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Haravéri: Jalisco Cloud Forest Distilled for Enjoyment

February 25, 2019

Much like a shot of fine raicilla greets the palate with the concentrated essence of the heart of agave, so a guided hike through the Jardín Botánico Haravéri distills the Vallarta region's cloud forest into a potent & memorable experience.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of witnessing the inauguration of a new botanical garden in the far-off outskirts of the Puerto Vallarta region.

Located a little more than two hours from Vallarta - when traffic and road conditions cooperate - the trek out to the Jardín Botánico Haravéri is an adventure in and of itself. From the crossroads of La Estancia (where most pass en route to San Sebastián, Talpa, or Mascota) begins another road much less traveled.

The Potrero de Mulas was the main route between Vallarta and Mascota from colonial times until about the turn of this past century. More recently frequented by few others aside from motorcyclists and other extreme off-road racers of the "Vallartazo," this dirt swath through the forest now provides the adventurous with access to a surprising garden experience.

Epidendrum clowesii is just one of dozens of native orchids you may see in the Haraverí Forest Preserve. Photo by Neil Gerlowski.
The Jardín Botánico Haravéri takes its name from the Wixárika (Huichol) moniker for "orchard" or "garden." Near the visitor infrastructure a great variety of native and exotic plants abound and thrive under obvious carefully orchestrated horticultural attention.

But the real heart of this garden is a rustic trail through lush cloud forest naturally teaming with a mind boggling diversity of plant life. Stately relics of the plant kingdom including Magnolia and Podocarpus tower over an understory splashed with botanical show-stoppers such as tree ferns and zamias.

Every imaginable corner is claimed by at least something growing from it and philodendrons, amongst many other vines, compete alongside an endless variety of bromeliads and orchids. The master gardener here is nature herself and the Haravéri team simply directs this part of the experience through trails, interpretative signage, and botanical guides.

Back at the Hacienda Las Tres Carmelitas the weary traveler can relax and enjoy a feast for the eyes and palate with an abundance of fine cuisine and beverages in a most attractive ambiance. The centerpiece of this part of the property is a raicilla distillery delightfully crafted in old-fashion frontier style.

Upon our group's arrival, a surging glow of flame was roaring from the front end of a bullet-head shaped clay oven while a harvest of agave hearts nervously waited inevitable sacrificial roasting and a smoky musk of fermented goodness hung thickly in the air. By the time we returned from the forest, laborers were sealing the oven's door and chimney with generous applications of viscous red clay.

Lamentably, to beat feet before sunset my group headed out before I could sample the wares of this fascinating production, but raicilla is just one of many strong draws already beckoning me back to the Jardín Botánico Haravéri.

Interested in joining me for a trek to the Jardín Botánico Haravéri? On Saturday, March 23rd 2019, I'll be going back as a guide/driver for an exclusive experience available for members and guests of the Vallarta Botanical Garden and the Puerto Vallarta Garden Club. We will depart Puerto Vallarta at 8:00 am that morning and return at approximately 6:00 pm. For more tour information, CLICK HERE to download the PDF.

This excursion features:
• The only scheduled visit to Jardín Botánico Haravéri by the Vallarta Botanical Garden
• Round-trip curated transportation in luxury Suburbans
• Admission to the Jardín Botánico Haravéri
• A welcome refreshment
• A guided walking tour of the Jardín Botánico Haravéri Cloud Forest Preserve
• A custom catered lunch by acclaimed Jardín Nebulosa using locally sourced ingredients
• A tasting of hand crafted beverages produced on site

For more information & to reserve your participation, please contact the staff at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens at (322) 688-6206 or tours(at)

Want some help pronouncing and remembering the name Haravéri? Think, "Have a very nice visit." Then swap the "v" of "have" for an "r" and drop the "nice visit" to leave you with, "Har-a very," which is close enough to get you by handsomely.

Neil Gerlowski has served as the Executive Director of the Vallarta Botanical Garden (VBG) since 2010. He helped form this garden's international Science Advisory Board, which among other activities, is working to study and document the diverse native plant life of the VBG's forest preserve as well as participate in plant research elsewhere in Mexico and abroad. Neil Gerlowski has a Master's of Arts in Teaching from the University of New Hampshire (2001) and successfully completed Longwood Gardens' Fellows Program in 2018.

Visit the internationally famous Vallarta Botanical Garden located just 30 minutes south of Old Town at Km. 24 on Highway 200 and easily accessible by public transportation and taxi. This 64 acre wildlife preserve and botanical garden have something fun for everyone. Over 200 species of birds have been observed on the Garden's grounds. Don't forget to bring your swimsuit for a refreshing dip in the jungle river. See plantings of vanilla, chocolate, and hundreds of other botanical delights! Authentic Mexican Cuisine is served in the Hacienda de Oro Restaurant from 10 am to 5 pm. The Garden is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm (closed Mondays from April 1 to December 1). Garden admission is just $200 pesos. For more information, call (322) 223-6182 or visit

Click HERE to learn more about Vallarta Botanical Gardens.