We were enjoying our stay at the luxury all-inclusive waterfront resort, Marival Armony, where the lush tropical landscaping and colorful flowers added to the relaxing atmosphere. While the resort is known for stunning ocean views, the beauty of the jungle greenery added to the feeling of being away from civilization. All around the luxury resort, you could see palm trees, jungle vines, and flowers and so we were thrilled to find out that there was a place not too far away where we could actually walk through the jungle with a guide who would point out the plants, native flowers and, perhaps wildlife, as we walked. And, we were going to be visiting a place with 70 varieties of orchids native to Nayarit. Lo de Perla, a private jungle garden sanctuary, is off the beaten path, but well worth a visit.
Preparing for Your Jungle Adventure
Before you visit Lo de Perla, you need to call for a reservation. Tours must be pre-arranged. You’ll need to allow at least three hours for your transportation to and from the reserve plus your time exploring the jungle with your informative guides. It’s a place where you’ll need to stop and look all around to see the treasures the jungle holds… fascinating termites at work, vines climbing high into the huge trees, colorful butterflies, and those amazing orchids.
While the caretakers and their families have constructed very walkable trails, you’ll be going up and down some hillsides so wear sturdy hiking shoes. If you don’t have your own hiking stick, Lo de Perla has some wooden ones you can use. Bring water and insect repellent and, of course, a camera. While the hike is a relatively short one (just over a kilometer), you’re likely to be tired by the time you get to the top of the last hill because of the humidity.
Getting to Lo de Perla
Lo de Perla is about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta and just north of Sayulita on Federal Highway 200. The meeting point for transportation into the jungle garden is at the little village of Las Lomas by the school. Unless you have your own off-road worthy transportation, you’ll need to ride with your guides to the reserve from this meeting point. It’s only three kilometers from the school down a rutted dirt and stone road past colorful homes and farms. Once you arrive, there is room to park and a restroom.
Exploring the Jungle Reserve
Our guide, Vicente, who spoke very good English, started out by explaining that the reserve was set aside by Alejandro de Perla, who resides in Mexico City, a visionary and plant lover. He then pointed out that the nuts from the nearby palm could be crushed and the oil rubbed on your skin as an insect repellent. The tour was full of factoids like this.
As we looked up at vines with huge leaves climbing toward the sky, we entered the reserve past the gate. We stopped frequently to learn and look at what Vicente pointed out during our jungle adventures.
I soon realized that many of the house plants that were familiar to me grew wild here in the jungle. The caretakers explained that depending on the season and time of day, visitors may encounter more than 800 orchids hanging from the trees, as well as 120 different fruit trees, bromeliads, ferns, and fungi.
Within the reserve are about 25 mammals, 30 reptiles, 120 birds, 300 multicolored butterflies, and thousands of insects. There are 2000 ola (leaf) ants on the preserve.
Aside from the plants, I was fascinated by the insect life. Vicente pointed out the huge termite nests built high in the trees and the trails of termites under tree bark. One particularly large tree was being consumed by termites and would eventually fall. He added that the nests were hollow inside and were often used by birds.
As we walked the paths, our guide pointed out a large spider web as well as it’s resident spider. There was life all around us but since we were there in the middle of the day we didn’t spot any of the colorful birds. Dawn and dusk are the best times for birding, we were told.
After learning about jungle life, and taking a break or two, we headed up the stone stairs toward the top of the hill and were surprised to see huge cacti. We had come from the humid jungle up to a sunny dry hilltop environment.
There, we found the greenhouse that was the center of the orchid-growing operations where we saw even more varieties. Depending on the work being done there at the time, you may see up to 700 plants.
After relaxing a bit and exploring and photographing the plants, it was time to leave. The parking lot was not far and we enjoyed the scenic ride back to the vehicles at the school and looked forward to a late lunch.
When You Go to Lo de Perla Jungle Garden
To tour Lo de Perla for your own jungle adventure, you must call for a reservation (or ask your hotel concierge to call). The cell number is 322.181.1909 (outside Mexico +52 322.181.1909). The cost for adults is $500.00 Pesos Mexican ($27 USD) and children to 12 years old are charged $250.00 Pesos Mexican ($13 USD).
To get a sense of what you may see there, see the photos on the garden’s Instagram account or their Facebook page. The garden is open year-round for a jungle adventure that changes with the seasons. For more adventures in Mexico, see the articles by Wander writers.
Note: The author toured as part of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) during the Canadian Chapter Meeting at Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. As is common in the travel industry, some of the accommodations, meals, and tours may have been partially subsidized. While that has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.