Vegan on the Go: Tulum Vegfest
I’ve mentioned this before, but Tulum will always hold a special place in my heart for being the place where I first decided to go vegan. I first stepped foot in this boho oasis on a day trip a little over two years ago and was immediately transfixed. This was my first visit back since that fateful vacation and while much has changed, the overall tranquil vibe of Tulum seems the same.
I was in town for Tulum Vegfest a 48 hour conference and festival featuring speakers, culinary demonstrations, vendors and local artisans. We decided to extend the stay and turn it into a long weekend, arriving Thursday afternoon and departing Sunday so we’d have more time to explore the area. For this trip we booked an AirBnB, Sky Jungle Tulum. While it was lovely (check out the tour here) and would be ideal for a retreat or to get a bit of writing done, I think next time we’ll stay closer to the other hotels around the Tulum Jungle Gym area so we can bike or walk to different destinations vs needing a taxi.
Farm to Table
This charming eatery has every detail you’d expect from a boho haven. There are jars stacked high with cocktail and food ingredients, live edge tables, a gravel bottomed seating area in the back, string lights, a variety of hanging vines and the prerequisite dog or two trotting about greeting the guests. The staff informed us that it is not only a true ‘farm to table’ restaurant, with the ingredients coming from their own farm outside of town, but they also compost thousands of pounds of organic waste from other local restaurants, creating nutrient rich soil for the plants that go into their dishes. The food was fresh, flavorful and beautiful.
Originally we’d planned to have dinner at Charly’s Tacos, but got a late start and realized we’d never make it in time for their 10pm closing. After a quick convo with our taxi driver (in Spanglish, natch) we decided to hop out where we were and hope for the best.
Arca is not vegan, by any means, but they do have several vegan-friendly or easily modified dishes on the menu. It’s a tapas-style restaurant with mood lighting, a deliciously swanky jungle vibe, sophisticated flavors and great music. The entrance is right on the road, but once you’re seated inside the rest of the world seems a million miles away in the thick of the trees with only the night sky above. Even the kitchen is completely uncovered. If you’re done with dinner or not in the mood for a bite, head to the back bar for a more lounge-y vibe and sip on a craft cocktail.
2019 was the third year of the Tulum Vegfest. With this being my first year, I cannot compare it to previous events, but I loved the feel of this year’s conference. It was hot and humid all day but attendees and vendors alike seemed in good spirits. I met the happiest baby I’ve ever seen, shirtless, drooling and endlessly smiling, leashed dogs contently trotted alongside their owners and a cadre of cats napped peaceably in doorways, on ledges and along paths, only awakening to occasionally wind themselves around a willing ankle or seek a sunnier spot. There were several larger pavilion/speaking areas mapped out with vendor tables along the edges of winding jungle paths. The narrowness of the paths worried me initially, but there was rarely any sort of blockage or delay moving about. I loved that everything felt part of nature as opposed to surrounded by nature. Vendors ranged from food and drink, to personal care/beauty, jewelry, clothing and sustainable alternatives. We sampled snacks, aguas frescas and some delicious kombucha before experiencing a Human Sculptore treatment and tucking into some grub at Holistika’s onsite restaurant. While there were speakers and demonstrations going on throughout the day, the pace never felt forced or hurried. Anyone was welcome to wander in, out and around as they saw fit, free to create a schedule as regimented or as loose as they would like. My favorite part of the event was getting to meet so many amazing business owners and craftspeople creating beautiful, earth-friendly products from compostable bags to forever straws, hand embroidered clothing and my personal favorite, handmade wooden sunglasses.
Human Sculptore offers an external treatment that uses a combination of heat and vibration to shape the body, encourage muscle growth and smooth the skin. Treatments last 30 mins. The heat and vibration really soothe sore muscles and I saw an immediate difference in the texture of my skin. Grinid Compostables creates compostable bags, out of corn as part of their mission to stamp out single-use plastic forever.
Tierra at Holistika Tulum
Holistika’s onsite restaurant was only serving breakfast when we visited. Their menu is easy to follow, with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options clearly marked by with an icon and the décor echoed the boho aesthetic so popular in Tulum with multi-colored hanging lanterns, natural wood surfaces and a plethora of golden pothos vines. After battling the humidity all day and my first Human Scupltore treatment, I was hungry, but didn’t want anything that would make me feel heavy or weighed down. Their green juice and passionfruit bowl delivered in spades.
Azulik Sunset Experience
Azulik’s sunset experience starts at 5:30pm and is limited to the first 35 people. Entry is $25 USD per person and includes your first drink and a few small bites (none of them were vegan, not sure if this is the same year-round). The entrance to the winding, treehouse staircase leading to the observation deck is actually about 50m up the road from the main entrance and guests enter in groups of four. Do yourself a favor and wear comfy shoes. The treehouse aesthetic is more than a marketing ploy. The tunnel, stairs and swaying, suspended foot bridge all require sure footing and popping your heels on for pics once you get to the crow’s nest is decidedly easier than popping your ankle back into place.
Ascending the different levels and getting to the deck feels a bit like entering another world. Once you reach the top you see lush, seemingly endless jungle to one side and the ocean, intermingled with the picturesque, thatched roofs of the resort’s cabins to the other. Because it’s a small group experience, drinks are easily obtained with little wait. Be warned though, there were no chairs on our visit so depending on time of year you may be standing for upwards of two hours before the big event, leaving plenty of time to socialize and snap pics for the gram.
If you have a stomach and want to put delicious things in it GO TO CHARLY’S! The amazing reviews are what got it on our radar and it lived up to the hype. We were able to book reservations via Open Table, but the owner informed us that it’s not always accurate so if it looks like nothing is available, it may be worth a call to double check. Like most restaurants in this part of Tulum, it’s small, intimate and close to the road with a natural courtyard surrounded by tropical palms, string lights and a tiny kitchen. On the drive there, passing place after place and watching to road slowly darken I had my doubts, but I’m so glad we stuck it out to make it there. Charly’s does not serve alcohol, but the have an assortment of ‘jugos frescas’ made with local fruit – the perfect foil to their food. B had two rounds of Charly’s Signature Tacos while I munched on a Dirty Rice bowl topped with plantain and their plant based ‘pork cracklings’ filling and hot, handmade corn tortillas.
I learned so much more about Tulum on this trip, but far from being done with it as a destination I’ve only just gotten started on my list of reasons to go back — and only 30% of it is food related!