The Magnificent Sand Sculptures of Puerto Vallarta

Do you remember your first few vacations to the beach as a child with your parents when you had your little shovel and bucket and could let your imagination run wild as you built sand castles with moats around them? Obviously, we were not the first to mold sand. Sand sculpting as an art form has been around for thousands of years; it is conjectured that the ancient Egyptians made sand models of the pyramids.

During the past century, the art of sand sculpting has been elevated to a profession. There are now companies that construct sculptures for special events and a school for teaching the skills of sand sculpting; the World Sand Sculpting Academy (WSSA). There are also numerous clubs and associations specializing in sand sculpting that hold regional, national, and even international competitions.

In order to make an intricate sand sculpture you need a shovel, bucket, masonry trowels, spatulas, apple corers, chisels, flat sticks, spoons, knives, brushes, melon ballers, forks, and spray bottles with water and stabilizer coatings. More importantly, you need creativity, talent, time, and last but not least, sand!

With 35 miles of sandy beaches around the periphery of Banderas Bay in the Puerto Vallarta, Mexico area, finding sand for the construction of sand sculptures is not a problem. With seven months of virtually rain free days (November through May) when the average daily temperature is 73°F, conditions in PV are perfect for practicing this art. Surrounded by the beautiful Sierra Madres with their colorful flora and fauna, the environment in Vallarta seems to stimulate the flow of creative juices and consequently, artists of all types abound.

The sand sculptors, located on the main beach downtown between the Malecon and the waters edge, are probably the most visible of all artists during the seven month “high season”. You’ll see them out on the beach with their shovels, tools, and sculpting forms. Oh yes, one of the more important tools of their trade is their small bucket that is used to collect the propinas or tips! They provide the community with such beautiful forms of art, so thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the locals as well as the visitors, that all tips they receive are very much deserved.

It’s quite an amazing sight watching them digging, moving, piling, patting, tamping, and spraying the sand as the sculpture takes its shape, sometimes appearing to almost come to life. Their subjects include nativity and religious scenes, ancient Greek and Roman figures, local wildlife such as whimsical iguanas or just about anything else that might come to their minds. Upon completion of each sculpture, they are sprayed with a stabilizer coating and allowed to remain on the beach for some period of time before being demolished. This process of sculpting and demolishing continues throughout the entire “high season” resulting in a slightly different scene on the beach every day.

As is the case with many beautiful resort destinations, Puerto Vallarta has attracted a large artist colony. Artists displaying and selling oil paintings, watercolors, charcoals, and even spray paintings are all along the Malecon in front of the main beach downtown. Also, you’ll find numerous bronze sculptures by famous artists located along the Malecon with the beautiful sand sculptures directly behind them on the beach.

It is common knowledge that Puerto Vallarta offers great weather, great scenery, great eating, drinking, and lots of fun, but few know about all of the incredible art galleries, art shows, art classes, art walks, etc., until they arrive. Even fewer, unless they’ve been here during the past couple of years, are familiar with the new sculptures, the renovated Malecon extending over the Rio Cuale into the Romantic Zone, the widening of the sidewalks with planters, and the elimination of downtown street parking, all of which have contributed to the new face of downtown Vallarta.

t’s time to disregard the negative press and hype that you’re bombarded with by the media regarding drug wars and swine flu in Mexico; they’re virtually nonexistent in PV. Come on down and enjoy this beautiful, clean, safe, and renovated resort destination. The bronze and sand sculptures are only a couple of the many memorable highlights of Vallarta providing photo-ops for thousands of visitors daily. Now is the time to start planning your next visit to Paradise; just remember to bring your camera because you’ll surely want to preserve the memories of the magnificent sand sculptures of Puerto Vallarta.