A wonderful family-friendly day in contact with nature
Even though the Vallarta Botanical Garden is a bit far from downtown Puerto Vallarta, it's very much worth a visit, you can also combine it with a trip to Mismaloya Beach or Boca de Tomatlan, though I prefer to concentrate completely on the gardens and the fabulous restaurant they have there: Hacienda de Oro.
You'll not only enjoy the surrounding nature, the flowers, trees, lush jungle, but you can also rest on one of the many couches and seats on the different terraces and just relax in the breeze, the sound of birds and the general calm of the place.
The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are spread out over a 64-acre area (26 hectares) located 15 miles (35-40 minutes by car) South of Puerto Vallarta, driving along the highway south that goes to Barra de Navidad. You'll pass Los Arcos, Mismaloya, Boca de Tomatlán and Las Juntas y Los Veranos, before getting there. The Gardens are 1300 ft (420m) above sea level.
Vallarta Botanical Gardens AC (asociación civil) was founded in 2004 by Bob Price, and opened to the public in 2005. It's quickly become one of the top attractions in Puerto Vallarta and for good reason. It's a healthy, fun and educational day trip, hiking, enjoying nature and breathing fresh air among trees, flowers, cacti, birds, insects and more, is an uplifting experience, even better when the place is well tended, with beautiful surroundings and interesting places to visit on the grounds, nice bridges, the Orchid Conservatory (they exhibit over 300 of the 1000 plus native Mexican orchid species), the Chapel (can be rented for events), the Horcones River where you can swim in the fresh water pools or climb the boulders and on and on.
Vallarta Botanical Garden is registered with the Botanic Gardens Conservation International in Surrey, England, are members of the Asociación Mexicana de Orquideología and are a non-profit institution. The botanical garden is also a bird reserve with the collaboration of ornithologists and is also a member of international bird conservation agencies.
The botanical garden is also of great interest to scientists from around the world, some believe many of the plants on display have still not been studied thoroughly.
The VBG offers a series of jungle hikes and paths you can enjoy through different biomes (many trees and plants have small signs stating name and species), including the Tropical Dry Forest, which is the natural surroundings in the jungles of PV. There's the Holstein Orchid and Vanilla Conservatory, the Aquatic Plants pond by the Visitor Center, the Galeana Family Cactus Garden, swinging bridge, the Emerald Pools swimming area, the Tree Fern Grotto, the Native Mexican Orchid Conservatory (orchid conservation and propagation is one of VBG's main goals), Tropical Fruit Orchard, you'll find collections of oaks, agaves, wild palms and bromeliads and much more.
In 2013, The Vallarta Botanical Gardens were selected as one of the "Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Travelling For" by the North American Garden Tourism Conference's International Tourism Award Jury.
Those that enjoy bird watching (there are over 200 native bird species in the area and an incredible biodiversity), there's a lot of activity in the morning and in the afternoons, you'll also enjoy the feeding stations by the visitor center and the hummingbird feeders on the Hacienda de Oro terrace.
The Botanical Garden is just south of Las Juntas y Los Veranos, a small town that includes the well known Chico's Paradise restaurant. You get there driving along Highway 200 (Carretera Federal 200).
You can get there by car, taking a taxi (expensive), Uber (half price compared to a taxi) and with public transport.
You need to hop on a bus that goes to El Tuito, a small picturesque town further south. You can find them on the corner of Venustiano Carranza y Aguacate in Old Vallarta, that's where they start off on the trip, every 30 minutes (price is about a dollar or $1.50 US). Pay in Mexican pesos, make sure you have smaller bills, 50 pesos, if you are more than one, then a 100 peso bill is fine too.
You can also take a more comfortable bus from the Bus terminal, Primera Plus has regular buses going south that you can take, should be around $2.50 - $5.00 dollars in total, not more.
La Hacienda de Oro, the Garden's restaurant and bar, would alone be worth the visit, the view over the jungle and garden grounds is incredible and the food there, to take it all to a new level, is, without hesitation, outstanding.
We've tried many different dishes every time we visit and they are all wonderful, brick oven pizzas, salads, Mexican specialties like fajitas, the fresh baked tortillas (colorful ones too), the chicken, the meat, the desserts, the drinks, everything created with dedication and obvious talent. The service is also mention-worthy, very kind, helpful and willing to go the extra mile, excellent.
- A great tip is to take the expert guided garden tour at 1PM, it's a great educational introduction to what the VBG has to offer, there's a lot or research and studies taking place at the Botanical Gardens too.
- Take some insect repellent, especially if you plan to walk through the more rugged trails in the jungle and swim in the Horcones river. They sell some on site, if you forget.
- It is obvious, but just in case, do not touch the plants, plus, do not cut flowers, collect plants and seeds.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes.
- Bring a swimsuit along, especially in the hot summer season, you'll be tempted to take a refreshing swim in the river.
- Don't forget your sunblock, you'll be exposed to a lot of sun despite the vegetation.
- Avoid hiking off the trails, both for your safety and to avoid damaging the environment.
- Pets are allowed, but dogs must be kept on a leash and owners must clean up after them.
- You'll be able to buy plants and other souvenirs at the VBG Store.
$200 Pesos per person (2018 - approx. $10 USD), children (4 and under) free. You can pay with cash, Visa & MasterCard.
Normal Garden Hours: Open Daily 9 AM – 6 PM
Restaurant: Open Daily 9 AM – 5 PM (Closed Mondays)
December to March:
Open 7 days/week
(Closed Christmas & New Year’s Day)
April to November:
Open 6 days/week (Closed Mondays)
Early "Bird" Opening: 8 AM every Thursday from December to March.
Fair warning: After visiting the Vallarta Botanical Gardens you'll keep coming back on every trip you have to Puerto Vallarta, in my case, my kids request it every time, they love the birds, the flowers, the hiking trials and their swim in the fresh waters of the Río Horcones, the same river that ends up in Boca de Tomatlan.
- The Vallarta Botanical Garden A.C. is located on Km. 24 on the Coastal Highway from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad
- Phone number is (322) 223-6182
- Website: http://www.vbgardens.org
Further reading & seeing: