Celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary this June, the Yaaxche-Alfredo Barrera Marin Botanical Garden is a Puerto Morelos must for a look at the jungle ecosystem. The second largest botanical garden in Mexico, it showcases the trees and plants native to the Yucatan Peninsula and is also a nature reserve protecting 65 hectares of jungle and marshland rich in wildlife.

Jungle trails wind through the garden and take visitors to an area of medicinal plants and herbs used by the Maya since time immemorial. There is also an exhibition showcasing 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 lead to wooden observation towers, which offer 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.

Visitors will spot a variety of birds during a walk through the forest. Parrots, chachalacas and Yucatan jays are common sightings and visitors may catch a glimpse of the elusive turquoise-browed motmot.

The Botanical Garden is located just south 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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