Celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary this June, Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden, also known as the Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden, is a must-visit spot in the Riviera Maya for nature lovers. The second largest botanical garden in Mexico, it showcases the trees and plants native to the Yucatan Peninsula, offering a glimpse of the jungle ecosystem, and is also a nature reserve protecting 65 hectares of tropical forest and marshland rich in wildlife.
Trails wind through the forest leading to different parts of the Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden. There’s an area of medicinal plants and herbs used by the Maya since time immemorial and of orchids, bromeliads and other epiphytes that grow high in the jungle canopy. In another forest clearing an exhibition showcases the history of chicle, the original natural ingredient for chewing gum that is actually the resin from the chicozapote, a tree found throughout in the jungles of southeast Mexico. Paths also go to wooden observation towers offering panoramic views of the forest and the wetlands stretching to the Caribbean.
The park is home to a troop of approximately 50 spider monkeys that forage for fruit in the treetops. Visitors often spot coatimundis or tejon, grey fox and the shy agouti or tepescuintle, a rodent the size of a small dog that feeds in the undergrowth. Other residents such as the peccary, white tail and brocket deer, kinkajou and ocelot are seldom seen. Wardens have even found puma tracks in the more remote areas of the park.
During a walk through Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden keep a look out for birds. Woodpeckers, hummingbirds, parrots, chachalacas and Yucatan jays are common sightings and visitors may catch a glimpse of the elusive turquoise-browed motmot or pajaro reloj and black-headed trogon or coa.
Puerto Morelos Botanical Garden is located just south of the town of Puerto Morelos on Highway 307. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. We recommend that you take your camera, binoculars and use eco-friendly insect repellent to ward off biting insects.
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