The botanical gardens of Central and South America are a great way to enjoy the natural beauty of this region’s rainforests. Getting out to enjoy the sun and learn about the local flora is a great way to get to know the area that you’re visiting. Plant lovers will love the lush, diverse rainforests featured in the botanical gardens of Central and South America.
Central and South America are full of amazing botanical gardens that are well worth a visit. Whether you’re the type to plan your whole trip around the world’s best botanical garden or you’re just looking for some ideas for how to spend an afternoon on an upcoming trip, this list is for you.
Before you head out, be sure to check out our tips on enjoying and preparing for botanical gardens. There’s even a helpful packing list so that you don’t forget anything! Remember that it’s called the rainforest for a reason, and don’t forget to charge your phone for photos and PlantSnap.
To avoid favoritism, we sorted the list of the best botanical gardens of Central and South America alphabetically.
The Best Botanical Gardens of Central America
From Mexican floating gardens to the native orchids of Costa Rica, it’s hard to beat the botanical gardens of Central America. Many of these gardens are a bit less maintained than the curated gardens of North America, but that’s part of their beauty.
Location: Jamaica, on the Junction road that links Kingston to Annotto Bay
Size: 15 acres
Number of Species: Once over 4,000 – now considerably smaller.
Key Features: Over 25 species of palm in the Palmetum. Swimming in the river on the east side of the gardens.
Description: The Castleton Botanic Gardens are a great stopping point between Kingston and the northern coast of Jamaica. With hundreds of native species, the gardens attract lots of local birds and butterflies. Food vendors outside the gardens sell delicious local snacks, so be sure to visit them on your way in or out. Keep in mind that this garden does not have much for facilities.
Entry Fee: Free, donations accepted
Hours: 5:30am to 6pm (October-February), 5:30am to 6:30pm (March-September). Closed on National Hero’s Day and National Labour Day.
Location: One of the boroughs of Mexico City
Size: Over 80km (50 miles) of canals to explore
Number of Species: Unknown
Key Features: Gardens made from twisted juniper float on a lake that have been there for over 1,000 years
Description: The floating gardens are not to be missed. The chinampas (floating gardens) are part of a World Heritage Site and grow crops and flowers alike. The word Xochimilco means “where the flowers grow.” The canals are full of vendors, mariachi bands, islands to visit, and the floating gardens themselves.
Entry Fee: Fees for boats vary based on the size of the boat and whether or not you pay for extras, such as food or a mariachi band.
Location: Near San Jose, Costa Rica
Size: 70 acres
Number of Species: Unknown
Key Features: Five waterfalls, hiking trails, an aviary, a butterfly observatory, monkeys, and big cats all make their homes here.
Description: This all-in-one destination sports a lodge, food, and plenty of tours. The park is dedicated to preserving Costa Rica’s local flora and fauna. From orchids and heliconia to rescued jaguars and toucans, these gardens are not to be missed.
Entry Fee: $17 to $44 Costa Rican, depending on your age and if you’re local or a tourist.
Hours: 8am to 5pm daily
The Best Botanical Gardens of South America
The rainforests of South America are some of the most diverse in the world. In many ways, a hike through the Ecuadorian rainforest is a hike through a wild botanical garden. There are two curated botanical gardens in South America that stand out.
Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Size: 133 acres
Number of Species: 6,500
Key Features: 140 species of birds also live here, and about 60% of the park is wild Atlantic forest.
Description: The Jardim Botânico was designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1992. This park hosts the largest horticultural library in Brazil with over 32,000 volumes. The greenhouses and shelves are home to many rare plants, alive and preserved. Whether you enjoy the wild beauty of the Atlantic forest or the cultivated Japanese Gardens, the Jardim Botânico has something for everyone.
Entry Fee: $7 Brazil
Hours: Mondays: 12pm-5pm, Tuesday to Sunday 8am-5pm, hours may vary during daylight savings time. The park closes on some holidays.
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Size: 17 acres
Number of Species: 5,500
Key Features: The gardens are divided into four main areas: Roman, French, Oriental, and Argentinian Gardens. The gardens are a national monument.
Description: This urban botanical garden was designed by a French architect in the late 1800s. The gardens include greenhouses, open-air gardens, sculptures, art, and more. Locals who no longer want their cats have a habit of bringing their cats here, so there is also a program to vaccinate, spay or neuter, and adopt out the newly homeless cats from the gardens.
Entry Fee: Free
Hours: Closed Mondays. September 22 through April 21: Open Tuesday to Friday from 8am-6:45pm. Open 9:30am-6:45pm on Saturday and Sunday. Stays open one hour later April 22 through September 21 for summer hours. Closed on major holidays.