The Brando, Tahiti’s showpiece for what the intersection of ecology and luxury can be, dares to be bested among bucket-list island vacations. When Leo DiCaprio checks into the Brando and beholds what he has fondly tabbed the “billionaire’s pool” for the calm waters ringed by the Tetiaroas in French Polynesia, the dye is cast – and that dye, for the precious eco-resort that opened in 2014 is a screaming, addicting blue.
Marlon Brando knew what he was doing when, in filming “Mutiny on the Bounty” in 1960, he found the island, retreated there with his Polynesian paramour and soon to be wife from the film set and set out to buy the place from the French government.
Today it has morphed from rustic hideaway for Hollywood bad boys to exquisite resort that uses the best of what sustainable technology can offer, funneling it all into a location deep in the Pacific for perfect application. So focused on the ecology and sustainability of these islands, in fact, The Brando has been selected by the National Geographic Society as a model for environmental stewardship in island hospitality. The Society offers vacations at The Brando that move beyond diving and snorkeling adventures to actual hands-on environmental research and in-depth lectures through such participants as the Smithsonian Institute.
When Brando envisioned his future island resort, fossil-fueled electricity did not figure into the mix. Technology eventually cleared the way for these feats, starting earlier this century with the successful implementation of thalasso dynamics using the ocean’s cold some 3,000 feet down to create a current of electricity – a technique first showcased at the InterContinental Bora Bora. Now sun panels and biofuels contribute the rest to what’s needed to run The Brando with barely a footprint on the pristine sands and clear stunning ocean waters.
The 193-acre motu or islet among the 12 that make up the atoll of Tetiaroa is as sweet as it gets. It offers a landing strip for the helicopters and planes that give access to this faraway spot and then 35 stand-alone cottages (ah, banish those overwater bungalows!), each possessing a private pool and private sand beach, a media room with international TV, and large picturesque bathrooms with an outdoor tub.
On tap is Les Mutinés, a restaurant run by a Parisian Chef who hails from the Michelin two-starred Le Grand Vefour in Paris and dishes include ingredients picked from the island’s organic gardens and honey from the resort’s resident bees. The Beachcomber Café on the beach presents Polynesian-inspired dishes alongside classic French cuisine. In-room dining is available 24 hours a day, to be enjoyed in-room, on the private deck, poolside, or on the beach. There’s casual dining at Bob’s Bar (named for a dear friend and assistant of Brando’s), a spa and fitness area accessible 24/7. For those who want simmer and sun, the Varua spa offers steam baths, a tea lounge and a relaxation room, a yoga shelter and a spa suite tree house set up for couples. Must-have treatments to consider: “the Varua Mana experience,” a Tahitian tamanu oil scrub followed by a coconut oil Polynesian massage. Must-have breakfast treats: Brando’s unparalleled breakfast croissants.
Days at The Brando are not necessarily those lulling, sleeping, sipping, sampling and sizzlingly simple days that make up most Polynesian vacation fantasies. There is much to do at The Brando and those who want to stay still will not do so for long. The snorkeling here rivals diving in rich sights in underwater wonderment. Find stingrays and lemon sharks among the bounty of swirling reflections, and humpback whale that ply these waters from August to October. The driest period for a visit to Tetiaroa is May to October.
Activities can be found in abundance, whether it is bicycling through the island’s palm forests or bird watching, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking or swimming the warm clear waters of ocean or pool.
Unlike other island resorts, however, research scientists and oceanographers are at the ready to guide guests on walks and excursions exploring bird sanctuaries and precious reefs. Polynesian culture, too, is something that can be explored at the Brando through a variety of casual classes teaching Polynesian dance and music; pahu or toere handicraft; Food, wine and cocktail sessions and Tahitian cuisine demonstrations.
Deep-sea fishing, photography outings and whale watching tours are also on the program sheet, many of these options are complimentary. In fact, The Brando includes most wants on the room list to be included in every stay.
Also find amid the aged-wood and intricately-designed habitats, a meeting room for executives and CEO functions, a stocked library, a staff on duty to assist with weddings, meetings, events and celebrations, and a Lagoon school for restless kids. Storytelling is part of the culture here and stories and tales from French Polynesia and Tetiaroa keep children and adults alike fixed to the unfolding yarns. And, of course, there are movies on the beach here, whether classics from the Brando vault or family comedies with more recent release dates.
Inclusive rates start at $2,784 per night for two ($2,300 for one). High season rates begin at $3,500 per night for two. Children 11 and younger always stay free.
Getting to The Brando is half the fun. The Tetiaroa Atoll can be reached by a 20-minute charter flight– one of two eight-passenger Britten Norman airplanes (turboprop twin-engine) employed for this service — from a private, dedicated terminal at Tahiti’s Faa’a International Airport. Helicopter transfers can also be arranged. Rates on Air Tetiaroa run around $525 per couple, $26 per child. A two-night minimum stay at The Brando is required.
Tetiaroa, Tahiti, French Polynesia
(+689) 40 866 366