Did you know that Mexico’s second largest botanical garden is right here in the Mexican Caribbean? The Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden, also called the Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden, protects 65 hectares of jungle and mangrove forest. It is home to trees, flowering shrubs, orchids, bromeliads, agaves and herbs native to the Yucatan and from other tropical regions of the world and is a refuge for wildlife. It is celebrating its 37th anniversary this June and if you have never visited it and are interested in nature, why not plan a visit on your next trip.

As you wander along forest trails in Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden, you’ll see jungle giants such as the ceiba, the sacred tree of the Maya, caoba or mahogany and cedar. Discover the story of two trees: chechen, the leaves and bark of which can give you a rash if you brush against it, and chaka, the tree always found growing nearby that has leaves which soothe irritated skin. Learn about chicle, the white, latex-like resin tapped or harvested from the chicozapote tree that is the original raw ingredient for chewing gum. Walk through the herb garden, which is full of medicinal plants used by the Maya since ancient times. Finally, climb the wooden observation towers and gaze at the surrounding jungle.

You may catch a glimpse of spider monkeys foraging for food in the treetops, a family of coatimundis with playful babies in tow may cross your path or even a shy agouti rustling through the undergrowth. Butterflies dance in sunlit clearings and birds are everywhere you look. Woodpeckers hunt for grubs; hummingbirds are busy among the flowers and parrots chatter overhead. You’ll see orange orioles, brilliantly colored Yucatan and green jays and a flash of bright blue and russet and soft whooping call that signals the arrival of the turquoise-browed motmot, Yucatan’s bird of paradise.

Getting there
The Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden is located just south of Puerto Morelos on Highway 307. You can rent a car or take the bus to Puerto Morelos. The Garden is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Take a camera, binoculars and use eco-friendly insect repellent to ward off biting insects.