A vegan road trip up the California coast, anyone? With its stretches of sandy beaches peppered with quaint towns along the 101, California’s Central Coast offers delicious vegan eats like tempeh tacos and smoothie bowls in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and more.
Animals like dolphins and fish (and even elephant seals in San Simeon) are frequently seen living in their natural environments in these areas, too—a good reminder to all that that’s where they belong, not at SeaWorld or on plates.
Just an hour or so north of Los Angeles, Ventura is chock-full of beaches and breweries. Recent arrival Fatty Vegan has invigorated the local vegan scene—with sandwiches, hot dogs, tacos, and a champagne brunch on Sundays—along with other spots that have a plethora of plant-based options such as Harvest Cafe, Caribbean Haven, and longtime favorite Norte-Sur Mexican Grill.
Harvest’s mission is “to serve the healthiest possible cuisine from local, sustainable, and environmentally conscious sources.” Its rotating daily specials board often boasts plates like cashew cheese enchiladas, Buddha bowls, and vegan mac and cheese, while the mainstay menu includes savory waffles and smoothie bowls.
Norte-Sur Mexican Grill offers vegan chile relleno, nachos topped with creamy vegan cheese, and plenty more: Nearly half the menu is veganized versions of classic Mexican fare.
Caribbean Haven offers a handful of authentic island cuisine dishes that are animal-free, such as red bean and squash stew, curries, and eggplant choka.
Stop by The Saloon Ventura for its vegan food menu, which features a charcuterie board to snack on while enjoying a specialty cocktail. Don’t miss the Sunday brunch.
If you’re an early riser, you need to check out Sticky Fingers Baking Company, where half the display case is vegan and you can get warm, gooey muffins in flavors like Chai Spice, Chocolate Chunk, and Coffee Cake. The bakery often rotates in new flavors, and the muffins are made in small batches and sell out quickly, so a morning drop-in is key—and definitely worth it.
Do yourself a favor and pop into this adorable—and quite spiritual—little town just north of Ventura in the Topatopa Mountains for baguette sandwiches at Hip Vgn, rotating daily specials at The Nest, or house-made cashew cheese–topped vegan sopes at Farmer and the Cook.
Farmer and the Cook also offers plant-based huaraches, breakfast burritos, and raw tacos for brunch. In the evening, return for specialty vegan pizzas after witnessing the “pink moment.”
And if you’re in need of coffee and a pastry, you’ll want to stop by Beacon Coffee, where the almond milk lattes are perfection and there’s always a vegan option from in-house baker SunOven, like a gluten-free cinnamon roll or doughnut.
Your first stop in Santa Barbara needs to be Mesa Verde. This organic, mostly vegan restaurant (where almost everything either is vegan or can be made vegan) offers many locally harvested items and gluten-free options as well. The menu is seasonal, and the plating and flavors are always on point. Try a brunch bowl or latkes in the morning and a flatbread pizza topped with macadamia ricotta or a cashew cheese board at dinner—and don’t forget the polenta fries.
Vegan brewery Modern Times serves animal-friendly eats alongside its brews at the Burgertorium. Don’t miss the Wedge Salad, which comes topped with smoky ranch, crispy seitan, and garlic confit.
Another stop in Santa Barbara should be Green Table, a bright, more casual eatery with a similar style: organic, local, healthy, gluten-free, and almost all vegan. Try one of its many delicious juice blends or raw vegan desserts.
And then there’s The Honey B, an unassuming little café on the second floor of Antioch University near downtown Santa Barbara. The menu offers many clearly labeled vegan options, like savory cornbread waffles topped with “meaty” chipotle-garlic jackfruit and flavorful vegan lasagna with cashew herb cheese, along with “bee bowls” themed around curry, kimchi, miso-braised tofu, or superfood berries.
You can also try the vegan Hungry Planet burger (check out our fast-food copycat burger recipe using it) at restaurants throughout Santa Barbara, including Shoreline Cafe and Benchmark eatery.
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo has seen a serious uptick in animal-free options in the past few years. If you’re quickly popping into town, be sure to stop by the 100 percent vegan, peaceful creekside dining experience that is Bliss Cafe and try one of many protein-packed Bliss Bowls or an avocado-topped tempeh Reuben sandwich.
Every vegan knows—or should know—Morro Bay for one key reason: Shine Cafe! This adorable all-vegan joint has the biggest hippie tempeh-quinoa tacos you’ve ever seen, and they come topped with avocado, as any good California taco should. The giant vegetable spring roll with ginger dipping sauce is also highly recommended.
This seaside college town boasts plenty of tried-and-true vegan options. For breakfast, head to the Bagelry for a bagel sandwich topped with vegan cream cheese, guacamole, or house-made hummus.
Surf-themed Pizza My Heart serves pies with Miyoko’s mozzarella, Field Roast vegan pepperoni, and Beyond Meat Hot Italian Beyond Sausage.
Head over to Capitola for healthy, warming eats at the longstanding, all-vegetarian spot Dharma’s Restaurant.
Learn How to Be Vegan Around the World
Booking a weekend getaway? Planning an exotic vacation? Check out our guide to get vegan-trip tips, and we promise that you’ll be living like kind royalty all around the globe. Our vegan airport survival guide is a must-read, too.