Destinations / JOURNEY
“PRIVAC Y IS NOT something that I’m merely enti- tled to,” said Marlon Brando; “it’s an absolute prerequisite.” To that end, he bought Tetiaora in 1967 after visiting while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in French Polynesia. It was a private
island hideaway, far, far from Holly wood.
Today The Brando, which opened in July 2014, continues his
vision of privacy in the lushness of an island paradise — away
from the public’s prying eyes. It’s a super-luxury resort and the
ultimate secluded escape. (Other movie stars have already discovered the island paradise, but no one is saying who.)
The price tag for a stay in Tetiaroa, an atoll of 13 little islets
or “motus” 50 miles north of Tahiti, is high. But the rewards are
beyond measure — bone-white sandy beaches fringed by coconut
palms, a lagoon of crystal-clear water ringed by unspoiled coral.
It’s a castaway’s dream, and a lovely one at that.
Part of The Brando’s attraction is its remoteness — it’s not easy
getting there, and you can only arrive by helicopter or the twice-daily 20-minute flight on an eight-seater from Tahiti. So hidden
are the 35 villas that you can only see their thatched roofs when
you come in low for a landing.
HISTORY Marlon Brando originally intended Tetiaroa to be
his back-to-nature retreat, and it remained that way for most of
the 30 years he went there. The accommodations at first were
rudimentary — 12 wooden bungalows, a kitchen, dining hall, bar
and sinks made from seashells. Friends and family who didn’t
mind the Robinson Crusoe ambience were happy to visit him, but
it was never intended to attract a crowd. Enter Richard Bailey,
a well-respected Tahitian developer with a sensitivity to the
environment. The two developed a plan to turn Tetiaroa into a
high-end luxury eco-resort. Unfortunately, Brando, who died in
2004, never lived to see its completion: it opened July 1, 2014, the
10th anniversary of the actor’s death.
ACTIVITIES There’s a fitness center, tennis and water sports,
but for many the high point of The Brando experience is the spa,
set among coconut palms at the center of a spider web of raised
walkways. Couples can reserve a three-hour treatment in a
wood-latticed cocoon high in the trees. Chef Guy Martin, owner
of two-Michelin-star Le Grand Véfour in Paris, provides the
exquisite cuisine, with specialties like salt-encrusted scallops
and mahi-mahi in ginger. The Beachcomber, the more informal
of the two restaurants, is a great place for breakfast or lunch.
Les Mutines (“mutineers,” as in the Bounty crew) is more formal
and romantic, especially when candlelight flickers in the cool
ocean breeze. At sunset, guests tend to gather at Bob’s Bar for the
famous “Dirty Old Bob,” a bourbon-based concoction with just a
touch of Tetiaroa honey from hives right there on the island. Most
of the resort’s produce is also homegrown.
ROOMS A one-bedroom villa, hidden from its neighbor thanks
to the careful planning of architect Pierre-Jean Picart, is “open
plan,” with a main living room flanked on one side by a raised
bedroom and bathroom plus outdoor bathtub; on the other side, a
media room has Wi-Fi and and a foldout bed. The t wo- and three-bedroom villas offer separate bedroom wings and are popular
with families, although there are no formal children’s activities
at the resort. There is 24/7 room service, and the minibars are
stocked with drinks including champagne. Honey macaroon
cookies await guests on arrival, with bicycles provided to pedal
around the paved paths or to and from the main lodge. Brando
conceived of using coconut oil as a source of biofuel, which now
supplements power from 2,800 solar panels alongside the airstrip. The actor, often ahead of the technology curve, also thought
of using deep-sea water for air-conditioning before that method
existed; today a $6 million plant built on the island does just that.
RATES Prices vary by season, from 2,400 euros (approximately
$2,700 per night) for a one-bedroom villa during the low season (April–June) and up to 9,000 euros ($10,000 per night) for
a three-bedroom during the Christmas holidays. The rates are
all-inclusive. B Y JIM CALIO
THE BRANDO ● TAHITI
Marlon Brando originally
intended Tetiaroa to be his