Last month, we wrote about some great international vegan-friendly vacation spots and excursions, but if you forgot to renew your passport, there are also many wonderful options right here at home. From spotting bald eagles in Alaska to watching the sun set over the pristine sands of Kauai, the United States offers vacation experiences found nowhere else on earth. Many hotels and resorts will accommodate vegans, but some are more attuned to the vegan lifestyle than others. Here are eight awesome ideas to inspire your next vacation:
1. Kick back in the Florida Keys: If you’ve never visited the Florida Keys, now is a good time to go. The sunny days and ocean breezes of the connecting chain of islands make the climate a lot more pleasant and less humid than the steamy summer weather of South Florida. At the end of a cul-de-sac, in a hidden grove of trees on Big Pine Key lies the eco-friendly lodge, Deer Run Bed and Breakfast. Big Pine Key, a tranquil, laid back key of only 5,000 inhabitants, is the home of the endangered Key Deer, a tiny white-tailed deer weighing in on average at only 45-55 lbs. The Bed and Breakfast organizes many activities for its guests, including diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, canoeing or just relaxing on the white sand beach in front of the hotel. The inn, although secluded, is also centrally located: Key West is only 30 miles to the south and Bahia Honda State Park is only minutes away. Jen DeMaria, one of the owners, is a vegan who studied with a professional chef and prepares delicious organic, locally-sourced vegan meals for her guests. Her “this-can’t be vegan” breakfasts are known to be delicious and very filling!
2. Live Off the Land in Hawaii: Kauai, Hawaii, also known as the Garden Island is one of the loveliest in the Hawaiian archipelago. Due to its savage and exotic beauty, the island has been the backdrop for over 70 films and TV shows, including South Pacific, Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. On the northern shore of the island, near the historical town of Kilauea, you will find North Country Farms, an organic farming center with two charming bed and breakfast cottages to accommodate guests. The island is small enough to be explored in a day, but guests may choose to linger at the numerous spectacular coastal outcrops and cliff-side vistas, hike through the nearby lush Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, comb the rugged wind-swept beaches, visit local organic farms, kayak or visit the boutiques, cafes and restaurants of historic Kilauea. Guests are encouraged to pick their own fresh produce for their meals from the family-run organic 4-acre farm.
3. Renew your Body and Spirit in Arizona: For a true body and spiritual rejuvenation, head to the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona. Although accommodations are simple, they are clean and basic, and the center offers numerous spa services and programs for restoring peace of mind and centering the body. Activities include yoga classes, massage, health assessments, individualized health plans, natural medications, satsang and meditation sessions. Guests may also enroll in classes in live food nutrition, fasting and spirituality. Located near the Coronado National Forest and the San Rafael Ranch State Park, the center is accessible to many outdoor activities and hiking trails. All food served is organic, grown on the property and harvested daily. The center offers a buffet of “100% organic, vegan-vegetarian, kosher, live-food, seasonal cuisine” which receives rave reviews from its guests.
4. Shoot the Rapids in Idaho: For those wishing to test their mettle, Idaho Afloat offers exhilarating adventures in the form of one-day to multi-day whitewater rafting tours. Adrenaline-pumping trips include 3-5 day excursions on the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon, day trips through Montana ’s Alberton Gorge and Blackfoot River and 4-5 day camping trips down the Main Salmon River (also known as The River of No Return). Don’t worry if you are new to camping or rafting, the staff provides everything needed: portable tables, camp chairs, dinnerware, utensils, wine glasses, tents (which the guides set up for guests), sleeping bags and sleeping pads. Although not strictly vegan, the Pacific Northwest organization is extremely flexible and helpful and accommodates vegetarians, vegans and others with special dietary needs and will even bring in a local vegan cook for a group of twelve or more.
5. Help Rehabilitate Abused Farm Animals in New York State: Set in the lush, gently rolling hills of the Finger Lakes region of New York State, the Farm Sanctuary is a 175-acre farm that cares for hundreds of abandoned and rescued farm animals and receives thousands of human visitors every year. Animals arrive at the sanctuary from various sources: some are abandoned at auctions when they can’t be sold, some are confiscated from factory farms, some are taken in by the local humane society and transferred to the farm, and still others escaped their cruel circumstances on their own volition. Guests stay in country-style cabins overlooking the sanctuary and are welcome to pitch in with farm chores, help rescue and care for abused animals, browse the visitor center or visit the local wineries, gorges, waterfalls, lakes and trails. A continental vegan breakfast is included and for the remaining day’s meals, staff members provide a “cruelty-free dining guide” for shops and restaurants in the surrounding areas.
6. Hike the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina: In a valley where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Great Smokey Mountains, you’ll find The Duckett House Inn and Farm in Hot Springs, North Carolina . The restored Victorian farmhouse, part of a hundred year old estate and spa, is situated in an ideal location, near the Appalachian Trail, the Hot Mineral Springs and the French Broad River, affording guests the opportunity to hike, soak, canoe or raft within minutes of the hotel. The inn is open year-round and offers plenty of romantic ambience, with cozy fireplaces burning in the winter months and made-to-order picnic baskets available in the summer months. Winner of the 2007 Travelocity Editors Choice award and Top Insider Spot in North America, the inn strives to combine an excellent guest experience with ecological responsibility by buying and serving only organic and locally produced food, by recycling all waste products and using only natural or biodegradable cleaning products. The hotel’s generous breakfast includes organic coffee, fresh fruit and homemade pancakes and biscuits (with advanced notice, the owners will provide macro, vegan, kosher or other special-needs breakfasts).
7. Go Camping in Vermont: The motto of the Common Ground Center is “Celebrating Families in All Their Diversity”. Camp Common Ground, a division of the organization, located in Starksboro, Vermont , offers week-long sessions for families to strengthen their bonds, learn new skills and spend quality time together. The facility, nestled in the green, rolling hills of rural Vermont between the Hogback and Green Mountains , is a 700-acre estate that is on the site of an old farm. Classes and workshops include yoga, non-violent communication, glass bead making, arts and crafts, dance, circus arts, tennis, archery, music lessons (drumming, strings, ukulele) and creative writing. Independent activities include swimming, hiking, basketball and star-gazing. The camp’s credo is to be “committed to energy conservation, recycling, composting, and to using environmentally friendly products and materials”. It offers vegetarian, vegan, macro and organic dining options for all family members, supports local growers, and tailors food choices to themed programs, e.g. serving vegetarian Chinese food at the Chinese Culture Weekend.
8. Brave the Wilderness of Alaska: for the more adventurous traveler, Alaska-based Equinox Wilderness Expeditions provides guided tours to remote arctic locations where guests backpack, camp, hike, mountain climb, canoe, kayak and spot wildlife. Physically challenging and relaxing in equal parts, the excursions stress education and immersion in nature and native culture, visiting traditional native villages and remote wildlife areas, hiking all night under the midnight sun and rafting down whitewater rapids. No worries if you have limited experience: trips are tailored to travelers of different abilities, from Easy to Strenuous. Currently offered trips include: Kongakut River: Canyons and Caribou, Alatna River and Arrigetch Peaks: Gates of the Arctic Packrafting and Trekking, and Walrus, Brown Bear and Seabird Photography Base Camp. Meals are prepared from organic, natural and non-genetically engineered foods and cooks will cater to vegan and other specific food preferences.