Passing some time in the Botanical Garden / Jardin Botanico San Juan
The National Botanical Garden of Puerto Rico is a big name for a lovely green oasis in the middle of a city. Locally, it is known as “el Jardin Botanico”. The garden (Jardin Botanico SUR) is affiliated with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), and it is open to the public free of charge. When you get to the garden, you need to tell the guard that you want to walk around the garden. He will point you to a parking area on the left. Ask for a map ("un mapa", in Spanish) from the guard. The guards are not always bi-lingual, so if they don’t understand you, don’t worry, there are large maps posted around the garden (the most legible one being by the Laguna de las Palmas). To make your planning easier, we’ve posted a map of the garden on our site, too.
When we entered the garden, we were greeted by the squawks of dozens of wild parrots that were playing in the tree tops. It helped drown out the din of the city, so you immediately feel you have left it all far behind.
As we strolled around the garden, we were impressed by the mature trees all around, and the huge variety of palm trees. These form cool shady areas where all sorts of tropical plants and flowers grow. The Jardin de las Heliconias has blooming heliconias, gingers and bananas, along with loads of other things. There is a little waterway between the 2 sides of this garden area. The waterway opens up to be a little lake (the Monet Garden), where ducks, egrets and turtles can be seen. There are benches set up around for your enjoyment. If you get there in the morning, you will see the beautiful water lillies blooming.
Up in the upper part of the garden, they have the orchid area, bromilead garden, a sculpture garden and another pond. We have seen large iguanas sunny themselves in the pond area. They don’t seem too afraid of people, so we were able to get pretty close to them – to get a good look.
We easily spend a couple hours strolling around this garden, just enjoying the sights and sounds. Although the garden is not a well-groomed display garden, and there aren’t many plant labels, we find it a nice way to spend a few hours relaxing, and enjoying nature and sculptures.
I do have to say that the garden is a bit messy/overgrown, it really does need a lot of work to get it in top form. But if you look hard enough, you can find some really neat and unusual plants here. But if you are going to explore, wear shoes that can get dirty, since some of the paths can be muddy.
Admission and parking are free! They also offer Tram Tours of the gardens if you make a reservation for your group.
The garden is supposedly open from 6:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days a week. Closed New Years Day, Jan. 6th (3 Kings Day), Good Friday, Election Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas day.
Allow a minimum of 2 hours.
For info, call the Administrative offices M-F 7:00am a 3:30pm (787) 758-9957, or the guardhouse during open hours (787) 250-0000, ext. 4489 or 4490.
Hidden off the south side of the intersections of Highway 1 and Road 847 in Rio Piedras. Look for the signs for "Jardin Botanico".
The garden is about 45 minutes from our Vacation Rental in Rio Grande.
Use this map to locate places mentioned in this article. You can click on a placemark to view the GPS coordinates for that place.