Sometimes, you need to escape city life and enjoy the beachside breeze, radiant sun, and plant-based grub—and what better time than just before tourist season starts? From coast to coast, we’ve compiled a list of five hotter-than-ever beach towns to catch some rays while devouring amazing vegan food. So grab your SPF 50 vegan sunscreen and cat-eye sunglasses, and let this guide be the starting point for your next beach adventure.
1. Santa Cruz, CA
Located 90 minutes south of San Francisco, this college/hippie town is home to VegNews headquarters and, during summer months, is a tourist hot-spot. During the height of the season, this city’s main attractions include a boardwalk full of retro arcade games, nostalgic carnival rides, and groovy concerts on the beach. With the expansion of popular plant-based eateries such as Café Gratitude, Sri Lankan restaurant Malabar, vegan-friendly grocery store Staff of Life, and all-vegan West African-influenced Veg on the Edge, Santa Cruz understands vegan cuisine. Furthermore, weekly farmers’ market serve plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables from the region’s many farms. Stop by Mutari Chocolate House & Factory for ethically-sourced and decadent coconut-based hot chocolate. Finally, don’t leave town without ordering from Dharma’s (a favorite among VegNews editors).
2. Asbury Park, NJ
An hour-and-a-half from New York City, Asbury Park is a popular destination for nearby beach bunnies and beach bros. Start your adventure with a refreshing smoothie and nutritious lunch at Twisted Tree Cafe, where vegan-friendly options such as a tempeh Reuben and creamy coconut berry smoothie are available. Next, take a stroll through the touristy boardwalk before heading to Cookman Creamery for vegan ice cream flavors such as blue lavender and cookie butter. Replete with local musicians and artists, the nightlife in Asbury Park is an experience not to be missed. Before heading to the many bars (Wonder Bar is known for being dog-friendly), grab dinner at local pizzeria Crust & Crumble, which offers many vegan-friendly Italian options. When you think you’ve had enough, popular music venue The Stone Pony, where rock legends Bruce Springsteen and The Doors have performed, hosts live outdoor music.
3. San Diego, CA
San Diego is arguably the vegan hot spot in California. Start your trip with a tofu scramble and a fresh-squeezed juice at Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar before walking cliffside around the Bay Walk. Have lunch at Veganic Thai Cafe, where a menu boasting mock duck curry and veggie tempura awaits. If you’re looking for a fun and foodie-approved activity, take an all-vegan cooking class at Veg-Appeal, or—if you’d prefer to sit in your car to eat—visit the drive-thru at Evolution and head for the beach to catch the sunset. After dinner, check out vegan cocktail-bar and restaurant Kindred, where fun cocktails with names like Zombie Prescription and Electric Mayhem are the ideal way to end a vegan day. Even better? San Diego is also home to a number of vegan favorites such as Loving Hut, Veggie Grill, Native Foods Café, and the city’s first vegan breakfast café Spoiled Vegans (don’t miss their signature waffle-wrapped breakfast sausage).
4. Cocoa Beach, FL
Any beach town in the Florida Keys is worth a visit, but the surfer’s paradise known as Cocoa Beach is a crowd-favorite among those in the know. It’s not hard to see why: the ocean views are stunning, and the food is fresh and nourishing. Grab a cup o’ joe at the artsy local café The Surfinista, an eclectic art gallery-meets-surf shop-meets-health-conscious restaurant (wraps, bagels, and açaí bowls are central to their menu). When you’re done with your meal, take a tour of Ron Jon Surf Shop, and when inspiration strikes, grab your surfboard and hit the waters. Next, venture to organic, vegan-friendly restaurant The Green Room Café, where the calming yellow-and-blue interior serves as the ideal backdrop to a tropical menu featuring açaí and endless bowl combinations such as the Big Surf Bowl (featuring pineapples, strawberries, and guava juice).
Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice
5. Lahaina, Maui
The small, scenic Maui town Lahaina is surrounded by numerous beaches with golden-white sands and wondrous whale-watching views. To fuel your body before channeling your inner Moana, head downtown for a plethora of dining options. Organic and locally sourced Choice Health Bar offers a full menu of vegan goodies from kale salad to Buddha bowls to cashew chèvre-topped raw pizzas. If you’re out with children, head to Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice for more than 40 flavors and combinations of shave ice, an incomparable Hawaiian treat. For date night, enjoy a wine tasting or cold beer at Fleetwood’s on Front Street’s rooftop patio that overlooks the glistening Pacific Ocean. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s owned by Fleetwood Mac’s drummer and co-founder Mick Fleetwood.
Aruka Sanchir is an editorial assistant at VegNews who is eagerly planning her next beach town getaway.