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.
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!