Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico - Only in the summer season can you experience the splendor of the Banderas Bay area's forest in its divine abundance during a visit to the enchanting Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
The tropical dry forests of our region are magically transformed during the summer rainy season taking on characteristics of true rain forests. The plants in both the Gardens' native forests and cultivated grounds show renewed vigor and color, and the Vanilla Pompona and Theobroma Cacao are flush with new life and growth.
All of which makes this a perfect time to come out and enjoy the Garden's annual Rainforest Festival, where two important plant species native to the rain forests of Mexico, vanilla and chocolate, are being celebrated from August 19 through 31.
The cacao bean, the basis of cocoa and chocolate, is one of Mexico’s many culinary gifts to the world. Cacao beans come from the cacao tree known by its scientific name as Theobroma Cacao which literally means "food of the gods."
Among Mexico’s indigenous peoples, cacao beans were ground by hand and then mixed with water, ground corn and chile pepper, often flavored with vanilla or some other tropical plant. This drink was known as chocolate. Aztec emperor Moctezuma drank chocolate daily.
The household of Nezahualcóyotl, the chieftain of neighboring Texcoco, consumed more than 20 kg (44 lbs) of cacao a day. Never would he have imagined that his elixir's prized ingredient would become an everyday luxury as it is today. In modern Mexico, chocolate is still primarily something to drink, often made with cinnamon or vanilla.
Vanilla "Beans" at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens
When Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover, the two were captured and beheaded. Where the blood of the princess' lover touched the ground a tree grew and next to it, where the princess' blood touched the ground the vine of the vanilla orchid grew attaching to the tree forever.
Learn more about this incredible plant during the Cacao & Vanilla Celebration at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. Entrance to the Gardens is only $60 pesos per person, and the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant is serving up a special lunch menu. Even the drive to the Gardens is part of the delight as you wind your way along the Palms to Pines Scenic Highway admiring the majestic scenery in its full summer brilliance.
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.
Click HERE to learn more about Vallarta Botanical Gardens.