Vegan in Panama: Everything you need to know!

Vegan in Panama, Hannah walking in the low water at the Pacific in front of a pink sky
Vegan in Panama, Waves and palm trees on Bocas del Toro
Vegan in Panama, View over the mountains in El Valle de Anton
Vegan in Panama, Hannah standing in front of a waterfall in Valle Hornito

Together with my brother, who also eats a vegan diet, I traveled to Central America for five weeks in March 2022, three weeks of which we explored Panama. Before we started our trip to Panama, we were often asked what vegan food was like there, whether we wouldn't starve or suffer from a lack of nutrients. And I have to admit that I was a little worried myself, but not too much. Somehow I will get by, I thought to myself, there are enough fruits and vegetables there and rice and legumes they certainly also have in abundance in Central America.

And who would have thought it, I was right - the fruit and vegetable markets were just overflowing and we got to know so many species and varieties that we had never seen before! Rice, potatoes, lentils, beans were available in every supermarket - also pasta, which we often struggled to prepare and made more of a mash tho. Vegetable milk alternatives, especially almond milk, had almost every small supermarket and we have even found tofu and soy granules in some more touristy regions, whereby these were pricey in contrast to the rest, which had approximately German prices.

Cooking for ourselves was therefore not a problem at all. Most of the hostels we stayed in had a well-equipped kitchen and so we cooked everything from simple noodles with tomato sauce to fried potatoes and curry to homemade burger patties.

Vegan in Panama, selection of fruits and vegetables
Vegan in Panama, Auswahl eines lokalen panamaischen Supermarktes

Vegan In Local Restaurants In Panama

Vegan in Panama, Theke und Menü eines lokalen Restaurants, genannt Fonda

Places where the locals eat are known to be the cheapest, so we couldn't miss the so-called fondas. You can find them in almost every small village and along major roads, the menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and consists of 95% animal dishes - meat morning, noon and night! However, there is usually a vegetarian or vegan option consisting of rice, beans, vegetables, salad and platanos (plantains).

We also often simply asked if they could leave out the animal products from the dishes - simply always with the words "sin productos animales", which worked well in most cases (the word vegan or vegano was mostly unknown to the locals). Only with salads one should be careful, because these are often prepared with mayonnaise. Prices for the respective dishes were mostly around $3.50, although unfortunately there was no discount when we ordered one of the typical dishes but without meat.

Vegan Restaurants (Vegan Options) In Panama

In the more touristy places of Panama there are some restaurants with (designated) vegan options. To find these restaurants, I use the free app Happy Cow, which actually has many entries in Panama. I added some restaurants to the app myself tho, because they were not listed yet.

Vegan In Panama City

The capital of the country, with around 1.2 million inhabitants, is the largest city in Panama and for many tourists the first port of call in the country, including us. With its skyline and waterfront promenade, the city has a very western feel and is reminiscent of Miami. This western influence is also evident in the selection of vegan food - there are several completely vegan restaurants and dozens with vegan options!

Since we were in the capital for a short time only and did a lot of cooking at the hostel (we stayed at Hostel Mamallena), we only tried one restaurant: Dodo Bon Pan Cafe in the old town Casco Viejo.. It's a cute little cafe in a nice location that offers several menus, all of which can be veganized according to the menu. However, it took three tries before the waiters understood my request for the veganized menu and there was no more salmon on the bread. The price for the breakfast menu, which the two of us shared, was around $20.

All in all, you can get by pretty well as a vegan in Panama City, and the larger supermarkets also have some vegan products (in addition to fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.).

Vegan in Panama, Sunset over the skyline of Panama City and the Pacific
Vegan in Panama, breakfast menu in a restaurant in Panma City

Vegan In El Valle De Anton

Vegan in Panama, Watching the sunrise over the mountains in EL Valle de ANton with view over the Pacific Ocean
Vegan in Panama, eating dinner iwth the whole hostel

A lesser known but still beautiful place in Panama is El Valle de Anton, also called El Valle for short. The small town, located in the middle of a volcanic crater, offers beautiful hikes and waterfalls. Here we cooked exclusively in the hostel (in the Hostal La Casa de Juan) and not just for two, but often for larger groups of up to twenty people. We also had a barbecue with the hostel chef himself - great recommendation: grilled plantains! We met so many wonderful people at this place - there was an incredibly nice atmosphere there! Many of them were even vegan or vegetarian as well, which we encountered a lot on the trip in general!

However, there are a few restaurants listed on Happy Cow that are said to have vegan options. At Caffe Borbone However, there are a few restaurants listed on Happy Cow that are said to have vegan options. At Caffe Borbone there is also the option to order almond milk for smoothies and coffees, though this directly costs a lot more (I think it was $1 extra, but I don't remember exactly).

Vegan in Panama, a beautiful waterfall in the middle of the jungle in El Valle de Anton
Vegan in Panama, red berries smoothie with almond milk

Vegan In Santa Catalina

Vegan in Panama, snorkeling next too a turle in turkis blue water in Coiba
Vegan in Panama, veganes Curry mit Reis, Salat und Pommes
Vegan in Panama, Hannah drinking a fresh smoothie and eating a vegan breakfast bowl

Another place that many tourists visit in Panama is the small fishing village of Santa Catalina. It is especially known for its good waves and beautiful snorkeling spots, both of which we enjoyed. The village is so small that there are not even ATMs and credit card payments in most stores and restaurants are associated with a high fee. Because of this lack of adaptation to tourism, our hopes for vegan food were pretty low, but we were surprised! Right at our hostel (Ecolodge Deseo Bamboo) vegan sushi and bowls were offered, but we didn't try them as they were quite expensive.

Also in the town itself there were some restaurants/cafes where the word vegan was not completely unknown and where dishes could be veganized. In the Tiki Lodge we ordered the Coconut Chicken Curry without chicken for $13 and Pasta alla Siciliana for $12 (the prices are due to the tourist region), the patty from the Vegetarian Burger was unfortunately with egg and therefore not vegan - but hey, at least the waiter knew that!

At Café Panachocolat we each had the Smoothie Bowl with coconut milk for $6.50 - designated vegan when asked - and a fruit smoothie for $3. Almond or soy milk would have cost $1 extra.

On the snorkeling tour to Coiba, where we could discover beautiful underwater worlds, we had also been assured a vegan lunch (sandwich and fruit). However, the sandwiches consisted of a brioche, a slice of cheese and a lettuce leaf, which is why we could only eat pineapple and melon. The owner later bought us two melons as compensation when I asked him about it - at least!

In Santa Catalina there were only small supermarkets and a small fruit and vegetable store, but this one surprised us. Here they had tofu (a 350g package for $3.50) and even seven different types of plant milk! So we got well over the rounds here too.

Vegan In Valle Hornito

Vegan in Panama, lunch packed in a banana leaf
Vegan in Panama, typisches panamaisches Essen serviert in einem Bananenblatt

Our next stop took us into the middle of the mountains - to Roots Hostel, a cute little hostel that the owner built himself and kept expanding. It is located close to the famous Lost and Found Hostel in Valle Hornito. There were no real restaurants nearby, just a few fondas. However, we booked a coffee tour on the first day of our stay, which was to include vegan breakfast and lunch, and this time we were not disappointed!

For breakfast we had a large selection of fruits and fresh coffee made from beans directly from the coffee farm. Next, we had an extensive tour with lots of information, also about other plants and foods that were also offered on the farm. Afterwards we were allowed to roast coffee beans ourselves, we had a rich lunch consisting of rice, vegetables, salad and platanos served in a banana leaf! Beforehand, we were asked again who of us eats vegan and vegetarian. In total, the four-hour tour cost us $20 per person and from our point of view it was definitely worth it!

Vegan in Panama, freshly roasted coffee beans with smoke
Vegan in Panama, Kaffee rösten mit einem einheimischen altertümlichen Gerät

Vegan On Bocas Del Toro

Final Destination in Panama war für uns, wie auch für viele andere Tourist:innen, die Inselgruppe Bocas del Toro in der Karibik, bevor es dann weiterging nach Costa Rica. Wir verbrachten drei Nächte auf der Hauptinsel Isla Colon im Hostel Surfari Bocas and another three nights on the less touristy island of Bastimentos in the Guesthouse Bastimentos Hill, where a community with its very own dialect lives and where there are no cars. Since the archipelago is known for its dream beaches and wild parties and therefore very touristy, there is fortunately also a larger selection of restaurants with vegan options as well as a few completely vegan restaurants, which unfortunately had closed when we were there.

On the main island in Bocas Town we had lunch once at the restaurant El Patio , here we ordered two of the few vegan options in the restaurant: tortillas with hummus for $7 and a quinoa bowl with fresh vegetables for $11 each - the tourism on the island was noticeable in the prices.

We also had our last breakfast in Panama in Bocas Town at the Café Amaranto. There were several vegan breakfast options here, both sweet and savory. I ordered a sandwich with grilled vegetables and a vegan muffin, plus a small pot of tea, my brother ate one of the many smoothie bowls and bread with jam and vegan cream cheese. For everything together we paid around $27 (including tip).

On a day trip to Isla Carenero, we ate at the completely vegetarian Leaf Eaters Cafe. We were taken directly to the restaurant by one of the water cabs and we got a table right on the water, since the restaurant is on stilts in the water, like many houses on the islands. For dinner I had a hummus plate as well as a piece of chocolate cake, my brother a burger. With drinks we paid together around $25.

In our three days on Bastimentos, we only went out to eat once, when we visited the famous Red Frog Beach. Here we had lunch at the Palmar Tent Lodge restaurant, we each had a burger and fries and a Red Fruit smoothie with plant milk. Together we paid $27, with the smoothies already costing $5.

Overall, it was not difficult for us to find vegan food on Bocas del Toro, and the supermarkets also had a sufficient assortment to cook for ourselves.

Vegan in Panama, beautiful beach with palm trees and turkis water
Vegan in Panama, Quinoa bowl with carrots, cucumber, tomatoes and chickpeas
Vegan in Panama, vegan vegetable sandwich
Vegan in Panama, Smoothie bowl with different fruits and toppings
Vegan in Panama, Hannah sitting in a restaurant on Bocas del Toro eating vegetable sticks, tortillas and hummus

So for your next trip to Panama you don't need to worry as a vegan - you will definitely get enough to eat! 😉

I've put together a list on Google Maps of all the places we've been to in Panama. You can have a look at it here ! 😊

Follow me on Instagram for more inspiration and travel content! @hannahsveganworld

I would be more than happy to receive feedback from you!

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Anna

    Richtig tolle Eindrücke!!

  2. ELLA

    Ich glaube, ich mag direkt los fliegen. Schön dort und sehr gut, dass man vegan klar kommt. Schöne Tipps!

    1. Hannah

      Das freut mich, dass ich dir Lust auf Panama machen konnte! 🙂

  3. Jason

    Super interessante und aufschlussreiche Zusammenfassung deiner Reise! 🌻🌱

    1. Hannah

      Das freut mich zu hören, danke!

  4. Nina

    Danke fürs hungrig machen 😍 hab zwar noch nie über Veganismus in Panama nachgedacht, aber hätte mir nicht erwartet, dass der dort schon so vertreten ist – hammer!
    Und wahnsinns Bilder 💜

    1. Hannah

      Hab vorher auch nicht gedacht, dass wir so gut klarkommen werden! & Danke dir 🙂

  5. Doro

    Oh da bekommt man richtig Fernweh😍. Richtig toller Beitrag❤️

  6. Mark

    Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

    1. Hannah

      Thank you for your kind feedback!