An Educational Escape in Puerto Rico
The gardens teach visitors about the rich Puerto Rican cultural background
A day trip to Puerto Rico's Caguas Botanical Gardens, which opened in April 2007, is a great option for nature lovers, history buffs and those who wish to escape the city for a few hours and find things to do. Only 30 minutes from San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, its 60 acres will literally give a breath of fresh air to your vacation.
The best feature about this off-the-beaten-path site is that it is way more than what its name suggests. In addition to conserving about 200 different species of native fruit trees and flowers (plus more than 50 other exotic species), the Caguas Botanical Gardens also offer other attractions for the entire family. Pinned as “educational zones,” the following sections of the gardens teach visitors about the rich Puerto Rican cultural background, multiracial heritage (Taino Indian, African, and Spaniard), and inspire all visitors to protect Mother Nature.
La Arboleda Ancestral Africana- commemorates Puerto Rico’s African forefathers, with a bronze monument of Osaín.
La Arboleda de la Conciencia- an area with the goal of raising awareness to protect the environment. It presents a variety of endangered tree species.
La Arboleda Ancestral Taína- celebrates Puerto Rico’s Taino heritage via artwork inspired by the “bateyes indigenas” (grounds used by Tainos to play games).
El Bosque del Patrimonio - probably one of the most interesting areas to tourists, it displays close to 40 species of native trees, some exclusive to the island, with explanations of their ecological importance. Furthermore, some of the explanations are about how some of these species were quite useful to Borinquen’s forefathers.
La Casa Jíbara y Siembra AgrícolaFamiliar - this area offers great insight into how the very first generation of Puerto Ricans born in the island, the jibaritos, used to live. The “Casa” features the replica of what a sown field looked like by using traditional agricultural techniques and an exhibition room where seminars take place occasionally.
El Sembradío del Artesano Puertorriqueño- this area is a tribute to the artisans of the city of Caguas. More than 60 colorful species of trees, herbs, and vines are planted in the area. Moreover, El Sembradío features about 15 different tree species used by local wood sculptors, which were of commercial importance between the 19th and 20th centuries.
Besides the educational zones, the Caguas Botanical Gardens boasts other interesting areas, full of tropical flora and fauna, such as:
El Bambular- encompasses the Plaza Agrícola and wraps around the Cagüitas River. It houses a collection of different bamboo species.
El Corredor Ribereño - an agriculture plan set in place in order to encourage the natural regeneration of the flora neighboring (aledaña) the Cagüitas River.
La Huerta Frutal- has more than 50 different species of native and foreign fruit trees that have become Puerto Rican staples.
El Jardín de Plantas Acuáticas y Peces Tropicaleshas probably one of the most interesting spots in the Caguas Botanical Gardens. It is located inside the historical zone (what used to be a plantation) and contains an aquarium, where aquatic plants are cultivated and tropical fish bred.
El Mariposariois an interactive butterfly farm that every member of the family will truly enjoy. Located in the historic zone.
El Palmarboasts dozens of palm species from around the world. Each is classified by its geographical area of origin.
La Plaza Agrícola Urbanahas six “capsules” dedicated to the production of hydroponic crops and propagation of practical-use plants.
Hours and cost of admission: The Caguas Botanical Gardens are open Thursday through Sunday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. Adult tickets (ages 13+) cost USD $7; kids (ages 7-12) and seniors (age 60+) pay USD $4; while children under 7 are free of charge. Please note that prices do not include taxes.
How to get there: From San Juan, look for Highway 52 (heading south) take Exit 18 toward Aguas Buenas. Once at the end of the ramp, take a right and follow the road until you are see the lights of a T Junction. You will find the Botanical Gardens straight ahead.
Maria Alexandra Laborde has lived, studied and traveled extensively throughout Puerto Rico, the Middle East & North Africa. She shares her knowledge and love for the Arab world through stories, travel guides, and photo essays on her niche blog Travel The Middle East. Also, Maria is the author of LatinAbroad: Cultural Travel Blog, where she shares cultural encounters and advice after traveling to more than 20 countries across 4 continents. Follow her on Google+, Facebook and Pinterest!
Main Image Credit: Flickr Chispy2