Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Hidden in the jungle about a half-hour drive south of Puerto Vallarta is an oasis of beauty reminiscent of Babylon's Hanging Gardens with a nod to Adam and Eve. Drive south on Highway 200 under a canopy of greenery with the shimmering aqua Pacific on your right and keep a watchful eye for a wandering cow, an unmarked speed bump, and the occasional pothole, to Robert Price's Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
Bring your hiking boots, your camera, your appetite, and your soul to explore what has been created by Price and his mother Betty. "I grew up in Georgia, a son and grandson of farmers and I guess I've always loved digging in the dirt." A successful restaurateur turned naturalist, Price listened to Nature's sirens and opened his gardens in 2004 alongside the crystal pools and waterfall of Rio Los Horcones.
The Gardens showcase native Mexican flora and fauna, so if you've even wondered what this flowering vine is called, or the name of that big tree with orange blossoms, the Puerto Vallarta Gardens may reveal the answer.
The jungle trails offer a surprise around every twist - a wild orchid here, a deer there, or perhaps if you're really lucky you'll see an ocelot, a chachalaca (member of the turkey family) or a tejone (similar to a raccoon.)
After your exploration, climb the commemorative tiled stairs contributed by friends of the gardens to Hacienda de Oro Taberna for breakfast or lunch and enjoy the view and the cool breezes even on the warmest of afternoons. The kitchen produces superb cuisine with a Mexican flourish and there's something from the bar to please everyone. Let your palate rejoice and your mind wander...
Complimenting Puerto Vallarta's open community, the Gardens host an annual Diversity Day and is a majestic venue for weddings and commitment ceremonies (Unfortunately at this time, the State of Jalisco does not recognize same sex marriages.) This year, for the first time, during the last two weeks of July the Gardens' Terra Firma Adventures, a program designed for teenagers aged 13-17, operates on site. Using drama combined with art and nature English speaking teenagers experience the environment in a most unique way.
And there's more to come - Puerto Vallarta Gardens, under the leadership of the Garden Club of Puerto Vallarta, are organizing The Bougainvillea Festival, another first planned for the third week of May 2013. "We need to diversify our tourism," explains Price. "Washington, DC has it's Cherry Blossom Festival to kickoff the tourist season and the Bougainvillea Festival will extend ours. We're still working on the details, but our Festival will be great!"
But before you leave Vallarta Botanical Gardens, take time to ponder the exhibits, meander through the gift shop, or buy a plant from the conservatory. And, if Mother Nature is being gracious, right about dusk you may hear the yowl of a jaguar.Vallarta Botanical Gardens is open 10-6 pm daily except Christmas and New Year's and closed on Mondays from April through December. For additional information either visit the website vbgardens.org or call (322) 223-6182. Admission is $60 Pesos (less than $5 USD) and the non-profit organization welcomes your visit and your donations.
Located 30 minutes south of Old Town at Km. 24 on Highway 200, Vallarta Botanical Gardens offer something to keep every age group happy; from a Rose Garden for the romantic to jungle trails for the adventurous and a Carnivorous Plants area for the younger generation! The Botanical Gardens' vibrant and elegant settings also offer the perfect venue for weddings and special occasions. For more information, call (322) 223-6182 or visit vbgardens.org.
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