Here is your ACN-Approved Healthy City Guide to the best vibrant living Vancouver has to offer!
Vancouver, nicknamed Lotusland, is well known for its gorgeous mountain and ocean views, temperate climate, outdoor activities, relaxed atmosphere and crunchy granola hippies. I’ve been living here for more than 10 years, and I still marvel at Vancouver’s natural beauty on a daily basis.
If you’re visiting, you’re likely going to experience rain, so bring along your rain gear (or an umbrella at the very least!).
Where to Eat
- Nuba. This Lebanese restaurant has four locations throughout Vancouver, which serve an abundance of vegan and gluten-free options using local and organic ingredients (there is non-medicated, hormone-free meat on the menu, too). My fave dish? It’s a tie between the falafel and the mjadra.
- East is East. With a funky, down-to-earth atmosphere and live music, this Middle Eastern fusion spot offers local and organic fare, and has delicious samples of non-dairy chai you can sip as you peruse the menu (you’ll want everything on it, so I suggest trying the tasting menu).
- Rangoli. You can’t make a reservation at this Indian restaurant owned by renowned chef Vikram Vij, and sometimes you can wait an hour for a table, but the food is absolutely worth it – though it helps that they serve you snacks and drinks in the meantime. Meals are prepared by an all-female staff, who make their own ghee, yogurt and cheeses, and grind fresh spices.
- Chau Veggie Express. This vegan Vietnamese restaurant has dishes that are packed with flavour – I usually end up ordering one of their noodle bowls because they are so flavourful and comforting. And we need the comfort with our rainy weather.
- Heirloom Vegetarian. Heirloom’s bright and airy space is the perfect setting for dining on creative, local and ultra-fresh fare. Gluten-free and vegan options abound here, and if you’re so inclined, you can also savour some pretty nifty cocktails that feature ingredients like aloe vera and green algae.
- The Naam. This is the city’s oldest natural foods restaurant – it opened more than 30 years ago in Kitsilano, when the neighbourhood was a hippie mecca. The menu is full of eclectic comfort foods that will satisfy any palate, and the Naam is open 24 hours a day – the only time they close is on Christmas!
- The Acorn. With an ever-changing menu featuring local ingredients, this plant-based restaurant has won multiple awards for its ingenuity and flavours. If you’re looking for more casual fare, pop next door to their sister restaurant, The Arbor.
- Aphrodite’s Organic Cafe and Pie Shop. I have no doubt you’ll adore the fresh, wholesome menu items at Aphrodites (they make a killer vegan chili, served with homemade gluten-free cornbread), but the main draw here for the locals is the pie. They serve dozens of organic pies, including ones that are vegan and gluten-free, and they are the ultimate treat!
- Harvest. This cafe has a short but flavourful ramen menu with gluten-free and vegan options, plus they offer a small selection of local products and a seasonal CSA box.
- Umaluma. There are a number of spots in Vancouver that offer dairy-free ice cream, but this place is the best. Their gelato is cashew-based and is ultra creamy, with both traditional and unique flavours. They also offer hot elixir-style beverages.
- Virtuous Pie. Hands-down the best, best, best spot for gluten-free and vegan pizza. You’d swear their cashew mozzarella is real cheese, but it’s not. If you still have room after eating pizza, they also have great homemade dairy-free ice cream.
- The Gluten-Free Epicurean. A 100% gluten-free bakery (the owner is celiac) that uses its own special organic flour mix and has soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free and vegan options. They have amazing sweet treats like cookies, cakes, doughnuts, bars and scones, as well as savory lunch items like pizza, bread, buns and quiche, as well as smoothies and take-away baking mixes. It’s only a couple of blocks away from me and I have trouble staying away!
- Pick A Juice Bar. Throw a stone and you’ll hit a juice bar in Vancouver. Take your pick: The Juice Truck, Krokodile Pear, Glory Juice, Leafy Box, Sejuiced, The Juicery Co, Nectar Juicery, Radicle Juice, The People’s Juicery – take your pick!
- Vancouver Farmers Markets. Farmers markets are in almost every single neighbourhood during the summer, including Kitsilano, the West End, Main Street, Yaletown, Kerrisdale, Mt Pleasant, and – one of the busiest – Trout Lake. Each market offers a plethora of fresh fruits and veggies, artisanal goodies from local companies, and fresh fare from delicious food trucks.
- Granville Island Public Market. Don’t forget your camera when you visit this popular attraction, because you’ll want to capture and remember the endless stalls of fresh produce, gourmet foods and fresh baked goods. The market can be quite crowded and busy, and if you’d like a little extra guidance, Edible Canada offers daily tours that will show you the best vendors to visit.
- The Soap Dispensary + Kitchen Staples. This amazing refill shop began with soaps, beauty care and home cleaning ingredients, and has expanded to include a variety of refill food items (they have things like apple cider vinegar, tamari, olive oil and maple syrup on tap, as well as local kimchi, tempeh, cashew spreads, nut milk and more). Just bring your own clean containers of any size and fill ’em up. It’s a great place to visit if you’ve run out of shampoo on your travels, or if you’re visiting for longer and need to stock up on products and ingredients.
- Float House. Experience the magical feeling of weightlessness in a sensory deprivation tank, where you’ll have loads of time to practice deep breathing and meditation.
- SKN Holistic Rejuvenation Clinic. Owned by an acupuncturist, this centre is rooted in the belief that healthy skin shines from the inside out.
Yoga and Fitness
- YYoga. With nearly a dozen locations in Vancouver and classes of all types happening every hour, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your schedule. Amenities with your class include a visit to the infrared sauna, so you can sweat all your toxins out.
- Chopra Yoga Center. For the Deepak Chopra fans, this studio integrates his philosophies into each yoga class. If you attend during the weekends, you can pay the ‘happy hour’ price of only $12 per class.
- Semperviva. Semperviva’s four studios are located in some of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Vancouver, so you’ll not only get to choose from a variety of classes, but select a lovely view, too!
- Open Door Yoga. Located in the east side of the city, Open Door Yoga offers primarily hatha-based classes that will leave you feeling relaxed and peaceful.
- Unity Yoga. A small boutique studio with lovely instructors, challenging classes, special workshops and retreats, along with their own custom herbal tea blends that you can peruse and purchase.
- Queen Elizabeth Park. I’m a l’il biased about this park because I got married here, but I’m not the only one who thinks it’s awesome. QE Park is the highest point in Vancouver, offering spectacular views, and a ton of fun activities like pitch and putt and the Bloedel Conservatory, where you can sneak a peek at beautiful, tropical birds.
- Grouse Mountain. This all-season attraction is close to downtown and has a range of activities including skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hiking, snowshoeing and ziplining. In the summertime, challenge yourself to do the Grouse Grind – an infamous 2.9km hike straight up the face of the mountain: it’s like climbing almost 3,000 stairs. Grouse also has a wilderness sanctuary for endangered animals, and you can attend ranger talks to learn more about them.
- Jericho Beach and Spanish Banks. This beautiful stretch of beaches are on the west side of the city, and they’re often quieter than the hustle and bustles of beaches downtown or in Kitsilano. When you’re strolling along the boardwalk, you’ll feel as if you’re walking on the edge of the world.
- Lynn Canyon. Located on the North Shore, this park has a suspension bridge (if you’re afraid of heights like I am – don’t look down and walk quickly), waterfalls and tons of hiking trails.
- Stanley Park Seawall. You can’t visit Vancouver without going to Stanley Park. It has beaches, trails, gardens, First Nations totem poles and the aquarium – but the best part (in my humble opinion) is the seawall. You can ogle the gorgeous mountain and ocean views as you walk or bike along the 9km path – though I recommend walking so you can slowly take it all in.
Where to Stay
- The Fairmont Waterfront. This hotel has a rooftop garden with more than 20 varieties of herbs, veggies and fruits, and the third floor contains six beehives, which are home to more than 500,000 honeybees (guests visiting between May and Sept can join a daily beehive tour led by the hotel’s ‘bee butler’). The Fairmont also offers charging stations for electric vehicles, and is a member of the Ocean Wise program.
- The Four Seasons Vancouver. Constantly striving to reduce its eco-footprint, this hotel is moving toward a goal of zero waste. It was the first luxury hotel in the country to become 100% Ocean Wise, plus the kitchen grows organic greens, maintains an onsite herb garden, offers local, sustainable menus, and diverts cooking oil and food waste to recycling programs.
Are you from Vancouver? Taken your own healthy adventures there? What did we miss? What are your favourite health spots?