Last fall I knew I needed a vacation, and it needed to be warm. But I had mostly heard horror stories about how vegans would starve at all inclusive sun resorts, with only fruit and salad to eat.
So I googled vegan and vacation, and it let me to the website for Ylang Ylang Beach Resort in Montezuma Costa Rica. From there I discovered El Sano Banano village motel at a fraction of the cost. Both accommodations offered extensive vegan options on their menus, so that’s how I ended up visiting – and falling in love with – Montezuma Costa Rica when I visited in January 2015.
Fast forward to Dec. 30, 2015. Ottawa had a foot of snow dumped on it, and I was outside shovelling for hours. I decided that I had to go back, and on Jan. 6 I was en route.
There are many reasons to love Montezuma, aside from the food. It’s extremely remote – it took me three flights and a five hour shuttle through the Costa Rican country side to get there. It has a 1980s small town vibe; as a small town girl it is familiar and reassuring. The beach is practically vacant, and the climate (at least when I’ve been) is deliriously warm. The wild (and domestic) animals are adorable. People are friendly, and while there’s intermittent wifi access, you can truly disconnect if you want to.
But, I’m going to tell you about some of the highlights of the food I ate. As a vegan or vegetarian, you will be well taken care of here. There are no fake meats or cheeses, but the simple dishes manage to be creative, satisfying, and nourishing.
Firstly, the fruit is off the hook.
This was at the hotel in Liberia, but I was treated to an amazing pile of fruit every morning at El Sano Banano (they also gave us toast). Oh and the coffee? It is so good that I can even drink it black, which I can’t ever do otherwise.
Some of the food is just adorable. This is the caterpillar maki from Ylang Ylang.
And these are the Namaste Spring Rolls, with Casada in the background.
Here is the Casada up close. Casada is a typical Costa Rican dish that’s normally comprised of rice, beans, vegetables, meat and a fried egg. We had the fried egg and meat omitted, and asked them to pile on the veggies. (El Sano Banano has a vegetarian version, made vegan by omitting cheese and sour cream).
Then there was the coconut curry soup (Ylang Ylang)…
The decadent vegan nachos…
And gorgeous fruity cocktails and smoothies, made from fresh fruit and not chemical tasting mixes.
And both my travel companion, Laura, and I, became afflicted with what we called “patacone fever.” Patacones are mashed up fried plantain cakes that are served with guacamole, refried black beans, and pico de gallo. (See them at rear):
And another favourite tradition became “pudding time.” This is the vegan chocolate mousse available at both El Sano Banano and Ylang Ylang.
We also ate such delicacies as vegan pizza (Café Organico) and blackened tofu steak in mango sauce (Ylang Ylang).
I feel a connection with this place that’s deeper than food, and will certainly be back before long. If you’re looking for a sun vacation that is also a culinary experience, consider beautiful Montezuma, Costa Rica.
Pamela Tourigny is an Ottawa-based expert on the subjects of veganism and vegan advocacy, sustainability, and ethical consumerism. She also consults with business clients with their marketing, communications and public relations needs, and with restaurants on adapting their menus to introduce plant-based options. Contact her here.