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Vegan In East Central Florida – Indian Harbour Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale + I SAW TURTLES LAYING EGGS!

One of my life goals is to see wild manatees. They are so incredible, and unique, and beautiful and I’ve just always wanted to see one in person. Given that Florida is known for protecting manatees, in certain areas, as I began to head south I made a list of sanctuaries and parks that are known for manatee sightings. One of those places is Blue Spring State Park. I knew my chances were slim because it was ‘off season,’ but I decided to stop anyway to give it a shot.

Looking for Manatees in Florida - Blue Spring State ParkLooking for Manatees

Despite watching the waters intensely and spotting a few alligators I didn’t have any luck in seeing a manatee. Better luck next time. Regardless, Blue Spring State Park is beautiful and appears to be a very popular local getaway. If I had planned ahead I would have liked to camp out here for a night or two!

INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH

My first stop, food-wise in East Central Florida was Happy Healthy Human, totally raw, vegan, and organic.

Happy Healthy Human – 100% raw, vegan

1869 South Patrick Drive
Indian Harbour Beach, FL 32937

This place is great! A number of you had emailed me about it and I’m glad you did. There’s so much positive energy here and the food is fantastic, fresh, light, and filling. While I was dining here I had an opportunity to hear Jason (the founder and owner) talking to someone who appeared to be new-ish to veg/raw foods. One thing he said that stuck with me was, “Energy flows where the attention goes.” Beautiful.

Happy Healthy Human - Indian Harbour Beach, FLHappy Healthy Human - Indian Harbour Beach, FLHappy Healthy Human - Indian Harbour Beach, FL

I had the raw tacos, which were just delightful…

Happy Healthy Human - Indian Harbour Beach, FLHappy Healthy Human - Indian Harbour Beach, FL
…and an AMAZING strawberry smoothie, made with brazil nut milk , bananas, and strawberries. So. Good. And they give it to you in a mason jar, to-go. So cute!! This is a must-try!!

Happy Healthy Human - Indian Harbour Beach, FL

PALM BEACH GARDENS/WEST PALM BEACH

Okay, okay, okay, okay…. one of THE most exciting things, that has ever happened, happened. To me. While in Florida. Well, many exciting things have happened actually (and I plan to tell you them all, mostly) but THIS was totally unexpected and so completely, awesomely, sincerely wonderful. Beyond words.

Are you ready?

Okay.

::deep breath::

I arrived at my friend Ryan’s place around 9PM this night, since he was hosting me for a few days. I was feeling itchy after being in the van for many hours, just sitting and driving, so I convinced Ryan to join me for a walk on the beach. He took me to Juno Beach, which is just a few minutes from West Palm, where he lives.

So we’re walking along, la dee dah, just walking… it’s dark out, just walking..hmm hmm hmm… we go for a little swimmy and then notice a blue-ish light off in the distance. Ryan thought that maybe it was beach patrol and perhaps we should be sure we weren’t violating any rules or something. So we approach this light which, as it turns out, is attached to someone’s head. Well, a hat of sorts. Anyway… we walk over and BAM! IT’S A TURTLE!! A TURTLE LAYING EGGS! A WILD LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE LAYING HER EGGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As one of my very good friends noted, “It might as well have been a unicorn pooping eggs.” That’s how rare it is to see a leatherback, on the beach, laying eggs. ::hearts and stars::

Can you believe it??? It was completely random and unexpected and one of THE coolest life experiences EVER!!!!!!!!! (You can tell I’m excited because I’m using many exclamation points!! See!!!!) I squealed and grabbed Ryan’s arm and just held onto it because I didn’t know what else to do with myself, and I tried VERY hard to not make too much of a fuss because I didn’t want to disturb the momma turtle.

Juno Beach at night - FloridaPhoto by bmlben2 via Flickr

Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures because 1) it was super dark out (see pic, I borrowed from someone else, above…it was kind of like that), and 2) we were advised that a flash might disrupt the process. So I did a quick Google search and found a picture of a leatherback sea turtle on Juno Beach, laying eggs. I suppose if it was lighter out, what we witnessed would have looked something like this (it’s kind of hard to gauge the size of the turtle pictured below but the one that we saw was very, very, very big):

Leatherback Sea Turtle laying eggs on Juno Beach, FLPhoto by Jim Richardson, via National Geographic

Also, the person with the light was a member of the Sea Turtle Conservancy (or, it might have been the Loggerhead Marine Life Center) and he was monitoring the turtles that had come ashore that night, to lay their eggs, to ensure that everything went according to plan. He would then leave a marker in the sand, where the eggs were buried, so that beach-goers would know to be careful around that area, and to not disturb the eggs. So cool!!

As we walked back, along the beach, toward the car we literally almost ran into other turtles that were coming ashore to lay their eggs. Ryan had to help me dodge a couple of them because I didn’t even see them there. And they were all different sizes and.. oh my gosh, it was just the coolest experience!! And being unplanned made it even more exciting. And what’s more, seeing a leatherback was crazy because apparently it’s extremely rare to see them in person, especially laying eggs. Wow!!!!!!

AND would you believe that just last week a friend of mine posted this pic (below) of a baby loggerhead turtle making its way to the water. This is likely one of the babies of one of the moms that I saw laying eggs. :) It has to be, right?! Anyway, my friend Ryan (a different Ryan than the one I was staying with, actually) saw this little fella in person, on the very beach where I saw turtles laying eggs. It’s just beyond words cool. Don’t you think?!?!?!????!!! :)

Look at this little guy..EeeeEEEEeeheheheheheheeehhheheee!!!!!

Baby leatherback sea turtle just hatched - Juno Beach, FLPhoto by Ryan Shapiro

So yeah. That was absolutely, hands down, one of THE coolest experiences I’ve had on the trip so far. Wow. I still can’t believe it!

Speaking of cutie animals…I would like to introduce you to Leeloo. She lives with Ryan and his roommate, Haven. Leeloo and I hung out. We snuggled once. And she begged for food a few times. It was lovely. And just look at those ears! Eeehehee!!

Haven's LeelooLeeloo

Okay, I’ll bring it back to the food now, again. :)

Next up are two of my favorite restaurants in all of Florida!

Christopher’s Kitchen – 100% vegan

4783 PGA Blvd
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

This restaurant is beautiful!! Opt for the outdoor seating if possible, it overlooks a gorgeous fountain and patio area. The inside is beautiful as well with crisp, clean, white walls featuring lots of negative space (you creatives know what I’m talking about, right? ;). There is a sharp food display case with delicious-looking to-go items, just near the cash register. Also, the restaurant and staff are wonderfully inviting. The staff all beamed of high, positive energy and were extremely friendly, and pleasantly outgoing. Well done, CK!

I started with a couple slices of Avocado Bread – crushed avocados, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh lemon; as well as a green juice. Both were wonderful.

Christopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FLChristopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FLChristopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FL

As you can tell from the photos, I chose to sit outside and it was just beautiful. My view included a nice fountain and it was really warm but was lightly raining which made it very comfortable and even zen-like. :)

For my meal I had the Baby Dragon Bowl – zuchini noodles, broccoli, red pepper, bok choy, black sesame seeds, sprouts, almonds, and five spices topped with a sprouted almond spice sauce. This is like nothing I’ve ever had before! The presentation was wonderful – so colorful and vibrant, and the flavor of the entire dish was delightful. It had the slightest kick and even hinted of cinnamon. This dish was extremely delicious, fresh, and light! Mmm!!

Christopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FLChristopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FLChristopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FL

For dessert I thoroughly enjoyed this Mini Brownie Sundae which comes with handmade chocolate and vanilla ice cream, chocolate macaroons, banana slices, chopped walnuts, and chocolate and caramel sauce. OH. MY. WORD. There were also these soft, slightly chewy bits of chocolate chunks which added a delightful texture to the overall dish. By the way, THIS ICE CREAM RULES!!! One thing is for certain, these raw restaurants know what’s up. This dish was AMAZING!!! So simple yet one of the best desserts I’ve ever, ever, ever, ever had [insert: content, happy sigh].

Christopher's Kitchen - West Palm Beach, FL

As I was sitting there soaking it all in I overheard a pair of diners, just next to me, discussing veganism. Well, it was like one person (the vegan) explaining to the other person (clearly not vegan) the health benefits of veganism. She was spot on and did a wonderful job, in my opinion, of pointing out all of the most critical aspects of how a whole foods, plant-based diet can cure cancer. As they talked I also learned that this person works at the Hippocrates Health Institute, not too far from CK. Oh it just warmed my heart. Though I’m not sure her friend was quite as excited to hear the news. But just another great example of compassionate, caring vegans spreading the word. I solute you, lady stranger, for your passion and courage, and for doing all you can for the vegan movement!! xo

Later that evening I met up with my friend Ryan – the same Ryan I saw turtle eggs with – and we went to dinner at Darbster. Oooooh, I LOOOOOVE Darbster!!!!

Darbster – 100% vegan

8020 South Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, FL 33405

Since we sat outside in the evening, in dark-ish lighting, I didn’t even attempt to take any pictures. But I found some nice ones online! Also, since I was in good company I didn’t take down many notes. But this, my friends, is seriously one of THE best restaurants I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at. Here are some pics from the web along with a few more words.

Darbster Restaurant - West Palm Beach, FLPhoto via EVERY DAY IS LIKE SUNDAY blog

Ryan and I sat in the outdoor patio area, just to the left of the main entrance, off of the parking lot. The photo above is obviously of the inside of the restaurant but the outdoor seating is where it’s at (unless you attract bitey bugs, like I do. Even then, it’s worth it). The Darbster folks who were responsible for decorating this place did a fine job of masking the fact that when you’re dining out in this particular section there is a giant billboard, the beams of which are situation among the chairs and tables. However, by way of viney plants and umbrellas, I didn’t even really notice (Ryan had actually pointed it out to me). There’s also a stream of some sort that runs just along one of the outdoor dining areas as well. I didn’t get to see it but our server (shout out to Sandra!!) told us about it.

Speaking of service, looking around I could see that most of the servers appeared to be well-informed on the vegan front, if not already vegan themselves, I’m sure. They were also very attentive and every customer seemed to be enjoying their meals and the restaurant’s service. Plus, plus, plus!!!

I started with a raw Cream of Asparagus soup and Ryan had an IPA soup (not pictured). Both were fantastic! Especially the IPA (I think both were specials of the day). So, so, so delicious!! Also, upon recommendation by more than one of you (*wink*wink*) I ordered Darbsters’ much talked about Palm Cakes – flash fried hearts of palm cakes with house remoulade. These are THE BEST version of non-crab crab cakes I’ver ever had. I was completely blown away!! They were perfectly crispy and yet tender and soft on the inside. And don’t even get me started on the remoulade. Oh sweet, sweet heavens. WHEN you go to Darbster do not miss out on these scrumptious ‘cakes!!!!

Darbster palm cakes - West Palm Beach, FLPhoto via Bein’ Green Savin’ Green blog

Unfortunately I didn’t write down what I had for dinner and since I didn’t get a picture of it either I don’t recall exactly what it was. Buuuuut I do know that I loved it! I basically loved everything about this restaurant – the food, the service, the decor, the lighting, the location. *squeak*

I did, however, jot something down about my dessert. This is exactly what I wrote down, “this chocolate ganache is OUT OF THIS **BLEEPING** WORLD!!” Ha. yes, apparently I really liked the dessert which was the Chocolate Ganache Cake. I remember Ryan being blown away by this one as well. Okay, to be honest, we both LOVED everything we had but this piece of cakey heaven was a stand out. Rich, creamy, perfectly moist, and dream-ily delicious, I wouldn’t change one thing about this perfect dessert. Seriously, it was phenomenal.

Darbster vegan chocolate mousse ganache cake - West Palm Beach, FLPhoto via TripAdvisor

The next day I ventured to an incredible place radiant with love and healing, set in the most beautiful location, and filled with the warmest, most compassionate souls:

Hippocrates Health Institute – 100% vegan

1465 Skees Road
West Palm Beach, FL 33411

The Hippocrates Health Institute is first and foremost a center for natural and complimentary health care and education. Their website says it best:

For a half of a century, the Institute has helped hundreds of thousands of guests realize that good health is every person’s birthright, and that a life free of disease and pain is our human legacy. The Hippocrates philosophy is founded on the belief that a vegan, living, enzyme-rich diet—complemented by exercise, positive thinking and non-invasive therapies—are integral to optimum health. The Hippocrates Life Transformation Program is a renowned residential program that runs weekly every Sunday through Saturday throughout the year. The entire recommended program is three weeks; however one can stay for as little as one week.

This place is truly impressive. It is so incredibly beautiful – though I only saw a small segment of the entire facility – and they have an open kitchen where non-residents can come in and dine on healthy, raw, whole foods. Out of respect for those who were there for healing and health I did not take any pictures of the dining area. However, I pulled some pictures from the Internet and also included one of my very, very filling, fresh, salad.

Hippocrates Health Institute - West Palm Beach, FLPhoto via Hippocrates Health Institute Hippocrates Health Institute - West Palm Beach, FLPhoto via Hippocrates Health InstituteHippocrates Health Institute - West Palm Beach, FLHippocrates Health Institute - West Palm Beach, FL

One of my friends, Dawn D. just spent three weeks at Hippocrates and has more of an inside scoop. Here’s what she had to say:

K: What brought you to HHI?
D: I had wanted to go to HHI for a few years just to ‘ramp up’ my vegan diet. Then a friend’s brother developed pancreatic cancer. After some conversation, they decided to go and it seemed the right time for me as well to give them support.

K: What was the overall experience like?
D: It was AMAZING!!!! The best ‘vacation’ I ever took! Where can you go for the price and get a superior education in optimum health, various modalities/treatments, and the highest quality organic all you can eat/drink (no alcohol on the premises) food?? Nowhere but HHI. I intend to return as soon as I can. 

K: Were there any memorable people who you met while there?
D: Everyone is memorable. The staff is well-trained, incredibly friendly and upbeat – everyone is always ready with a ‘hi’, ‘good morning’ ‘how are you?’ and the BEST smiles! I think Tee is one of the most memorable – I swear that woman doesn’t sleep or go home! The others in my 3 week program were just so inspiring. So many stories – yet smiling through it all! I actually met two people from my area – one was my first roommate, then she moved to another location and her second roommate was the 3rd person from our area! Too funny. But I think I’ll remember April the most. She was my second roommate and the loveliest young woman I’ve ever met. She’s from Canada but teaching in Dubai – recently married and just has the best smile and attitude of anyone I’d met. I hope everyone is doing well – I love and miss each of them! I wish I were back there every day and intend to work there when I retire. This was the best choice I ever made and I cannot recommend it too highly – GO!!! Don’t wait – GO NOW!!!

Thank you so much, Dawn!! I can’t wait to participate in one of their programs someday!! :)

FT. LAUDERDALE

Welcome to one of the most highly anticipated restaurants of the entire trip. Similar to Ethos, you can now all rest easy knowing that yes, yes, yes I have, oh yes I have, dined at Sublime.

Sublime Restaurant & Bar – 100% vegan

1431 North Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Sublime is likely one of the most highly recommended, fancier, vegan restaurants in the country. Frequented by a well-known veg celebrities, and featured in numerous local and nation-wide publications and blogs, Sublime has built a positively [plant]strong reputation.

In terms of service and decor, Sublime has nailed it. You’ll probably want to get a little gussied up if you’re planning to dine here. It’s fancy, complete with a full waterfall wall, beautiful green accents throughout, a relaxing vibe, and really cool seating that includes semi-circular squishy couch-like booths. The servers were all dressed in black with green ties and my waitress (Hey, Whitney!!) was outstanding. She was incredibly attentive, but not overly so, and (as I overheard) is vegan herself. I actually also overheard her talking to another one of her tables about veganism. One of the customers had asked her about vegan baking and cooking (as they were so impressed with the food they were eating) and Whitney went on and on, giving this customer her sincere attention, which included describing a cake batter ice cream recipe from a Happy Herbivore cookbook (OMG! Yum!), as well as recommending Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World (love it!!).

Sublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

I will often reference Yelp! tips and reviews to determine what I should get at a given restaurant. This is how I decided to order Sublime’s Tangito – a twist on the traditional mojito. It was awesome, a great balance of juice, sugar, and alcohol. Yums!!

I also “checked in” at Sublime, via Facebook and was shocked by how many others have “checked in” here too. The highest number of Facebook check-ins at any vegan restaurant I’ve been to so far. Impressive.

Sublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FLSublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

I chose the Sublime Sliders as an appetizer – cheddar Diaya atop chunks of Gardein along with onion, romain, pickle, and special sauce. The bread used for the bun was excellently soft, buttery, and delicious; and the sauce was wonderful too. The best part is actually how the sliders are presented – connected in a four-pack of fun that you break a part as you eat. So cute and fun!!

Sublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FLSublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

My main dish was a Mushroom Ravioli – housemade pasta, cashew cream, slow roasted tomato butter sauce, and basil. It actually kind of reminded me of a healthy/fancy version of hamburger helper. Um. But obviously much better and delicious!! <3

Sublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FLSublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Finally, for dessert I had the Chocolate Nirvana – chocolate cake, kahlua butter créme, and almond tuile . It was very nice.

Sublime - Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Next up will be Miami, which also includes two incredible Germans, an awesome little hotel, and excellent vegan noms!! xo

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this!! We are heading to West Palm in November for a wedding. So happy to see there are vegan options there!

  2. Nancy

    I hope you are collecting recipes and will write a terrific cookbook with your wonderful stories and pictures.

    • Hi Nancy! Restaurants aren’t too keen on giving out recipes (though I haven’t exactly asked). It’s unlikely that a recipe cookbook would come out of this trip (there are so many great ones out there though!!) but possibly a different kind of book. We shall see. ;)

  3. I’m completely captivated by those turtles — man. Years ago, I went to a way-out-of-the-way beach in Costa Rica where doctoral students were working with the leatherback turtles who were laying eggs on the beach. It was unreal being so close to these old, beautiful creatures.

    I continue to be amazed by your journey!

    • Katrina, I know. Aren’t they just amazing?!?! It was by far one of the coolest experiences of the trip so far. And the fact that it was unplanned made it even more special. <3 .. Thanks so much for your kind words and your support. Much love and gratitude comin' at'ya!!! :)

  4. I wonder who the two incredible Germans are….dumdidum….:D

    BTW we went to Sublime for my birthday and it was awesome!! You should have tried the apple pie. Soooooo good!!!!

  5. Lauren

    Hooray! You visited my hometown. Though, I have to say, everything south of Indian Harbour Beach is really considered South Florida!

    I ate at Sublime once in my vegetarian days, about 5 years ago when my high school boyfriend brought me there for a special occasion. It was the first vegan (or vegetarian) restaurant I ever ate at, and I was completely enamored. I also ate at Darbster Bistro with a friend when I was visiting a year or so ago, and I had the incredible palm cakes. Both restaurants are so delicious! I want to go back!

    I also was lucky enough to stay at Hippocrates for 3 weeks (I vaguely recall maybe recommending it to you on this blog a while ago? Maybe?). It was a great experience, and I left there feeling more vibrant than I ever had in my life!

    Can you believe that I lived there for 18 years, and I never saw a sea turtle on the beach? Or a manatee for that matter!

  6. Jane

    Hi Kristin,
    GREAT post.
    My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
    I was looking for blog posts about Big Pine Key to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
    Hope to hear from you :)
    Jane

    • Hi Jane,

      Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. I’ll email you in just a few minutes. I look forward to chatting with you!

      Best,
      Kristin :)

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