Vancouver is Canada’s most temperate area, known for forests, sea, cosmopolitan entertainment, lots of rain and a high cost of living. The densely populated city in western Canada has more than 610,000 residents with a total of nearly 2.5 million in the metro area. Visitors can easily get around on bus, foot and bike share. Just be sure to pack an umbrella and a rain poncho! Here are the outdoor activities, vegan restaurants and eco-hotels to visit during your trip to Vancouver.
Vancouver’s great outdoors
Stanley Park is Vancouver’s most popular outdoor spot. Once the homeland for the native Squamish people, it has been a park since 1888. You can rent a bike and cruise around to see the gardens, totem poles and views of English Bay and Lions Gate Bridge. To learn more about Canada’s First Nations culture, contact Talaysay Tours and sign up for the Talking Trees tour to learn how the Squamish used local plants as food and medicine.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge, built in 1889, is an engineering marvel — a 450-foot walking bridge over the Capilano River. Visitors also get high up in the canopy on a series of shorter, tree-to-tree bridges.
For those who believe fitness never takes a vacation, there’s the Grouse Grind. Hikers climb 2,800 feet in 1.8 miles, then take the gondola back down Grouse Mountain. Both Capilano and Grouse Mountain are a short distance outside Vancouver, but free shuttle buses depart from Canada Place.
Vancouver also offers splendid kayaking opportunities. Perhaps the best is at the Indian Arm fjord in the Deep Cove neighborhood. Rent a kayak from Deep Cove Kayak Centre or join a tour for additional company, security and/or information on history, geography and wildlife. You might see purple sea stars, moon jellyfish, 1,800-year-old petroglyphs, baby seals or even a cougar lounging on a rock.
Vancouver loves yoga. If you’re visiting in summer, check out the outdoor classes offered by the Mat Collective at Kitsilano Beach and pop-up locations. Do Peak Yoga atop Grouse Mountain on summer weekends, weather permitting.
For a spa experience, visit Miraj Hammam, where you’ll open your pores in a steam room, then lie on a golden marble slab while an attendant exfoliates your body. Some of the most deluxe spas are at the big hotels, such as the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the giant, new spa at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver.
Vegan restaurants in Vancouver
The historic Naam restaurant has served vegan and vegetarian food 24 hours a day since 1968. Its versatile menu ranges from enchiladas to a crying tiger Thai stir fry to vegan chocolate carrot cake topped with hemp icing for dessert.
For a modern take on vegan comfort food, MeeT has three locations serving burgers, fries and bowls around the city. The Acorn is Vancouver’s most upscale vegan restaurant, creating complex dishes that showcase seasonal vegetables.
For dessert, Umaluma Dairy-Free Gelato serves inventive gelato flavors like blood orange jalapeño jelly and salted caramel seafoam. There’s even a dedicated plant-based pudding store, Vegan Pudding and Co.
Getting around Vancouver
If you’re already in the Northwest, consider taking the Amtrak or bus service to Vancouver, then getting around on foot and by public transportation. If you’re flying in, you might be able to take the SkyTrain to your hotel, depending where you’re staying. The SkyTrain light rail system serves downtown Vancouver and many suburbs.
Bright blue Mobi bikes are everywhere in Vancouver. If you want to try the local bike share, you’ll need to download an app and keep your eye on the time, so you don’t rack up overage charges. Rent a bike by the day at one of the shops near Stanley Park.
TransLink is the public bus system that will take you around the Vancouver metro area. The SeaBus 385-passenger ferry crosses the Burrard Inlet, bringing you from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. The West Coast Express commuter railway connects Vancouver to the scenic Fraser Valley.
Eco-hotels in Vancouver
Vancouver has many excellent hotels, but be prepared for sticker shock. Wellness-focused guests will appreciate the amenities at the Loden. The hotel’s garden terrace rooms on its second floor sanctuary include special tea, yoga props, a 30-minute infrared sauna treatment and access to an urban garden, reflection pond and waterfall.
The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel partners with Hives for Humanity, a nonprofit that educates people about gardens and beehives. You can tour the hotel’s rooftop gardens and learn about the pollination corridor connecting the city’s green spaces. Even the Vancouver police department hosts four beehives.
The Skwachàys Lodge is a First Nations-focused social enterprise hotel combining 18 uniquely decorated rooms, studio space for First Nations artists and a ground-floor art gallery. Visitors can book private sweat-lodge ceremonies.
Travelers on a budget can stay in the tidy and colorful YWCA Hotel. Not only do you get a comfortable place to stay and access to excellent fitness facilities and exercise classes; some of your money goes toward services for women and children in need.
Images by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat