We were on a media trip hosted by Apple Vacations and our itinerary included a day of zip lining and repelling at the Canopy River. Now this sounds like a lot of fun and I certainly didn’t want to miss out on a good time with my traveling companions but I am NOT an adrenaline rush seeking person by any stretch of the word. I have to be realistic on my capabilities, I’ve had two knee replacements and I’m still not 100%. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. There were a couple of ladies in the group who weren’t too excited about a high adventure activity either. I could have easily spent the day relaxing and enjoying all the wonderful amenities and Unlimited Luxury our hotel, Secrets Vallarta Bay had to offer but I wanted to have a day out too. Our host asked me if I knew of anything the 4 of us could do while the others were zipping from the second highest tower in Mexico. I thought and thought. Finally, it came to me- the Vallarta Botanical Gardens! I’d seen it advertised in the arrival hall at the airport. It is right up my alley! I love nature and SOFT adventures. The only problem was no one currently runs tours there. But if there is a will, there’s a way- especially in Mexico. Our hosts most generously agreed to provide private transfers for us and we were on our way!
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are located about 30 minutes outside of Old Vallarta. It’s a scenic drive along the only south coast road, even more scenic as the road takes you past small villages and into the jungle of the Sierra Madre mountains. The gardens are a relatively new venue for Puerto Vallarta residents and visitors.
It’s a perfect location for private group functions and weddings. This natural sanctuary was established only 7 years ago as a 501c non-profit organization by founder and curator Robert Price. He purchased a 20 acre cattle ranch and is transforming it into a world-renowned botanical gardens, one of only 50 botanical gardens in all of Mexico. It is now the vision for his life’s work, filled with passion, and plans for future development.
Currently the Vallarta Botanical Gardens consists of several paths and trails of varying degrees of difficulty: easy, medium and difficult. One path takes you down to the river, Rio Los Horcones. The visitors map marks areas safe for swimming. Another trail is marked as the Vanilla Trail where you can cross a swinging bridge. An additional trail takes you by an agave field. Along the paths you can stroll through rose gardens, seasonal flowers and vegetables, orchards and a cactus garden. No two visits are ever the same because there is always something new blooming!
Guided tours are at 1pm daily. There are plans to further develop an Interpretative Trail system for visitors to enjoy undeveloped areas of the botanical gardens. A new Sierra Madre Mining Experience for children has recently been added. I am certain some adults will find this fun too, after all who doesn’t like a little treasure?! Children can hunt and take home REAL Mexican gems.
In the middle of the Vallarta Botanical Gardens is the orchid and vanilla conservatory, restrooms, a koi pond filled with aquatic plants and water lilies. There are many places to sit, relax and take in all the natural beauty.
In this area of the botanical gardens is the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant, which serves authentic, fresh Mexican cuisine and delicious brick fired oven pizza. Dining is on the balcony overlooking the lush forest, the koi pond and gardens. It’s a great place to relax and watch birds and butterflies from above the trees. Meals run $12-15 and the portions are very substantial. I’d definitely recommend sharing a pizza, it’s at least 12 inches!
The mouth watering Yelapa style fish tacos are a house specialty served in blue corn tortillas. Mr Travel D couldn’t finish his plate of 3, though he made a good effort. Maybe it was because we also enjoyed an order of fresh, chunky guacamole and chips while waiting for our entrees to be prepared. There are soft drinks as well a full service bar including a list for fine premium quality tequilas to sample.
Also housed in this building you will find the Visitor Center and library with natural displays and learning resources. It is also home of the Tapiz Gift Shop where handmade Mexican folk arts and handblown glass hearts are available for purchase at reasonable prices.
A new building is under construction at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens which will house the National Mexican Orchid Collection. Mr. Price explained to us there are over 25,000 orchids in the world of which over 1200 are found in Mexico. There are 200 orchids which are found only in Mexico.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens hosted a study funded by a grant from the American Orchid Society. They found that within a 5 km radius of the botanical gardens there are at least 55 different species of orchids. It is not certain at this time when the construction will be completed as donations are desperately needed to complete the project. Donations are tax deductible in the US where the Vallarta Botanical Gardens is an established 501c non profit organization.
Mr. Price also shared as Vice President of the Puerto Vallarta Garden Club plans for the upcoming 1st annual Bougainvillea Festival. It is modeled after the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. Hundreds of bougainvilleas are being planted by the club and local businesses in Viejo (Old) Vallarta for the May 17-24, 2013 event. The festival coincides with the annual Restaurant Week. The bougainvilleas will not only beautify the city most of the year with colorful and abundant blossoms but the festival will also be an added incentive to visit Puerto Vallarta later in the Spring. Though in its infancy, it’s a gift and labor of love from the Garden Club members to the city’s residents and visitors. There are plans for a candlelit procession, a street party, guided walking tours, Mexican cultural folk dances, a children’s day at the botanical gardens and more. The Club’s goal is to have Puerto Vallarta known as the City of Bougainvilleas.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens strongly believes in partnering with and giving back to the community. The botanical gardens are a proud sponsor of the Vallarta Bird Festival. The area is home to over 300 species of our fine feathered friends. The festival will take place March 7-10, 2013. The early bird registration (pun intended) is just $10. In November it will raise to $20. For registration: http://www.vallartabirdfestival.org
Some of the festival activities are held at the gardens which is natural – birding is another popular activity at the botanical gardens.
To visit the Vallarta Botanical Gardens:
Location: 24km Carretera Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad
Take a taxi: approximately $40-60 roundtrip depending on your departure point in Puerto Vallarta
Take a bus: Take the El Tuito bus at the corner of Carranza and Aguacate streets, in the Romantic Zone for less than $4 per person roundtrip. Bus service runs about every 30 minutes. Ask the bus driver to stop at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
Admission: a mere 60 pesos less than $5! Mining experience is an additional 150 pesos per bucket, that’s less than $12.
Hours: 10am- 6pm daily, 7 days a week January – March. Closed Mondays, April – December. Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, everybody deserves a holiday. You can spend a couple of hours or as long as you want. If you love nature, gardening, birding, butterflies and photography- just plan to spend the day!
Don’t forget to take: a towel if you plan to go swimming, your camera, an umbrella to shield you from the sun or a brief shower, sunscreen and insect repellent. Insect repellent is available for purchase at the entrance for less than $2 if you forget. You will need it, trust me! You are surrounded by an unspoiled lush tropical jungle. Wear sturdy shoes- tennis, walking, water sandals like Tevas, Keens, Merrils. Flip flops are definitely NOT recommended. Paths are cobblestone and natural trails. Of course, you’ll want to bring money for the gift shop and restaurant too.
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