April 21

The Top 12 Best Places in the World for Raw Foodists: Raw Friendly Spots!

Filed under Raw Vegan Lifestyle by Frederic Patenaude

What are the best places in the world to live the raw food lifestyle? Like many, I’ve often asked myself that question. Many people tend to imagine that the best places in the world to live this lifestyle are all in the tropics, such as paradisiacal tropical islands. Unfortunately, the lack of produce in most of these places as well as the isolation factor, with the lack of like minded folks, rule out most tropical locations.

Raw foodists may not care as much about the number of vegan restaurants in their cities, unless they have good salads and raw options. What’s important for raw foodists tend to be the availability of excellent produce, good weather (as raw vegans tend to run a lower body temperature and prefer warmer climates), the number of juice bars and raw potlucks as well as the support groups available for raw foodists.

Although only a few places combine all of the above, sometimes one place will rate so overwhelmingly high in one category that I can’t help it but rate it highly. It’s also hard to rate individual cities, so to not make my list too long, I have decided to list states or countries as a whole in some cases.

#1 — California

Without a doubt, California is the Mecca of the raw food lifestyle. Californians may complain about traffic and pollution in their cities, but when it comes to raw foods, they have it all. Year round sunshine (at least in the Southern Part), mild weather throughout the state, an abundance of organic food and farmers markets, more raw food restaurants per capita than any other place in the world, and an endless number of events, potlucks and like-minded people to connect with. The cities of Santa Monica, San Diego, Santa Barbara and the entire Bay Area are some of the best locations for raw foodists in the state.

#2 — Australia

There is a thriving and booming raw culture in Australia, with every major city having its own raw food movement. Australia grows almost every kind of fruit locally, and combined with lots of sunshine in most parts of the country, it’s no wonder that many raw foodists want to live there. Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Brisbane are all great places for raw foodists in Australia, but I have to give the oscar to Cairns, for its tropical location and amazing farmer’s market with some of the best fruit in the country. The downside to Australia: protectionist importing policies combined with natural disasters have recently brought the price of bananas over $15 a kilo! Hopefully with more replanting, next year will be better.

#3 — Miami and Southern Florida

Miami and its surrounding area may be in the hurricane belt, but dedicated raw foodists are willing to stand some risk in exchange for living in tropical North America. The raw food scene is not as extensive there as it is in some parts of California, but it’s thriving nonetheless. There are many excellent farmer’s markets, some catering to raw foodists, as well as good spots to find some of the best tropical fruit you’ll find in North America. The downside? The summer is hot and rainy, and fruit prices can be quite high.

#4 — Hawaii

I admit it, I love Hawaii! You can’t beat the climate and the “aloha” lifestyle. Hawaii is a tropical paradise with all of the infrastructures of North America. Do we need to say more about this? The only downside is the higher cost of living (which is still significantly lower than in Europe or Australia, by the way, and probably equal to Canada), and the fact that affordable fruit is hard to find. Tip: if you get a membership at Costco, you can buy local Maui gold pineapple and local papayas at about half the price of stores of farmer’s markets! Many raw foodists thrive here by growing their own fruits and vegetables.

#5 — Oregon

Oregon is a great place for raw foodists combining nature and a West Coast vibe. They have some of the best organic farmer’s markets in the country (and perhaps in the world), and the raw food scene is quite developed. Portland is constantly referred to as one of the best cities in the world in terms of livability, and other places in Oregon are quite perfect for raw foodists. Oregon is also much much more affordable to live in compared to nearby California and Hawaii. The downside: the winters can be gray and rainy.

#6 — Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver has been rated the #1 most livable city in the world by a few rating agencies for many years, and I have to agree that the lifestyle here is incredible. We have stunning snow-capped mountains, the beach, four Whole Foods markets and many organic food stores, a ton of farmer’s markets, a couple raw restaurants, and a good number of raw food potlucks. Canadians like to say that Vancouver has a mild climate, but it still rains a lot and it’s nowhere close to feeling tropical and balmy. Another downside: the rents and real estate prices are some of the highest in the world in the city, but this is somewhat compensated by the fact that you don’t need a car, and that food prices are relatively low.

#7— New York City

If you like living in a city that has everything, New York City is for you. For raw foodists, New York has a ton of raw food restaurants, potlucks and an excellent selection of organic produce and ethnic markets (such as Chinatown) where you can find your favorite fruits. The downsides: high rental prices in the city, traffic, pollution, and the smell in the summer!

#8 — Chiang Mai, Thailand

I have found my fruit paradise, and it’s Chiang Mai, Thailand. Don’t let the word out though! Although most main cities in Thailand are great place to find tropical fruits and produce, Chiang Mai is a city full of expats and its climate is much milder, as long as you don’t come in the hot season (between February and April). The fruit in Thailand is the best I have tasted anywhere, and the prices are rock bottom. You can get Thai massages for $4 an hour, and get all of the modern amenities you’re used to. Chiang Mai is a very Thai city with very little tourism, but at the same time it’s very friendly to expats, being an international city full of students. The downside: you don’t speak Thai, and the city can be pretty crowded with motorcycles and pollution. However, the area around Chiang Mai is very rural and beautiful.

#9 — Spain

I can’t decide whether Italy or Spain is a better place for raw foodists, and although I personally prefer Italy for its wonderful culture and great local fruits, my trips to Spain have confirmed that more European raw foodists prefer to relocate there to grow their own gardens. Southern Spain also grows a lot of sub-tropical fruits like cherimoyas (custard apples) that are shipped throughout Europe. Before the Euro, it used to be cheap. Now it’s more expensive, but still cheaper than other European destinations.

#10— UK

Although most Brits might be surprised to see their country in my list, as they often complain that it’s too cold and rainy there, often we don’t know how good we have it until we have been somewhere else. The truth is that the UK has some of the biggest raw food movement in the world, with many restaurants, organizations, and potlucks. It’s also very easy to get fresh organic produce and imported fruit in the UK, and I’ve always been blown away by the selection on my many visits there over the years. The downside: it’s definitely not tropical and unless you buy in bulk, produce is often sold in small quantities for single people!

#11 — Montreal

Okay, this is not a scientifically researched article, so I have to end with a little partisan speech. I lived in Montreal for many years, and I didn’t know how good I had it until I traveled somewhere else and saw their fruit selection. Because of less import laws, Canada can import all the tropical fruit it wants. Heck, they don’t care about these tropical bugs because they wouldn’t make it through a Canadian winter! That means that you can find pretty much any tropical fruit in Montreal, and it’s also one of the easiest places to go and buy produce in bulk without needing a corporate account. Hint: to find the best fruit, you have to go to the Jean-Talon market and visit the stores around it, and then go to the wholesaler Gaetan Bono for bulk organic and standard produce. Chinatown and other Asian markets also have a great selection. Montreal is also a very affordable city, but the downside: the winter is long, brutal and unforgiving!

#12 — Costa Rica

I did live in Costa Rica for six months on two occasions, and I also spent a few winters there. In total, I’ve spent almost three years of my life in this country. Ultimately, I chose to come back to North America because I missed certain things, but I still think Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, especially for someone who appreciates nature and animals. The beaches are practically wild, and you’ll find excellent farmer’s markets throughout the country. Although it’s nowhere as cheap as it used to be, it’s still affordable by North American standards. Many raw foodists have relocated there, and the local culture is friendly to foreigners. Hint: the best place to live is in higher elevation, where the climate is near perfect with year-round, spring-like temperature. (Areas by the beach are VERY hot and humid and are prone to large masses of ants and cockroaches) You’re still only an hour or two away from the beaches, in most cases. The downside to Costa Rica: it’s a different culture (which may be difficult for some people), and crime is on the rise.

Other runner ups and honorable mentions: Toronto: I hear the farmer’s market is even better there. New Zealand (North Island): just because it’s beautiful there, even though there are not many raw foodists. Austin, Texas: I hear it’s a great place as well.

Of course, I could list many more cities and places… but what do you think? Let me know in the comments and share stories of your city with our readers!

25 Responses to “The Top 12 Best Places in the World for Raw Foodists: Raw Friendly Spots!”

  1. Amanda says:

    Seeing how you mentioned growing seasons, and winters (among other things) I don’t forsee Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada ever making it on this list! lol :P

  2. Maura says:

    I live in Honolulu, Hawaii and don’t limit myself to organically grown produce. I have yet to get to a wholesaler, but I’ve found great deals in the markets in Chinatown and at the local Safeway and Times grocery stores. The grocery stores usually have something on sale at a very low price. I picked up a few cantaloupe for $0.68/lb earlier this week. There are also farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture programs, Oahu Fresh (They deliver local produce to your door) and if you can drive out to some of the farms on Oahu, you can buy your produce (even organic) direct from them.

    The rent is high though if you want to live in the city and commute times from the suburbs can be long. The city is a great place to live without a car though, as my husband and I do. That saves us a lot of money and even makes us a little as we sublet our parking space to another resident of our apartment building for $100/month. Honolulu should be getting a light rail system and there are efforts underway to start car-sharing and bike-sharing cooperatives, so being car-free here will likely be even easier in the future.

  3. Michael says:

    Just got back from Santa Barbara where they have a great farmers market every day….and it moves between 7 locations in the area. Awesome!

  4. I disagree with your comment about avoiding Chiang Mai, in February.
    I have been living in Chiang Mai. for the past 20 winters and just returned to Canada on April 5th, 2011 to winter weather in Spring time in Toronto.
    With the weather changes it was very different this year in Chiang Mai in March and even in April. I have always considered Feb. to me an ideal time to be in Chiang Mai.
    Even with the odd hot day, it is very preferable to freezing my butt in Toronto.
    This year we had a number of down pours and two periods of 4 days of overcast skies that brought perfect living weather to Chiang Mai.

    By the way, the smoothies at Dada Kafe are the best in I’ve tasted with the exception of Dennis and Maria’s juice bar in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
    The inclusion of kale which Dennis and his wife grow on their own farm gives the smoothie a thick and delicious taste. In fact you are asked it you want a spoon or a straw to eat it with.
    Their is a growing number of ex-pats arriving there every day and also an increasingly growing raw food community in the back to the land living that many people arriving in Vilcabamba are seeking.
    The variety of food possible in this temperate climate is amazing. I don’t believe I saw any imported foods. I bought a bottle of stevia with me only to find that it is grown there and it is easily obtained cheaply.

    Arthur J. Poirier

  5. Rob Hull says:

    Frederic says the “UK” has “many restaurants”??? Where? I would love to know! London has 3 (2 x SAF and Vantra) plus inSpiral (a cafe with some raw options) plus a couple of other places where you can sometimes get a raw meal (eg twice a month at Boningtons). The rest of the UK? Not heard of anything.

    Agree that the organic movement is good, and the imported tropical fruits like durian can also be good, but is this just London? Maybe the organic movement is growing in other parts of the UK, but the imported tropical fruits is limited to London and a few of the larger cities.

  6. Rob Hull says:

    Got to also comment on Spain. You’ve got to be more specific there – what you mean is Andalucia, southern Spain. Many other parts of Spain have a very poor selection of fresh produce and nothing organic. I know as we’re currently travelling in Spain and in some places can’t find anything to eat.

  7. Dale says:

    Do you recommend any good raw food places in South FL besides Hippacrates?

  8. christine says:

    I live in Australia and also there is a lot of fresh produce they are poor in quality as Australia is warm and humide you have to fight insects, birds, fruit flies etc all year round, so farmers spray a lot. I try to buy organic which is costly. In France and Spain I had no problems they have wonderful markets.
    Farmers markets are great but not necessarily organic.

  9. Frederic Patenaude says:

    I love Honolulu as a city. It’s quite underrated and one of my favorites in the world.

  10. Frederic Patenaude says:

    I’ve never been to Chiang Mai in February, but I read that in the guide books. Apparently they are wrong. What’s the warmest time of the year?

  11. Frederic Patenaude says:

    Rob, I mainly know London. Maybe the list should be modified?

  12. Frederic Patenaude says:

    Yes I meant Southern Spain, although I also love Barcelona.

  13. Frederic Patenaude says:

    Robert is Here is a great place for fruit (not organic). Glaser farms for the great farmer’s market.

  14. Xerxes says:

    Hi Fred,
    May I ask what specifically you missed while living in Costa Rica? And also what’s your opinion on Panama? (perhaps you haven’t lived there but I do recall you visited the place once)

    Kindly x

  15. Nelson says:

    I would assume this list is compiled with the number of active raw foodist in mind and not the actual availability of raw food. If not–if the list isn’t compiled merely of cities with “thriving” raw food movements–then this list is a bit bogus. You can drop into almost any Latin American or Pacific Island nation and find a better variety of “organic” raw food than, say, Portland, Montreal, or New York. In fact, you can step out of your apartment, walk a block, and most likely end up at a market with the widest variety of “organic” fruits and vegetables you’ve ever seen. This is common place in pretty much any Latin American or Pacific Island city/town. Why? Their cultural view of food is so different than the polluted version we, in the “First World Western Nations,” have had for decades. Fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, holistic nutrition and healing…by necessity, these are primary cultural perspectives rather than the “alternative” approach we assume when pursuing these foods and remedies.

  16. Hi
    I have just recently come to Okinawa, Japan & although there are no raw food restaurants here, there are plenty of fruits & veggies in the shops. It’s not organic, but it will do. Just 5 minutes away by bicycle there is the Itoman Farmers Market which has lots of produce. They have kale,bitter melon, green papaya as well as all the usual stuff. It’s sub-tropical here and there are plenty of beaches to walk bare-foot (good for getting grounded)

  17. Frederic Patenaude says:

    After traveling the world for eight months and extensive travel before that, I can say this: In all Pacific island nations, produce availability is quite limited (Fiji, Cooks, etc.) Most of the year you find a few types of fruit and that’s it (papaya, mangoes, etc.). One exception is main ports like Tahiti. Vegetable availability is usually limited in many places. In Latin America, there’s very little organic. Produce in Panama, Costa Rica, etc. is all really sprayed. It’s not as romantic as you think.

  18. South FL has very little risk in terms of hurricanes. I’ve been living here for almost 27 yrs and only two of those yrs did hurricanes hit (the first nowhere near me). Fruit prices drop during the summer. There’s plenty of raw produce and restaurants throughout South FL, especially Miami. The hot and rainy part is true. :) Though I will take that over cold weather any day.

  19. Edward says:

    I’m planning a trip to Central or South America in mid June. I’ve never been. I like it Yo be a wonderful experience. There are to many options to decide from. Since you have visited so many places, do you have a recommendation? I’d like to experience hot springs and good fruit. I wouldn’t mind being isolated to experience piece, but my wife would like to be around civilization.

  20. Desiree says:

    Austin, TX definitely is a great place for a raw foodist. The weather is AMAZING, you can plant basically all year round here because that’s how much you see the sun, and there is always fresh organic produce. I have been here for 2 1/2 years and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. The New Earth Center rocks and there are always raw potlucks/events going on here. Austin is a healthfully minded city full of energetic people who are constantly getting their work out on:)

  21. Dale says:

    Atlanta is also another great raw food city! There are 6 Whole Foods markets as well as other health foods supermarkets, and many farmers markets (both organic and non-organic). There is a hugh international farmers market with unique fruits and vegetables from various countries around the world. The weather is typically sunny and mild with a long growing season in the southeastern US. There are many transplants from the northeastern and midwestern US who live here attracted by the warmer weather and lower cost of living. There are several raw food clubs and one of them is planning a major vegetarian/raw food festival similar to the one in Arizona. Phoenix is also one of my other favorite cities. Fred — we hope you would visit Atlanta and Phoenix sometime. Thanks.

  22. Dale says:

    Fred — just wanted to let you know that we apprecaite all of your insight and wisdom! I really think you provide the best advice and guidance of all the raw foodists. Your recommended diet makes a lot of sense and has significantly improved my health and well being! You have given me an extremely valuable set of knowledge and skills regarding diet and eating that only less than 1 percent of the populations has. The proper raw food diet is worth its weight in gold based on the tremendous benefits so keep up the great work.

  23. Frederic Patenaude says:

    @Edward: for a short trip, I think Costa Rica has a lot to offer. The country is small and has many different micro-climates. A highlight would be bathing in the non-sulfurous hot springs of Arenal, going to Monte Verde for the rain forest, hitting the beach in either Manuel Antonio or further south, or in Guanacaste. You would have a blast with that trip. I don’t know Ecuador but lots of people like it. Panama has a lot less infrastructures for Tourism as Costa Rica.

  24. rawvegan says:

    Apple is the eye.It tends to run a lower body temperature.

    raw food and vegan

  25. Bethanne says:

    I love this, thanks for putting this together! I love to travel and this is an excellent guide to know super healthy hot spots where I can easily continue my radiant lifestyle. Living in the Bay Area now and you’re right, it’s a mecca w/ a great raw community. Used to live in Seattle and that is beginning to boom, too.

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