Abandoned Contadora Island Resort, Panama
It was once a luxurious getaway for the rich and famous. Now it sits in ruin, picked apart and left to rot.
In it’s heyday, the Hotel Contadora Resort boasted over 300 rooms, swimming pools and extravagant restaurants. Many of these guest rooms, as you’ll see in the photos, offer spectacular beach views of Playa Larga.
Before it became a popular all-inclusive resort in Panama, this hotel was an expensive and exclusive property for the upper class. In the 60’s and 70’s it hosted famous celebrities and high-ranking diplomats. Most notably, it received global attention when the Shah of Iran was exiled to Contadora Island.
Rumors continue to circulate about why Hotel Contadora Resort closed permanently.
The former owner of the hotel, a Colombian entrepreneur by the name of Carlos Arango, died in a mysterious plane crash in 2005. It’s said that he had deep connections with the Columbia drug cartel. Allegedly, the hotel was used to launder money and transport narcotics.
Ironically, the Contadora Island Airstrip is located just a few hundred meters from the hotel property.
After the death of its notorious owner, the resort racked up a lot of debt and got into financial trouble. If the rumors are true, it’s not surprising that the resort tanked when the money laundering stopped. Fake guests don’t pay the bills.
Drug lords. Money laundering. Mysterious plane crash. This wild story has all the makings of a hit Netflix series.
Even though the forgotten beach resort sits on some of the best real estate on Isla Contadora, it was never sold or taken over by new management. I suppose it’s wise to stay away from drug cartel assets that might be under DEA investigation.
In this blog post, we share photos of the abandoned Hotel Contadora Resort and its iconic beached ferry boat.
The front entrance of the abandoned Hotel Contadora Resort.
The open aired lobby has outstanding beachfront views. It’s easy to visualize this area filled with comfortable chairs and outdoor patio furniture. Times have certainly changed.
Entrance from the lobby to outdoor patio. Notice the beached ferry in distance. More on that below.
Trees and plants are slowing consuming the buildings.
I believe this is the swim-up pool bar at the Contadora beach resort.
Million dollar waterfront views. I wonder if this decaying property will be redeveloped in the future?
Beach at Contadora Island Resort.
Playa Larga is the beach in front of the hotel. We visited multiple times during our time on the island and it was consistently empty. This is the one advantage to the closure of Hotel Contadora Resort.
However, because of the lack of visitors, this beach is in need of a good clean-up. We found lots of garbage and debris on the beach. There are some dangerous pieces of metal, screws and debris near the abandoned ferry boat – see photos below.
The ruins of Hotel Contadora Resort.
As I wandered away from the hotel lobby, I came across rows of three-story buildings that were once guest rooms. Every room has been gutted and stripped to the studs.
The old hotel rooms are now crumbling and unsafe. It feels as if the skeleton buildings may collapse at any moment.
I attempted to walk up to the third floor to capture some photos but the stairs and floors are falling apart. I thought it was best to obey the warning signs and stay away.
It appears some residents of Contadora Island have gradually picked apart this hotel. Anything and everything of value has been taken. I suppose it’s a great place to find firewood for a beach campfire.
See videos of Hotel Contadora on our Instagram stories.
Inside the main building at Contadora Island Resort
We did not feel unsafe inside the building, but it’s worth noting that there is signage asking people to stay out.
However, I did not allow our boys to enter the property. They played on the beach instead.
Lots of destruction inside the closed Hotel Contadora Panama.
Ferry Shipwreck on Contadora Island
In front of the abandoned Contadora Hotel is the skeleton of a beached ferry. This private ferry, owned by the Hotel Contadora Resort, once served as the ferry from Panama City to Contadora Island. It was also used to shuttle guests to the other Pearl Islands.
When the hotel shutdown, the boat was also left behind. Nobody claimed the old ferry. Over time, it too was picked apart for anything of value.
This beached ferry, along with the crumbling hotel, have become the most iconic landmarks and tourist attractions on Contadora Island.
Take a peak inside the shipwrecked ferry on Contadora Island. It’s been stripped and left to rot on the beach.
Hopefully this abandoned ferry will find a new home. It’s an interesting subject for travel photos, but it’s a big eyesore on the beach. And it can’t be good for the environment.
I did not attempt to climb inside. It’s too unstable. The rusty floors might cave in at any moment.
Contadora Island in Panama’s Pacific
It’s easy to see why Isla Contadora was once the destination for the rich and famous. The white sandy beaches and clear turquoise water are picture perfect.
Contadora Island remains a popular vacation destination in Panama. However, the island and some of it’s hotels have seen better days. Many hotels and buildings are either abandoned or left in poor condition.
It’s clear that this island has many secrets, given it’s strategic location and controversial history.
There is a hotels in operation at the north end of Playa Larga. This section of the beach is clean and well maintained.
The beach directly in front of the abandoned Contadora Island Resort has a lot of garbage and debris. It’s not great for bare feet.
We had this beautiful beach all to ourselves. I can hear the waves crashing on the beach as I type these words.
Catching some sand and shade on Isla Contadora.
Sea Las Perlas Ferry Check-in on Contadora Island
The above photo is where you catch the Contadora Island Ferry to Panama City. This is the only surviving building on the old Hotel Contadora property. It’s been converted into a small cafe and waiting area for ferry passengers.
There is no dock on this beach. The Contadora Island ferry anchors about 200 feet from land. Passengers are transported in small boats from the beach to the ferry. It’s not be the most convenient way to board a ferry, but it does encapsulate the unique Contadora experience.
The two companies are spelled similar, which can be confusing for first time visitors to Panama. We had to scramble on the morning of our departure from Panama City to Contadora Island because we went to the wrong ferry terminal. It was a close call. We almost missed our ferry and there’s only one sailing per day.
Keep this in mind, as some Contadora Island tours will include these ferries as part of the transportation from the mainland to the Pearl Islands.
We traveled from Panama City to Isla Contadora on the white catamaran picture above (on the right). On our return trip back to the mainland, we took the white and blue ferry on the left. This ferry also stops at Saboga Island to pick up passengers before it sails back to Panama City.
If you’re looking for hotel on Contadora Island, read our review of Hotel Mar y Oro.
Read more blog posts from our trip to Panama:
- 50 Photos of Casco Veijo, Panama City’s Old Town
- Our experience visiting the Panama Canal in Panama City
- How to get to San Blas Islands from Panama City
- The Mystery Fever in Panama
- Photos from Hotel Mar y Oro and Contadora Island
- What you need to know before taking the Contadora Island Ferry
- Photos from our visit to Monkey Island Panama
Have you visited Contadora Island in Panama?
Share your travel tips in the comments below. Our readers thank you!