Lily pond at Vallarta Botanical Gardens

Lily pond at Vallarta Botanical Gardens

When you visit a garden at the beginning of the summer growing season, and then again in late fall—and it’s equally beautiful—you know you’re on to something special. Such is the case with the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.

I had the pleasure of a guided tour of the gardens to learn about all the site has to offer in early May. It was stunning. I was equally mesmerized with a late October visit, when I was asked to speak at the Vallarta Cacao and Chocolate Festival held October 17-18, 2015.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary November 14-15, 2015, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens has an active Calendar of Events to keep local patrons returning on a regular basis, and to entice visitors to Puerto Vallarta to take time and make the effort to visit the site, situated at the Km. 24 marker of Highway 200, Carretera Puerto Vallarta a Barra de Navidad, the only road that goes south from Puerto Vallarta (PV). The drive to the Gardens takes approximately 30 minutes from Old Town PV and costs approximately $300 pesos from the Zona Romantica neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta.

But it’s well worth the drive! You’ll see up to 300 species of birds here during the peak winter season, as well as 50 different species of Mexican orchids. There are actually 1,200 orchid species in Mexico, and the Vallarta Botanical Gardens are actively adding to the list of species they have on site, and act as custodians of confiscated orchids that have been illegally planted in private gardens.

“We’re the stewards and caretakers of these plants and will return them to the wild if feasible, but only one third of them will survive,” says Executive Director Neil Gerlowski as he receives a delivery of confiscated orchid plants via the Secretariat of National Resources for Mexico—the environmental police who just happened to attend the garden while we were there. Most people don’t realize that you can’t dig up orchids you find in the wild and transplant them in your own garden. That is considered to be an illegal activity and will result in the plants being confiscated by the environmental police.

But you can certainly enjoy the breath-taking orchids you’ll find at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, as well as an abundance of native and exotic flora throughout the 20-acre (8-hectare) grounds that make up the gardens.

The lily pond is my favorite feature, boasting color year-round with different varieties of lilies blooming at different times.

The  Vallarta Botanical Gardens have been voted as one of the top 10 gardens to visit in North America, and are TripAdvisor’s fifth most popular attraction in the Jalisco state of Mexico. Do visit on your next trip to Puerto Vallarta, and feel free to bring your dog! The Vallarta Botanical Gardens is a pet friendly facility.

But remember to bring insect repellent. The no-see-ums are prevalent, and even with a light coating of repellent, you may find your ankles to be the flavor of the month for these tiny pests when strolling through the grounds. The best protection is always long pants, but you will find repellent, a great selection of handcrafts, chocolate and books (including Chocolatour!) in the on-site gift shop.

You can enjoy a meal or refreshing drink in the on-site restaurant, or venture a bit further into El Tuito village for a truly authentic Mexican dinner or lunch. Make a day of it and you’ll be glad you took the time to explore Vallarta Botanical Gardens and the authentic Mexico off the beaten path.

Stay up to date on the happenings at the gardens by subscribing to their beautiful monthly newsletter (called the Leaflet) that is available for free download on their website. The photography is simply stunning!