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Best vegan restaurants in Central America

What are the Best Vegan Restaurants in Central America?

To celebrate World Vegan Day, we take a look at the best vegan restaurants in each Central American country, as determined by the folks at HappyCow and TripAdvisor. This article contains affiliate links, where we will make a small commission if you purchase anything after clicking, at no extra cost to you. 

Happy World Vegan Day! Yes, today is the day where we celebrate all things vegan and non-animal-product eating. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a full-time vegan or not. Perhaps you’re simply trying to cut out meat or animal products one day a week or so. Maybe you feel like discovering a new cuisine and way of cooking to expand your palate. Or it could be you’re really wanting to go for it, to become a vegan for whatever reason(s) appeal to you.

Whatever you’re doing and whatever your reasons, World Vegan Day shines a spotlight onto all things related to veganism. And a good way to dip your toe into this world is through eating out.

Central America, like Latin America in general, is not a hotbed of veganism.

People down here love their meat too much. It’s a simple truth. The main dishes in every country include meat, chicken, or fish. Pork and beef are super popular and it’s a part of the world where people will still look at you funny if you say you’re a vegan.

Things have changed in the 20+ plus years since I first moved to the region, but not as much as they have elsewhere in the world. Being a vegan in Central America is easier than it ever was, but still nowhere near the norm. It’s still an utterly alien concept to many.

Oftentimes, if you ask for something vegan in a typical restaurant, they’ll scrape off the meat from a dish and give you the accompanying rice and beans that came with it – rice and beans are staples in this part of the world. And you’ll need to not care that your rice and beans weren’t refried in animal fat. I’ve had moments with a vegan cousin of mine from California upset about this. Central America ain’t California.

But as I said, things are much better now, particularly in the capital cities around the region, and areas where tourists go – beach towns, etc. Vegan restaurants (or restaurants with great, creative vegan options) now exist in most places, and guess what? Many of them are great!

I’m not a vegan myself. I’ll put that out there right now. My mouth still waters at the thought of a good steak and I indulge with gusto. I admit it. But I’m not adverse to vegan food, and I try to go meat free at least a few days every month. I prepare a mean tofu stir fry that could win awards.

And, in the interests mentioned above of expanding my palate, I have no issues ordering vegan in a restaurant upon occasion. It’s a new way of eating for me, and I’m happy to explore.

Which brings us to this restaurant guide for vegans in Central America.

As I’m not an expert, I figured it would be good to find out what real vegans in the region are saying. Enter HappyCow, an online community dedicated to showcasing the best plant-based and vegan food options around the world. If anyone knows the best vegan restaurants in any given spot on the planet, it’s these guys.

HappyCow lists and reviews vegan restaurants (or, as is more likely in Central America, restaurants with vegan options) all over the region. They’ve created a community of members all over, who check out and review restaurants. This makes them the best people to trust for finding a decent vegan restaurant in, say, San Salvador. Think of them like a TripAdvisor for vegans.

Speaking of TripAdvisor, we’ll also use them in this guide. If HappyCow rates a place well, we’ll also see if TripAdvisor does. Crosschecking, so-to-speak. And if both rate a place well, it’ll be on our list. We’ll try to identify a handful of great vegan/vegan-friendly restaurants in each country for you to check out.

Let’s get started.

Vegan restaurants in Belize

Due to its British colonial past, Belize actually has a sizable Indian community (Indian meaning from South Asia/Indian subcontinent as opposed to native/indigenous). Well, we say “sizable” meaning some four percent of the population, but compared to elsewhere in Central America, that’s big.

Point being here is that you’ll find more Indian restaurants in Belize than elsewhere in Central America, meaning more plant-based options for you. Some small towns without a vegan or vegan-friendly restaurant might have an Indian place you can use in a pinch. They probably won’t… but they might.

Anyway, find below the best vegan (or vegan-friendly) restaurants in Belize:

Vegan Bites, Belize City:

Offers a variety of vegan food served buffet style with a Caribbean twist, including mac and cheese, lasagna, potato salad, pasta salad.HappyCow

I was so excited to find this place in Belize City! It’s not necessarily *hard* to eat vegan in Belize, but it’s not often the most inspiring experience. That is, until you go to Vegan Bites!TripAdvisor

Namaste Cafe, Caye Caulker:

Serves meat, vegan options available. Cafe with vegan and vegetarian choices. Vegan items include: chia pudding, bagels, hummus sandwich, carrot-ginger salad, watermelon-almond-mint salad, smoothies, and more.HappyCow

There’s a reason why Namaste Cafe is recommended by everyone — it’s great. Convenient location, good prices, friendly and efficient staff, and delicious breakfasts!TripAdvisor

Cha Chi’s, Placencia:

Serves meat, vegan options available. Restaurant with vegan items listed on menu, including green salad, gazpacho, vegan pizza, and zucchini pasta.HappyCow

Fast service, really nice food – pizza and salads are amazing. Nice music too) They have a vegetarian and vegan options!!!! Cha-chis is beautiful place – owners are really cool people to hang out.TripAdvisor

Blue Water Grill, San Pedro:

Serves meat, vegan options available. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner place. Vegans could get the Asian noodles with vegetables, a miso soup, or salad with hearts of palm, cashews, and peanuts. Ask if the vegetarian pizza with roasted squash kale, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds can be modified for vegans or not.HappyCow

What’s great about this restaurant is that you can get a truly vegan meal here. It’s a great location… right on the beach. Servers and hostesses are very attentive and we enjoyed our meal here.TripAdvisor

Vegan restaurants in Costa Rica

It should be no surprise to anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the region that Costa Rica is about the most “vegan-friendly” country in the region. Not because of local customs and culture at all – Costa Ricans love eating meat as much as any Central American. Rather because of tourism. Costa Rica is the biggest tourism center in the region. It attracts a massive, wellness-orientated clientele, both as tourists and long-term travelers/expats.

Nowadays, you’ll find excellent vegan food in just about any beach town where tourists visit, plus a bunch around the capital city. Because of the amount of vegan/vegan friendly options in San José nowadays, we’ll direct you to HappyCow’s page highlighting the top ten. There’s more info here than we can give you in this article.

MIXT, San José (on the west side, in Sabana Oeste):

Concept is farm-to-table fast food, serving salads, wraps, and panini sandwiches. Build your own bowl with unlimited toppings, or choose from the pre-made menu. Has vegan pastries, desserts, kombucha, limeade, and coffee. Uses compostable and reusable containers.HappyCow

Fresh food, delicious and well presented. This is a wonderful place to eat. Hope they keep it this way!TripAdvisor

Taste of India 506, Escazu:

The menu has a few vegan options and all vegetarian options can be made vegan with cashew cream. Also they always talk to the chef for me and there are a ton of off menu vegan options as everything is freshly made from scratch.HappyCow

Outstanding! Like whoa! Soooooo happy! Vegan options galore and non-vegan too. Just soooo delicious. Service was beautiful too! I’ll be back every time I visit the capital!TripAdvisor

*I live around the corner from this place and know it personally. My favorite Indian restaurant in Costa Rica by far.

D’Mi Tierra, La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano area):

Serves meat; vegan options available. An eco-friendly artisan restaurant. Supports vegetarian and vegan cuisine causes and has clearly labeled vegan dishes, most of which are salads. ‘Casados’ is a traditional Costa Rican dish – vegan-style uses made-in-house cassava cake. Also has vegan hamburgers and others. Affordable. Pet friendly.HappyCow

This little place is a gem in La Fortuna! They had amazing vegan options and the food was delicious! Not to mention the great potions and cheap prices. Definitely a must visit especially for vegetarian/ vegans. The staff is incredible and super kind!TripAdvisor

Karma, Jaco:

Vegan cafe and restaurant serving plant-based dishes including comfort foods like burgers, pasta, and ‘wings’ as well as serving cakes, coffee, tea, smoothies, and cocktails.HappyCow

It’s not easy to find a vegan place that excels in imagination. Putting together a winning combo of veggies and fruits takes instinct and imagination, and Karma has it, at least as far as their Surfer Bowls attest — an excellent and pleasing concoction.TripAdvisor

Varuna, Manuel Antonio:

An all-vegan juice bar/restaurant offers a variety of bowls, zoodles, snacks to share, raw desserts and fresh juices & smoothies.HappyCow

Wow! Delicious food, very interesting combinations of flavors. The host/cook was gracious and accommodating of our needs. He made us custom dishes and considered our sensitivities and the ingredients we don’t like. My husband who isn’t vegan, also really enjoyed it and wants to come back!TripAdvisor

AmaSer, Puerto Viejo:

Vegan restaurant that’s part of a yoga centre located just outside Puerto Viejo. Serves gluten-free breakfast, lunch, and early dinner menu inspired by yoga’s guidelines and Ayurveda’s medicinal approach.HappyCow

This is a beautiful yoga retreat with an excellent restaurant. Andrew, the owner and all the staff were so helpful and charming. The food ( all vegan) was the best we have had in Costa Rica.TripAdvisor

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Mother Earth Vegan Restaurant, Tamarindo:

Vegan poolside restaurant at Mother Earth Vegan Hotel serving modern, plant-based cuisine accompanied by tropical cocktails and vegan wines. Gluten free options available upon request. Serving an all day menu. Gluten-free options upon request.HappyCow

This was an excellent place to relax with great food. The staff was amazing and very friendly. They made us feel at home, I’m vegan and my husband is not, but still made him feel extremely welcome. I’m disappointed that we didn’t find this place sooner, but will book a hotel stay again in the future.TripAdvisor

Vegan restaurants in El Salvador

Very difficult to find decent vegan options in El Salvador… at least ones with good enough reviews to feature here – if you know of any, let us know!

El Veggie SV, San Salvador:

A vegan restaurant that offers health-focused American-style dishes such as burgers, tacos, bagel sandwiches, hot dogs, naan pizza, and more.HappyCow

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Diez de Diez (10/10), San Salvador:

Vegan comfort food includes burgers, fries, fried ‘chicken’, hot dogs, and beers.HappyCow

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Jungle SV, El Tunco:

Serves meat, vegan options available. Restaurant and bar with vegan options marked and these include a burger, falafel, and hummus.HappyCow

This place has a such great laid back vibe with delicious cocktails. I love that it has vegan, vegetarian and traditional meat plates so it never excludes anyone!TripAdvisor

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Vegan restaurants in Guatemala

Guatemala City is Central America’s largest city, and you’ll find whatever you want here, particularly in the more upmarket zones. Elsewhere in Guatemala, the tourist centers of Antigua and Lake Atitlán will have the most vegan offerings available.

Lavka, Guatemala City (Zona 14):

Restaurant serving vegan comfort food, including falafel, fettuccini with cashew cream, alfredo with tempeh, Mexican dishes, Russian dishes, and more.HappyCow

Artesano, Guatemala City (Zona 10):

They have a big menu with paninis, burgers, wraps, bowls and more. They also offer a menu of the day which is 40 quetzales. We had a wrap and a panini – we highly recommend the meat lovers panini. It was so good. There is also a small shop there. EVERYTHING IS HOME MADE – the meat, the sauces, yoghurt…HappyCow

I was taking a walk at night near my hotel when I saw this vegan restaurant. It was late, so it was closed. But I went there the next day and had a delicious burger. It was so yummy that I forgot to take a photo to post here. Their menu is very diverse and will certainly please anyone. The service was great!TripAdvisor

La Bruja, Antigua:

Modern cuisine restaurant inside the Centro Comercial la Fuente, in a historic corner of the city, since 2017. Serves meals, drinks, coffee, and sweets. Savory selection includes burgers, wraps, tacos, bowls, empanadas, salads, and more. Beverages include smoothies, yerba mate, and coffee. Has books and games for guests.HappyCow

Brilliant healthy food. Very nice vegan burgers at this restaurant. The service was very good. I would recommend this place for any time of the day.TripAdvisor

Salud Para Vida, San Pedro La Laguna (Lake Atitlán):

Vegan restaurant and bookstore (second floor) and health store (first floor). Shop offers local organic products, imported organic food, supplements, oils, healthcare, incense, teas, and more. Restaurant serves daily specials, and the bakery offers fresh bread and sweets.HappyCow

We had the vegan chicken bagel with sweet & sour sauce with roasted vegetables and the Vegan bacon sandwich, both with vegan cheese and mayonnaise and they were excellent, very very tasty massive filling.TripAdvisor

Vegan restaurants in Honduras

Honduras is another country where vegan cuisine is thin on the ground. You’re more than likely going to be in meat-serving places with vegan/veggie options available.

Restaurante Albedrío, Tegucigalpa:

The easy-going ambiance and all the vegetation around in the middle of the city started very well our meal. Although the prices are a little on the higher end, the choice of vegan options is great, the taste is good and the presentation is also beautiful.HappyCow

Cafe Escondido, Roatán (West Bay):

Serves meat, vegan options available. An upstairs cafe on the main strip of restaurants. Almond milk available for hot drinks and fruit/granola. Menu offers a full range of coffees, juices and dairy free smoothies. Menu has many clear vegetarian options, vegan options by omission of eggs or dairy and staff are happy to be flexible.HappyCow

Great options for both vegans/vegetarians/meat eaters We only did lunches which were amazing so will assume breakfast won’t disappoint. Take-out is available and we also saw people who pre-ordered meals for when they were in a rush.TripAdvisor

ReThink, Utila:

Coffee shop that serves vegan super food smoothie bowls, fresh fruit juices, avocado toast, fruit bowls, nut butter toasts, Buddha bowls with beans and rice and a hummus platter.HappyCow

I love this cafe! All the food here is amazing and there are so many vegetarian and vegan options! I often came here in the mornings to chill, do some work and to teach my English lessons! The girls there are so friendly and welcoming! Thank you so much for becoming a part of my time in Utila and for the delicious food!TripAdvisor

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Vegan restaurants in Nicaragua

Like elsewhere in the region, Nicaragua isn’t a vegan hotspot by any means. However, tourist/expat areas like Granada and San Juan del Sur will have options.

Coco Calala, León:

I’ve travelled far and wide across many countries but this food is easily the best I’ve had! So fresh and delicious and the menu is 100% vegan!HappyCow

I had dinner in this gem with my boyfriend! It was absolutely exquisite. It’s not easy to find fine vegan food in Nica so if you are (and if you’re not) you will love this spot. The meal are served in the beautiful garden. Such a special place.TripAdvisor

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Tia Sofia, Managua:

Vegan restaurant and market with a menu which varies each day. Offers burgers, entrees, salads, smoothies, milkshakes, coffee and desserts. Also sells vegan products.HappyCow

Irie, San Juan del Sur:

A vegetarian restaurant serving salads, sandwiches, bowls, gluten free authentic falafel, high protein salads, vegan desserts. Everything on the menu is vegan with the option to add cheese and a few pastries that have cheese.HappyCow

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The Garden Cafe, Granada:

Serves meat, vegan options available. Offers soups, sandwiches and fruit cocktails. Provides at least one vegetarian option for each category, some of which can be made vegan upon request.HappyCow

Fun, eclectic and immersive dining with a great staff and large, healthy servings. Not only was the food outstanding, but there were opportunities to purchase products that went to support local causes within.TripAdvisor

Vegan restaurants in Panama

Panama City, Panama is by far the best, most cosmopolitan city in the region, with world class restaurants catering to every taste to match, including vegan fare. This is why, like with San José, HappyCow has a page dedicated to great vegan restaurants in Panama City for you to check out. Outside the capital? Not so much…

Loving Hut, Panama City (El Cangrejo):

Part of the fast growing international chain of vegan restaurants opened by followers of Supreme Master Ching Hai, an advocate for veg living. Each location is individual family owned and operated. Serves all vegan food, coffee, non-alcoholic beverages, and vegan dessert.HappyCow

Definitely my kind of place! Cheap homemade food which does the job. If I lived in Panama City I’d be here all the time, ideal if traveling on a budget!TripAdvisor

Rinconcito Vegano, Boquete:

Rinconcito Vegano is a small restaurant in the middle of Boquete. They have a really small menu including a vegan tostada and a vegan hamburger with French fries. The burger was good and it was nice to have a completely vegan option for food in Boquete.HappyCow

Panamaste Natural Living, Pedasí:

Vegan sandwich and smoothie bar is located steps from the town square, Parque Central. Offers fresh fruit or vegetable smoothies, juices, wraps, and paninis. Menu is in English and Spanish. Situated in a shady spot with an open kitchen and rows of stools at a wood counter, screened from the town streets by flowering plants.HappyCow

A delicious unique gem in Pedasí! I was so pleased to find not only a healthy restaurant but vegan too! Very cute little corner and super friendly owner. I will return many times while I’m in town!TripAdvisor

Leaf Eater’s Cafe, Bocas del Toro (Isla Carenero):

Such a nice place to relax and enjoy some vegan eats while on an island. The food was delicious and the owner/staff were very nice.HappyCow

To have this place in such a remote spot is a vegetarian dream. Get the tacos, the “burger”, and don’t miss out on the smoothies!TripAdvisor

So that’s our list of vegan and vegan restaurants around Central America on this World Vegan Day.

Whether you’re like me – a carnivore with eclectic tastes – or someone committed to the vegan lifestyle, we hope this helps you on your meat-free travels around a meat-loving region. Buen provecho!

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

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