Abandoned Contadora

Thirty miles south of Panama’s coast lies the Pearl Islands archipelago, a network of Panamanian Gulf islands so postcard perfect, they were the featured backdrop for three seasons of Survivor. In the midst of these emerald green waters and pristine beaches, you’ll find an unlikely sliver of eeriness wedged into paradise.

Hotel Contadora Resort, once bustling with prominent guests enjoying beach-front rooms, multiple restaurants, pools, and a casino, sits dilapidated and abandoned on Contadora Island, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Pearl archipelago. While the island’s miniscule 1.2 square km terrain plays host to sun worshippers, the largest beach, Playa Larga, remains the most secluded with the ruins of Hotel Contadora Resort looming right on the shore.

The once posh resort attracted the likes of Sofia Loren, the Kennedy family, Elizabeth Taylor and Panamanian elite. It fell into ruins after its owner Carlos Arango, a Colombian businessman, died in a private plane crash in Panama and left well over $10,000,000 in debt. The resort shuttered its doors shortly afterwards.

What remains is a ransacked and vandalized shell of a resort. Glimpses of its former glory can still be seen.

The resort grounds looking toward a pool and guest rooms. Much of the wooden walk-way planks had been looted.

The resort grounds looking toward a pool and guest rooms. Much of the wooden walk-way planks had been looted.

Welcome to Hotel Contadora Resort! A colorful mural graces the entrance.

Welcome to Hotel Contadora Resort! A colorful mural graces the entrance.

An outdoor bar features a ceiling still adorned with beautiful and colorful straw fans.

An outdoor bar features a ceiling still adorned with beautiful and colorful straw fans.

Most guest room doors, wooden siding, copper piping, and wiring were looted. This is a view looking through a ground level beach-front guest room.

Most guest room doors, wooden siding, copper piping, and wiring were looted. This is a view looking through a ground level beach-front guest room.

One of several pools at the resort.

One of several pools at the resort.

A guest room block with exterior siding and other components completely stripped. Hanging planters eerily hold unkempt vines.

A guest room block with exterior siding and other components completely stripped. Hanging planters eerily hold unkempt vines.

Wood pilings are now visible where a wooden deck once was.

Wood pilings are now visible where a wooden deck once was.

 

Also adding to the ghost-town feel of Playa Larga is an abandoned ferry, Las Perlas 7, once used to taxi resort guests back and forth from the Panamanian mainland to Contadora Island. The Soviet-built ferry rests beached just in front of Hotel Contadora Resort. The interior is completely stripped and vandalized.

Exterior of Las Perlas 7 as it rests in front of Hotel Contadora Resort on Playa Largo.

Exterior of Las Perlas 7 as it rests in front of Hotel Contadora Resort on Playa Largo.

The exterior of Las Perlas 7. Nearly all windows were pilfered from the ship.

The exterior of Las Perlas 7. Nearly all windows were pilfered from the ship.

The forward window looking out at Hotel Contadora Resort. A plant grows in the corner under sunlight.

The forward window looking out at Hotel Contadora Resort. A plant grows in the corner under sunlight.

The passenger area of the Las Perlas 7. Most seat backs were forcibly removed. Weather battered ceiling material dangles from above.

The passenger area of the Las Perlas 7. Most seat backs were forcibly removed. Weather battered ceiling material dangles from above.

Just about everything in the ship's bridge that wasn't bolted down is gone.

Just about everything in the ship’s bridge that wasn’t bolted down is gone.

The Las Perlas 7 engine room was surprisingly largely intact. The engine was partially submerged and heavily rusted.

The Las Perlas 7 engine room was surprisingly largely intact. The engine was partially submerged and heavily rusted.

In the Las Perlas 7 engine room, a locker warns (in Russian) of explosion potential.

In the Las Perlas 7 engine room, a locker warns (in Russian) of explosion potential.

 

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