Vegan-ing in Vieques, PR

Anyone who’s visited Vieques PR has experienced uniqueness; roughly 20 miles by 4 miles edged with spectacular beaches and a laid-backness that’s too laid-back to even measure. 

But if you’re planning your first trip there and trying to research your dining options online, your questions might not be easily answered. After all, having an island full of restaurants rushing to update and maintain accurate on-line menus would require relinquishing its laid-back status; along with it a large part of the island’s charm. Add to that an isle still healing from a devastating hurricane, where many businesses spent over a year just hoping they’d keep electricity each day, an online menu doesn’t seem that big of a deal.

I’ve vacationed on the island twice now; once pre-storm and once post, and both times I ate relatively well. Best advice: have no expectations and be flexible. Which, let’s face it, if you’re a vegan you’re already a champ at that.

What to Pack 

Protein & Snack Bars. Nothing that melts.  When I was there the stores only had whey bars and sugary granola bars so I’m glad I brought my own.

Individual packs of protein powder.   This’ll came in handy for blender shakes and mixing in the morning oatmeal.

Justin’s nut butter packets.  PB is a staple at home for me and the stores only had fake peanut butter spreads. 

Be prepared to have an indefinite layover in San Juan airport with a definite lack of plant-based eats.  On the way there I brought a quinoa salad from home, but on the way back I had no choice but to eat at Landshark Brewery – they have a veggie burger that according to the manager on duty at the time claimed had no egg or cheese in it.  Bottom line – bring something with you both directions.

Where to Stay

If possible, book a place with a kitchen.  During our last trip we stayed at The Pink House in Esperanza, and I’d highly recommend.  Its kitchen is well equipped with everything you’d need to make a healthy meal including good knives and a good blender.  Added bonus: start your day with yoga on the porch. 

If your party is larger than two, I’d suggest the Bravo Beach Hotel in Isabel.   They were forced to close post-storm but reopened in April 2018 and have various accommodation options ranging from single rooms to condos. And if you opt for the single rooms they do serve breakfast, so you’ll be able to grab some oatmeal and toast.

Groceries

So this is hit-or miss.  I went to all the grocery stores on the island hoping to find some sort of frozen vegan burger or something along those lines.  I had no luck.  The closest I got was at Supermarcado Morales in Isabel who carried several vegetarian burgers and dogs but none were vegan.  I was told by some locals that they do occasionally find tofu and other vegan items there…but in keeping with the theme of the island…you never know when that will be.  I was not going to be staying long enough for this to be an issue, but if I was staying longer they still had plenty of things on which for me to survive – more beans and rice than you could handle, lentils, hummus, tortillas and vegetables.  And every store – including the small ones – had a selection of almond and/or soy milk. 

There is also a farmers stand open a few days a week on Rt. 201 just south of Rt 200 where you can find decent selection of produce. 

Dining Out

Tin Box.  They’re only open for dinner Thurs –  Sun but the food is fresh and most of it’s grown in their garden out back.  (During the busy season they offer a separate menu on Monday nights – I can’t attest to its veganability.) I ordered a ton of food here so that I’d have lunch the next day: veggie rolls and Mexi corn on the cob (ask for it plain without the sour cream) and the tofu skewers.  You might want to ask for the tofu to be “well-done,” as it was on the raw side.  I put the leftovers on a skillet the next day and served it with supermarket mixed greens and it was even better.

Coqui Fire.  I had some good veggie fajitas and black beans here.  The staff is well versed in vegan so be sure to say you’re vegan and they’ll fix you right up….don’t rely on the menu’s description because dairy might be added to items that particular night….even if it says otherwise.  And P.S.: hubby is now obsessed with their hot sauce and that has now become a staple in our pantry!

Bananas. Here you can order a salad and veganize it, get a side order or tostones (they serve it with mayo ketchup so I went with mango salsa instead,) or a veganized pasta primavera. 

Duffy’s.  This recently changed ownership but when I was there they had an avocado salad special – hopefully they keep that on menu.  They were also serving vegetarian white rice and vegetarian beans made with calabaza, which was especially tasty.  Hopefully they continue to keep them vegetarian when you’re there too!  If you’re looking for something a little naughtier they might have a veggie burger on the menu that can be served vegan if you ask (I say “might have” because twice I ordered the last one or just missed the last one of the day.)

El Blok.  They have a “chef inspired daily” vegetarian entree which is a bit of a gamble, but the menu is built upon fresh & local fare so something will get built for you!

Bottom Line

The island won’t win any vegan travel awards, however, it doesn’t need to. Sometime between the time you first spot its sandy shores from the window of your Cessna and the straw goes into your first fresh coconut, you’ll already be planning your return trip.

About Kristin Dowell

Kristin is a group fitness instructor and personal trainer with certifications from ACE and AFAA, is qualified to coach over a dozen specialty programs, and is the creator of 3 exercise DVDs. From creating physical training programs for fire academies, to teaching preschool dance, (and just about everything in between)...
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