, but there is a hula show that starts in the same shopping center then on Mondays and Thursdays.

Racha Thai- All organic, gluten-free, dairy-free Thai food stand in Waikoloa Village that has many vegan options. I asked for an order of several dishes to be made without fish sauce (as I have gotten in the habit of doing at Thai restaurants) and the said they never use any! Also of note, this stand has the BEST smoothies I have had in my life, my favorites being banana ginger and chocolate mac nut.

Lotus Cafe- Another AMAZING Thai restaurant (there are several out here, and it is tempting to list them all) that is all organic and can make anything on the menu vegan at your request! Even if you aren't in the mood for Thai food it is worth stopping in here if you are hanging around Kona to taste their delicious coconut milk gelato.

Sea Dandelion Cafe- Run by a kind and community-driven family, the Sea Dandelion Cafe offers vegetarian food with many vegan options. Delicious juice options and kava evenings highlight this locale, but the vegan poke (the only vegan attempt at traditional Hawaiian flavors I have seen) is a tasty dish which introduced me to sea asparagus. I'm a big fan! Also the veggie burger sliders are nothing to shy away from. This cafe is the heart of Honoka'a, and a great stop if you decide to visit the beautiful Waipi'o Valley (pictured above).

Sweet Cane Cafe- If you are in Hilo, get a smoothie here! Why here, when you can get smoothies almost everywhere on the island? Two words: Durian Cacao... drooling!!!

Farmer's Markets- Honestly there are WAY too many to list here. There are 4 that happen in Waimea on Saturday alone! Luckily, I have a link right here that should help you find one where you are! Many of these markets offer prepared food, as well as familiar and unfamiliar fruits and vegetables.

Hope you find something on this list to help you on your travels!