A question that many visitors to Ecuador and the Galapagos have, is about availability of vegetarian and vegan foods. Vegetarian options in the Galapagos and vegan options in the Galapagos can be found, with vegetarian food easier to source than vegan. While an understanding of vegetarian and vegan options is increasing in Ecuador, the concept is not always well understood by restaurateurs and wait staff. Nonetheless, both vegan and vegetarian options in both mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are increasing. Here we will cover issues that can arise, as well as Galapagos vegetarian restaurants, and places to get vegan food.
The vegetarian/vegan situation is complicated by translation between English and Spanish. The word “carne” in Ecuador translates either as “beef” or as “meat”. This has led to situations where vegetarians have been presented with a veggie option that includes chicken or ham. Other issues that can arise include being served with soups or stews that have a meat-based broth. On the other hand, some restaurants will go out of the way to make sure that your dietary needs are met. Also, given that the Ecuadorian diet is heavily based around potatoes and corn, there are good vegetarian and vegan options available. While these options may be easier to find in bigger cities, there are Galapagos vegetarian options and even Galapagos vegan options for visitors that require these.
Some vegetarians and vegans have also experienced the issue of trying to take fruit and vegetables to the Galapagos Islands with them, to supplement their diet while on a Galapagos Islands cruise, or a land-based Galapagos option, only to find these confiscated at the airport. This is because there are restrictions around importing these types of foods onto the Galapagos Islands. Fresh fruits, seeds and vegetables are all strictly prohibited.
The reason for this that the ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands need to be protected so that they continue to support the endemic and other flora and flora there. By bringing in fruit and vegetables you could easily inadvertently introduce a new species, damaging the Galapagos irreversibly. This is why the rules are so rigid, and it does make things a bit harder for vegetarians, and especially vegans. That said, some prepackaged processed bars may in some cases be able to be brought in, which could act as a good filler for difficult dietary moments.
Galapagos vegetarian restaurants that focus exclusively on vegetarian food are few and far between, but there are places where you can pick up good vegetarian or vegan food options on the inhabited islands. Puerto Ayora has a range of restaurants that offer both vegetarian and vegan options. La Garrapata is a restaurant offering local meals that is vegetarian friendly, which is highly rated and may suit some. IslaGrill also provides vegan options and is vegetarian-friendly, so this may be a better spot for vegans. The service is reportedly also very pleasant. For those wanting a taste of back home, Pizza. Eat unsurprisingly offers pizza, but the good news is that there are a good variety of options and there are a few to suit the vegetarian diet. It has also been rated as a great choice for vegans.
Otoy Restaurant Organic Farms in San Cristobal is another place that has both vegetarian and vegan options, and which grows a lot of its vegetables on the farm, so you know the ingredients you are eating are very fresh. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, the Galapagos Deli might be a good bet.
Situated in Puerto Ayora, the Deli offers a range of different options including meat and vegan foods, but one of the highlights is its vegan ice cream. At Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Fresco Café is vegetarian friendly and also offers both vegetarian and vegan options. It is rated very highly, with most customers delighted with the service they receive. Meanwhile, on Isabela Island, in Puerto Villamil, some vegetarians and vegans have rated Booby Trap quite highly. Restaurante La Casa de Marita does also provide some vegetarian options and so does El Cafetal Galapagos.
On Galapagos Islands cruises, reports differ regarding how effective boats are with offering vegetarian or vegan options. Some visitors have reported great disappointment and not being able to get meals to meet their needs. Others have found that cruise boats are very accommodating. It is best to check, double check and triple check with your tour operator. However, you may also want to do some additional research online to be completely sure that your dietary needs will be met.
As a general rule, the more luxury the cruise, the better the service, and the greater the likelihood is that your dietary needs will be both understood and met. At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders we will be happy to work with your cruise operator to ensure that your vegan or vegetarian dietary needs are met. Remember to check the specs and recommendations for the best Galapagos Cruises.