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During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, many places here in Puerto Vallarta have closed or reduced their hours. This has disappointed many people because they couldn’t go to the beach, river, or their favorite restaurant. And I was sad, too, having to stay home and miss out on all the great places to go in the Vallarta area. But some of these places have opened back up, and I was so happy to see that the Zoologico de Vallarta located near the town of Mismaloya has reopened.

I hadn’t gone in a long time, and I have been wanting to go see what’s new at the zoo. It is about a 45 minute beautifully scenic drive along the coast to get there, passing some long sandy beaches and some places where the ocean meets the cliffs. When you get to the Barcelo Resort, which is on the right, go up a road directly on the left and follow it up through the town of Mismaloya and beyond, and you will find the zoo in just a few short minutes to the left. Parking is free and plentiful, and if you get there early you might find a shady spot. 

The entrance is a snack and gift shop, where you can refresh and munch from your drive as you choose your zoo package. They are accepting one group at a time, and you will have to go through their sanitation process as they are being extra careful considering the health of their animals. Basic admission is under 300 pesos, or you can purchase a package that includes a session with baby animals for an extra fee. You might get to pet a baby lion, tiger, or jaguar, a monkey or a lemur. Make sure to purchase at least one bag of vegetables and pellets to feed the animals as you wander through the zoo, they are only 50 pesos and well worth it.

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As you step outside there is a huge spouting fountain, but don’t put your hand in it, it’s full of snapping turtles. 

The path leads uphill and while doable, to be fair, it is a little steep for wheelchairs. Just know it ahead of time and bring a muscular pusher. You will pass a baboon and some  crocodiles before you come to the bottom of the big cat enclosures. They are quite large enclosures but usually you will be able to see African lions and black and patterned jaguars. Next is a big pond with ducks, fishes, turtles, and flamingos, surrounding an island of spider monkeys. On the other side of the path are some curious emus, large tortoises, and huge antelopes. Up ahead are whitetail deer, a hungry hippo, a group of zebras, a bunch of bunnies, tropical birds and black swans.  

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Then you come to the Canadian wolf enclosure and a North American mountain lion. Pass by some peacocks and ponies to see the giraffe. If you offer him a carrot he will extend his long black tongue and delicately grasp the carrot from your hand. Next you will come to some smaller baboons and a few varied birds. Just up the hill are parrots and a camel. There will also be a giant elephant with her baby! But don’t be fooled, because they are only statues professionally painted. Afterwards you’ll walk down a small hill and enter an airconditioned large room. Here you are able to buy more animal food, drinks, and snacks. They even have ice cream, perfect for a hot day. Sometimes they serve homemade food. From here you can look down into the big cat enclosures that you saw earlier as you came up. 

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When you’re done snacking you’ll come to some tropical birds, large cats, more monkeys, some rams, and a couple of black bears. There is a male and female bear, and they are both gorgeous, but the female can be aggressive. The male, on the other hand, is very friendly. After passing the bears there is a long row of enclosures with a glass panel so you can look in. Some of the animals inside these habitats include birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, and owls, curious raccoons, large snakes, and a bug-eyed kinkajou. Then you will take a twisted path down to where you started. But before you go down, you will see many beautiful deer prancing, sleeping, or eating below you. Then further down you’ll see a herd of llamas, who will stretch their long necks out of their enclosure and greet you or sniff your bag of food. After the llamas you'll see some boars with enormous tusks and chunky pigs. This is a good place to throw in the rest of your animal food, if you have any left. If you bought the package where you can pet baby animals, you’ll be able to pet adorable baby cats and/or monkeys and lemurs and take pictures in front of a zoo logo painted on the wall. 

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Overall visiting the Zoologico de Vallarta is a charming experience that I would recommend to anyone with the time to visit or who is simply searching for a fun day activity to spend with friends and family.

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