How does a five star resort fall to ruins? And what makes these broken spaces so fascinating to look at? They can show us the results of extreme weather conditions, give us an idea of how much time has passed since they were new, and even point to signs of changing travel trends.
A report from Brown University's Catskills Institute attributes a shift away from traditional domestic resort holidays to the newly affordable international travel options. Cheaper travel opportunities allow people to reach more distant destinations than ever before. That makes sense to us! Why go to a local resort when you can see the wider world for a cheaper price? We'd choose international travel over local indoor adventure any day.
These days, many of history's most glamorous resort buildings have fallen into complete disrepair - you can see 21 of them below! Stripped down to their rusty foundations, these places become interesting for new reasons. They are no longer the places you'd want to visit in person, but they are the places you'd like to scroll through pictures of on a dark October afternoon.
"Something once grand was left to rot," explains landscape photographer Pablo Maurer to National Geographic magazine. "I think to a lot of people, it's to them a symbol of how wasteful we are."
Do these pics make you feel strange? Do they give you ideas about mortality or the passage of time? Don't hold them in! Share this article and add a touch of seasonal spookiness to your friends' lives, too.
21 Cocoa Palms Resort in Hawaii
The Cocoa Palms resort in Hawaii was so successful in the 1950s and 1960s that it was chosen as the setting for Elvis Presley's film, Blue Hawaii. It was the height of glamour in the middle of paradise until a hurricane struck in 1992. Fires, floods, and strong winds, all results of the hurricane, led to so much destruction that the resort ended up being abandoned. It was beyond repair!
For almost 30 years this once-beautiful destination has sat empty, just collecting dust while falling to pieces. There have been many efforts to restore the Cocoa Palms to its former glory, however. With a location set squarely in a Hawaiian flood zone, we're not too confident.
20 Wannaburi Resort in Phuket, Thailand
After the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004, most of the country's coastal resorts were completely torn apart. The devastation caused what the hospitality industry called a "second tsunami" of financial troubles because visitor numbers plummeted while repair costs were sky high. One notable example of this is the Wannaburi resort.
This popular resort happened to be located right in the path of the tsunami's wake. It sustained damages that turned it from a five-star luxury destination into a trash-strewn wasteland. Looking at the photograph above, it's hard to believe that a pristine and tranquil boutique hotel lies beneath the rubble.
19 The Sonesta Resort in St. Maarten
The Sonesta Resort is another example of a luxury space destroyed by mother nature. Hurricane Irma tore through it in 2017. According to The Washington Post Irma destroyed nearly three-quarters of all homes in St. Maarten, and not even the most exclusive and expensive resorts were left unharmed.
The lobby (pictured above) was nearly ripped to shreds, but with the airport similarly damaged, the resort's guests struggled to get safely away from this devastating storm. Many were rescued by American airmen sent to evacuate a guest with urgent medical needs. Unfortunately for future visitors, the building itself was wrecked for good.
18 Sanzhi UFO Houses in Taiwan
Ever wondered what alien spaceships would look like if they were turned into ultra-luxe accommodations? That was the aesthetic of the Sanzhi UFO houses - before they were abandoned and left to disrepair in 1980 when the project's developers went bankrupt.
Even though no people ever actually got to enjoy the Sanzhi pods (it's been left unfinished for more than 30 years) the place has a distinctly lived-in feel. Travelers have continued to visit Sanzhi and take souvenirs from its derelict buildings to this day. You can now find the site labeled as an abandoned "ghost town" on travel guides for spooky thrill seekers.
17 Hotel Polissya in Pripyat, Ukraine
Some parts of Ukraine were changed forever when one of their nuclear power plants experienced a massive explosion in 1986. Most homes and businesses near the explosion site were damaged beyond repair, including the once luxurious Hotel Polissya.
Now more than 30 years later, the only people to ever visit this destination are locally named "disaster tourists." They climb to the roof for views of surrounding destructed buildings and can even spend the night in one of the hotel's remaining rooms. If this appeals to you, beware: travelers are still required to get radiation testing after visiting.
16 Ducor Palace Hotel in Liberia
Ducor Palace Hotel in Liberia was built to be a world-class destination overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It achieved that goal! This resort was one of the first and few internationally renowned accommodations in the entire country of Liberia while it was open. It was even considered by some people to be the best hotel in all of West Africa.
During that time the Ducor Palace Hotel hosted plenty of African politicians and prominent figures of all sorts. Unfortunately, civil unrest in Liberia caused the resort's doors to close in 1989. It has been abandoned since then, and time has taken its toll. Just look at that pool! We doubt you'd like to take a dip in it now.
15 Gagra Coastal Resort in Abkhazia
In the time of Imperial Russia, the coastal destination of Gagra was a paradise for the region's elite. It's tucked along the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea, and was known to some as the "Russian Riviera."
Although the resort has never moved, the borders surrounding it have. It is currently located in Abkhazia, the republic that was once attached to the country of Georgia. Gagra may one day be rejuvenated, but for now, it's been abandoned since 1993. It shows. You can visit and admire its once-opulent halls, pools, and suites if you're willing to brush off some dirt and cobwebs.
14 El Hotel del Salto in Colombia
This destination is so decayed that it's almost beautiful to look at. You can still tell that it was an exceptionally gorgeous travel spot, despite the years of rust and grime that have taken it over from floor to ceiling. Located in beautiful Colombia, the El Hotel del Salto might have just not been made to last.
Unlike modern resorts, this former elite destination was originally built as a residential mansion in 1923. That's right; it was made for just one very wealthy family. By 1929 it was already a hotel, and it operated as one until the 1980s, when pollution from the river it overlooked started to damage the property itself. Another reason to keep our water clean!
13 Hotel Renakse in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This place was once a beautiful luxury accommodation located directly across from the Royal Palace of Cambodia. It was a top destination for anyone visiting the country to do business or interact with government members. It was also known for being lovely to look at, with the decor in a French colonial style and building materials sourced over a century ago.
Now it looks like it's several centuries old. It's completely abandoned and overgrown due to some ownership disputes and general property bylaw red tape. Locals have reportedly signed a petition to prevent the building from being demolished, but its fate is still unclear.
12 Sofitel Heiva in Huahine, French Polynesia
The last guest to stay at the Sofitel Heiva resort handed their room key over to the staff more than a decade ago. It's easy to tell that nobody's been staying here recently. The resort itself is so secluded that without proper upkeep, it quickly becomes swallowed up by French Polynesia's lush wildlife.
Believe it or not, the over-water bungalows are still standing! They've been battered by the elements, but their location - on the French Polynesian island of Huahine - still makes them look pretty appealing to us. Maybe someday new owners will bring this resort back up to five-star status.
11 Varosha in Famagusta, Cyprus
Looking at this hotel now, you might not believe that it used to be a world-class attraction for celebrities like Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor. Some people used to consider it the most famous seaside resort in the entire world. Cyprus was an extremely popular destination in the 1950s and 1960s, but that has changed due to some persistent financial issues.
According to BBC, dozens of hotels in this region are being abandoned and falling apart these days. The Varosha is the tallest and (formerly) grandest of them all, so it's sad to see it stand uninhabited. With decades of damage from exposure to wind, rain, and more, it seems like the Varosha will never see another guest.
10 Sheraton Rarotonga in the Cook Islands
A Sheraton resort in the Cook Islands? If you imagine somewhere truly decadent and with reliable service, you're not alone. Unfortunately, that isn't the case for this particular destination - and never has been. This nearly-finished resort never hosted a single guest.
Local islanders have nicknamed this resort the "Heartbreak Hotel." It's definitely heartbreaking to think of the work that went into building, outfitting, furnishing, and decorating 200 rooms that have never once been used. The suites even had air conditioning installed! This sounds like the perfect vacation spot if it ever gets finished, but since it has gone untouched since the 1980s, we don't have high hopes.
9 The Diplomat Hotel in the Philippines
The Diplomat was a bustling cosmopolitan center from about 1947 to the late 1970s. Since then, it's been abandoned by everyone besides squatters and disaster tourists. One chapter in this hotel's dark history includes a major explosion and reconstruction efforts. More recent reports about the hotel describe a ghoulish presence. If you find yourself drawn to spooky and mysterious places, this might be the holiday destination for you.
The space was officially closed down in the 1990s, but locals worked to restore it in the early 2000s. It's a beautiful piece of architecture that they believed deserved a second chance. Restoration efforts are unfinished, but daring travelers can book the space as a venue for a party or a wedding.
8 The Salton Sea in California, USA
Back in the heyday of domestic resort trips, hundreds of Americans flocked to California for their all-inclusive vacations. In the 1950s it was just the place to be. One of the most popular west coast spots was the Salton Sea Resort.
It offered SoCal sunshine with luxurious service and amenities that we would love to experience today. Who could say no to a beachside resort with the old-fashioned glam decor and a worldwide reputation for quality? Unfortunately - you guessed it - this resort has been abandoned for years now. It closed after Tropical Storm Kathleen tore it apart in 1976. Now just its bare infrastructural bones remain.
7 Bounty Beach Bungalows Resort in Bali, Indonesia
A sad example of resort abandonment is the Bounty Beach Bungalows Resort in Bali. It was a beautiful and luxurious tropical resort built to serve a once-booming tourist population in the region, but tourism dried up due to violence and the resort had to close in response.
A groundskeeper is still employed at the resort, and he has told curious visitors that the site will someday reopen, but there is no official date in sight. For now, travelers can peek through lopsided windows at old broken TVs and dusty restaurant menus that prove this resort was once ready to serve the world.
6 South Molle Island Resort in Queensland, Australia
This was another resort that was extremely popular in the 1950s when people would visit for so-called carefree days and carnival nights. South Molle was popular because of its great weather and close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. A former visitor to the island remembered it as being "just wonderful."
"It was almost like an island equivalent of what the cruise industry is now," he told ABC News Australia. Those days are gone, thanks to harsh weather conditions. South Molle Island is a site of much damage and destruction. Cyclones, hurricanes, and more have turned the jewels of Down Under into the mess pictured above.
5 Babi Besar Island Resort in Malaysia
Babi Besar is a tiny island (less than three miles long) located in beautiful sunny Malaysia. If you think that sounds like the perfect place to open a resort, you might be right. Some investors have tried their hand at it, but bad weather and tricky finances have resulted in their efforts creating the space pictured above.
It's not exactly the ideal when it comes to clean, calm, and - most importantly - COMPLETE vacation destinations. All of the actual accommodations here have been blown away, or broken into pieces left scattered on the beach to wash away in the sea. Of course, Malaysian beaches are beautiful, but come on. This resort needs some serious work in 2018.
4 Igloo City in Alaska, USA
From hot, sandy beaches to cold, chilly countryside, check out Alaska's Igloo City. It's conveniently located right along this state's George Parks Highway in Alaska. If you're ever adventurous enough to find yourself cruising down an Alaskan highway, we're sure you won't miss this iconic abandoned site.
The creators of Igloo City had big dreams in mind. They wanted to make a one-of-a-kind resort in an unforgettable shape. Unfortunately for them, the shape they chose made it impossible for them to meet local building codes set in place for spaces that intend to accommodate people. You can't actually stay in Igloo City for safety reasons, but you can admire it while you fill up at the gas station next door.
3 Grossinger's Resort in Liberty, USA
Upstate New York is still a top holiday spot for wealthy Americans, and in the mid-century, Grossinger's was their playground. In 1954, a lifestyle magazine described Grossinger’s as “to resort hotels as Bergdorf Goodman is to department stores, Cadillac to cars, mink to furs, and Tiffany to jewelers...it has been called Waldorf in the Catskills.”
So how did the best of the best in the luxury resort business become an empty, dirty shell of its former self? After the last member of the Grossinger family passed away, nobody took up the responsibility of keeping it going. It closed officially in 1986, coincidentally just one year before the movie Dirty Dancing (which was inspired by the Grossinger Resort scene) premiered.
2 Lee Plaza in Detroit, USA
Lee Plaza was a predecessor to Grossinger's Resort, and equal in grandeur. It was built in 1939 at the height of the Art Deco movement in the United States, so this building's interiors once looked like the epitome of a Great Gatsby-era party space. It's 15 floors tall and includes a pool, ballroom, and suites that were once the height of luxury status.
These days the building has heritage status as a part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. That hasn't stopped vandals from breaking in and marking it up, however. The resort is deteriorating badly with the help of these break-ins, and no rejuvenation plans are in sight. It's another iconic space falling into history!
1 Unknown Resort in Vientiane, Laos
Is there anything creepier than a building with no story at all? Where did this place come from? Who stayed here? What's the deal?! With no written records pertaining to it, we may never know the truth about the unnamed property that sits crumbling in Vientiane.
Clues about its origins can be found in its French Colonial architecture which points to the resort being active in the 1920s, similar to the Lee Plaza in our #2 spot. It's also located alongside a river, making it easy to picture as a prime vacation destination for Laotian locals and travelers alike. If walls could talk, we'd be interested in what the rooms in this long-abandoned and nature-worn accommodation would have to say.
References: NationalGeographic.com, BeatofHawaii.com, WashingtonPost.com, Telegraph.co.uk, TravelAdventures.org, Wired.com, TheVintageNews.com, Traveller.com.au, BBC.com, TheGuardian.com