Once considered a playground for royalty and the wealthy, Tetiaroa is best known for being the private island of one of the most influential actors of the 20th century, Marlon Brando. Over the years, this stunning island has started to welcome visitors from across the globe, welcoming them with open arms and inviting them to stay at the ultra-luxurious resort, The Brando.
Where Is Tetiaroa?
This small, secluded atoll is part of the Society Islands in French Polynesia and once served as a summer residence for the former chiefs and kings of Tahiti. Just 30 miles north of Tahiti and considered an extension of the Arue commune, Tetiaroa holds a special place in Polynesian history and culture. According to local legends, Tetiaroa was not only used to hide royal treasures when the king was concerned in times of trouble, but also used by Spanish explorers when they needed somewhere for their loot. Plus, many ancient Ma'ohi marae (temples) and other sites built by early Polynesians can still be found there today!
"Tetiaroa is beautiful beyond my capacity to describe," Brando once stated, "One could say that Tetiaroa is the tincture of the South Seas."
Look beyond the island's awe-inspiring beauty and visitors to this idyllic paradise will discover that Tetiaroa is a place of rare biodiversity - offering threatened species of tropical birds and vulnerable marine life a natural sanctuary. Made up of a circular group of 12 coral islets surrounding a lagoon, Tetiaroa is home to healthy and ecologically important coral reefs, an incredible array of marine life, thousands of nesting seabirds and is also a major nesting site for Green Sea Turtles.
What Is The Connection To Marlon Brando?
Like many before his time, Marlon Brando fell in love with French Polynesia while filming for his 1962 movie, Mutiny on the Bounty. Enamoured with the island's Eden-like beauty and his Polynesian co-star, Tarita Teriipaia, (who went on to become his third wife), Brando set his sights on owning a slice of paradise for himself.
Despite being an icon of the age, Brando's negotiations for Tetiaroa were met with much resistance, due to the atoll's rich history and many private owners, but he was eventually able to purchase the 99-year lease that granted him exclusive ownership of Tetiaroa for the sum of $270,000 in 1966 ($2,507,000 in today's money).
An Island Named Desire
Enthralled by the Polynesian way of life and motivated by a desire to hide from the Hollywood spotlight, Brando spent many years relaxing amongst his private paradise, surrounded by the rocking palm trees and soothing waters of Tetiaroa. Despite many private owners over the years, the atoll remained pristine and Brando sought to keep it that way. Stemming from his childhood love of nature, Brando was incredibly passionate about protecting Tetiaroa's natural bounty.
"It is my hope that the island will serve as an ecological model. Not only a tourist preserve, but a marine preserve as well as a place for all manner of scientific research and investigation."
Brando knew that his paradise would only remain idyllic as long as the fragile ecosystem remains in balance. He saw Tetiaroa, not only as his private hideaway, but as the ideal location for a self-sustaining luxury environment for holiday makers, full-time residents, and scientific research - a way to both share Tetiaroa's beauty with those who took the time to visit, and the best way to protect the island he loved. Over the many years, he welcomed many ecologists and marine biologists to the shores, showing a keen environmental awareness before such things were commonplace.
Those close with Brando said that in his later years, he'd often be found closing his eyes and imagining he was at his beloved retreat, surrounded by white sand beaches, swaying coconut palms and the shimmering turquoise lagoon. Brando's intent was always to honor and respect the land, the Tahitians that came before him, and the people who come after him; and although he died in 2004, the dream he had for Tetiaroa has finally been realised.
The Brando: Carrying Forward A Legacy
Having formed a close friendship with Richard Bailey, a local hotelier and property developer, Brando dreamed of building a luxury resort at Tetiaroa that would exemplify contemporary sustainability practices and the best of stewardship. After his death in 2004, the Brando Family Trust granted approval to Richard Bailey in 2009 to build on their shared dream and create the 35-villa resort that would eventually be known as The Brando. After many years of being inaccessible to the public, the resort finally opened in 2014 (10 years to the day after Brando's death) and began welcoming guests from around the world to sample their own slice of paradise.
Exclusive And Extremely Discreet
Since opening its doors, The Brando has become a firm favourite of those in search of privacy, from Leonardo Di Caprio, Kim Kardashian and Johnny Depp to Pippa Middleton, Beyoncé and Oprah Winfrey. The Brando was also the spot where the 44th President of the United States of America started writing his memoir, safe in the knowledge that The Brando would provide him and his wife a private haven after the former president left office.
A Stay That Leaves The Right Kind Of Impact
Despite the name, there is little Brando theming, instead offering visitors a chic, eco-conscious resort which showcases the vibrancy of the French Polynesian lifestyle and offers carefree luxury amidst pristine nature. The first resort in the world to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Certification, the U.S. Green Building Council's highest accolade and endeavouring to maintain incredible levels of luxury but also operate exclusively with renewable, non-fossil energy sources drawn from the sea, the sun, and other renewable resources, The Brando is truly unique.