These Are the Ruins of Pablo Escobar’s Secret Caribbean Getaway

by Owen James Burke

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Once the scene of unimaginable cocaine-fueled bacchanalian debauchery, the pool deck now serves as a place for squatters to dry laundry. (Photo: Luke Spencer)

An hour’s boat ride southwest of Cartagena, Colombia lies the Rosario Island Archipelago, a lush national park encompassing about 30 small islands frequented by both locals and tourists for the premier diving, classic Caribbean cuisine and white sand beaches. One such island is Isla Grande, with a slightly more checkered past than the rest.

There, the crumbling walls and courtyards of an empire are slowly giving way to tropical forest, trade winds and time. It is the remnants of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine kingdom.

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Inviting as its remaining bones may suggest it once was, you’d have been sorely mistaken for setting foot anywhere near this place in the ’80s or ’90s. (Photo: Luke Spencer)

The seafront 300-room mansion backs up to dense jungle and mangrove, and was probably as good a place as any for one of the wealthiest and most wanted people on the face of the earth to take refuge and hold uninterrupted free-for-alls.

The island is home to about 800 permanent residents who, wise enough to steer clear of El Patron’s compound, carried on with life as usual.

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Nothing what they used to be, though there could be worse places to live rent-free than these abandoned waterfront chalets. (Photo: Luke Spencer)

The ruins are now home to a colony of squatters, so unless you show up with a case of fine spirits and flawless Spanish, find yourself a guide to lead the way. You won’t find brochures for this excursion, but if you ask around once on Isla Grande, you might find a local or two willing to entertain your request.

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While the outside looks bright and airy, the inside suggests a darker, more devious past. I’m not sure how much I’d have wanted to be at one of these parties. (Photo: Luke Spencer)

Read more at Atlas Obscura. –OJB

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