First off, we are not suggesting that a maiden visit to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens should take place on a rainy day. For starters, you will not be able to enjoy the many hiking paths in the property—one of Puerto Vallarta’s finest attractions—along which you will be able to discover the many varieties of tropical flora abundant through the region. Attempting to explore the nearby Horcones River and its waterfalls will undoubtedly turn into a slippery, muddy affair. In fact, simply walk from the parking lot to the Gardens’ Hacienda de Oro Visitor Center and you will be soaked by the time you reach it, unless you are carrying an umbrella.
All that said and done, however, visiting the Vallarta Botanical Gardens on a rainy day is a highly-recommended experience. For first-timers—particularly those not familiar with the tropics—it is the best opportunity to experience the region in its tropical Summer glory. And for repeat-visitors, a Summertime visit to the Gardens provides a refreshing escape from the heat.
It all starts with the journey there. The winding Carr. 200 Sur interstate highway that connects Puerto Vallarta with points south follows the coastline some 25 minutes, providing visitors with excellent views of the coast and surrounding hills. Once you reach Boca de Tomatlán—a small fishing village that also serves as a departing point for the many water taxis that allow exploration of small villages accessible only by boat—the winding highway veers toward the mountains. This time of year, driving through the highway surrounds the passenger with an almost endless array of trees and freshly-grown foliage, thanks to the much-needed Summer rain season. It takes approximately 35-40 minutes to drive from Puerto Vallarta to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens.
If you are fortunate, it won’t actually be raining while you travel back and forth to the Gardens. Once you are there and sheltered under the ample, multi-story Hacienda de Oro Visitor Center, there will be no shortage of things to do. Full restaurant service is available, and the menu features Mexican specialties and brick oven pizza. If you crave strong spirits, a well-stocked bar is ready to serve, pun intended. Plenty of sitting areas encourage conversation and even curling up with a good book. Should you be traveling with children, an intriguing insect collection will undoubtedly pique their interest.
Last but not least, the view is spectacular. The Vallarta Botanical Gardens are located next to a gorge through which the Horcones River carries water to the Pacific, providing visitors with a rugged landscape of tree canopies and the constant sound of the river. Numerous bird species can be sighted from this vantage point, flying from treetop to treetop, making stops at the many bird feeders perched on the side of the building. And once you are settled with the view along with a pampering dish and beverage before you, you will pray for rain. And fog!
Keep in Mind:
- Schedule a lengthy visit. For example, arrive at lunchtime and plan on enjoying a relaxing afternoon.
- If weather is on the dry side, you will have plenty to do. If it rains, embrace the experience!
- Bring a book, but leave your iPod at home. The soundtrack provided by nature has no comparison.
- Bring a camera and binoculars. Carry a couple plastic bags for all your electronics, just in case.
- If you forget insect repellent (highly recommended) you will be able to purchase some at the Gardens.
- The freshness of the air and the breeze during and after it rains—need we say more?
- You can’t beat the margaritas prepared at Hacienda de Oro! If you are the driver, however, do your drinking early so you can stay focused on the drive back.
Gray skies, showers and fog are ideal for meditative introspection, and we can’t think of a better place to relax and unwind than the Vallarta Botanical Gardens on a summer rainy day.