Puerto Vallarta is a fabulous family destination, the weather is great (except in the warmest months where I sweat like a pig), there are hotels and lodging for all budgets, there are many things to do in town and around the town, many of them are either free or cheap and kids really enjoy the beaches and the many options that are for them too.
We'd heard about Vallarta Botanical Gardens recently and I read someone called it "a new favorite" or something like that, so I guessed the place might not be a bad option to visit.
We planned the trip on the last day in town, visited the site the night before to check the public hours and started off early in the morning, planning to arrive close to 10AM.
On the way, we stopped by Los Arcos to take a few photos, but there was a lot of fog, just before leaving the place fog started to dissipate.
Next stop was Mismaloya, once again quite foggy, but the fog actually made things look more interesting than normal. There was a man there with an iguana, so the kids took photos with them and there was also a small green one they enjoyed cuddling too.
A short stop in Boca de Tomatlan by the highway to take a few photos of the foggy estuary and we continued along the highway, that at that point goes inland and you start some curves while you climb up into the hills, VBG is 5 miles away at this point.
You pass a small town called Las Juntas and Los Veranos and 1.5 miles further along the highway you'll arrive at the botanical gardens, the gate is on the right side of the road. This road is, by the way, the same road you'd take to visit El Tuito and learn a bit more about the Raicilla.
You drive down a short downhill road to the parking lot for the non-members (you can pay a membership and receive some extra services and discounts, useful for the locals, not the tourists) and you pay for your entrance, we were surprised that children had to pay too despite the website stating children are ALWAYS FREE, anyway, I was not going to spoil the trip for 6 dollars, so I just paid for both my kids (8 and 4).
We put on our sunblock and our bug repellant (just in case, my wife and I both got a no-see-um bite each anyway, too tasty) and started off on the trails.
Being the end of April the forest and trails were quite dry, as would be expected, but the place is great anyway, many trees, plants, and flowers are tagged, you can learn a lot about plants, their names and their habits. Paths are well laid out, with difficulty levels, so you know what to expect. There are diagrams around the gardens and many signs with useful information.
Where my wife and I spent most our time was in the gardens around the main building, where the restaurant is on the second floor. There is a small pool with lots of lotus flowers, aquatic plants and fish (including a giant white carp). The gardens are just beautiful, the amount of flowers, orchids, plants, trees, etc., is overwhelming. I both felt happy and sad at the same time, happy to be there, sad to know I couldn't stay forever... I took many pictures and enjoyed the scents, colors, and diversity.
The kids brought their tops along and played around on the terrace in front of the bathrooms; they enjoyed the flowers and plants too but did not invest as much time as us.
We hadn’t eaten too good a breakfast, the scents arriving from the restaurant opened our appetite, so we went to the second floor and on the terrace enjoyed a great lunch, with excellent service and tasty and very well made food, something that was completely unexpected, Vallarta Botanical Gardens has one of the better restaurants in the Vallarta area, just try the pizzas or the flan and you’ll understand what we mean.
Then we decided to enjoy a swim in the little river (Río Los Horcones), this is where we spent most our time, the river (despite the season) was beautiful, waters calm and filled with tadpoles, which the kids carefully enjoyed too.
The forest around the river, filled with birds and sounds, the gentle clear refreshing waters flowing by. Time just flew by, nobody wanted to leave when the time came. When we left we made a promise to visit as soon as we are in town again.
The gardens are very well kept, the whole operation is extremely well organized, and the botanical gardens are exceptional in their diversity, their beauty and attention to detail. The restaurant and food available are exceptionally good and the river adds a new dimension to the trip itself.
To sum the whole experience up, a trip to Vallarta Botanical Gardens while you are visiting Puerto Vallarta is a MUST. You sometimes have an idea that zoos and gardens in small towns may be boring, disappointing or maybe even depressing; this certainly is not the case of these gardens which are easily world-class. Vallarta Botanical Gardens are highly recommended for people that like plants and flowers, families and anyone that enjoys nature and fresh air.
See our Botanical Garden photo galleries:
Author: M. A. Gallardo
Vallarta Botanical Garden is located on Km. 24 on the Coastal Highway from Puerto Vallarta to Barra de Navidad, the phone number is (322) 223-6182. http://www.vbgardens.org
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