Ahh, Aruba, the blissful island of white sands, turquoise seas, and non-stop sunshine. I’ve been searching for vegan eats on this tiny island over the past four years, and I can say with absolute certainty that the pickings have been pretty damn slim. Part of the reason might stem from confusion surrounding what counts as vegetarian, vegan, or even gluten-free, but suddenly, everything is changing. Thanks to the activism of dedicated individuals and restaurant owners who are not afraid to shake things up a little, there are many places to eat vegan on Aruba today, and the numbers are only growing. Vegan options might not always be listed on official menus, but one thing I’ve learned from traveling is that there are often hidden options available for those with dietary restrictions. Don’t see any soy milk for the coffee at the breakfast buffet or on the menu? Ask! Many restaurants have some tucked away from past requests. The more we ask for vegan options, the more demand we create, resulting in more and more places boarding the vegan train. Many times, establishments really appreciate a call in advance so that the chef can adequately prepare for a good vegan meal. With these things in mind, I visited the “one happy island” twice this year, and lo and behold, I present you with six great places that cater to vegans.
Six Places to Eat Vegan on Aruba in 2018
In the mood to get a little dressed up for a romantic date night? These first two places should be at the top of your list. The Holiday Inn Aruba Resort is not only a fabulous place to stay with breath-taking views of Palm Beach, and steps away from Paseo Herencia shopping and liquid fireworks; they have also seriously upped their game in the food and beverage department. Open from 6-10PM every night except Wednesdays and Saturdays, their Italian restaurant, Da Vinci Ristorante has recently revamped their décor and added a brand new menu with a very impressive wine list. Charming Chef Aldwin Donata was notified about my visit in advance, and went above and beyond to serve a beautiful three-course vegan meal: samosas (not exactly Italian but more than appreciated) and pear salad to start and a delicious asparagus risotto in a cucumber roll paired with sweet roasted root vegetables on a bed of quinoa. The icing on the cake? A decadent dark chocolate raspberry mousse. (Chef Aldwin says the dessert was a bit of a challenge, but the result was pure perfection!) Both times my mom(zilla) and I have stayed at Holiday Inn Aruba Resort earlier this year, we were very impressed with the food at Da Vinci and the Seabreeze Restaruant and Bar which is right on the beach. Momzilla especially loves the pina coladas served all over the resort, and let’s be real, who could blame her?
What could be better than dinner and drinks in a swanky restaurant in paradise? How about dinner and drinks in a canopied bed? The first time I visited Screaming Eagle was a few years ago, and I’ve been talking about it ever since (my partner may or may not have accidentally spilled a very blue drink on my white dress, but that’s a story for another time). Picture a stylish upscale lounge with white Miami-inspired décor accented by splashes of pink and purple lighting. Now picture sipping cocktails in a princess bed with your main squeeze. To appease your inner diva, try the celebrity martini, kind of like a cosmo with a splash of champagne. As per the food, it’s French fusion, and this is one of those secret vegan tasting menu type situations. I can’t stress this enough, vegan tribe, it’s best to call in advance to make sure the chef has time to arrange something special. Resident Chef Erwin Huskin has recently just won the very prestigious Caribbean Chef of the Year Award from Carib Journal, so you can assume the food has got to be out of this world. And it is! Momzilla, the nan, and I (the brat) met up with Meredith Marin, AKA @VeganAruba, who has been leading a crusade in educating Arubans about veganism, as well as helping chefs create permanent vegan options on their menus. The vegan tasting menu at Screaming Eagle (seaweed salad, Peruvian corn and cucumber, crispy cornmeal ratatouille, pickled red onions, red wine poached pear, and the list goes on) did not disappoint, and even impressed the non-vegans at the table which is never an easy feat.
“Two Canucks walk into a bar in Aruba… and they buy it!” This new kid on the block is perfect for a super casual night out, so let your hair down and embrace the Cheers vibe, where everybody knows your name. Seriously, some of the customers knew my name when I walked in (probably due to Momzilla’s notoriety on the island). A little off the beaten path, but only a couple of blocks down from touristy downtown shopping and Renaissance Mall, two friendly Canadians have set up shop for a little taste of home in the Dutch Caribbean. They are the only vendors of Canadian beer on the island (Moosehead for now, but more to come,) and every Friday night at 11:30PM, a live band rocks the stage with no cover charge. Like any self-respecting Canadian establishment, yes, they broadcast hockey games.
Most importantly more for me, is that they have affordable vegan options. This casual and cozy hub serves standard pub items such as hummus and a green salad, but they also serve a vegan chili, and vegetarian poutine! A born and raised Montrealer does not simply pass up the chance to try poutine on a tropical island, so I opted for the veg poutine (fries, veggie gravy, and sautéed mushrooms/onions/ but hold-the-cheese). Without the cheese, hard-core poutine fanatics would argue that what I ordered was not a “poutine”. But whatever you want to call it, the food was delish, the servings were large enough to share, the staff was lovely, and I came back a second time for more. As an owl-obsessed woman, I obviously tried Shoco Beer, the one with the owl wearing the sunglasses. Shoco is the name of Aruba’s rare endangered burrowing owl, and this beer company donated $10,000 to the protection of Shoco owls in Arikok Park. The Long-Legged-Lager was tasty, but the Blood Orange Blonde was kind of bitter, and not my fave.
For the past two decades, Cuba’s Cookin’ has been well-known as a popular local hotspot for authentic Cuban cuisine, incredible live music, and the best mojitos in town. Not a mojito-lover myself, I usually indulge in a strawberry margarita on the rocks (sugar instead of salt), which they also do a fantastic job of mixing. This lively open-air space boasts a large terrace on both sides, so sit inside or out- and enjoy the detailed Cuban décor and watch the world go by. Cuban’s Cookin’ is in the midst of re-vamping their menu to include more vegan options, so check back shortly for what’s new. In the meantime, stop in for a light and refreshing lunch; the plantain chips with homemade guac, the fresh avocado salad and black bean soup are must-tries!
There are quite a few good spots to grab a cool smoothie on this island, but if ever you find yourself in Savaneta— perhaps while staying at the luxurious overwater bungalows at Aruba Ocean Villas (a personal favourite, blog coming soon)— be sure to stop in for a refreshing treat at this roadside stand nearby. Look for the sign that says Mauchi Smoothies or you might miss it. This tiny fruit stand offers a wide-variety of delicious tropical smoothies and is run by the awe-inspiring Maureen Laaf Ras: local farmer, eco-warrior and natural medicine-maker. I love stopping by for a banana, mango, and coconut concoction because nothing beats a cool smoothie on the beach.
6) Nuts Nuts
Speaking of vegan smoothies and ultra-healthy protein shakes, Nuts Nuts has all of the above and is a mini health food store to boot. They sell organic nuts, seeds, looseleaf teas, vegan wraps, cold-pressed juices and more. This little shop delivers lunch on the island, so if you’re getting your tan on somewhere on the beach and dreaming about a healthy snack, such as vegan ricotta arepas stuffed with tumeric mayo and ricotta cheese, give Nuts Nuts a call (+297 587 6887)! Although catering and delivery are still available right now, Nuts Nuts are currently between locations so I’ll update more information about where the shop ends up in the New Year. In the meantime, follow Nuts Nuts on Facebook and drool.
Places I didn’t get to mention but still love:
- Eduardo’s Beach Shack (two locations: Palm Beach and Eagle Beach) Smoothies, juices and healthy breakfast bowls. Try the acai bowls!
- Elements (Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort) One of the first vegan-friendly restaurants on the island. I especially love the Mi Jibarito plantain sandwich on the lunch menu.
- Pure Lime (Divi Aruba All Inclusive). The tacos, burritos and guacamole are lovely.
- Nourish Cafe (Island Yoga): Hadn’t tried this yet, but everyone tells me it’s great. Coming in next time for the avocado toast or the breakfast burrito!
- Juanchis Burger (Paseo Herencia): Can’t wait to try the pinto bean/chick pea burger next time I’m in town.
- Delicious (near Palm Beach, under the big red windmill). Brand new restaurant by legendary chef Annelotte Ellis. Look out for the menu in 2018!
Join the revolution!
Curious about going vegan and don’t know where to start? No matter where you are in the world, Vegan Aruba has got you covered with an educational digital program to kick off the New Year with recipes and plans. For more info about vegan restaurants in Aruba, or if you’d like to inquire about joining the program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or shoot Meredith a message on Facebook or Instagram.
Last but not least, I know this list is by no means extensive, and simply includes a few of my favorite spots. Do you know a great restaurant with fab vegan options Aruba? We’d love to hear about it. Write about it in the comments below and spread the love.