French Polynesia is renowned for its stunning, natural beauty, and during the early 1960s, while filming Mutiny on the Bounty, lead actor Marlon Brando fell head over heels for the beauty of his surroundings… and his Tahitian actress counterpart in the film, Tarita Teriipaia. The pair were soon married, and purchased a small island near the largest of French Polynesia’s islands, Tahiti. Here they built a small house and hotel, where they had two children. As time passed, the pair eventually divorced, and the property fell into obscurity, but the famous actor remained smitten by the island, Tetiaroa. Since then, his descendants have tended to the island paradise, and only recently reopened it in July 2014, now as one of the world’s most outstanding luxury beach hotels. Recently, a small group of Goway Travel’s Idyllic Island specialists were invited to The Brando. Here we ask them to share their experience and learn why this beautiful resort is worth the visit.
Where in Tahiti (French Polynesia) is the resort located?
Upon arrival at Papeete International Airport, the gateway to French Polynesia, it’s a short 3-minute walk to the Air Tetiaroa passenger lounge where we waited to board our small 8-seater seaplane for a 15 minute flight to the resort island. The Brando is located on a private atoll on Tetiaora, and is the only resort on the island.
Despite the size of the aircraft, we were still able to check in two pieces of luggage up to 50 pounds each. Once in the air, the views from the seaplane were absolutely incredible! I couldn’t believe how quick and seamless it was to get off an international flight and land on the island. Paradise!
As the name suggests, Marlon Brando is affiliated with this resort. Can you explain the history of the property and his connection?
The island of Tetiaroa is sacred to the local French Polynesian people, and was the favoured retreat of Tahitian high chiefs and royalty from the larger, nearby island of Tahiti. Later, Marlon Brando fell in love with this island when filming the movie, Mutiny on the Bounty (released in 1962), although the movie was actually filmed around the island of Moorea.
Marlon Brando had a vision of creating an eco-resort, a self-sustaining luxury environment for hotel guests, in partnership with scientific research. The Brando is the legacy of his vision.
What are some of the technologies used to make The Brando environmentally sustainable?
The resort uses sustainable energy systems such as salt water air conditioning, solar energy, bio-fuel thermal power from coconut oil, organic gardens, and more – making it low impact and relatively self-sustainable. On site is a research centre with separate accommodation for resident scientists. Guests, including ourselves, had a chance to take a guided tour of the research centre and as well got to meet a researcher, which was fascinating.
What kind of accommodation does the resort offer?
There are 30 one bedroom villas which are very spacious – 1033 square feet in size! Each villa looks out onto a sand beach and has its own private pool and secluded beach area. It’s very private, you can barely see the adjacent villa down the beach. For larger families or small groups, there are 4 two bedroom villas and 1 three bedroom villa. In line with the private villas, these also offer separate entrances, so neighbouring guests can still have privacy even within a group.
What’s included with your stay?
The Brando is all-inclusive, so all meals are included, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks (some premium brands are an additional charge), plus 24-hour dining in your villa (where you could have a chef prepare a personal meal of whatever you’d like), and complimentary WiFi. Each guest also receives a bicycle on arrival to explore, one daily excursion per person, and a daily 50-minute massage per couple! (This increases to 2 massages per villa in the two bedroom, and 3 massages per villa if in the three bedroom).
What are some things visitors can see and do on the resort?
The resort has lots to do! We started by taking our bicycles to explore the island at our own pace. There are several water activities such as swimming to Mermaid Bay, snorkelling over reefs, stand-up paddle boarding, and scuba diving (an introductory dive is included too, for non scuba divers). We enjoyed a relaxing boat excursion accompanied by a naturalist who taught us all about the flora and fauna. You could also go on a hike, go bird watching, or look for turtles! The spa is incredible, and should be a highlight for any visitor here. The spa suite is actually located high up in the trees.
What kind of traveller would enjoy visiting the Brando?
The Brando is well suited for a discerning traveller looking for a luxurious, all-inclusive, villa-style resort with a fondness for privacy in one of the most naturally stunning islands in French Polynesia. If you’re looking for a nightlife or party atmosphere, this is not the resort for you! The island is best enjoyed through appreciating its natural environment, and the many activities available, fine dining, and relaxed luxury.
The Brando is also a great choice if visitors are short on time but want a private island experience, as it’s so close to the international airport in Papeete. Families (kids are welcome) or a group of couples travelling together will enjoy the large 2- or 3-bedroom villas, possibly the largest resort villas in the country.
The lagoon beach immediately adjacent to the hotel is absolutely stunning, and we observed that the lagoon remains shallow for quite a distance with turquoise water and snow white sand, gloriously perfect for wading and wallowing in the shallow water. This would actually be perfect for families with young children, or even non-swimmers. For committed swimmers however, you’ll have to wade out to where the water is deeper, about fifty metres out, but there are some fantastic swimming areas throughout the island.
When is the best time to go? And how much does the resort cost?
Peak season, when the weather is the ‘driest’, is from April until October. Low season in French Polynesia is from November to March, when rates are less and visitors are fewer, one thing which actually works in North Americans’ favour, as we often look to escape winter. For an idea of costs, the one bedroom villa in peak season is approximately $3800 USD per villa, per night (price subject to exchange rate fluctuations, priced May 2015). If travelling in low season, the rates are 20% less, so about $3019 US per person. There are a few ways to secure added value, which is where working with a Tahiti specialist comes in, and it varies over time. Currently the Brando is offering promotions such as “stay 5 nights and receive one seaplane transfer free”, or “stay 7 nights and receive both seaplane transfers free”. They’re encouraging visitors to stay longer and really soak up the surroundings, but once you’re here, you’ll never want to leave!