Abandoned Contadora Island Resort, Panama

Our trip to Panama continues with a visit to Contadora Island, located in the Pearl Islands archipelago in the Gulf of Panama. It is here that we stumbled upon the abandoned Hotel Contadora Resort.

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 these photos, delivered 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. 

front entrance to the abandoned Hotel Contadora in Pearl Islands, Panama

Watch this short video from 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.

Playa Larga at Hotel Contadora Beach Resort, Panama all inclusive

Panama hotel in ruins on Contadora Island

what happened to the Hotel Contadora Resort on Contadora Island Panama

Trees and plants are slowing consuming the buildings.

pool bar in ruins at hotel Isla Contadora Panama

I believe this is the swim-up pool bar at the Contadora beach resort.

beach at Hotel Contadora Island Panama all inclusive now closed

Million dollar waterfront views. I wonder if this decaying property will be redeveloped in the future?  

beach in front of abandoned hotel on Isla Contadora Panama

The 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.

crumbling buildings at the abandoned Hotel Contadora Resort in Panama

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. 

the crumbling buildings at Hotel Contadora Resort

the abandoned Hotel Contadora Resort, Pearl Islands beach resort, Panama

closed hotel on Isla Contadora, Panama travel guide

skeleton of permanently closed hotel Contadora Island Panama beach resort

See videos of Hotel Contadora on our Instagram stories.

The Hotel Contadora is closed

closed hotel ruins on Contadora Island Panama

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.

why is there an abandoned boat on Contadora Island beach, Panama tourist attraction

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. 

Related – 10 Things to do in Panama City for first time visitors

shipwrecked ferry on Isla Contadora Panama Pearl Islands

abandoned ferry on beach, broken windows and graffiti, Contadora Island

inside the shipwrecked ferry on Contadora Island. It's been completely gutted and left to rot on the beach.

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 may collapse at any moment.

broken ferry on the beach of Contadora Island in Panama Pacific Ocean

kids playing on abandoned ferry in front of Hotel Contadora Resort, Panama Pacific Island

Contadora Island in Panama’s Pacific Ocean

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 remote tropical island has many secrets, given it’s strategic location and controversial history. 

Isla Contadora beach resorts, Pearl Islands vacation

There is a hotel 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.

sitting in the shade on the beach at Contadora Island, Pearl Islands, Panama

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. 

Travel tip – there are two ferry companies that travel from Panama City to Contadora Island: Sea Las Perlas Ferry and Ferry Las Perlas

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.

Related – What you need to know when taking the Contadora Island Ferry

Sea Las Perlas Ferry Check-in on Contadora Island, beach resort Playa Larga, Pearl Islands Panama

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:

Have you visited Contadora Island in Panama?

Share your travel tips in the comments below. Our readers thank you!

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